Driving in Torrevieja
Here we are going to try and give you some general tips with regards to driving in Torrevieja and the areas round about it. It should be noted from the start, that these are observations and we have done our best to fact check as much of them as possible, but do not rely on this information to be legally correct and keep in mind that local rules and laws can change often. As we become aware of anything new, we will endeavour to update this section. But please submit feedback at the bottom if you have something to add or correct in what we are saying, thanks.
Driving in Spain is comparable to driving in any big city in the UK, the majority of the roads are in very good condition and since they don’t suffer from the same level of water and cold temperatures as the UK, you will find they don’t have anywhere near as many pot holes as we do. You do come across the odd dirt track where you would expect a road, but this is mostly when visiting remote areas such as coastal beaches or inside natural parks. You will often hear ex-pats complaining that the folk on the roads are all mental, but it’s really not that bad at all, you just need to get used to a few things that are different from the UK. Now clearly the number 1 big difference from the UK and Spain is they drive on the right hand side of the road and the steering wheel in the car is on the Left. Just wait and see how many times you go to get into the right hand side of the car as the driver LOL.
You need your driving licence (next to no hire company needs the paper copy, but check with your hire company) and your passport. You will often be charged for a full tank of petrol and expected to return the car empty (as you get no refund for unused fuel). Without a doubt I highly recommend you pay for the full comprehensive car insurance. When you hire a car, make sure it has 2x hi-vis jackets and 2x warning triangles in it, the law states you need to have them but is not clear if every single person in the car should have a hi-vis jacket or only the driver and the side passenger. I am going to be doing more research into this one but if anyone knows, please let us know.
The main toll road in Torrevieja is the AP-7, you can drive all the way from both Murcia-San Javier Airport and Alicante Airport until just before you get to Torrevieja before you get to the toll stations. One of the toll stations is at exit 763 “La Zenia” and the other is at exit 754 “San Miguel de Salinas”.
Depending on what part of Torrevieja you’re driving into; it’s possible to exit the toll road before you need to pay. If you’re coming from Alicante Airport you can get off at exit 745 “Torrevieja (norte)” and if you’re coming from Murcia-San Javier Airport you can get off at exit 768 “Dehesa de Campoamor ” and follow the N-332 the rest of the way.
The cost of the toll road varies week to week and depending on if it’s high or low season, from approximately €2.00 to €3.55 at each toll station. Torrevieja has 2 toll stations in close proximity to each other between exit 763 and exit 754, so less than 9km apart but the good news is you won’t see another again before each airport; indeed you can go some distance in both directions and not come across another toll for quite some time. Try to plan your routes, so you only have to pass 1 toll maximum on any trip 🙂
See our tip in the IKEA Murcia page, on why you should get and keep your receipt, when paying for the toll road.
The N-332 is the main (non-toll) road from both Murcia-San Javier Airport and Alicante Airport, it basically follows the whole route of the AP-7 however is closer to the coast, it is a slower road speed rating wise, than the AP-7. It’s also a busier road and has loads of roundabouts along the whole route, so naturally it’s a longer journey should you choose not to use the toll road. 1st time drivers in Spain, I recommend you take the AP-7 as it has less traffic on it and gets you more used to the roads before you come across the madness that is roundabouts.
You’re going to see more roundabouts than you can find traffic lights in most parts of Spain outside of the main cities. Roundabouts are probably the part you really need to pay attention to people entering and leaving, and the folk either side of you if it’s a dual lane (or more) roundabout and check all your mirrors before making a move. At roundabouts, the people on the roundabout have right of way and then you’re giving way to the traffic coming from the left before you enter. It’s not uncommon to have people on the outside lane go all the way around, as someone on the inside lane try’s to cut across at the first exit, so just be extra vigilant at roundabouts and indicate to show when your exiting, even if the other drivers seem to have cars without them. Additionally it should be noted that from time to time you will see the Police (Guardia Civil) and Prostitutes (not normally at the same time) hanging out at roundabouts, just tell your kids that the lady must be waiting for a bus 😉 as for the Police, they are on the lookout for anything they can ticket you for and often one of them has a speed gun, they do pull people from time to time for a random check, don’t panic I am told as long as you’re not drink driving, for the most part they are ok, I will update as and when I get pulled over, as touch wood, it’s not happened yet LOL.
Just like in the UK your meant to stop, but unlike in the UK you will find people throwing themselves out at you expecting that you will stop and you will see many a driver who simply won’t stop. Zebra crossings in Spain come in a few different types, some have no lights with them, just black and white, some have lights and you will see some that are red and white lines. Note that if your not in a car and your wanting to cross, don’t just jump out, check that the cars are slowing down to let you cross. I have seen a car in lane 1 slow down but the person in lane 2 going full steam ahead, always look and check the oncoming traffic as you cross.
Driving in Torrevieja
It’s not the most fun experience during high season, the roads are narrow and parking spaces are rare. Now they do have car parks, so head to these for an “easier” parking experience, the car park next to the Marina is probably the easiest to drive into and park at, as the road leading to it, both in and out of Torrevieja is wider, unlike most of the single lane one way streets in the main built up areas of the city. Some interesting (plus frustrating things) you will see as you hunt for a space, many of the bars and cafes seem to have spilled out onto the road, taking up valuable parking spaces but sadly (if you’re looking for a space and not enjoying a beer or coffee) this is common and there is nothing you can do about it, as the owners pay the council for a licence to use these spaces. You will see some of the locals “abandon” their cars on parts of the street that are clearly painted to say you can’t park, don’t copy them, if you get your car towed away, you will be in for a not so fun time trying to get it back with all the paper work and costs involved.
It wasn’t until coming to Spain that we noticed what bumpers are for, you will see people nudging their way in and out of spaces using the car bumpers. Personally I wouldn’t park in a space like that but you’re going to see this. When you see a Blue Zone, look for a ticket machine that might be a way down the street, you need to buy a ticket and display it. Torrevieja has around 7 car parks.
Your kids should sit in the rear (unless they are over 12) and if they are under 135cm tall you need to have the correct car seat for them, just like in the UK.
GPS Devices / Your Smart Phone / Other Gadgets
You can use a GPS device in your car (as long as it’s not classed as an attention distracting device, yes we know it’s vague but hire companies do offer them as an add-on and they wouldn’t if you couldn’t use them), but you can’t touch it when you’re driving. You need to pull over where it’s safe (i.e. a street and not the motorway/dual carriage way), turn off your engine (as having your engine running and touching the device counts as driving) and program your route. If your GPS device is a smart phone, same rules apply and your definitely not allowed to use your phone without a hands free kit when you drive, yes you’re going to see loads of people driving around with their hand stuck to their head but don’t do it, the fine is not worth it. Radar Detectors are also now illegal and come with a fine of €200 plus 3 penalty points with but Radar and Laser Jammers being very much illegal and you can get yourself up to a €6,000 fine and 6 penalty points.
We have not had one yet, but just like the UK speeding fines seem to be a popular way to make money. Sure you shouldn’t speed but sometimes it’s not very clear what speed you should be doing or the speed limit goes from a fast speed right down to a slow one with very little in the way of warning. Spain has a new piece of kit in revenue collecting arsenal, a Speed Trap Helicopter that can record your speed, take a photo of your licence plate from 3 miles away and the first you will know about it is when your hire company charges your card for it. Also many of the tunnels now have average speed cameras so make sure you slow right down to below the typical 70km speed limit for these oh and you turn your headlights on dipped also. An example of a speeding fine is if your caught doing 130km in a 100km zone you will get around €100 fine, this is classed as a minor infraction. If you either pay it on the spot with a credit card (if the Police car has a credit card machine) or if you pay within 20 days (updated in May 2014 from 15 days) you get a 50% discount. Serious and Very Serious infractions are going to cost you €200 and €500 respectively and attract 2, 4 or 6 penalty points. So don’t speed if you want to avoid that 😉