Taking your car with you to Mallorca
Taking your car with you on holiday gives you absolute freedom to go where you want, when you want. However, there are a few things to consider before you set off.
Whilst road tripping is undoubtedly one of the best ways to see a country, ensuring your car is up to the trip, planning your route in advance, and familiarising yourself with the road rules and regulations of the country you are visiting, will all help make the drive itself is as much a part of your holiday as your final destination.
Driving in Mallorca
You’ll possibly find that once you arrive at your destination you may not need to use your car very much. It is always worth checking out the local public transportation links, both bus and train, as they can often enhance your experience of the area.
In many Spanish towns you should pay attention to signs placed around parking areas that may indicate a market or other event taking place the following day and make sure you park in legal parking spaces.
Pretty much all petrol stations sell various types of fuel (petrol - gasolina) is available in different grades - Super plus (98 octane), Super (96 octane), unleaded (Super sin plomo), Mezcla or Normal (90 octane) and gasoleo or gasoil (diesel). However you will find that it is more expensive on the Islands (for example the Balearic Islands) compared to the mainland of Spain.
Also see: Car Hire Mallorca
Route planning & road-tolls
If you decide to drive through France to reach Spain then you will need to consider the various regulation changes, tolls and insurance implications. Check out our guide to Driving in France!
The motorways (autopistas) in Spain have seen recent improvements and are now amongst the best in Europe. However, most are toll roads (autopistas de peajes), and the charge for using them (payable by cash or credit card) is far from cheap. As such you will find that the motorways themselves are never particularly crowded - and on the other hand the non-toll roads leading to the same destination are almost invariably busy. So for a quick journey, using the motorway network is probably best, but if you are not in a hurry, want to save money, and fancy seeing something of Spain along the way, you'll be better off using the dual-carriageway roads (autovias) that are prefixed with an E. All 'E' roads are toll free.
If you are heading to the Spanish Islands then you will also need to add a ferry into the equation. Make sure you know about the correct ferry to take for your route, the times and days of travel, restrictions on size of vehicle and of course book in advance, especially during busy periods. See our Ferry listings here.
Taking the scenic route
Taking the scenic route is a good option if time is not of the essence or if you’d like to see a bit of the countryside en route. Although what you save in motorway tolls you will lose in time, but driving the back roads can be very rewarding in terms of all the beautiful places and viewpoints you’ll discover.
One thing to consider if you are planning a more scenic route, especially during winter, is to check whether any of the mountain passes or cols you intend to cross, are closed due to snow. If you’re relying on a satellite navigation system then the chances are it won’t know which roads are habitually closed during winter. If you are travelling through France a great site for the latest info on this is Bison Futé, (available in French, English & Spanish) which allows you to search by the name of the col or by department and amend your journey accordingly.
In addition the mountainous regions of Spain can be equally affected by bad weather and so you should check whether your route requires you to have winter tyres or snowchains.
If you do decide to drive along the coast of the mainland or the Islands, remember that these steep mountainous roads can be treacherous. They are full of hairpin bends and there are few protective barriers to spoil the view! They also get very busy during the summer season, so plan for the journey to take extra time during these peak seasons. Also beware of tour buses who seem to be fearless and will occupy most of the road.
Also see: Scenic Drives in Mallorca
Road rules & regulations
When driving in a different country, it is important that you are aware of any road laws and restrictions that may differ from home.
- As with most of the continent, the Spanish drive on the RIGHT
- It is compulsory to wear seatbelts, both front and rear.
- Speed limits on the roads are signed in KM/H.
- As a general rule drivers approaching a junction must give way to the right.
- Driving licence, passport (ID) and vehicle registration documents must be carried at all times when driving
- Drink driving. If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream exceeds 0.05% then severe penalties including fines, imprisonment and/or loss of licence will ensue. This means that just one pint of beer can take you up to the limit. The police also use saliva drug tests to detect people under the influence of drugs whilst behind the wheel.
- Mobile phones may not be used whilst driving unless with a hands-free kit.
- If you require glasses to drive then you will need to carry a spare set in the vehicle at all times.
In built up areas stick to 50km/h and 90 km/h on other road, for example on the outskirts of towns. Dual carriageways that are separated by a central reservation generally have a limit of 110km/h unless indicated otherwise and motorways (toll roads) have a maximum speed of 120km/h.
If you are caught speeding by the Spanish police, on-the-spot fines are expensive and will have to be paid in cash there and then. If you don’t have sufficient money on you then you can expect to be escorted to the nearest cash point (complete with flashing lights in our experience!) so you can withdraw the necessary funds. The official is then obliged to issue you with a receipt as confirmation of payment. The use of radar detectors is also absolutely forbidden in Spain and failure to comply involves a fine of up to €1500 and the device and/or vehicle may be confiscated.
Triangles & High Vis
Reflective jackets, although not mandatory to carry, someone walking on the road or hard shoulder can be fined if not wearing one. Warning triangles are compulsory in every vehicle with 4 wheels or more and Spanish residents must carry 2!
If you have passengers in your car then the wearing of seat belts is compulsory for both front and back seat passengers. Children up to the age of 12 and measuring less than 135cm in height travelling in the front seat of a car must be seated in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight. Children measuring more than 135cm may use an adult seat belt. Children under 135cm in height travelling in the rear must also be placed in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight, except when travelling in a taxi in an urban area. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers are appropriately restrained.
Use of the Horn
Unnecessary use of audible warning devices is prohibited. Warning signals must be brief in built-up areas, and local authorities may prohibit the use of such signals completely. Signs indicate this prohibition. In urban areas it is prohibited to sound the horn at any time, except in an emergency. In places where audible warning is prohibited, drivers must flash their lights.
Legal Documents & paperwork
An important difference when driving your car in Spainis that you are expected to have all your vehicle registration documents ready for inspection on demand. You should always have the following documentation in your car with you:
- Full valid driving licence (not provisional) with the paper counterpart if you have a photo card licence.
- Original vehicle registration document - your log book.
- Motor insurance certificate (third party or above)
- Your passport
At least a month before taking your vehicle overseas, you should contact your car insurance company to ensure that you are adequately covered and are in possession of the necessary documentation. Many insurance companies will only insure a vehicle overseas for a maximum of 90 days at a time, so if you are planning on an extended stay, you may have to make additional cover arrangements. It is no longer essential to carry a Green Card when driving within the EU, however, it is instantly recognisable proof of (at least) 3rd party insurance cover – the minimum cover requirement – and is obtainable from your insurance company.
Whilst checking out your insurance policy you should also ensure that you have European Breakdown Cover just in case of accident or mechanical failure. This can be part of your motor insurance or a separate company such as the RAC or AA.
Before embarking on a journey of several hundred kilometres, you want to be sure that your vehicle is mechanically up to the job. Breakdowns and repairs abroad can be costly and take time out of your holiday so servicing your car well in advance of your trip should help.
There are a few simple checks you can do yourself to prepare your vehicle for the trip.
Battery: A battery rarely last longer than 5 years and a long journey with lights, heaters or AC and windscreen wipers going, puts a lot of additional strain on it. Consider replacing it before you go if it is approaching the end of it’s life
Fluids: Check the oil and water levels and ensure they are topped up correctly. Pay particular attention to the anti-freeze and windscreen wash – use a proper additive at the right concentration so that it doesn’t freeze up on you expect to be in the cold
Lights: Check that all lights are working, clean and correctly aimed. For driving on the continent you must fit headlight converters to adjust your beams so that you don’t dazzle on-coming vehicles when driving on the right. Converter kits are widely available but don’t leave it until the last minute as certain makes of vehicle may require a dealer to make the adjustment
Windscreen wipers: Check front and rear wiper blades for wear or splitting and replace if necessary
Number Plates: Your number plates should be clean and legible as it is possible to be fined if they cannot be read. Most European number plates now come with a dual country and Euro badge so the need for a conventional country sticker when travelling within the EU is not necessary. However if you are in an older car that does not have this then make sure you place a country sticker on the back.
Should you break down on a main public highway or motorway you are not allowed to leave the vehicle unless you are wearing a jacket, the triangles can then be placed at a distance of around 30 meters behind the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic.
If you do breakdown on a Spanish road, follow these six simple steps:
- Pull into the hard shoulder or as close into the side as you can and turn on your emergency warning lights.
- Put on your high vis safety vest.
- Exit the vehicle from the right hand side (the side away from passing traffic).
- Place your warning triangle 10 metres away in the direction of the approaching traffic.
- Make sure yourself and your passengers are behind the motorway safety barrier or in a safe position.
- Use a phone (or hopefully your mobile phone!) to alert your insurance company via your breakdown help line number.
If you do not speak Spanish then before signing up to a policy, find out if they have English speaking people. This will make it easier for you to explain the situation and your position. The breakdown company will find a local Grua to collect your car, who will then take it to a garage. He may have to phone you on the way but many of them will only speak Spanish so a phrase book could come in handy! Have your documents in your car and learn some of the basics before you start driving.
It can take up to 40 minutes for the Grua to arrive on average, but this will depend on where you are, the weather and other incidents along the way.
Also see: Travel Insurance for Mallorca
Road accidents & what to do
If you are unlucky enough to end up in an accident whilst driving in Mallorca, then there are certain procedures that you must follow. If it is a minor accident where nobody is injured:
- Move to a safe place and alert oncoming traffic by placing your red warning triangle 30 meters down the road
- If two cars are involved, complete an accident report detailing the events that lead up to the incident.
- Take pictures of the aftermath if you have a camera handy
- If the drivers cannot agree on a version of events then do not sign any documentation and contact the police for assistance.
Included in the accident report are the following details:
- Date and place of the accident (full address)
- Vehicle information: make, model numbers and vehicle registration numbers
- Drivers' information: full names, addresses, driving licence details (number, category, date and place of issue), Identification (NIE, DNI or passport number)
- Details of insurance companies and policies of all drivers
- Witnesses: names and addresses
- Injuries (yes/no)
- Vehicle damage (yes/no)
- An illustration and explanation of the accident including details of damage caused
- Circumstances of the accident, including weather conditions, speeds involved
If you are involved in a serious accident resulting in casualties, then contact the local police on 092 (or the emergency services by dialling 112) as soon as you can, having moved yourself to a secure spot. DO NOT move the vehicles until the police arrive.
Paperwork that you do not understand should not be signed and do not admit responsibility for the accident to the other driver as this may have legal repercussions.
Also see: Travel Insurance for Mallorca