Saturday, October 11, 2014

Driving in Spain

Today I got my merit badge for driving in Spain.  Mr C has his already, he's been driving since we left Seville.

We decided that having a rental car for our time in the south of Spain would give us a little more flexibility for what we want to do & see.  Until now we've been using the train and public transit.  But there are lots of little tiny spots on the map that have amazing stuff, and having our own car give us the freedom to travel at our own pace.

Most of the rental cars in Spain are stick shift.  It’s been awhile since I’ve driven one, but I’m hoping it will all come back to me. 

And sure enough, it’s an easy gig.  They drive on the same side of the road as us, and many of their road signs are recognizable to us.   Merge looks like merge.  Slow down looks like slow down.  Etc.

And the really cool thing is, on the freeway, they do not drive in the left hand lane.  Like ever.  They PASS in the left lane, but that’s it.  They wait till the last minute, they come right up on the bumper of the guy in front of them, then they jet out into the passing lane, and then they zip right back into that right lane, lickety-split.  It’s amazing!  

I’m from Cali, you know, where the left lane becomes the personal property of whoever is wanting that lane at the moment.  And God forbid that you should impose on them for any reason (like to pass).  No sir, that's not how it’s done.  It’s my spot, and it’s going to be my spot until I don’t want it any more, and then maybe you can have it, or maybe not ~ but right now, don’t even think about it.  I’m stayin’ right where I am until I get to my destination or until I get bored with keeping you trapped in the right lane, whichever comes first.   You Cali drivers know what I’m talkin’ about!

So this, by comparison,  was heaven!  

 They also drive the speed limit.  All the time.  Top speed is 120 (which is 74.6 mph).  Many times it's 100 (62.1 mph).  And every time there is an exit or an entrance, it slows to 80 (49.7 mph).  So it keeps you alert, if nothing else, because it's constantly changing. 

And trucks have a lower limit, so you never have to wonder ~ you already know you  are going to have to pass them, 'cause they're going slower than you are.  But you don't do it until the last minute.  And don’t think about staying out in that left lane to pass the next one, even if he’s close.  You just move your butt back over in the right lane, and do it all again in a couple minutes.

The toll booths get a little trickier, ‘cause there’s more posted than we have time to try to interpret.   We look for pictures on the signs, (fast passes, taxi’s, buses etc) and avoid those lines.  Tried to follow someone else through to so we could copy them.  We did pretty well.  We figured out that using a credit card to pay was way easier than trying to count out the right amount in euros.  

The pressure, of course, comes from (perhaps) being "that guy" that's at the machine (some have no attendants) who screwed up and thus is detaining the 19 vehicles behind you who actually know what they're doing and where they're headed.  Although I must say, we must have done OK ~ no one ever had to honk their horn at us.   Wish I had pictures for you, but I was a little busy at these checkpoints.

And wow, some of those toll roads are expensive.  Our highest was 32 euro for just a couple of hours!  Yikes!



The cars are mostly diesel here,  Mr C figured out after the first fill-up that the plastic gloves that are offered were really not meant to be optional.  Stinky! 

These prices are per liter, remember.  Lots of math when you travel.


It's allot of work to interpret the signs while you're driving.

No idea.  We saw this sign more than once.  
 No clue.

 And I loved this sign as you entered the highway each time.   No pedestrians or bicycles.  Got it.   No horses (no kidding?!?)   And by God, don't you dare drive your tractor on the highway!!!  Really, do we have to worry about horses and tractors on the freeway in these big cities???

All-in-all, a successful endeavor, and a check-mark for me.  

Mr. C always does his homework, so it's pretty seamless ~ we know where we're going, we know what the parking situation is like when we get there ('cause remember, many many many of these "old towns" do not allow vehicle traffic); and thanks to Google maps, he even knows what the street (or parking garage or car rental return) looks like!   

So God bless Google maps and Mr. C ~ it's a winning combination if you plan to drive in a foreign country!


  1. You are so brave driving in a foreign country! I like what you were driving too! Well done you! Mr C sure does a great job navigating your trips around all these places!

    Very interesting about the toll roads too. All good tips for those preparing to head to Spain! Your articles make me want to travel there now! I am updating my bucket list!

    1. Well thank you for the kudos, KS, but it's really part of my travel philosophy to have as broad an experience as possible, especially when in a foreign country. So I try not to shy away from what might be uncomfortable or, well, foreign to me ~ 'cause that's part of why we're there. I actually found driving in Australia more difficult than driving in Spain, even though the roadsigns are all in Spanish. In Australia they drive on the left instead of the right, and they have camera's for speeding (zero tolerance -- not one kilometer per hour above the limit goes without a speeding ticket). Lot's more reasons to be tense! We had a car in Italy, too (Tuscany), but I just forgot to get behind the wheel, so I missed that merit badge. You never know when you'll have the opportunity again, if ever, so the answer should always be yes!


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