Spain has long been a favourite destination for British holidaymakers seeking warmer climes and there's no better way to experience this fabulous country than by campervan. The ability to explore at your own pace and park up whenever the mood takes you means that campervans are ideal for a Spanish expedition.
Whatever the time of year it's a popular and easy way to travel, provided you’ve got the appropriate campervan insurance.
However, navigating your cherished camper through Spain can be daunting. To allay any pre-trip nerves, we’ve put together this handy guide on what you need to know to make your next road trip both fun and safe.
Spain has a huge road network covering the whole country. But its quality can vary hugely from excellent motorways and toll roads to bumpy, rustic country roads.
In major cities it’s usually wiser to park your van and use public transport instead. If you plan on leaving your vehicle, then make sure your campervan insurance is up to date in case of theft or break-in.
Entering small towns and villages can also be hazardous where the streets are narrow – it’s sometimes best to park on the edge of town and walk in.
The types of Spanish roads and how to identify them on your map are:
- Motorways (autopistas) - A or E and the road number.
- Toll roads (autopistas de peage) - AP and the road number. Exits (salidas) are numbered.
- Dual Carriageways (autovias) - E and the road number. They don’t always have a central reservation.
- National highways (carreteras nacionales) - N or CN and the road number.
- Country Roads (carreteras comarcales) - C and the road number.
Spain has a number of environmental zones where only residents are permitted to drive.
In Barcelona there is a Low Emission Zone (Zona Baixes Emissions) while in central Madrid this is a Zero Emissions Zone (ZEZ).
These zones are indicated by signs saying ‘Area de prioridad residencial’. Don’t drive your campervan here as they’re only accessible for permit holders and drivers with special exemption.
Breakdown cover is a perfect complement to campervan insurance if you think you might find yourself exploring remote rural areas. You don’t want to get stuck miles from help!
Driving laws in Spain
Spain’s driving laws are virtually identical to the UK and other European countries but here are some important tips to remember.
Drive on the right
The requirement to drive on the right-hand side of the road may sound obvious but for those conditioned to UK roads, it causes more accidents than anything else.
That’s why concentration is important at all times. It’s all too easy to forget when pulling out from a petrol station or approaching a roundabout!
Unlike in the UK, flashing headlights from another motorist doesn’t mean that you can go. Driving etiquette in Spain requires that a driver flashes you to warn you that they’re about to overtake.
Blue and white curbs
Similar to double yellow lines in the UK, these road markings mean you’re not allowed to park. Though you can briefly wait if it’s safe to do so.
The rules in Spain are very strict, don’t drive with a mobile phone anywhere near you. Even if parked up it’s illegal to use a phone when behind the wheel.
If you need to call or text then sit elsewhere in the van or leave the vehicle.
While hands-free devices can be used, they mustn’t have headphones or earphones as the wearing of these is prohibited.
Speed camera detectors
Many sat nav devices come with the ability to detect speed cameras ahead. If yours does then leave it at home or face a hefty fine.
It’s also prohibited to signal to other drivers to warn them of an approaching speed check or police control point.
Always observe the speed limits when campervanning in Spain. There are cameras just as in the UK and the Spanish authorities are capable of pursuing Brits for non-payment of speeding fines.
If your vehicle is less than 3,500kg then the speed limits are:
- 50 km/h in urban areas and 80 km/h outside urban areas
- 90 km/h on main roads
- 100 km/h on motorways and dual carriageways
If your vehicle is more than 3,500kg then the speed limits are:
- 50 km/h in urban areas and 80 km/h outside urban areas
- 80 km/h on main roads
- 90 km/h on motorways and dual carriageways
The alcohol limit for driving in Spain is much lower than in the UK.
In Spain the legal limit is an alcohol level of 49mg per 100 millilitre of blood and 29mg per litre for drivers with less than two years of driving experience.
The safest way to stay out of danger is just to avoid alcohol completely if you’re the driver.
If you’re towing using your campervan in Spain and the overall length is more than 12m you must have one (130cm x 25cm) or two (50cm x 25cm) yellow reflectors at the rear.
Carrying a load, such as bikes on a rack, is allowed but the load must be indicated by a panel with diagonal red and white stripes.
Important items to pack
As with many other European jurisdictions, there are a variety of items that should be carried by all drivers. It may even be an offence if you don’t!
- Drivers who wear glasses must carry a spare pair in the campervan at all times.
- A spare set of replacement light bulbs.
- Documentation including your driving licence, vehicle registration (V5) and certificate of motor insurance.
- One warning triangle for non-registered vehicles and two for Spanish-registered vehicles.
- Reflective safety vests for the driver and all passengers.
- Spare wheel and tools or a tyre repair kit.
- It’s recommended to carry a first aid kit.
- In some regions, such as the Sierra Nevada, winter tyres or snow chains can become compulsory at some times of year. Keep an eye out for signs.
These are all important to include in any packing list. Be sure to check before leaving home.
Both the campervan driver and all passengers must wear seatbelts.
If your child is under 1.35 metres tall, they’re not allowed to sit in the front, they must sit in the back in an appropriate child seat.
Pets must either be restrained using an appropriate seatbelt, or must be carried in a secured crate or box.
Neither human nor animal passengers can walk around the campervan when it’s in transit.
As one of the most mountainous regions in Europe, it’s likely you’ll find yourself driving up and down some serious slopes in Spain.
If you do so, then bear in mind there are some traffic rules that differ from those normally applying.
On slopes with a more than 7% incline, vehicles going up usually have priority over vehicles going down. And on mountain roads, it’s compulsory to sound your horn on blind bends.
As you would expect, diesel (gasóleo) and petrol (gasolina) are readily available at Spanish petrol stations (gasolinera). LPG (Autogas) however is not easily available (the exception is in Madrid).
It’s worth checking beforehand as to which petrol stations offer LPG in Spain. It’s also important to remember it’s not permitted to fill foreign gas cylinders.
So, before you travel, search for a list of where you can buy Spanish gas cylinders and adapters and check what the exact rules are.
Campervan insurance is vital for any trip to Spain. Contact your insurance provider to check you’re covered for EU travel.
Where to stay
Like the UK and many other places in Europe, you can’t just pull up and spend the night anywhere in Spain.
Away from beaches and outside of national parks wild camping is sometimes tolerated and may even be allowed under some conditions.
To avoid trouble, make sure you don’t display many signs of obvious ‘camping’.
If you’ve set up tables and chairs and a barbeque under an awning then you’ll hardly be able to claim that you’re just ‘parked up’ for a couple of hours before continuing your journey!
However, while checks are not strict everywhere, you’re only really permitted to stay overnight at parking spaces designed for campervans, or at one of the many designated campsites.
In terms of parking your campervan, you can park anywhere provided the parking space is suitable and there’s no sign banning campervans or large vehicles.
Places to visit
Separating the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe, this absolutely stunning mountain range has a wealth of hiking trails, national parks and ski resorts.
Visit Ainsa, a medieval hilltop town in Aragón, for jaw-dropping mountain views.
Santiago de Compostela
Situated in this verdant corner of Spain, Santiago de Compostela is the capital of Galicia and a stunningly beautiful city full of twisting alleys, elegant squares and historic religious buildings.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the culmination of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, the Cathedral with its elaborately carved stone facades is a must-visit.
The laid-back charms of Tarifa make this one of the coolest places to visit in southern Europe.
Lying on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) it’s primarily known as one of the world’s most popular destinations for wind-powered watersports.
Windsurfers should head straight for Playa de Los Lances, Valdevaqueros and Punta Paloma to catch some waves.
You’ll spend many happy hours wandering this captivating and romantic city in southern Spain’s Andalusia region.
The old town and Barrio Santa Cruz in particular have a wealth of architectural gems and a large dose of typical Spanish ambience.
There are a number of must-sees including the 18th century Plaza de Toros, the ornate Alcázar complex, the Giralda tower and the Gothic Seville Cathedral. Not to mention some fabulous tapas!
Another beautiful Andalusian city to fall in love with! Córdoba is full of Moorish treasures dating from the Middle Ages.
The most famous of these is La Mezquita, an immense and beautiful mosque dating from 784AD which is now a stunning cathedral.
Parque Natural de la Sierra Grazalema and Ronda
It sometimes feels like Spain has a surplus of staggeringly beautiful wild spaces.
This one in the northeastern part of the province of Cádiz is perfect for peaceful walks through stunning peaks, gorges, hilltops and villages. Just watch out for the vultures!
The historic town of Ronda itself is famous world-wide for its dramatic escarpments and views.
Surrounded by mountains and split in half by a gaping gorge (El Tajo, it’s a photographer’s dream.
With a wealth of eclectic architecture and an unexpected cosmopolitan feel, Cartagena is well worth visiting.
Founded by the Carthaginians around 227 BC, the city’s heyday was during the Roman period.
Among its many archaeological highlights are a Roman theater and an abundance of Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish remains.
Protect your camper in Spain with campervan insurance
Driving a campervan in the UK or Europe is lots of fun but also a significant challenge, so make sure you’ve got adequate protection when out on the road.
Exploring new places is one of the reasons you bought your campervan in the first place.
But it also means you’ll find yourself in unfamiliar territory, whether in terms of roads, terrains or climate. This can make you vulnerable to road traffic accidents and damage.
Using our trusted panel of insurers Motorhome Protect will search out the very best campervan insurance, tailored to your vehicle, needs and budget.
Cover arranged by our specialist team includes benefits such as:
- Cover for vehicles valued up to £150,000
- Enhanced cover for personal effects up to £3,000
- Uncapped mileage cover
- Unlimited EU cover
- Quotes available for customers with claims and convictions
Call Motorhome Protect and get a quote for campervan insurance today.
Always check the latest government guidance before travelling.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.