Guide for getting around Spain: rental car (2024)

moving around spain rental car

Do you want to explore Spain? Rental cars can be a good option.

Driving in the country is easy: Spain has a modern road network and most cities and towns are (very) well connected.

Book your rental car online now with Booking.com.

Check this complete guide on how to book your rental car.

Depending on how much you like driving, you should consider organizing a road trip. It’s a fun and independent way of seeing the country. Not only can it be a cost-effective way for small groups to get around, but it also lets you see what’s off the beaten track.

But first, let’s see how you can plan the perfect road trip around Spain.

Spain: Rental cars benefit from an excellent road network

Spain is a country where excellent highways and secondary roads cross the land, reaching into some of its deepest corners.

Spain’s road system is made up of motorways and main roads:

  • Highways (autopistas) are marked with and A or E and the road number. Toll roads (autopistas de peaje) are marked with AP and the road number. All exits (salidas) are numbered.
  • Two-lane highways (autovĂ­as) are marked with an E and the road number. They do not always have a median strip between lanes.
  • National roads (carreteras nacionales) are marked with N or CN and the road number.
  • Country Roads (carreteras comarcales) are marked with a C and the road number.

And you’ll be happy to know that very often, other than in the densely populated areas around Madrid, Barcelona and on the coast, there is little or no traffic on them.

Furthermore, it’s even possible to drive off the beaten track between cities. So, if you’re having cold feet, don’t think twice and embark on a road trip!

You want to explore Spain on a rental car

Planning a road trip around the country can be an excellent idea, particularly if you’re traveling in a group or with your family. It’s a cost-effective way to get around the country.

In addition to this, you have the chance to visit several places at your own pace. This flexibility in your schedule allows you to stop whenever and wherever you want. And you can also explore off the beaten track locations.

While driving in Spain is very easy thanks to its modern road network, respect certain rules to avoid fines and accidents.

Finally, I always recommend getting an international driving permit (even if it isn’t enforced for certain citizenships).

To help you plan your road trip, have a look at

Don’t use a rental car when visiting Spanish cities

A Spain rental car is definitely not recommended to get around within any relatively large city in the country. Why?

Because…

  • A large part of any city’s tourist area is not accessible by car.
  • Traffic can be heavy; it always feels like rush hour.
  • Car parking in large cities is a pain in the neck. Most neighborhoods have parking meters and subterranean car parks are expensive.
  • Driving on Madrid’s (M-30, M-40 and M-50) and Barcelona’s ring roads is messy, complicated and is generally a stressful experience.

You should consider using any other means of public transportation:

  • The subway because it’s faster.
  • The bus because it gets you everywhere.
  • A taxi because it’s more comfortable.

And all of them are much cheaper than a rental car.

The conclusion here is that once you arrive to any city, you should leave your car in a safe place and use the public transport system.

How to plan the perfect road trip around Spain

Since you’re planning a big road trip adventure around Spain, I want to share a few of my tips on how to plan the perfect road trip.

These are things that have made my trips a lot easier and more organized, and they’re the kind of things that you don’t think of until you’re on the road and you’ve been there and done it!

Decide your destinations

Decide where you’re going. Do you have one destination? Several destinations? Or no destination at all?

If time is a constraint, you may not be able to see everything that you want. Rank your priorities, and decide whether any destinations take you too far out of the way.

Think about the balance of your trip. Do you want to spend most of your time rambling through wild, outdoor spaces, or do you want to see the cities along the way? How much time do you want to spend outside of the car?

Here’s a complete list of all the destinations in Spain that you can include in your road trip.

Book your accommodation

Figure out where you’re going to sleep. This choice depends largely upon price, comfort, and convenience.

You can book all of your lodgings in advance, or you can plan on the fly, figuring out where you’ll sleep as you speed toward the night’s destination. It can be liberating not having to worry about where you’re sleeping… But it can also be liberating not knowing where you’ll sleep next!

Choose a route

You’ll obviously save yourself a lot of time and stress if you map out how you’re getting to your destination before you leave.

You can use a real physical map or the internet to plan a route. In my case, I always use Google Maps but that’s a personal choice.

You may choose to take lesser known roads rather than the main highways. Although it may take longer to reach your destination on these roads, the views and the towns you’ll explore will be much more authentic.

Pick your rental car

Deciding where to rent a car and what type of car you want to rent shouldn’t be hard. And it’s not actually.

But you have to take a few considerations in mind.

For example, make sure that you’ll have plenty of room for your passengers since you’ll be spending several hours inside the vehicle. Also try to choose a vehicle that gets great gas mileage to reduce the cost of your trip.

To help you with all the process, here’s a complete tutorial on how to book your rental car online.

Plan for stops

It is reasonable to estimate that you’ll need to take a break from traveling every 2 or 3 hours. If there is an interesting city, park, store, or restaurant that you would like to see on your road trip, schedule stops accordingly.

It’s all part of the road trip experience.

Check the weather forecast before any drive

You need to investigate the weather forecast beforehand too. One route may look shorter on the map, but weather can turn that short route into a long and hazardous road.

Keep your plans loose

No matter how much you plan, you should expect things to go differently. So keep an open mind and go with the flow.

You may run into a road construction, bridges being out, and messy accidents… Try not to stress about it too hard and remember that it will probably make a good story someday.

It’s also a good idea to keep loose plans because you never know when fun and interesting opportunities will arise. You could be driving by one of best highlights of your trip along the way, so think about including free time in your itinerary.

Traveling with kids? Keep them entertained!

Once you’re on the open road, you need something to keep children from getting bored. Boredom leads to feeling tired, and feeling tired leads to you ruining the whole road trip.

Anything from music, to books or tablets, to classic car games can help.

This article is part of a complete tutorial about car rental in Spain where you can read all the information you need to organize your road trip around the country.

Here is a complete summary of all the guide:

1. Best way to travel across Spain: road trip or train?
2. Full guide on traveling to Spain by car
3. 10 epic Spain road trips to do on your own
4. How to book your rental car online
5. How to find cheap car rental rates?
6. 8 essential rental car tips to get the best deal
7. Drive in Spain with an international driver’s licence
8. Guide for getting around Spain: rental car
9. 6 essential tips for driving in Spain
10. Guide to car parking in Spain: tips, costs, and regulations

Scroll to Top