I do love living in Spain, but everywhere has its minor frustrations, right? Well I just ran into a big one. The Spanish driving test.
Living in Spain now, after 6 years in Turkey, I realised just how much I yearned to buy a little car and drive again. Explore the quaint little villages and the mountains, the rugged coastline and beaches and maybe trips to France and Portugal.
Driving in Turkey wasn’t fun but here in Spain the traffic is as normal as it gets. Everyone stops at red lights and crossings. Everyone pays attention to the road rules and everyone on the road seems to be rather polite. A little car would give me the freedom to explore this beautiful region. Well, my dream has had to go on hold for a short while. Why? Read on.
For all the British expats living in Spain, they can drive with their British drivers licence for a year and then they are obliged to swap it for a Spanish one. A straight swap – a fee of course – but no exams.
For Australian and American expats, unfortunately there are different rules and they can only use their licence for 6 months. If they are caught driving after the 6 months of residence in Spain, they will be in big trouble and a fine, of course.
So, I’m a bit different, in that yes, I’m Australian, but I have a British passport. This passport allows me to live in Spain with no problems. I was lucky there. But I have an Australian drivers licence, not so lucky as I can not swap it, but need to do the Spanish driving test.
The Spanish driving test consists of a theory test which needs to be passed before you can start the practical driving lessons and test. And all Spanish driving tests must be done through an official driving school. Even the theory is a month of attending theory classes.
After a bit of research, I found out that I can do the Spanish theory test in English. The practical will still be in Spanish but I could probably get through that with my beginners Spanish. Turn left, turn right, straight ahead, turn at the roundabout etc etc – I could learn these phrases.
I proceeded to try and find a driving school that had an instructor that spoke English for my theory classes. Another factor is that this doesn’t come cheap and costs upwards of 500 Euro. Anyway I had made my decision and found a school that had an English speaking instructor. Great. Also let’s not forget I have driven for over 30 years in Australia. This was going to be easy.
From the first lesson I realised how wrong I was. The Spanish driving code is one of the most detailed in Europe. So ok, that could be a challenge and I would need to study.
It was after some theory instruction, we did a few practice questions from the many practice exams available and that’s when I realised that this was a joke. The translation was unbelievable. (See some sample questions below)
If the Spanish government driving department has decided to translate the Spanish driving test into English for the many expats living here, why didn’t they use a reliable and competent translator? There are so many native English speakers that are fluent in Spanish and could have done an efficient job with this test, but instead, I’m guessing they had used a Spanish translator and been dependant on the Google translator.
You must get at least 27 out of 30 questions right, to pass the theory. If you fail you must wait 3 weeks before you can try again. And all this before you can get into a car. Failing again will start to see the costs rise.
Starting to have serious doubts now, I decided to look at the various expat forums and see if there were any comments or tips. Anyone else gone through it? The first comment I came across didn’t help at all.
‘There are few things in life as difficult or intimidating as getting a Spanish driver’s license. It’s a bit like trying to solve Fermat’s last theorem while sitting on death row in a Texas prison. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has been through it.’ by Sal de Traglia, an American expat blogger.
‘A total nightmare. I’m quite academic and have done many professional exams but this takes the biscuit.’ by Frustrated Expat.
I started to consider my options and as I want to visit my son in the States in June, which is only 4 months away, I realised that this task was too big for me and I dropped out. The more I tried some of the practice tests, the more I realised that it wasn’t about knowing the road rules, as it was trying to work out what the f* the question meant. And if all went well and by some miracle I passed everything, I would have to drive around with a large green L on the back of my car for the first 12 months and not exceed 80 kilometres an hour, after I have been driving for 30 years. I decided to drop out.
Ill take my other option which is to live in the UK for a short while and swap my Aussie licence there for a British one, and then come back to Spain. It actually seems easier in the long run.
Here are a few questions for your amusement :-
A picture of a regular sign with a cow on it.
Question: This signal, what does it indicate?
a) You can find wild animals
b) I can find animals but have no preference
c) I can find pets and have preference (and this is the correct answer)
Question: To stop drowsiness, avoid driving at this time
a) Early morning hours
b) Early hours of the morning
c) Late afternoon hours
Question: Drowsy driving, why is it dangerous?
a) Because it circulates more slowly
b) As the trip takes longer
c) Resilience is lost
Question: Circulating with a free escape is prohibited
a) only on interurban roads
b) only on urban roads
C) on both
Question: The elderly can be a factor that favours distraction while driving?
b) Yes, always
c) Yes if proper precautions are not taken
Question: Is it advisable to drive at night to avoid fatigue?
a) Is it advisable to drive at night to avoid fatigue? (Yes, the question is repeated)
b) Yes, because there is less traffic
c) Yes, to avoid traffic jams if the journey is long
Have you experienced the Spanish driving test?