Passing a driving test in Spain

Upticks client Ruth shares her experience of passing a driving test in Spain.

This year we are adding a new category to our news feed, ‘Client Experiences’, in the hope that we can give you a first-hand insight into what it’s really like for people moving to Spain for the first time, and the different scenarios and situations they face. 

First up we have our Non-Lucrative Visa client Ruth who wasn’t hanging around to wait for the UK and Spain to reach an agreement about exchanging driving licences, and smashed through her driving test, passing both her theory and practical test first time round.  

Here she tells us all about it: 

” We arrived in Spain post Brexit and at the time the advice was that we had 6 months to take our tests.  There was a notice on the government websites to say negotiations were continuing, but there were no guarantees.  So, your choices were go for the test, or wait and see and hope for an agreement.  I decided to go for the test.  After following several expat Facebook groups and listening to all the arguments, I concluded it was too risky and that taking the test would possibly help make me a better driver in Spain, and help me to learn more about the language and culture.
I joined a school, paid the fee, provided a passport photo and my TIE card.  One point I would like to make is they say you have 6 months but this is not true, because it took us 2 months to get the physical card and the school would not enrol me without it, so in reality you only have 4 months.  I also lost a month with Xmas and New Year, but the school were great at accommodating me and performed all the necessary bookings for both exams.
The school ran classroom lessons which I was invited to, but there was little point as my Spanish was not up to speed.  For me I was given a book in English which was a big help, and access to the school’s online portal containing dozens of practice exams online.  I was also given a WhatsApp number to use for any questions if there was something I didn’t understand.  I attended the school twice to do the practice tests on paper as my exam was going to be in Orihuela and they use paper, although I understand some centres use PCs and you do it online.  
I found the theory hard in places because of some poor translations and some very badly worded questions.  You do feel like they are trying to catch you out at times, but when you look at the book, the answers are generally in there, its just a heck of a lot to remember.  I respect them asking about junctions and speed limits, but the questions about World Health Organisation statistics and the ones about which side is the gear change on for a motorbike….. well, I could not appreciate the benefit of me knowing all of that.
Test day in Orihuela, the school sent me a WhatsApp location, which when I looked at it had the name of a driving school on it. I got in my car, and entered the name of the driving school into my sat nav and drove to the location.  Nobody there.  I rang my school and they said I had gone to the wrong place.  I could not get a connection on my phone to use the phone’s map, and the sat nav did not bring anything else up apart from where I was in the town.  Absolute nightmare and I was now in tears and a bag of nerves because I was late.  I have to take responsibility for this, I should have driven to the test centre to check it out the day before. However, I do think it would have been useful for them to explain it’s on a trading estate out of town.  The centre is rented by the DGT from a driving school who test HGVs and doesn’t show on car sat nav, apparently. They sent someone to me and I followed him to the test place and the examiners (who were just lovely) allowed me in to sit the exam. 
A couple of days later you go online to a DGT website to find out your results, and I was pleased to get 29/30. You need 27.  So, on to the practical.  I was introduced to Alberto who spoke excellent English, and he directed me from Rojales to Guardamar and decided within about 20 minutes that I was a good driver.  He rang the admin at the school there and then to see about putting me in for the test straight away, but there were no slots available and Xmas was coming.  So, for the next few weeks, I thought I might as well have a few lessons and increase my chances.  
This was the right thing to do because there are a few tricky junctions in old Orihuela town and No Entry signs that are hard to see.  There are mirrors around the old buildings which we may or may not be used to using in the UK, so it was important to remember them here.  They take you in the cars with other students, which is good because you get to observe and take in all the signs and junctions.  
My tips – 
  • Indicate even if you think you don’t need to because there is nobody there 
  • Stay to the right on dual carriageways in and out of town  
  • Stop at a stop sign, roll forward until you can see, then count to 3 before you move off
  • Practice parallel parking beforehand
  • Move using a bit of acceleration into 3rd gear in town and a bit of speed, don’t crawl, they want to see you are confident
  • In Orihuela, forget anything you know about roundabouts. Stay in the outside lane all the way around, even if you are coming off at the third exit to the left. Do not indicate left, only indicate when you are coming off of the exit you are using. I know……
  • Learn flashing ambers for cars and pedestrians – what exactly do they mean and for whom
  • Slow down, and even stop if required, when entering a slip road at the Give Way sign to join a faster road, to make sure you can get onto it easily, do not under any circumstances stop at the very end before you join
  • There are about 20 things you will need to learn in Spanish, but if you get an examiner like mine he just shouted right / left / 2nd exit etc.
On the day of the test, you are stood in a street with about a hundred Spanish teenagers, about 10 different driving school cars, instructors and several examiners.  You look out for your car / instructor, and they pluck you from the crowd when it’s your turn. It’s a kind of organised chaos. Fortunately, where I was there is a shopping centre with loos and a coffee place, because I was stood around for about 1.5 hours in total.
That’s about it, I was told I had passed on the day, given a green L plate to display in my car for a year, I have to download a temporary licence from the DGT website in case I get stopped by the police, and my new licence should arrive within 3 months.
I have a motorbike licence as well in the UK, but I’m not sure if I will want to continue riding big bikes, so I’m not going to do the test. If, and it’s a big if, they say we can exchange UK licences in the future then I will try and exchange that part of my UK licence and get it added to my new Spanish licence.  I have no idea whether that will happen, but we shall wait and see. We shall also wait and see what impact all of this is going to have on my existing car insurance policy, if any. ” 
Ruth 15/01/2022 
Passing a driving test in Spain

Ruth and a friend have set up a Facebook group in the hope of helping other people who are thinking about passing a driving test in Spain.

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