Driving In Spain- The Ultimate Tourist Guide

Driving in Spain is one of the best ways to see this gorgeous country. Check out tips and tricks for tourists driving in Spain.

Spain is the ideal destination to discover by car. Before setting off in this exciting country, make sure you know all the regulations and rules of the road! This is your definitive guide to driving in Spain for both first-timers and experienced travelers.

Our guide covers anything from the basic legal requirements all the way to unspoken rules of the road only the locals know about. You can click any of the bullet points below to quickly jump to each blog post section.

You need to be at least 18 years old to drive a car in Spain. Note that all drivers must hold a valid driving license. Depending on where you are from, you may need an International Driving Permit as well.

Do You Need An International Driving Permit In Spain?

Yes, you do need an International Driving Permit to drive in Spain if your driving license was issued outside of the European Union. This means that travelers from countries such as the US, the UK, or Australia will need to get an IDP to drive in Spain.

If you have a driving license issued in a country that’s part of the EU, you do not need an IDP.

Tourists can use an International Driving Permit for up to 12 months in Spain. Remember that an IDP is only a translation of your original driving license. It is only valid when accompanied by your original driving license.

Speed Limits In Spain

Road TypeMaximum speed (km/h)
Residential Area20km/h
Built-up Area50km/h
Outside Cities70-100km/h

The speed limits above generally apply to most roads in Spain, unless road signs enforce a different speed limit.

Note that the speed limit on every road type is decreased to 50km/h whenever the visibility drops below 50 meters. This rarely happens, but can be caused by extreme weather conditions such as snow, fog, or heavy rainfall.

Rules Of The Road In Spain

General Rules and Regulations

You must hold a valid driving license, and an IDP if necessary, to drive a car in Spain.

Drive on the right-hand side of the road.

All occupants must have their seatbelts fastened at all times.

Drinking and driving is a crime. The maximum blood alcohol levels may not exceed 0.5g/l, or 0.25mg/l when tested with a breathalyzer. Never drink and drive.

Child Seats

Children under 135cm tall cannot ride in the front seat of a car. Additionally, they must travel in an approved child restraint, child seat, or booster seat that’s appropriate to their size.

Use of Mobile Phones

It is illegal to use a mobile phone without a hands-free kit. Texting and driving, driving with an earpiece or headphones are all traffic violations that are strictly enforced. Do not use your phone while driving in Spain, keep both hands on the wheel and focus on the road.

Overtaking and Using The Left Lane

You may only overtake on the left side. This applies to all road types, from multi-lane roads in cities to highways.

Stick to the right lane when driving on a highway. Only use the left lane to overtake slower traffic.

Right of Way

Generally speaking, the car on your right-hand side has the right of way at an intersection. Naturally, this rule only applies if there are no stop, yield signs, or traffic lights that would indicate otherwise.

Turning Right On Red

This may come as a shock to drivers coming from countries where turning right at a red light is allowed. Turning right on red is forbidden all across Europe. Some countries may have arrows next to the lights (either green or flashing yellow, depending on the country) that indicate when turning right is allowed, though.

Speeding Tickets

You will be required to pay for any traffic violations on the spot if caught red-handed. In addition, the police may impound your vehicle if you are unable to pay the speeding ticket on the spot. You will receive the vehicle back once the ticket has been settled.

For maximum peace of mind, it’s best to stick to the speed limits when driving in Spain.

Toll Roads In Spain

Most of the roads throughout Spain can be driven on for free. However, there are some paid highways and toll roads scattered around the country. The following Spanish highways are toll roads:

  • AP-51 from Villacastin to Avila
  • AP-6 from Villalba to Adanero
  • AP-61 from San Rafael to Segovia
  • AP-68 from Bilbao to Zaragoza
  • AP-71 from Leon to Astorga
  • C-32 from Castelldefels to El Vendrell

You can check out the current fees for each one of these Spanish toll roads on this website.

Local Tips For Tourists Driving In Spain

Hazard Lights On Highways

This is good practice, no matter the country you’re driving in. Turn on your car’s hazard lights when approaching a traffic jam on a highway or expressway. That way, the drivers behind you will know to slow down in time.

Driving On Roundabouts

Pay attention when approaching a roundabout in Spain, especially in busy areas.

Unnecessary Use of The Horn

Excessive and unnecessary use of the horn is not only annoying but also forbidden by law. Drivers who honk for no reason can receive a penalty.

Paid Parking In Cities

Look out for parking meters, especially in large cities. Many areas require payment to park, even on-street spots. Trying to find a parking space in Madrid or Barcelona can be a stressful and chaotic experience. You may want to look for paid parking lots ahead of time.

You cannot park within 5 meters of an intersection or a bend. Otherwise, the vehicle may be towed at your expense.

Bonus- Rent A Car in Spain

Looking for a rental car in Spain? We’ve got you covered!

Head over to Rentalmoose and find your perfect rental car for your trip to Spain. Browse through over 15 000 locations worldwide, pick from a selection of trusted suppliers, and choose from thousands of different vehicles.

We plant a tree for every booking made with our platform. Reduce your carbon footprint when renting a car with Rentalmoose.

Click the banner below to get started!

alhambra monumental palace in granada spain with sierra nevada mountains in background illuminated by sun during sunset

Andalucia by Car- Spain Road Trip Itinerary

This travel guide takes you on a road trip across Spain’s Andalucia region, starting in Malaga before continuing up north to Granada and Ronda, then heading back down to Costa del Sol, Marbella and to the tip of Europe: Gibraltar. Explore the best of Andalucia with our Spain road trip guide!

The route then winds back up to Malaga. The recommended duration for this trip is at least 3 days, with the first night in Malaga and an overnight stop in Granada and Marbella.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Malaga to Nerja– 60km (40 miles) đź“Ť 

Nerja to Granada– 95km (60 miles) đź“Ť

Granada to Antequera– 100km (60 miles) đź“Ť

Antequera to Ronda– 90km (60 miles) đź“Ť

Ronda to Marbella– 65km (40 miles) đź“Ť

Marbella to Gibraltar– 80km (50 miles)đź“Ť (9.55 EUR Highway Toll)

Gibraltar to Malaga– 140km (90 miles) đź“Ť (9.55 EUR Highway Toll)

630km (390 miles) total

Tags: Travel guide, Spain, Costa del Sol, Southern Europe, Beach, Summer, Short Trip

Planning- Before You Leave

Before you set off on your Spanish road trip to Andalucia, take a look at some of the essential information listed below.

Why should you visit Southern Spain?

Andalucia is an exciting part of Spain in Southern Europe. The region is known for its beautiful beaches on Costa del Sol (Coast of The Sun), rich multicultural history, beautiful landscapes and mouth-watering food. This trip is perfect for travelers who enjoy beaches, sightseeing and Mediterranean delicacies.

Simply put, it’s the perfect destination for your summertime road trips.

When is the best time to visit Spain?

Costa del Sol has an average of 300 sunny days every year. The water in the Mediterranean is the hottest during the summer, however, it is also warm enough for swimming in late Spring and early Autumn. The water temperature gets colder in the west of Costa del Sol, as the Mediterranean mixes with the Atlantic.

 The perfect time for a road trip to Spain, while avoiding the summertime crowds, would be between April to early June, as well as late August to October.

Why to get a rental car in Spain?

The points of interest along this road trip are located within driving distance of each other. It’s best to travel by car during this trip to Spain.

Although most milestones on this journey could be accessed by public transport, it is nowhere near as convenient as traveling by rental car. That’s what makes Andalucia the perfect destination for a road trip in Spain.

 Scenic routes along the coast and mountain pass roads make this road trip one of the best driving tours in this part of Europe. 

For extra peace of mind during your trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car. What’s more, you can qualify for a 50% discount from the excess cover fee if you take check-in photos when picking up your rental car.

Road Trip Extension to Basque Country

Your road trip in Spain doesn’t have to end in Andalucia.

Drive north for around 8 hours until you reach Bilbao, a fascinating city known for its delicious cuisine and rich history. Then, make your way across the Basque region before finishing in Bordeaux.

Click here for the Rentalmoose travel guide to Basque country and plan the ultimate Spanish road trip.

Can tourists drive in Spain?

Spain is a member of the European Union, therefore most foreign driving licenses are accepted as long as the driver is 18 years old and above. International Driving Permits are recognized, but not mandatory. 

Check out this blog post to learn more about International Driving Permits.

Make sure to follow the speed limits carefully when driving around Spain. There are lots of speed cameras set up all over major roads, some of them are nearly impossible to spot.

International tourists are required to pay their fines on the spot, or online via the DGT website. Keep in mind that if you decide to pay online, the price will be two times higher. Speeding tickets range from 50 to 250 Euros, depending on the excess speed and the road type.

Excessive speeding can land you in jail. If you are caught going over 201km/h on the motorway or over 111km/h in an urban zone, you will either receive an enormous fine based on your salary, or will be sent to prison for up to 6 months.

Traffic in Spain is on the right-hand side.

Now that you’re all set, let’s dive into your Spain road trip itinerary!


malaga city panorama stadium green park harbor sea in background sunny day spain

Your road trip in Spain begins in the second biggest city in Costa Del Sol, Málaga. This exciting city has transformed from being a gateway to Andalusia into a vibrant hotspot packed with cultural experiences, local cuisine and vivid nightlife all waiting to be discovered. 

 Once you arrive, pick up your rental car directly at the airport for maximum convenience and head down into the city. 

What to do in Málaga?

Mercado Central

Rentalmoose loves local food markets. We think they’re one of the greatest ways to take in the hustle and bustle of any city or town. No matter whether you’re in Athens, Cameron Highlands, or Tallinn, the local market is the vibrant heart of the local life.

Indulge yourself in local culture at Málaga’s famous central market, Mercado Central. This authentic Andalusian market has a rich history, it has once been a storage warehouse, weapon’s arsenal, and military warehouse, before becoming a local market once again in the 1800s. 

Mercado Central is perfect to satisfy your local shopping needs, here you can find anything from fresh olives or fruit through to souvenirs and jewelry. 

Mercado Central is a great place for lunch, head into one of the food stalls for local seafood or North African pastries. You can leave your car opposite the market at this multi-story carpark for 15 euros per day.

Museo Picasso

Find out first-hand why Pablo Picasso fell in love with this part of Spain. Head towards the heart of the city and admire pieces from Spain’s most famous painter in Museo Picasso

The venue itself is breath-taking, as the museum is situated in a renovated 16th-century mansion. Inside, there are over 120 works made by Picasso alongside various temporary exhibitions. The museum is open daily from 10 AM, admission tickets cost 9 Euros and can be purchased here.

I recommend going in the afternoon, no sooner than 3 PM, as there are a lot more visitors in the morning.

Playa Pedregalejo

Take a break from the busy city and relax on one of the city’s sandy beaches. Visit Playa Pedregalejo, a long sandy beach in the eastern part of Málaga

Take a dip in the sea or sunbathe. Costa del Sol gets an average of 300 sunny days per year, so you can be sure it won’t rain.

For a post-beach day meal stroll over to El Balneario, where you can enjoy fresh seafood right by the shore. Click here for the menu.

seafood fresh grilled squid vegetables on white plate spanish food

What are the best hotels in Málaga?

As Málaga is filled with attractions, I recommend spending at least one night in town before continuing on. Travelers who want to enjoy the comforts of a 4-star hotel with a pool, fitness center and a perfect location near the Centro district will feel at home at Barcelo Málaga. Prices start at 96 Euros per room.

Gran Hotel Miramar

Sophisticated travelers looking for the most top-of-the-line experience available in Malaga can stay at Gran Hotel Miramar.

This luxurious 5-star hotel offers anything a guest can look for in the perfect hotel: spacious and chic rooms, a spa and wellness center, a restaurant serving delicious food, a bar, and great service. This high standard does come with a hefty price tag, rooms start at 250 euros per night. 

When you’ve spent enough time in Malaga, it’s time to head out and begin your road trip in Spain!

Next on your Spain road trip: Nerja, 45 minutes


nerja beach aerial view blue sea water walking street palm trees buildings spain costa del sol

The first leg of the journey is a scenic coastal drive along the Mediterranean to Nerja. The city of Nerja is one of the most popular hotspots in Costa del Sol, and it is easy to see why. 

It is Spain’s paradise for beachgoers with a variety of beaches, from secluded coves to wide, vivid beaches in the heart of town. Nerja, however, offers a lot more than sandy beaches, as you are about to discover.

What is the best beach in Nerja? 

Burriana Beach

The most frequently visited beach in Nerja is Burriana Beach. Located east of the town, this sandy beach is filled with seashore restaurants, bars, and shops as well as watersport activities.

You can try to park your car along the streets for free, though on-street parking is usually full during peak season. There is a public car park available right by the beach entrance, average cost is around 2 euros per hour. 

Playa del Pino

Crystal-clear waters make the Playa del Pino a perfect spot for snorkel and diving fans. This quiet beach is more secluded, with zero seashore restaurants or frankly any other facilities. Clothing is optional, bear this mind if you do not wish to see nudists.


After a calming stay at the beach, drive up to the village of Frigiliana, just a few kilometers away from Nerja (click for directions). Beautiful, whitewashed houses and picturesque streets make up Frigiliana, renowned as the most beautiful village in all of Costa del Sol. 

Stroll around the streets and feel as if you’ve been taken back in time by this authentic town. Your rental car can be dropped off at the public car park right across the street.

Nerja Caves

Beaches are certainly not all Nerja has to offer, and the Nerja Caves (Cueva de Nerja) and Frigiliana village are the prime examples. 

This massive, 4-kilometer long cave system is a must-see in Costa del Sol. Admission tickets cost 11 Euros and are definitely worth every cent. You can purchase tickets right here.

Next on your Spain road trip: Granada, 1 hour 20 minutes


granda alhambra palace with mountains in background during sunset spain tourism

Drive east out of Nerja and then north along the A-44 until you reach the city of Granada, a historical city at the foot of Sierra Nevada. It’s a must-visit during any proper road trip in Spain.

What to see in Granada?

The Alhambra

Begin your tour of Granada by visiting the most popular monument in the entire country: The Alhambra. This monumental palace is a true Spanish treasure. 

It used to be a fortress, and it served as the residence of Nasrid sultans between the 13th and 15th centuries. As this palace is very popular among tourists from across the globe, I recommend visiting near closing times. 

Admission tickets cost 14 Euros and can be purchased here. The Alhambra is open daily from 8:30 AM to 8 PM (6 PM in winter, between October and March).


Next, head over to the Generalife. These colorful gardens are especially lively in spring, but visiting during any other season will be just as breath-taking. 

Within the gardens, you will find lots of monumental fountains and pools as well as the Generalife Palace. If you are planning to visit the Generalife as well as the Alhambra, you can purchase combined tickets for a reduced price. Generalife Gardens tickets cost 7 Euros per person and can be bought here

Flamenco shows- a must

Flamenco is essentially the heartbeat of Granada. The city is packed with beautiful Flamenco Shows that are often accompanied by delicious local dinner. 

There are lots of venues to choose from, one of the best in town being the Zambra Maria la Canastera, located in the traditional Sacromonte neighborhood that is another attraction in itself. 

The 1-hour show takes place in a traditional whitewashed cave and is performed daily. Tickets cost 24 Euros per person and can be bought via flamencotickets.com.

Where to stay in Granada?

The absolute best place to stay in Granada would be the Parador de Granada. Located in a 14th-century palace, the venue itself is astonishing and rich in history. Its excellent location is directly within the Alhambra. It does not get better than this. The rooms start at 230 euros per night.

Gar Anat Boutique Hotel is a more economical choice for travelers on a tighter budget. This cozy hotel is in a perfect location within the city’s central district. The building itself is a restored 16th-century hotel. The Granada Cathedral (another tourist attraction worth visiting) is just minutes away. The rooms start at below 100 euros per night.

Next on your Spain road trip: Antequera, 1 hour 20 minutes


antequera alcazaba fortress castle fields in background spain

Head west out of Granada and follow the A-92 for about a hundred kilometers. After roughly an hour and a half, you will reach “el corazón de Andalucía” (the Heart of Andalucia), the city of Antequera.

What are the best places to visit in Antequera? 

Antequera is a city often referred to as the heart of Andalusia, and it is perfect for travelers who are keen on history, natural beauty and, of course, delicious cuisine.

Alcazaba of Antequera

Begin by visiting the Alcazaba of Antequera (pictured above), a historical fortress near the center of the city. It was built in the 14th century to counter the Christian Army, which was advancing towards Antequera from the north. 

This monumental fortress remains a historical gem. Guests can step inside the interior and explore the fortress by themselves or get a guided tour. Admission costs 6 Euros per person and can be purchased upon entrance. There is a 50% discount for kids between 7 and 16 years of age, and children below 6 years old can enter for free.

Parking (public) is available right outside the walls of Alcazaba.

Torcal de Antequera

An absolute must-see during your visit is Torcal de Antequera. This national park west of the city features unbelievable, natural rock formations that can be experienced on different hiking trails. 

The trail network includes many hikes that can be walked through for free, there are also guided tours that can be booked via the official website. The national park is home to the Iberian Ibex, which can be seen across the area. Free parking is available beside the entrance.

Where to dine in Antequera?

Foodies certainly won’t be disappointed in Antequera, as there are lots of local restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re craving a delicious Paella, Gambas Pil Pil or a slice of Jamon Serrano, the city has got you covered! 

Head over to Restaurante Plaza de Toros for a tasty local meal. This magical restaurant is located in a bullring, dining here is a once in a lifetime experience. Delicious Mediterrreneanen food and an out of this world atmosphere guaranteed!

Next on your Spain road trip: Ronda, 1 hour 20 minutes


ronda spain cliff bridges and waterfall town costa del sol

Ronda has got to be one of the most beautiful towns in all of Spain. Located on two monumental rocks, there are historical bridges that connect the two districts.

The best views of Ronda

There is a quiet spot where you can get the best ground-level views of Ronda, I recommend going there before heading into the city. 

Drive up to the viewing point. Take caution, as the drive there can be tricky: it’s a rather tight dirt road with steep slopes. 

Once you get to the viewing point, park your car and enjoy the scenic views of the bridges, the rocks, and vineyards in the surrounding area in this picturesque spot.

Next, head up into town. You can leave your car at one of the public car parks in the historic part of Ronda, the rates are around 2 euros per hour. Continue strolling on foot and walk over to the Mirador de Ronda viewpoint, this time to get a view of the region from above.

After getting the best panoramic views at Mirador de Ronda, take a walk to the Bullring

Which bullring is the oldest in Spain?

Plaza de Toros

Ronda’s bullring called Plaza de Toros was the first one ever built in Spain, back in 1785. The controversial show now takes place just once every year, there are multiple guided tours every day that tour the historical arena. 

If you are interested in learning about the history of bullfighting, visit the Bullring Museum. Admission costs 8 euros.

De Locos Tapas

After strolling around the magical town, go for a taste of delicious local food in De Locos Tapas, one of the best tapas bars in Ronda. This restaurant serves some of the best delicacies in town, therefore it can get quite crowded. I recommend booking in advance right here.

Ascari Race Track

Visting the Ascari Racetrack is a must for every car enthusiast in the area. The resort includes a private racetrack, often rated as one of the best in Europe, as well as a country house.

There are multiple racing experiences you can book. Each one includes at least 80km of track driving, a professional instructor, a mechanical team and equipment, a garage tour, and food and beverages.

Next on your Spain road trip: Marbella, 1 hour 10 minutes


marbella puerto banus port yachts luxury boats on blue sea whitewashed buildings in background costa del sol

Head south from Ronda, along a scenic mountain pass down to the coastal city of Marbella.

What can you do in Marbella?

Marbella is Costa del Sol’s hotspot for luxury, featuring ports filled with enormous yachts, luxury clothing stores, golf courses, fine dining restaurants and expensive villas overlooking the city.

Puerto Banus

Begin with a visit to Puerto BanĂşs, the city’s vibrant modern center. Stroll through the marina and admire massive luxurious yachts, or go shopping in one of the marina’s countless high-end boutiques. 

Puerto BanĂşs is the hotspot for nightlife, if you are visiting in the evening you can head into one of the local clubs or bars.

La Sala By the Sea is a great beach club minutes away from the marina, where you can enjoy exceptional drinks and food on the beach. Sunbed pricing starts at 15 Euros per person and can be booked via the official website.

Golfing in Marbella

Golf is extremely popular for both locals and tourists in Marbella, there are over 30 golf courses in the city to choose from and La Quinta Golf and Country Club is one of the most popular ones. 

This 27-hole course is one of the most attractive courses in the region and is suitable for both beginners and advanced players. 

Pricing starts at 100 euros, though there are various sales and discounts throughout the year. This country club also features a Best Western hotel. Prices start at 150 euros per night.

Where is the best party in Marbella?

Playa Padre

When you are looking for a nightlife, then the hidden gem for that is Playa Padre. It’s a small and stylish place where mostly locals go or the people who know it. Some well known DJ’s have performed here, such as Solomun and Black Coffee.

It’s hard to find for tourists, which makes it even more exclusive. If you are into house music then this is a paradise. Best parties on Sunday evenings, check out the Playa Padre website and social media accounts for upcoming events.

Where to stay in Marbella?

As Marbella is the top luxury destination in Spain, incredible hotels are a common sight. Travelers looking for the best 5-star hotels have plenty of options to choose from, I recommend the Villa Padierna Palace. This lavish resort includes 130 rooms, suites and villas surrounded by 3 golf courses, pools, and a spa center. Rates start at 250 euros per night.

A more budget-friendly alternative would be The Urban Villa, 10 minutes away from the city. This hillside villa offers 5 suites with incredible views, as well as a semi-secluded location, authentic food, and a pool. The rooms start at 70 euros per night.

Next on your Spain road trip: Gibraltar, 1 hour 10 minutes


rock of gibraltar big mountain on small island city in background sunny day calm blue sea

Drive down the AP7 from Marbella to Gibraltar. The tolls along this route add up to 4.3 euros and can be paid directly as you are driving through. 

A toll-free alternative (around 20 minutes longer) would be the coastal A7. Although the drive is longer, practically the entire route runs along the coast, so panoramic views are guaranteed. 

As Gibraltar is a British territory, there is a passport control upon entry and exit, and you might find yourself stuck in a long queue during the weekends. You can leave your car at La Linea Car Park in Spain and walk over to Gibraltar on foot, too.

What are the attractions in Gibraltar?

Rock of Gibraltar

The most famous attraction in Gibraltar is the gigantic Rock of Gibraltar. You can drive up atop the famous rock by car, although this drive is recommended for experienced drivers. 

The way up is an exciting tight road filled with alpine-style hairpins and steep slopes. At the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Gibraltar, Spain and Africa. 

You can also take the Gibraltar Cable Car. The ride up takes 6 minutes and costs 16 pounds per adult and 7 per child.

The Main Street

After visiting the Rock of Gibraltar, head down to the Main Street in the heart of town. The vivid streets are lined with all sorts of restaurants, pubs and shops. 

Some duty-free products, such as perfume, are available at lower prices than in Spain. After shopping, head over to Cafe Rojo for a British lunch, open from 10 to midnight Tuesday to Saturday. Your rental car can be parked here.

Next on your Spain road trip: Malaga, 2 hours

Return to Málaga via the AP7.

On the way back to Malaga, you can stop for an unforgettable lunch or a dinner in Los Marinos Jose Restaurant, which is located after Fuengirola. It is one of the best seafood restaurants in Spain.


Enjoy a few more days in the sunny city or return home. Your rental car can be dropped off at Malaga Airport for maximum convenience. Browse through car rental options via Rentalmoose.

Don’t have a car you can take on a road trip in Spain? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next Spain road trip. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

We plant a tree for every booking made with our platform.

Post your pictures from your next road trip in Spain online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

biarritz plage grande main beach with tall waves, surfers and city in background during sunset in france

Gourmet Experience In Basque Country- Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary

Are you one of those people who plan their road trips around food? Then there are two options – you either have been to Basque Country or you are already planning to go. Check out our curated Northern Spain road trip itinerary!

 Either way, check out this comprehensive Spain road trip itinerary around the Basque region in Northern Spain and the South-West of France. It’s an unforgettable weekend getaway, perfect for foodies. During this road trip, you’ll be able to see some of the best places to visit in Spain.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Bilbao to San Sebastian- 100 kilometers (60 miles)đź“Ť 13.95 Euro Highway Toll

San Sebastian to Biarritz- 50 kilometers (30 miles)đź“Ť 5.6 Euro Highway Toll

Biarritz to Dune of Pilat- 170 kilometers (105 miles)đź“Ť 11.4 Euro Highway Toll

Dune of Pilat to Bordeaux- 70 kilometers (45 miles)đź“Ť

390 kilometers (240 miles) in total

Tags: Travel guide, road trip, drop-off at another location, Basque country, Spain, France, gourmet, short trip

Planning: Before you go

What is the best time to visit Northern Spain?

The best season to visit the North of Spain is during the Summer months, as well as early September. Even during those months, the weather can be tricky due to the region’s location next to the ocean. Be well prepared and pack some warmer clothes and a rain jacket, just in case.

How much time should you dedicate for this road trip?

 There are just about 6 and a half hours (about 450km / 280 miles) of driving in total. However, Rentalmoose recommends taking some extra time to enjoy the locations to the fullest. So foodies, ready to pack your bags?

 This road trip can be done in both directions – whether you land in Bordeaux and depart from Bilbao or vice versa. 

 You can rent a car at either one of the airports and drop off at another location. Find your suitable rental car for this road trip in Spain via Rentalmoose.

Don’t forget to use the Rentalmoose app and take check-in photos of the rental car before starting your journey to qualify for a 50% rebate from the excess coverage fee.

Road Trip Extensions

You can extend your Spain road trip to explore the nearby regions even further! Take a look at these possible road trip extensions. 

The South of France

Once you’re in Bordeaux, consider driving east and exploring the picturesque French Riviera. See the European Grand Canyon, stroll down the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice, or try some of the regional delicacies. Click here for the travel guide.

Normandy and Brittany

This road trip requires the least amount of driving. When you’re in Bordeaux, make your way to Nantes (roughly 3 hours away) and explore the best of Normandy and Brittany, before finishing in Paris. Check out the guide here.

Costa del Sol and Andalucia

This trip extension is ideal for long trip lovers. Drive south across Spain for around 8 hours until you reach the sunny city of Malaga, one of the hotspots on the dreamy Costa del Sol. Sunbathe at the best beaches in Europe and indulge in delicious seafood. Don’t forget to check out our travel guide when planning your trip.

Can tourists drive in Spain?

 Yes! France and Spain both accept most driving licenses in the world. Although International Driving Permits are recognized, they are not mandatory when driving in either of the countries. Click here to find out all you need to know about International Driving Permits for any of your future trips.

Make sure to follow the speed limits carefully when driving around Spain. There are lots of speed cameras set up all over major roads, some of them are nearly impossible to spot.

International tourists are required to pay their fines on the spot, or online via the DGT website. Keep in mind that the price will be two times higher if you decide to pay online. Speeding tickets range from 50 to 250 Euros, depending on the excess speed and the road type.

As the driving goes through wine regions, don’t forget that both France and Spain have extremely strict drink driving laws – 0,5mg/ml of alcohol per liter in your blood. Don’t take any risks to drink and drive.

Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive into your Spain road trip!


gugenheim museum unique architecture and small river in foreground, seen during sunset on a sunny day in bilbao spain.

The Guggenheim museum photographed by Phillip Maiwald/Wikimedia Commons.

Your road trip in Spain starts in the city of Bilbao. Take some time for the cultural program the city has to offer. Bilbao is a genuinely cool place – it has a rich history as well as the vibe of a young and modern metropolis. 

What are the best restaurants in Bilbao?

Nerua Guggenheim at the Guggenheim Museum

 Just take a look at the architecture of the Guggenheim museum! And of course take a look at the inside of it, too. It’s one of the best places to visit in Bilbao, and a top pick for any road trip in Spain.

Whilst already there, why not try out the Nerua Guggenheim restaurant? It is a bit more expensive than other places in town but the food is totally worth the price.


 Another fine-dining restaurant that the locals swear by is Azurmendi. The restaurant was chosen as Elite Traveler’s reader’s favorite restaurant in the world and used to be number 38 in the official World’s Best Restaurants chart back in 2017. One thing’s for sure, it is one of the best restaurants in the North of Spain.

juicy delicious gourmet meal decorated with three red flowers served on a white plate. Delicacy served at Restaurant Azurmendi in Bilbao Spain.

One of the many delicacies at Restaurant Azurmendi. Photography by Dale Cruse/Flickr.com

Kate Zaharra

 If you are over the molecular gastronomy and want to eat something simple (but good!), then head over to Kate Zaharra. The cozy eatery is located in a charming farmhouse that overlooks the city, providing a breathtaking backdrop during your meal. Open for lunch between 1 and 4 PM, all week long.

El Puertito

Do you love seafood? Especially oysters? Then El Puertito is a place for you! The very first oyster bar in Bilbao. There is the best oyster selection you can dream of! But if you don’t love oysters, then El Puertito may not be the ideal place for you. 

Don’t worry if your hotel doesn’t have parking, as Bilbao has many car parks around the city center. Find the closest ones to your locations on the map here.

What to see around Bilbao?

Bay of Biscay

Before continuing to San Sebastian, consider taking a little break at the picturesque coast of the Bay of Biscay. 

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

 An optional trip to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – a castle on the rock at the sea. This is a short 50-minute drive from Bilbao. As there is just one road, you’ll need to come back using the same way. All in all, there is around an hour and a half of driving in total. 

Rentalmoose insider tip: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe was one of the shooting locations for Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the show, the castle is a must-visit!

Asador Etxebarri

 On your way to San Sebastian, Rentalmoose suggests making a slight detour from the main road to one delicious restaurant. The detour will add less than 20 minutes to your trip, but the cuisine is well worth it! Be sure to drop by for lunch at Asador Etxebarri. Thank us later.

The next stop on this Spain road trip is the wonderful city of San Sebastian.

Next: San Sebastian (1 hour)  13.95 EUR Highway Toll

San Sebastian

traditional spanish buildings, small square with a palm tree and church in background on a cloudy day. view from maria cristina hotel room in san sebastian spain

View of the city from 5* hotel Maria Cristina 

 One sentence is enough to convince you why San Sebastian is worth visiting during your road trip in Spain: 

This northern Spanish city holds one of the highest numbers of Michelin stars per square meter in the world. 

Michelin star restaurants in San Sebastian

 Three of five 3-Michelin-star restaurants in Spain are in this city, complemented by another great selection of restaurants that add up to 16 Michelin stars in total.

 If ready to pay a higher price, try to visit the 3-Michelin-star restaurants: Arzak, Akelarre, or Martin Berasategui. Don’t skip Mugaritz, the famous 2-Michelin-star restaurant. 

 Rentalmoose insider tip: These restaurants need to be booked way ahead. Check their websites for details.

Pintxos- a regional delicacy

If you don’t plan to spend a  fortune on food then don’t worry; one of the foodie treasures in San Sebastián is its famous pintxos; culinary bites ranging from the original slice of bread piled with food to tiny miniature haute cuisine creations. 

Where are the best pintxos in San Sebastian?

 There are many pintxos bars around the town, for example Bar Sport or La Cuchara de San Telmo. Find these two, as well as a long list of other spots here.

colorful frog-shaped gourmet dish on a shining plate. The petit fours served at arzak restaurant in san sebastian

The petit fours at Arzak restaurant

Parking in San Sebastian

Parking in San Sebastian can be hard to find during high season, although there are many underground parking places around the town. Unfortunately, these are not free of charge. 

 The best places to park in the city center are Parking de la Concha, Parking Boulevard, Parking Okendo, Parking San San Martin and Parking Buen Pastor. 

 There are also many parking places just outside the town and if you park in one of those, public transportation to the city center will be free for you.

Where to stay in San Sebastian?

 San Sebastian has two very good and recommended luxury hotels: Hotel Maria Cristina and Hotel de Londres y de InglaterraWe recommend taking an overnight stop here before continuing on your Spain road trip.

For a budget-friendly stay, consider booking a room at Villa Soro or Arima hotel. 

Next: Biarritz, 50 minutes 5.6 EUR Highway Toll


biarritz grand plage sandy beach and wavy ocean with surfers, colorful buildings seaside buildings in the background during sunset in france

La Grande Plage in Biarritz photographed by Moibtz.

 San Sebastian was the last stop in Spain, now it’s time to cross the border into France! Head to Biarritz – a seaside city that was once the favorite spot of Empress EugĂ©nie, Napoleon’s Spanish-born wife. The city lies just about 35km (22mi) from the Spanish border, and it is another stop on your road trip.

Why is Biarritz famous?

In 1854, the emperor Napoleon III and EugĂ©nie bought several acres of dunes in Biarritz. The couple gave the engineer Dagueret the task of establishing a summer home surrounded by gardens, woods, meadows, a pond and outbuildings. 

 Napoleon III chose the location near Spain so his wife would not get homesick for her native country. The house was called Villa EugĂ©nie, which today is HĂ´tel du Palais

 The presence of the imperial couple attracted other European royalties, like the British monarchs Queen Victoria and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII. This, of course, made Biarritz extremely well-known. 

Biarritz has one of the highest real estate prices in France to this day. The luxurious seaside tourist hotspot is also known for its oceanfront casinos, and its surfing culture. It’s a great place to stop for a day and soak in the sun during your road trip!

Where can you find the best food in Biarritz?

Villa Eugénie

 For the best fine dining experience, don’t wander further from the Hotel du Palais. Their gourmet restaurant has the same name the building once used to have – Hotel Du Palais Biarritz. This is definitely one of the most royal experiences you will have in Biarritz. The spectacular ocean view is the cherry on top.

 With spectacular views of the Basque Country coastline, the lighthouse, and the famous Grande Plage, this restaurant is fine dining at its finest. Expect white tablecloths, multiple sets of cutlery, and impeccably dressed waiters with a strong focus on showcasing local and regional dishes.

The best seafood

 If you happen to be a fan of seafood then Chez Albert is a must for you! Open between 12:15 PM and 2 PM for lunch, 7:30 PM and 10 PM for dinner service. Closed on Wednesdays.

Rentalmoose order tip: Don’t forget to try their seafood soup which Chez Albert is very famous for.

Or just go to Port des PĂŞcheurs – a small and romantic fisherman port, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants with a selection of fresh seafood. Don’t expect to find glamour here, though these places serve high-quality food!

Marché aux Halles de Biarritz

  Foodies should definitely visit also MarchĂ© aux Halles de Biarritz. Built in 1885, it’s not only the main local market but also a place to have a drink and meet friends. You can find everything you need there, fruits and vegetables, the best local products, meat, cheese, bakeries and a few nice places to eat.  

 The second and smaller part of the market is dedicated to fish and seafood where you can buy a plate of fresh oysters for 6 euros. You should know, however, that the market isn’t very cheap. Don’t count on staying on a tight budget when visiting it.  

What are the best things to do in Biarritz?

La Grande Plage

An absolute must when visiting Biarritz is going for a swim in the ocean. When you plan to have a break from all the eating and wandering around the place, go to relax in Biarritz’s famous beach La Grande Plage. If you are traveling with kids, keep in mind that there are quite big waves.

Plage Port Vieux

 If you want a quieter beach with safer swimming options for kids, go to Plage Port Vieux. It’s located on a tiny bay between two cliffs creating a very sheltered beach which makes it the safest place for kids and adults to swim. 

Promenade & Le Phare Lighthouse

If you are not the type who can sit still and sunbathe all day, take a walk along the promenade to the famous Le Phare Lighthouse. Go to the top and see the whole view of Biarritz from above. 

Biarritz Aquarium

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to visit the museum of the sea – La musĂ©e de la Mer. It’s an aquarium in the Art Deco building just in front of the sea. It’s possible to see countless underwater creatures there. 

Where can you park in Biarritz?

Trying to find parking in Biarritz? There are seven payable parking houses in the heart of the city. These are the best free car parks in Biarritz: 

  • Jai Alai d’AguilĂ©ra, 
  • Floquet (Avenue Charles Floquet), 
  • Hippodrome des Fleurs, 
  • SNCF train station, 
  • Atabal (AllĂ©e du Moura), 
  • Biarritz Lighthouse, 
  • Lac Marion, 
  • Plage Marbella et Milady, 
  • Club Hippique.

Where to stay in Biarritz?

 When you plan a lavish and extraordinary vacation then why not walk in the footsteps of Napoleon and EugĂ©nie and stay in the Hotel du Palais which is so full of history. 

For a bit modest and less-costing stay check the La Maison du Lierre or Hotel Georges VI

Next: Dunes of Pilat, 2 hours 11.4 EUR Highway Toll

Dune of Pilat

pilat france largest sand dune in europe large sand hill with people climbing and green trees in background

The tallest dune in Europe photographed by Julia Casado.

 Take a break in Dune of Pilat which is on the way to Bordeaux, the last point of this Spain road trip itinerary. Dune of Pilat is the tallest dune in Europe at 110 meters above sea level. 

 Due to its exposed location along the sea and steep angle, the Dune of Pilat is a famous paragliding spot, so if your soul wants some action then this is an option for you to try. 

 Pick your activity, whether you like climbing on the sand dunes to see the marvelous views, or try paragliding – this place offers you a rush of adrenaline before driving to your final destination, Bordeaux, where you can continue indulging in delicious food.

Next: Bordeaux,1 hour


bordeaux france traditional white building with large windows, at a cobblestone square with tourists on a sunny day

Bordeaux photographed by Niki Nagy.

  Now you have reached your final destination on your great road trip, it’s time to find your hotel, park your car and enjoy the best of what France has to offer – wine! Bordeaux is a very famous wine region and its unique due to its closeness to the sea. The city is praised as the wine capital of the world! 

Well, there has to be something special about Bordeaux. Even the Queen of England herself claimed that Bordeaux is “the very essence of elegance”. It’s a must-see!

What can’t you miss in Bordeaux?

Museums and Art Galleries

Bordeaux offers plenty of attractions for art lovers. If you love the work of old masters, go to The Musée des Beaux Arts

If you are a fan of modern art, you should head to the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art instead. 

Day trip to the vineyards

When you plan to stay longer in Bordeaux, a day trip to a vineyard is a must. You can either drive there with your rental car (but in this case you’re going to need a sober driver) or visit the Tourist Office where the transportation will be organized for you. That way, you can enjoy the amazing wine as well. 

Day trips from Bordeaux

 Other day trip options are the beautiful town of St Emilion, then MĂ©doc (home to many famous Bordeaux wine châteaux like Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild) and also Arcachon – an endearing seaside spot known for its oysters. 

La Cité du Vin

 When talking about wine, Bordeaux has the greatest wine museum in the world – La CitĂ© du Vin. The building is odd in architecture but it’s well worth a visit. Of course, there is a wine shop (with 800 different wines!) and wine tastings there. 

This isn’t a museum of Bordeaux wine but Bordeaux’s museum of world wine – from Greece to Chile, you can learn a lot about world wine cultures there. 

What are the best places to eat in Bordeaux?

 Yes, wine is great in Bordeaux. What else is amazing? Food, of course! The French chef Joel Robuchon has said: “Bordeaux has produced that is world-famous: oysters from the Bay of Arcachon; milk-fed Pauillac lamb, grazed on the MĂ©doc marshes; and cèpes de Bordeaux, in my opinion, the best mushrooms in France. They grow superb raspberries just a few kilometers from here; their ducks for magret de canard (duck breast); and the asparagus, too, is wonderful.” 

La Grande Maison

Robuchon used to have his restaurant in Bordeaux, but it has now been taken over by another famous French chef – Pierre Gagnaire. The Michelin 2* restaurant is in a fabulous hotel La Grande Maison which belongs to the wine magnate Bernard Magrez who predominantly owns Bordeaux wine estates (and also other wine regions in France, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Morocco, and the US).  

 Of course, the hotel and restaurant are both very expensive. However, the restaurant offers a great deal for weekday lunch: a 3-course menu for 60 euros. This way you can enjoy the grand architecture and interior design of this amazing place on a slightly tighter budget. 

The best restaurants in Bordeaux

On top of La Grande Maison, other great restaurants in town that Rentalmoose recommends trying out are Le Chien de Pavlov, Garopapilles, and Racines

Parking in Bordeaux

There are very limited options to park your car on the street in Bordeaux. Cheap parking is offered on the outskirts of the city in several locations. 

Rentalmoose parking tip: park your car in one of the car parks in the city center, which is closest to your destination and is not expensive.

Where to stay in Bordeaux?

 There is a huge selection of grande 5* hotels in Bordeaux, each of them has a gourmet restaurant as well. But there are many gorgeous options which don’t cost a fortune. Try your travel dates at Villa Victor Louis or Hotel Burdigala. 


For maximum convenience, drop off your rental car directly at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport right before leaving. Browse through rentals that support drop-off at another location via Rentalmoose.

Don’t have a car you can take on a road trip in Spain? No problem!

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