Motorways in Spain are among the best in Europe. Traveling with them is comfortable and safe. A well-developed road network in Spain allows you to get to every corner of the country relatively quickly. However, the most important aspect is the fact that, in addition to toll sections of motorways, you can drive exactly the same route here on expressways, for which you do not pay. Such an alternative means not only the lack of traffic on the road, but also considerable savings for those who do not want to spend extra money on the journey.
The condition of the roads in Spain is the result of prior investments and funding from the European Union in the 1990s. At that time, the entire road network was renovated and rebuilt, so now you can travel by car in such a large country as Spain. The length of highways and expressways here exceeds 17,000 kilometers. Some of them are under the care of the National Road Network, and therefore these routes are managed by the General Directorate of Roads, i.e. de facto by the Spanish government.
Types of roads in Spain
There are four types of road in Spain, with the local roads marked in two ways:
- Toll motorways, which are marked with the letters AP (from the Spanish word autopista) and the appropriate numbers, on a blue background. It is worth remembering that the ring roads of larger cities marked with AP and numbers are free.
- Expressways, also known as free highways because of their equally good quality. These roads are marked with the letter A (from the Spanish word autovía), and the appropriate number, also on a blue background. It is these routes that are a free alternative to traveling in Spain, because they often run parallel to the highways.
- National roads are routes marked with the letter N and three digits, on a red background.
- Local roads are marked with letters and numbers on a yellow background.
- Communal roads are routes marked with letters and numbers on an orange or green background.
Highways in Spain
The highways in Spain are comfortable and safe, using them we can be sure that we will reach our destination quickly. However, in the current situation and the alternative of free expressways, they are losing some of their importance.
The main highways in Spain are:
– AP-1 (northern highway) from Burgos to Armiñón
– AP-2 (Zaragoza-Mediterranean highway) from Sarragossa to El Vendrell
– AP-4 (southern highway) from Seville to Cadiz
– AP-6 (Northwest highway) which runs from Collado Villalba to Adanero
– AP-7 (Mediterranean highway) runs from the French border to Guadiaro
– The AP-8 (Cantabrian highway) connects Behobie with Bilbao
– AP-9 (Atlantic highway) leads from the city of Ferrol to the border with Portugal
– The AP-15 runs from Medinacela to Villabona
– AP-17 leads from Barcelona to Ripoll
– AP-36 connects Ocaña with La Roda
– AP-41 leads from Madrid to Cordoba
– AP-46 runs from Alto de las Pedrizas to Malaga
– AP-51 runs from Villacastin to Ávila
– AP-53 connects Orense with Santiago de Compostela
– AP-61 goes from San Rafael to Segovia
– AP-68 (Basque-Aragonese highway) which runs from Bilbao to Sarragossa
– AP-69 leads from Cantabria to Haro
– AP-71 connects León with Astorga
Some sections are still under construction, so it’s worth checking the progress of their implementation before you leave.
In addition, in Spain we have five radial highways that surround the capital city of Madrid and are marked with the letter R. They connect with the A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5 and A-6 expressways.
- The R-1 is the highway on the Madrid-El-Molar route
- The R-2 runs from Madrid to Guadalajara
- The R-3 will ultimately connect Madrid with Tarancón
- The R-4 runs from the Spanish capital to Ocaña
- The R-5 runs from Madrid to Navalcarnero
See also highways in Portugal.
Highways in Spain
As we have mentioned several times, the expressways in Spain are in excellent condition. Additionally, for the most part they run along the route parallel to the highways. In addition, they are free, which is why many people recommend traveling with them. After all, why overpay?
Expressways of individual autonomous communities have their respective markings. And so in Andalusia it is the letter A and three numbers, in Asturias it is AS, and in the Balearic Islands it is MA. The expressway designation in Extremadura is EX, in Castilla La Mancha it is CM, and in Castile and León it is CL. In the Canary Islands, the marking of these routes depends on the specific island, and in Gran Canaria it is GC, and in Tenerife it is TF respectively. In Catalonia, expressways are marked with the letter C, and in Valencia – CV. Galicia has routes marked with the letters GA, Madrid MA and the letter M only, and in Murcia these routes are marked with the symbol MU.
In the Basque Country, one of the expressways is marked with BI (the one leading from Bilbao to Mungia), and the other two with the letters GI.
Vignettes in Spain
There is no vignette based toll system in Spain. You pay here at the so-called gates for each section of the motorway traveled. Typically, toll road sections are managed by private concessionaires on the basis of a contract. In addition, toll roads are marked with a payment symbol – a red circle.
Highway tolls in Spain
In Spain, tolls are paid at the gates. You can pay with cash in euro or by card. Their height depends primarily on the length of a specific section and of course on the type of vehicle we travel.
In Spain, the price list distinguishes between three main vehicle groups:
- the first category includes the so-called light vehicles: motorcycles, passenger cars, minibuses and minivans as well as small delivery vehicles. Also passenger cars with trailers (without twin wheels)
- the second category is heavier vehicles: buses and trucks with two and three axles, vans, minibuses and passenger cars with a trailer (with twin wheels)
- the third category includes mainly heavy cars, such as buses and trucks with four or more axles.
The specific amount for a motorway ride in Spain can be checked, for example, on the government website On average, we will pay about 10 euro for each 100 kilometers driven in Spain.
The amount of tolls for a motorway section in Spain also depends on the specific day of the week, be it a weekday, weekend or holiday. In addition, the final bill is also influenced by the fact whether it is the holiday season and the specific times of our journey. Unfortunately, during the summer holidays or rush hours, a slightly higher fee is charged for using the motorway in Spain.
What else is worth knowing when traveling on motorways and expressways in Spain?
When driving in Spain by car, it is worth following the local road regulations, because the fines are extremely painful here financially. Better to take your foot off the gas than find out about their height.
For those interested – the amount of alcohol in the blood above 1.2 per mille may meet a fine of up to 70,000 euro! On the other hand, speeding by 50 kilometers carries a fine of around 1,000 euro.
See also highways in France.
As for the speed limit in Spain:
- in built-up areas, we drive up to 50 km / h
- outside built-up areas, we can increase the speed to 90 km / h in the case of roads of the second category
- in the case of roads of the first category, we can drive up to 100 km / h
- we can travel up to 120 km / h on expressways
- if expressways run in built-up areas, take your foot off the gas and drive to 80 km / h
- while on highways we drive up to 120 km / h
- when the motorway runs through built-up areas, we slow down to 80 km / h
It is also worth adding that you should move on motorways at a minimum speed of at least 60 km / h.
To drive a vehicle in Spain, all you need is a driving license, registration certificate with valid inspection and civil liability. For this, of course, you also need a valid identity document, i.e. an ID card or passport. All road users must wear seatbelts, and low beam driving is not compulsory all year round. We use them at night and in tunnels, and when there are bad weather conditions on the road.
Every car moving in Spain must be equipped with: a warning triangle, reflective vests for everyone in the car, spare bulbs, as well as a spare wheel with tools for its replacement. First aid kit or fire extinguisher are not mandatory equipment here. In winter, winter tires will be useful, as well as chains if we are going to mountain regions. Interestingly, if the driver uses glasses, in Spain they must have a second pair of them while driving.
As for children, in Spain, up to the age of 12 or 1.35 m tall, they must travel in properly selected child seats. The permissible amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood is 0.5 per mille. If they have a driving license for less than two years, then this threshold is only 0.29 per mille. It is also impossible to talk while driving, neither on the phone nor on the headset. The only item allowed in Spain is the hands-free kit. If you are pulling a trailer with you, it must be equipped with an additional warning triangle in addition to the additional side mirrors.
Important phone numbers in Spain
- 112 emergency number
- 092 police
- 080 the fire department
- 061 ambulance service
- +34 91 594 93 47 roadside assistance