Driving safely on the roads of Spain can be quite different to other countries. Some of their antiquated road systems, and use of those systems, leave a lot to be desired. So we´ve come up with a few things to look out for and suggestions on getting about.
Some of the things we´re about to go through are a little generalised. Not all Spanish drivers think and act this way, but it does seem to be the majority making driving safely in Spain a little hazardous. However, if you´re a Spanish driver and you don´t drive like this, then of course we apologise.
It seems that the majority of Spanish drivers tend to drive looking after themselves, and expect you to do the same for yourself. It´s a different way of thinking from the way we were taught back in the UK. Once you get your head around that, then things will become clearer.
Thinking ahead for other drivers is alien to them. Don´t expect them to pull across into another lane on the motorway to allow you to overtake a slower vehicle, or let you out at junctions, or let you filter into traffic when coming off slip-roads. You´ll need to be a little more assertive and then they´ll normally move over. Just be careful.
There are still some very old road systems around where the slip-road to enter onto a main road is a few hundred metres before the slip-road to exit from the main road. So you´ve got traffic diving across you to get on to the road one second, and traffic diving across you to get off the road the next. It´s madness! But we´re pleased to say that these kinds of junctions are becoming fewer.
When Spanish drivers move across into a gap, they expect you to break and let them in. They´ll make sure they don´t hit you (taking care of themselves), you just need to make sure you don´t hit anyone else (taking care of yourself). Very rarely do they do this dangerously but they don´t leave as much room as some of you may be used to. Remember they don´t see their actions as aggressive, so to keep driving safely just relax and stay calm.
Roundabouts as the British know them are fairly new to the Spanish road system. They normally have, what can only be described as a roundabout but with the main road driving through the middle of it, controlled with traffic lights. So if you were wanting to turn around and go back the way you´d just come, this is what you´d need to do.
These kinds of roundabouts are used a lot in Spain with multiple roads exiting and entering at the same location. It does seem to work quite well, but getting into the correct lane to exit at the point you need can be confusing. Just remember to use your indicator and pushiness in great amounts and driving safely round these junctions can be achieved.
Proper roundabouts, where you´ve got a circle that everyone has to go around, are different again! Spanish drivers don´t seem to have any logic brought into the way they´re taught in driving lessons or through their equivalent ´Highway Code´. We´ve spoken to young people going through their driving lessons and it just doesn´t make sense.
Until, that is, you realise that officially they´re only ever supposed to use the outside lane when going round a roundabout, irrespective of which exit they´re going to take. Now if there was only one lane going on to, round, and off a roundabout then that would work and make sense. But there´s always at least two lanes each and every time - causing the problems and making driving safely round them impossible..
The other lanes are just there to help with excessive amounts of traffic! However most Spanish drivers feel they can enter a roundabout in any lane and exit at any time they like. So you may find a driver in the right-hand lane going all of the way round the roundabout with other drivers trying to dissect their journey. You´lll also see them in the left-hand lane wanting to take the very first exit off. It makes absolutely no sense at all so be extra careful!
Unlike some other European countries, if you´re already on the roundabout you don´t give way to traffic entering the roundabout at other junctions, that part at least is like the UK except the traffic is going anti-clockwise. However, there is one exception to this rule which you are very likely to come across in Mijas.
As you get to the top of the hill from Fuengirola to Mijas Pueblo you´ll see a BP filling station on your left and a roundabout in front of you - IT IS YOUR RIGHT OF WAY - SO KEEP GOING WITH CAUTION.
The hill is so steep that buses, lorries, bikes and even some old cars will struggle to do a hill start at this point so they´ve changed the priority to allow them to keep going round the roundabout. It is marked on the road but not everyone looks so just be extra careful.
There is something the Spanish Authorities, and particularly those in Andalucia are good at - making roundabouts look good. Many people will give you directions around the area using the different roundabouts as markers. Here are just a few!