2 May, 2022 @ 14:15
2 mins read

Breakdown: Chaos as thousands of British expats in Spain no longer allowed to drive with UK licence

spainish driving test. Photo: Photo by Circula Seguro/Flickr
spainish driving test. Photo: Photo by Circula Seguro/Flickr

THOUSANDS of Brits across Spain are now unable to drive after an extension period that allowed Brits to use their British driving licence in Spain ended.

It means that British residents who have been living in Spain for more than six months are forbidden from driving with a British driving licence.

The news is expected to impact tens of thousands of Brits living in Spain and also applies to anyone holding a Gibraltarian licence. 

Uk Driving Licence
UK driving licences are no longer valid for driving in Spain if you are resident there for more than six months.
Photo: PxHere

Alastair Carmichael, who has lived in Spain for over 40 years, is now stranded in the small town of Lloreda in Cantabria as he didn’t renew his licence.

“I am absolutely screwed,” he told the Olive Press.

“I received an email from the British embassy on Saturday saying ‘as of tomorrow you will be unable to drive using your British licence.’ I have lived here for forty years and don’t consider myself an expat.” 

Carmichael, 62 and originally from Sussex, runs the Carmichael Alonso Libros bookshop.

“I am 6km from the nearest shop and 30km from my bank. I don’t understand why an agreement can’t be struck, it’s not rocket science!”

Elsewhere, Brit Stephan Bramley reported what is surely one of the first fines handed out for falling foul of the law change: “For those still driving on a UK licence but a resident, this morning I was fined 200 euros. It was my understanding that I could still drive on my UK licence until October 31st but apparently not. The officer said once a resident you have six months before you should have swapped your UK licence for a Spanish one. Interesting!” he said on Facebook.

Meanwhile Brit Simon Diable was stopped by police yesterday: “Warning. Stopped today by police outside Estepona. Licence from UK now invalid? Not sure. Given warning not to drive but received no fine. What’s this about?”

Some reactions on social media were less than sympathetic.

Rebecca Grimes on Facebook said: “To be fair we did have about 2 years warning to change for a Spanish licence as a resident.”

The UK ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott, who said negotiations are still ongoing to find a permanent agreement, said: “We’re not there just yet. And we will not have reached an agreement in time for the end of the current grace period.”

The UK has an agreement with all other EU member states on driving licenses allowing Brits to swap their UK licence for that of the country they reside in.

Spaniards living in the UK are also permitted to swap their Spanish driving licence for a UK one.

The British embassy advised anyone who needs to drive in Spain not to wait for a potential outcome from negotiations: If you are affected by this change you should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been saying for some time now.”

Tory MP Ian Duncain-Smith publicly criticised the news: “It’s a case of ‘mañana, mañana’ it’s time [the Spanish government] pull their finger out and do what they agreed,” he said.

The average cost of passing a Spanish test, according to autobild.es, ranges from €600 – €2000, varying wildly depending on the region and on driving experience. 


George Mathias

George is an NCTJ trained-journalist who moved from London to Spain's Costa del Sol and joined the Olive Press in February 2022. He has previous experience working at the Basingstoke Gazette and Reach. Contact him [email protected]

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