UPDATED 25 September 2020

Your Guide to Traveling Around Spain with a Rental Car

Aleksandrs Buraks
Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com

Why should you rent a car in Spain?

A country that every curious traveler should visit at least once, Spain is a great destination to explore. Distinctly proud cities and regions make it feel like many countries located inside one. And the Spanish outdoors offers everything from multiple mountain ranges to Mediterranean and Atlantic Beaches, scenic vineyards, and even a desert. The best way to truly appreciate this cultural and natural diversity is to get a rental car and make your own Spanish adventure.
Top Tips:
  • Most of the visitors to Spain pick up their car at Barcelona El Prat Airport and Madrid Barajas Airport. Picking up and dropping off a car at the airport is not only convenient but usually the cheapest option, too.
  • Most visitors come to Spain in July and August, but coming in May, June, or September can be just as nice, often for a cheaper price and with smaller crowds
  • Make the most of having your own ride! If you rent a car in Madrid, consider also visiting Segovia or Toledo. If you're in Barcelona, take a trip to Girona or the Pyrenees. If you're visiting Costa del Sol, don't just stay in one resort - travel up and down the coast and consider nearby inland gems like Granada and Seville.
  • Spain is not just Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean - the country is incredibly diverse! Check out other destinations like Asturias, Galicia, or the Basque Countrythey offer just as much value and often for a lower price.
  • Choosing the right rental car provider is really important. SIXT, National, and Alamo are the three highest-rated car rental companies in Spain.
  • Familiarize yourself with rental conditions such as mileage and fuel policy before picking up the car!
  • Learn about the traffic rules and speed limits before your trip - they might be different than in your country!

Your Guide to Traveling Around Spain with a Rental Car

By Aleksandrs Buraks | Last updated September 25, 2021
Top Tips:
  • Most of the visitors to Spain pick up their car at Barcelona El Prat Airport and Madrid Barajas Airport. Picking up and dropping off a car at the airport is not only convenient but usually the cheapest option, too.
  • Most visitors come to Spain in July and August, but coming in May, June, or September can be just as nice, often for a cheaper price and with smaller crowds
  • Make the most of having your own ride! If you rent a car in Madrid, consider also visiting Segovia or Toledo. If you're in Barcelona, take a trip to Girona or the Pyrenees. If you're visiting Costa del Sol, don't just stay in one resort - travel up and down the coast and consider nearby inland gems like Granada and Seville.
  • Spain is not just Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean - the country is incredibly diverse! Check out other destinations like Asturias, Galicia, or the Basque Countrythey offer just as much value and often for a lower price.
  • Choosing the right rental car provider is really important. SIXT, National, and Alamo are the three highest-rated car rental companies in Spain.
  • Familiarize yourself with rental conditions such as mileage and fuel policy before picking up the car!
  • Learn about the traffic rules and speed limits before your trip - they might be different than in your country!

Why should you rent a car in Spain?

A country that every curious traveler should visit at least once, Spain is a great destination to explore. Distinctly proud cities and regions make it feel like many countries located inside one. And the Spanish outdoors offers everything from multiple mountain ranges to Mediterranean and Atlantic Beaches, scenic vineyards, and even a desert. The best way to truly appreciate this cultural and natural diversity is to get a rental car and make your own Spanish adventure.

When should you go to Spain?

Spain is famous for its pleasant weather - the warm and mild climate is one of the main reasons why millions of travelers visit every year. It's important to keep in mind, though, that Spain is a rather large country, so different parts of it are best enjoyed at different times of the year.

The famous Mediterranean resorts of Spain have a nice climate year-round, but most travelers choose to visit them in mid-to-late spring or early autumn. While summer months are also popular among tourists, temperatures in July and August often reach and even exceed 35 °C (95 °F), thus becoming prohibitively scorching for travelers not used to this kind of heat. It's important to note that the weather in the Mediterranean region, especially in Andalusia, is mild and pleasant year-round, so while it might be too cold to swim in January, it can also be a good time to visit for those who want to escape large crowds. The average high temperature in Malaga is 24.3 °C (75.7 °F) in May, 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) in August, and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in December.

Barcelona is located on the Mediterranean Sea and thus its weather is the nicest in late spring and early summer or early autumn. The average high temperature is 19.3 °C (66.7 °F) in May and 26.1 °C (79 °F) in August. The same goes for the capital, Madrid, which, while located at the center of the country, is at a rather high altitude (the average high temperature there is 16.7 °C (62.1 °F) in May and 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) in August).

Insider's tip: If the weather is not your number one priority, both cities are great to visit at any month and some travelers even choose to come in late autumn or winter as the amount of cultural events is higher, the crowds are smaller and the prices for things like accommodation and car rentals are lower.
The north of Spain, namely the regions of the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia is best visited during the summer months as the temperatures are not quite as scorching as in the south of the country. Autumn is also a good time to visit, but winters in Northern Spain can be quite rainy and windy, especially in Galicia which is on the Atlantic Ocean. The average high temperature in Bilbao is 25.4 °C (77.7 °F) in July and 13.4 °C (56.1 °F) in January; in Vigo, it is 24.4 °C (75.9 °F) in July and 11.9 °C (53.4 °F) in January.

The best time to visit the Spanish Pyrenees depends on what you'd like to do there. The skiing season is at its height in January and February, and there is usually snow from November to mid-April.

Keep in mind
: If you plan to drive in the mountains during this time, you might need snow chains - ask your rental car provider about their availability if you're visiting in winter).

If, on the other hand, you'd like to go hiking or explore the national parks like Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Mauricior Ordesa y Monte Perdido, it's best to visit them from May until October.

Where should you pick up a car in Spain?

Most visitors to Spain prefer to pick up a rental car at the airport. 26 different Spanish airports handled at least one million travelers in 2019, and the likes of Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona El-Prat are among the busiest in Europe. Most regions of Spain have at least one international airport and some have multiple — you'll find five in Andalusia and four in Catalonia.

The larger Spanish airports, namely Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat, offer flights to and from most parts of the world. Many low-cost companies like Ryanair, easyJet, Vueling, and Transavia, fly to and from Spain offering cheap connections with other European countries.

Insider's tip: Not only is it very convenient to pick up and drop off a rental car at the airport, it will almost always be significantly cheaper than doing so in the same car rental provider's office in the city center.

Many car rental companies in Spain offer one-way rentals. While it usually requires a small extra fee, many travelers use this opportunity as it gives them the freedom to explore as much of the country as they want without the hassle to return to their point of entry. One-way rentals between countries are also possible, and it's quite popular to travel by car between Barcelona and Nice, Vigo and Porto, or San Sebastian and Bordeaux. The fee for international one-way rentals is usually higher than for domestic ones. You can see the exact prices by using our website to search for travel dates and pick-up and drop-off locations of your choice.

It is also possible to pick up and drop off a car in many other locations such as international hotels, car rental company offices, and large shopping malls.

How easy is it to travel around Spain independently?

Spain is one of the easiest places in Europe to make your own adventure traveling by car. Good quality of roads, friendly locals, the ease of booking most things online, and a developed tourist industry that caters to the foreign traveler all make it an amazing country to explore — and that's not to mention the awesome sights and experiences!

While both the northern and southern coasts of Spain are heavily developed and built-up, a lot of the country's interior — especially away from big cities like Madrid, Zaragoza, or Valladolid — is much less densely populated. This means that gas stations and even populated places are more scarce in the interior. While inland Spain can be an awesome off-the-radar destination and has plenty to offer, it's important to plan out your route in advance, especially if you're not traveling on the main highways connected to one of the big cities. Having a working up-to-date GPS device is also really important — ask your rental car provider about the availability of one for your rental car.

Spain is a rather mountainous country and has its fair share of narrow and steep roads. The general quality of the roads is good and shouldn't be an issue for an experienced driver, but if you haven't driven a car in the mountains before, it's a good idea to be extra cautious, especially after dark.

Three underrated travel destinations in Spain that you can reach by car:

Asturias. While it may be a tad unfair to call Asturias underrated - many travelers love this northwestern Spanish region and return to it again and again — it remains something of a hidden gem when compared to places like Madrid or Malaga. Those who make their way there find the proud and competitive twin cities of Oviedo and Gijon, each luring visitors with their own unique history, interesting architecture, industrial heritage turned into tourist attractions, and interesting traditions that survive to this day. The main attraction of Asturias, however, is its nature — the region is home to some of the wildest and most impressive beaches in Europe, while Picos de Europa National Park, named after the majestic mountain range at its center, is home to scenic hiking paths, wildlife from brown bears to bearded vultures, and cozy nearby cottages for spending the night. If you're done driving for the day, you should absolutely try the Asturian cider which has been made for thousands of years. From Madrid, Oviedo is only about a four-and-a-half-hour drive away.
Murcia. Squeezed in between Andalusia and the Valencian Community, the autonomous community of Murcia might be justified to feel a bit underrated. For travelers looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, that might be just as well — they will discover beaches that are just as beautiful and plenty of heritage and nature, but with considerably smaller crowds. Some of the region's highlights include the city of Cartagena, a history lover's dream which was named after the ancient civilization of Carthage and has ruins and monuments of various empires and La Manga, a 20-km (12-mile) long sandspit and famous coastal resort.

Cordoba. Although well-known and important for centuries, the northern Andalusian city of Cordoba is sometimes missed out on by visitors to the region who tend to travel along the lines of the triangle of Seville - Malaga - Granada. But that's a shame since Cordoba has plenty to offer, so much so that its historic portion was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mezquita or Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba is a stunning example of Moorish architecture, but the whole of the old town retains much of its ancient atmosphere, its narrow side-streets as fascinating to explore as the main thoroughfares. Cordoba Airport hasn't had any scheduled flights since 2008, but the city is only a two-hour drive from Seville, Granada or Malaga and is only four hours from Madrid.

Is Spain a safe country to visit? What should you do in the event of an emergency?

Spain is overall a very safe country to visit — the crime rates are low and most places, even the big cities, retain a strong sense of community, so people tend to look after each other.

Pickpocketing and tourist scams do occur, especially near famous attractions like the Alhambra in Granada and in popular areas like Barcelona's La Rambla. Keep your belongings nearby at all times and ask for help if you need it. The main emergency number in Spain, like in the rest of the European Union, is 112.

Over the last five years, Barcelona and other cities in the region of Catalonia have seen sporadic protests related to the demands for Catalan independence. Although the protests continue to occur, most are peaceful and even if some confrontation breaks out, it is almost always between protesters and law enforcement. Foreign travelers are never specifically targeted. If you do encounter a public demonstration in Barcelona or anywhere else in Spain, staying as far as possible from the front lines is the most important thing to keep yourself safe. Ask locals for the fastest routes to get away from the large crowds - most will be glad to help you.

What languages do they speak in Spain?

The official, and by far most used language, in Spain is, of course, Spanish (sometimes also called Castilian). Spain is also home to a number of other languages and dialects.

Catalan is the local language in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia, as well as in the Balearic Islands and parts of the Valencian Community. Like Spanish, it is also a Romance language and the two are closely related, but not exactly mutually intelligible. Galician, spoken in Galicia and small pockets of Asturia, is more similar to Portuguese. Basque, spoken in the Basque Country and parts of Navarre, is a language isolate and has no similarities with Spanish or any other living language. Although the regional identities in Spain are strong and you're only going to make friends by learning some phrases in the local tongue, it's important to keep in mind that virtually all speakers of Catalan, Basque and Galician, as well as other smaller languages and dialects, are fluent in standard Spanish.

Knowledge of English varies quite considerably across Spain. Many people speak it in the big cities of Barcelona, Madrid, and Bilbao, as well as in areas that get a lot of tourists like Costa del Sol and the Valencian coast; however, you might be hard-pressed to find a speaker of English in the rural areas of Aragon or Extremadura, or even in the non-touristy quarters of cities. Learning at least some basic Spanish will go a long way as Spaniards are generally known to be friendly and patient with foreigners trying to speak their tongue. The level of knowledge of English is, of course, higher among people working in the tourism industry.

In some coastal regions of the country, German and Dutch are often heard due to the very large number of visitors from Germany and the Netherlands, as well as pensioners from those countries who have retired in Spain. French is also spoken by a considerable number of Spaniards, especially in the Spanish regions that border France.

What are the best places to rent a car in Spain?

Spain has a large number of very popular travel destinations that get thousands of visitors every year. This section focuses on travel destinations of mainland Spain. For more information on the two Spanish archipelagos and travel meccas, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, see their respective sections.

The most visited cities in Spain are the capital, Madrid, as well as Barcelona, the capital and largest city of the region of Catalonia. Both offer an absolute wealth of world-class landmarks, fun experiences, and things to see and do. As huge world cities, they both have a lot of car traffic, but getting a rental car can still be a great way to see them as it will give you the opportunity to see both the main tourist attractions and hidden gems on your own terms and even travel beyond the city limits. As a tourist, you'll also have the freedom to avoid driving during peak hours.

Besides the big two, there are a lot of other amazing Spanish cities. These include Granada with its Arabic history and the Alhambra, Bilbao which is known for its sophistication and modern architecture, and Valencia, home of the City of Arts and Science and the capital of paella.

Spain is famous for its idyllic Mediterranean beaches. Some of the most famous seaside stretches include the Costa del Sol (or the Sun Coast) in Andalusia, the Costa Blanca (or the White Coast) in the Valencian Community and the Costa Brava (or the Wild Coast) in Catalonia. Getting a rental car is the best way to experience all that one of these coasts has to offer as you'll be able to visit different spots and find lesser-known spots on your own.
Another amazing part of Spain is its northern regions, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. While not as warm and dry as the Mediterranean Coast, they offer more greenery, dramatic nature, awesome surfing in the Bay of Biscay, and more privacy and space.
There are many famous national parks in Spain that are easy to get to and from if you have a rental car. In addition to Picos de Europa National Park in Asturias mentioned above, these include the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, Doñana National Park in Andalusia, and Guadarrama National Park near Madrid.

What about filling up in Spain?

Overall, Spain is a fully developed country and there are many gas stations all over. All the same, some parts of the country are much more sparsely populated than others, and consequently have fewer places for filling up.

While both the northern and southern coasts of Spain are heavily developed and built-up, a lot of the country's interior — especially away from the large inland cities of Madrid, Zaragoza, and Valladolid — is much less populated. The four Spanish regions with the lowest population density are Castile and León, Castille-La Mancha, Extremadura, and Aragon. If they were independent, they would be among the most sparsely populated countries in Europe.

This means that gas stations and even populated places are more scarce in the interior. While inland Spain can be an awesome off-the-radar destination and has plenty to offer, it's important to plan your route in advance, especially if you're not traveling on the main highways which connect the largest cities.

Keep in mind! Having a working, up-to-date GPS is really useful if you plan to travel around the sparsely-populated interior regions! Ask your rental car provider about the availability of one for your rental car. Mobile apps like GasAll provide a list and a map of the addresses and working hours of all the Spanish gas stations and can also come in handy.

How expensive is gas in Spain?

As of August 2020, the average gas price in Spain was €1.16 per liter (or €4.38 per gallon, but prices in Spanish gas stations are shown per liter). Gas in Spain is slightly cheaper than in neighboring France and Portugal.

For how long should you rent a car in Spain?

Spain is so diverse and fascinating that you could easily spend months visiting its impressive cathedrals, climbing the mountains, enjoying different beaches, and sampling regional varieties of delicious cuisine. However, given that most travelers have at least some sort of time limitation for their trip, these are the approximate number of days that you'd need for visiting different famous Spanish destinations.

To get an exhilarating first taste of Madrid and Barcelona, two or three days may suffice. Many travelers visit these cities on such short weekend breaks, and with an abundance of cheap international flights from Europe and beyond, they are more accessible than ever. Two or three days will give you the opportunity to see some of the most famous sites (such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or Prado in Madrid) and perhaps have a short dive into the famous Spanish nightlife. However, this only scratches the surface of what these amazing cities have to offer; a visit of at least 5 to 7 days would be optimal — it would give you the time to explore them at your own pace, visit the famous landmarks at less busy times, make your own small discoveries and drive outside the city at least once or twice (to Costa Brava or the Catalan countryside from Barcelona or to Toledo from Madrid).

It's probably fair to say that you also need close to a week to really explore smaller Spanish cities like San Sebastian, Granada, or Vigo. While, thanks to low-cost airlines, they can absolutely be visited on a weekend trip, there are still plenty of landmarks to see and things to do. Many experienced travelers agree that Spain is a country that is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

How much does a rental car cost in Spain?

The cost of a rental car in Spain obviously depends on what time of year you visit — prices will be steeper during the high season. Your destination within the country is also a factor as some cities and regions are, in general, more expensive than others. One-way rentals (e.g., picking up a rental car in Barcelona and dropping it off in Valencia) will be more expensive as it will include an additional one-way rental fee. All that being said, Spain is a great place to get a rental car as prices tend to be quite affordable.

Different Spanish cities have different price dynamics when it comes to seasons. A rental car in Barcelona costs, on average, €41 per day in May, €56 in July, €37 in August, and €29 in September.

Madrid has a pretty stable daily car rental rate of €48 from June to August, but it drops to around €34-€39 from September to February. March stands out as an unusually expensive month with an average daily rate of €53.

A much cheaper alternative to the two largest cities is Malaga in the Costa del Sol region, especially if you can make it in June — the average price for a car in that month is a barely believable €17 per day. For other famous beach destinations like Alicante and Valencia, June is also the cheapest summer month to visit while August is the most expensive.

Which car rental company in Spain offers the lowest rates? What are some tricks for getting a better deal?

Some car rental companies in Spain offer really low rates, starting from around €2-€5 euros per day. These include Del Paso, InterRent, and Goldcar.

The cheapest rental car in Barcelona for three days in August, if booked a week before the trip, is a Nissan Micra by Amigo Autos which costs just € 22.40. The same car costs € 25.91 for a five-day rental period and € 31.08 for seven days. As you can see, the price barely changes when extending the rental period, so getting a rental car for a longer time will bring the daily price down.

The cheapest rental car in Madrid for three days in August, if booked a week before, is also a Nissan Micra from Amigo Autos, costing just € 22.67. For five days, the cheapest car is a four-seater a Fiat 500 by Centauro at € 26.98. The same car is the cheapest for seven days, costing € 36.24.

The cheapest rental car in Malaga for three days in August, if booked the week before, is a four-seater a Toyota Aygo from Delpaso Car Hire at a price of just € 10.37. The same car is also the cheapest for five days, costing just € 6. 37 and for seven days, costing just € 9.44.

There are other factors that also influence the car price — one of those is whether your rental has a manual or an automatic transmission. Cars with manual transmission tend to be much cheaper, especially during the low season. So if you know how to drive a manual, it is possible to find some real bargains.

Another surefire way to get a better price for your rental car is to plan your trip early and book in advance. Although you can sometimes find good deals at the last minute, it will almost always be cheaper to book a car a month ahead instead of just a couple of days before the trip.

Which car rental supplier is best for you? Are the rental conditions important?

Price is obviously a huge factor when choosing a car rental company, but it shouldn't be your only consideration — often, for a couple of euros more, you can find a much better overall deal. Instead, try to look for a company that offers both a good price and has a good rating from previous renters.

Also, make sure you are familiar with the rental conditions! Different rental car suppliers will have different conditions. The rental conditions can influence the final price of the car and are important to be aware of in general.

You can find the rental conditions when searching for a rental car on our website.

What else should you keep in mind when renting a car?

Some of the most important things when picking up a rental car is knowing your rental car supplier's fuel and mileage policies along with its driver requirements.

Mileage policy :
A rental supplier's mileage policy is the maximum permitted distance that you are allowed to travel per day (or sometimes per week) with your rental car. Once you exceed the permitted distance, you will be required to pay an extra fee for every additional kilometer you drive. There might also be the maximum permitted mileage for the whole of the rental period.

Different rental car suppliers have different mileage rules. It's important to know about them before booking your car, especially if you plan to drive a lot or travel long distances during your trip.

You can find the supplier's mileage policy in their rental conditions:
Fuel policy:
Different car rental companies have different policies when it comes to fuel. Some of the most popular ones are:
Full-to-full
You are given a car with a full tank of fuel and are expected to also return it with a full tank which means that you need to fill up the tank right before dropping off the car.
Same-to-same
You are given a car with a certain amount of fuel and are expected to return the car with the same amount.
Full-to-empty
You pay in advance for a full tank of fuel when picking up a car and are allowed to return the car with an empty tank; in these cases, you may or may not be compensated if you return a car with some fuel left in the tank.
As with the mileage policy, you can find the car supplier's fuel policy when in their rental conditions:
Driver requirements:
Different rental car companies will have different requirements for drivers. These may include:
The minimum and maximum age of the driver
A potential young or senior driver extra fee for drivers under or over the certain age (e.g. 25 or 65 years old)
Driving experience (e.g., at least two years)
A credit card in the name of the main driver
An international driver's license (might not apply to driver's licenses that are in Latin alphabet)
The same as with mileage and fuel policies, the driver requirements of each car rental supplier be found on their rental conditions page.

Check our comprehensive FAQ section to learn out more about mileage, fuel, and driver requirements, as well as other important questions.

How can I choose the right insurance for my rental car?

Choosing the right insurance is very important as it will protect you in case anything goes wrong during your rental period. If you have your own personal insurance, it may or may not cover your rental car — you should ask your insurance carrier to find out.

We strongly recommend you choose our own Full Coverage. Not only does it come at a reasonable price and covers most potential scenarios, but it will also give you the clarity and peace of mind as you will have 24/7 support from our team for any issue that you might have.

Check the Insurance section of our FAQ to learn more about choosing the right insurance and everything related to it.

What type of rental car is the cheapest in Spain?

One of the factors that influence the price a lot is what type of car you rent. The average price for a small car in Spain is just €29 per day (and some smaller cars come much cheaper than that, especially during the low season), medium-size cars cost, on average, €39 per day, and larger cars come in around €47 per day.

Since a lot of Spanish cities and towns retain much of their historic planning with narrow streets, renting a smaller car might actually be an advantage. However, if you plan to drive in the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada, or some other mountainous regions in Spain, renting a larger car might be a better idea. The average price for an SUV is €51 per day. The average daily price for a premium class car in Spain is €82.

Which is the best car rental company in Spain?

These are the highest-rated car rental companies in Spain:
Customer Rating - 9.3
Customer Rating - 9.2
Customer Rating - 9.1
Customer Rating - 9.0
Customer Rating - 8.8
Customer Rating - 8.6

How do Spanish car rental prices compare to other locations?

One of the factors that influence the price a lot is what type of car you rent. The average price for a small car in Spain is just €29 per day (and some smaller cars come much cheaper than that, especially during the low season), medium-size cars cost, on average, €39 per day, and larger cars come in around €47 per day.

Since a lot of Spanish cities and towns retain much of their historic planning with narrow streets, renting a smaller car might actually be an advantage. However, if you plan to drive in the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada, or some other mountainous regions in Spain, renting a larger car might be a better idea. The average price for an SUV is €51 per day. The average daily price for a premium class car in Spain is €82.

Should I go with a local or an international company?

In addition to large international car rental chains, you can also find local Spanish car rental companies such as Amigo Autos, Delpaso, and Record-go. While local companies do know the Spanish market well and can be a good choice, there is no reason to always go with them — the international providers have operated in Spain for decades and have just as much expertise. The main indicators should still be the company's rating and the price offered. International providers can be a good choice for a one-way trip to a neighboring country, such as from Madrid to Lisbon or Barcelona to Nice.

Some local car rental companies do not operate nationwide and only specialize in serving specific cities or regions. While they do have a lot of local expertise and it can be a good thing to support a local company, the overall rating left by previous customers still the best way to choose your rental car supplier.

What is the process of picking up and dropping off a rental car like?

To pick up a rental car, you'll need to have your booking confirmation voucher, passport, driver's license, a credit card on the main driver's name, and all the other necessary documents.

When making the reservation, you will see your rental car's pickup location, of which there are many types. Since most travelers tend to pick up their rental cars at the airport, we'll mainly focus on the pickup locations in or near the airport. These are the most popular pickup location types:

  • Meet & Greet. With this type of pickup location, you'll be met by an employee of the car rental company in the arrivals hall of the airport which you normally enter right after leaving the baggage claim area. The employee will usually have a printed sign with your name on it. The employee will take you to the company's office to proceed with signing the rental contract and collecting the car's keys.
  • In the terminal. In this case, you will have to find your rental car company's desk yourself. The desk will be usually located in the arrivals hall. Once you've found the desk, you can present your documents and continue with the pickup procedure. Do keep in mind that you might have to wait in line.
  • Shuttle bus. In certain cases, the car rental company's desk might be located outside the airport's terminal. Sometimes you can reach it on foot, but in most cases, you need to take a shuttle bus. For this, you'll need to find the shuttle bus stop inside the airport, the location of which will be given to you when making the booking. Sometimes, the shuttle bus is shared by multiple car rental companies while others have their own shuttle service just for them. Look for the name and the logo of your rental company to make sure you take the right shuttle bus.
  • Delivery service. This type of pick-up is similar to Meet & Greet but takes even less time to complete as you won't need to go to the car provider's office to sign the agreement.
  • Car rental center. This means that your car rental company shares its location with other companies. The car rental center is located in the arrivals hall, in another part of the terminal, or in a separate building next to the terminal.
  • Outside terminal. This pick-up location means that your car rental company has an individual desk located outside the airport's terminal, but within the larger airport complex, that can usually be reached on foot

At the pickup location: After the car rental company checks your documents and make sure you have enough deposit on your credit card, you will receive the car's keys and be taken to the rental car which will usually be parked in a nearby parking lot.

Inspect the car: Upon picking up the car, you will have to sign a document called the check-out form. If your rental car has any scratches or other types of damage, they should be listed on the form. Inspect the car carefully — if it has any scratches or other issues that are not listed, make sure to point them out to the employee before signing the check-out form. The form will also list the mileage and the amount of fuel the car has at the pickup time.

Take photos: It is generally a very good idea to take photos of the car before picking it up, preferably from multiple angles and including the inside of the car with the odometer showing the previous mileage on the car and of the amount of fuel in the tank (read more about fuel on our Fuel Policy section above). The photos should have a timestamp to show the date and time when they were taken; most pictures taken with mobile and digital cameras have them.

Find out the drop-off location: Before leaving with the car, make sure you find out the exact drop-off location and the directions to get there. While it will often be the same as the pickup location, it might also be in a completely different part of the airport (this is especially the case with the larger airports that have multiple terminals).

Returning the car: When dropping off the car at the end of your trip, carefully check the vehicle in the presence of an employee of the rental company. If any new scratches or damages are found, the company employee should point them out in your presence. If there are none, the car's check-in form should state that the car has been returned in the same condition. The same applies to the cleanliness of the car (if you return a car that is not clean, the company might later charge an extra cleaning fee). Make sure to check the car's trunk and the glove compartment to avoid leaving any personal belongings in the vehicle.

Can I add extras for the rental car when booking?

You might also want to add some extras for your rental car such as a GPS system, a child's seat, second-driver permission (if you're traveling with a friend or a family member who can and wants to drive). Be sure to search for them in advance and add them before making the booking. Not every rental car supplier will have all of these extras available. Adding extras will influence the final price of a car and different car rental companies offer them for different prices.

What are the traffic rules in Spain?

Like most other European countries, Spain drives on the right-hand side of the road.
The use of mobile phones is only permitted with a hands-free system that doesn't have headphones. The fine for breaching this rule is 100 EUR. It is also forbidden to text or talk on the phone when being stopped at a red light with a motor running.
The car's documentation and proof of insurance need to be inside the vehicle at all times.
Children under 12 years old and measuring less than 135 cm (4'5) traveling in the front seat of a car must be seated in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight. Ask your car rental company about the availability of a child seat if you're traveling with a child under 12.
Do not use your car's horn unnecessarily since this may lead to a fine.
If you receive a fine for a traffic violation, the car rental supplier will often charge an additional fee for administering it. If you are a citizen of another European Union country, you can also expect the fine to reach you at your home address.
Read more about driving in Spain on the country's official tourism website.

What are the speed limits in Spain?

Are there speed cameras in Spain?

Yes, there are speed cameras in use in Spain, and there are plenty of them, especially on busy roads and streets. Some of the speed cameras are made visible on purpose, while others are small and well-hidden, so there's not much use in trying to spot them — simply obeying the speed limit is a much safer option to avoid speeding tickets. All speed camera detectors and apps are forbidden by law in Spain, and you will be fined up to €6,000 if you are caught using one.

Like anywhere else, Spain has its share of reckless drivers. Overall, though, the Spanish driving culture is fairly relaxed and polite — the number of road accidents is low and excessive speeding is generally frowned upon.

What are the drunk driving laws in Spain?

The legal alcohol limit in Spain is 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.02% for novice drivers. The penalties for drunk-driving are very high and can reach thousands of Euros (plus the fine administration fee that your rental car provider might add). And since this voids any coverage you have (including the Collision Damage Waiver), you may wind up with a huge bill in the event of an accident.

Excessive violations such as the combination of drunk and reckless driving can result in a license ban, deportation, and even imprisonment.

Are there toll roads in Spain?

Although the majority of Spanish roads are free to drive on, there are a number of toll roads in the country. There are also a number of tolled tunnels.

Known as carretera de peaje in Spanish, the toll roads are marked with a letter 'P' on maps and road signs. Most toll roads accept payment with either cash or a credit card. There is also a toll road prepayment system, called Via-t, in place, but you need to have a Spanish bank account to use it, so it is not available to most tourists.

After paying at the toll gate, you will be given a ticket that you need to keep until the end of your trip. Prices vary depending on the road, but are, on average, €10 per 100 km (62 mi). See the official Spanish toll road website for more information and prices.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

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