Spain by car
March 8, 2009 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Tell me what I need to know to drive around Spain (mostly Andalusia) for ~4 days this summer.

I'm going to be renting a car (probably from Granada) and driving around to a few cities in the region (the itinerary isn't 100% set, but Granada, Malaga, Seville are on the table).

I've been told I need an international driver's license/permit that can be attained at a local AAA office. True? No big deal.

There appear to be a ton of rental companies based on a quick google search. The "name" American companies (Avis, Hertz, etc) look to be much more expensive than what appear to be local Spanish rental companies. Is there any reason I shouldn't just get the cheapest I can find? Does anyone have recommendations for specific companies?

Is reserving the car something I need to do in advance, or can I take care of it upon arrival?

I don't need a large car (only traveling with 2 other people), I drive manual (stick) just fine, I am 24 and I speak Spanish. Not sure if any of those details are relevant.

Anyone have personal experiences? Anyone have general advice? I'm interested in any and all opinions!
posted by jckll to Travel & Transportation around Spain (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
jckll: I've been told I need an international driver's license/permit that can be attained at a local AAA office. True?

Spain was not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of 1968. (Fascism discourages participation in international conventions, I guess.) As such, you do not need an international driver's license in Spain.

I don't know how it is in other countries, but I do know that, when I spent two months in Spain, I never had need of an IDL. I was even pulled over once - it was embarrassing, but the officer had no trouble with my license. Also, the car rental places all seemed to accept my US driver's license.

Unfortunately, I'm a lot more familiar with the North, and can't tell you much about Andalucia. Have fun, though!
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2009

I rented from sixt which seemed to have better prices in Europe but a reputable company. I would recommend small car but not economy. Although the economy cars are fine for city, country driving especially bigger hills are pretty slow. They don't have automatic cars usually.

The international drivers permit is super easy to get. All it is is a translated version of your current drivers license.

Have fun and enjoy your trip!
posted by _zed_ at 12:32 PM on March 8, 2009

Not strictly on-topic, but if you get the time visit Mini-Hollywood. A number of Sergio Leone Westerns were filmed there. Now it's a brilliantly weird theme park.

And for some real-life cowboys, try El Rocio.

Andalucia is beautiful, and the driving is easy and spectacular. Have a great time.
posted by Conductor71 at 12:49 PM on March 8, 2009

For car rentals in Spain, I use, Goldcar, or VictoriaCars. Both very cheap, although only available at certain locations, and provide a shuttle ride from the airport... (Compare the rates with the big internationals from Travelocity/Expedia). They do need to be reserved in advance, mainly because they run out of cars!
posted by nielm at 12:52 PM on March 8, 2009

Cádiz, salada claridad; Granada,
agua oculta que llora.
Romana y mora, Córdoba callada.
Málaga cantaora.
Almería dorada.
Plateado Jaén. Huelva, la orilla
de las Tres Carabelas...
y Sevilla.

--Antonio Machado (Canto a Andalucía)

In Andalucía, these places should be visited.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:24 PM on March 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

I live in Spain. Be very careful driving as this country has a severe problem with traffic accident deaths due to negligence and outright lunacy. People drive very fast; the speed limit on most highways is 120 kph (75 mph) but it's not uncommon for people to drive up to 200 kph (125 mph), often with a couple of drinks in them - the Guardia Civil do not do a good job of controlling speeders. Use the left lane for passing only, if someone comes up hard on you from behind, just get over to the right lane as fast as you can. Don't do road rage in Spain, you will probably die.

Especially be careful on smaller, secondary roads; although they are scenic they are dangerous with lots of curves and people will be speeding.

I have taken numerous long car trips around Spain and they are really enjoyable, Andalucia is wonderful and the landscapes are captivating. Ronda is a beautiful town that you may want to check out since you will be in the general area (it's between Malaga and Sevilla).

Just be careful, stay relaxed behind the wheel and watch out for speeders.
posted by sic at 2:32 PM on March 8, 2009

* You don't need the IDL.
* Expect the maps to be inaccurate and/or incomplete.
* If you aren't comfortable driving a stick shift, stipulate that you need an automatic.
* You will encounter numerous roundabouts, so be prepared mentally.
* The signage is pretty good, especially the diagrams before each roundabout showing
which exit within it leads where
* Be organized about your stuff; don't leave it exposed and don't spend a lot of time
moving your stuff around the trunk before heading off.
* If you get a parking ticket, take the time to figure out how to pay it locally or
eventually you'll get screwed by the rental car company.
posted by carmicha at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2009

with local travel hire companies you will still get screwed no matter how "local" you sound in your intiial contact with them. I'm fluent in Spanish and in face-to-face contact people assume I'm from Basque country or Galicia but by e-mail they assume "estanjui" which means "milk them for all they are worth".

I had a local Spanish company try to fob off a rustry old jeep on me until I got on the phone. But when you arrive on Sunday evening that's not the best time to duke this out.

Stay with Avis or Hertz.

Also try to rent one of the gypsey Caves in Granada.

and I disagree, sinage is often poor:- as in turn -offs in particular are signposted just when you need to make them!!! Get used to the idea of going around the roundabaout more than once
posted by Wilder at 4:26 PM on March 8, 2009

I did a similar trip some years ago and it was one of my best travel experiences ever. It's beautiful country. As others have noted, no, you don't need the IDL, and yes, it's a good thing you drive stick. I think it was Granada where we took a series of bad turns and ended up driving the car intro some kind of courtyard with a flight of stairs the only way out (managed to execute a thousand-point turnaround and go back the way we came), so watch out for those narrow medieval streets!

Eat the grilled pulpo (octopus) if you can get it, and watch out for pickpockets in Seville (I had to make an unplanned detour to Madrid for a new passport). Seconding that Ronda is totally worth a visit. I wouldn't bother with Gibraltar, but Tarifa is nice if you want to get a glimpse of Africa across the strait.
posted by libraryhead at 7:28 PM on March 8, 2009

I lived in Spain for a number of years and will echo the warning about being alert and avoiding road rage at all costs. It's not uncommon to be putzing around in your rented Seat Cordoba TDI, see a BMW in the far distance, blink and he's up your arse.

Move over...and quick.

For rentals I've used Europcar and they've been good.

I will echo the sentiment of all the cities listed. Fabulous places. The outskirts around Cordoba have some fantastic small towns and incredible Moorish/Roman ruins.
posted by tgrundke at 7:31 PM on March 8, 2009

Nthing being very careful on primary and secondary roads. Your eyes need to spend as much time in the rear-view mirror as on the road ahead of you. Six or seven years ago, flew into Valencia, rented a very nice, small, inexpensive car from Javeacars and headed down the coastal highway toward Javia and Denia. Beautiful.

But here's the thing... traffic on that highway consisted of about 60% cars like mine, mostly doing the speed limit and struggling a little to go up hills, 25% sloooooow trucks in the right lane that I had to pass frequently, and the rest black German sedans doing 100mph in the left lane who didn't seem to care who or what was in the way.

Every time I needed to pass in the left lane, I needed to take a very loooong look very faaaar behind me to make sure I wasn't about to get in the way of a Mercedes. Moral of the story is to be very mindful of the situation around you, especially behind you, as you drive on the highways.
posted by johnvaljohn at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2009

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