Planning to tour Spain with a motorcycle? There are some essential things you need to know before your trip, including important paperwork and kit to bring with you. Here’s everything you need to know about motorcycling in Spain.
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Motorcycling in Spain- why you should go!
When you think of Spain, many people think of overcrowded beaches in Benidorm, drunken teenagers and possibly Sangria. But, I promise you, there is much more to Spain than the Costa del Sol, especially if you’re travelling and touring by motorcycle.
The landscape changes from the rugged north, with mountains and scenic views to rival anywhere else in Europe, to the desert and arid areas, to the sparkling azure blue of the Mediterranean. There is history and culture everywhere you look, as well as friendly and welcoming people, delicious food and SUNSHINE- even in winter.
Motorcycle Touring in Spain- Where to go
When planning a motorcycle tour of Spain, the first thing you need to do is to figure out where you’re going (and how long you have for your road trip!)
If you’re riding from the UK to Spain (we’ll cover that shortly), you need to allow the time it will take to drive through France to Spain (and back again!) Of course, if you only have a week for your holiday, travelling from the UK and back leaves only a few days to explore the country, and the further south you go, the less exploring time you have.
On the other hand, if you have 10-14 days or longer, you can get a lot further south, certainly as far as Costa Blanca or Andalucia and possibly even get to enjoy motorcycling in Portugal if you’re happy to ride every day.
Make sure you bring a motorcycle camera or helmet cam– the scenery is spectacular.
When to go motorcycling in Spain
Touring Spain in Winter
In our opinion, southern Spain is the perfect European winter destination. It’s warm for one thing, and there’s nothing like a little sunshine to chase away those winter blues. It’s one of the warmest places in Europe in February– average temperatures in Malaga are 17°c (but only 12°c in Madrid- that extra bit south does make a big difference)
In the past, Spain has been VERY crowded during the winter months, especially in the south. Many Northern Europeans (like us Brits!) head to that area to get some winter sunshine.
However, now that BREXIT has happened and rules have changed (more on that later too!), you might find things a little quieter, certainly with British vans.
Northern Spain is mountainous and you can expect snow during winter- and it will be cold, even on a sunny day (just like in the Alps or any other mountain range.) If you’re planning to stay to the north, you’ll need to bring warm clothing.
Spain Motorcycle Touring in Summer
Of course, Spain is a classic summer destination, and it can be CROWDED, especially at the UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain and on the beaches. For us, we find it too hot during high summer, especially as we travel with a dog and keeping a dog cool on a road trip is never easy (especially when they’re a cocker spaniel who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘chill’…!)
Road tripping Spain in Spring and Autumn
The best times to plan motorcycle touring in Spain are probably the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. Temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy the beaches and swimming in the sea, but there are much fewer tourists.
Planning a route from UK to Spain
For some reason, riding or driving from the UK to Spain seems to confuse people.
Perhaps it’s because there are several options, or perhaps because there’s a mountain range in the way, but it’s something which gets asked over and over again in Facebook groups and forums. Of course, if you travel with a motorcycle camper van, you might have different considerations than if you’re riding the bike the whole way, but the general principles are the same.
Ferry or driving from UK to Spain?
The first question to ask yourself if whether you want to travel from the UK through France and down to Spain, or whether you want to take a ferry direct from the UK and sail around the coast and down to northern Spain.
Generally, taking a ferry from the UK to Spain is much more expensive than driving through France (depending on time of year and type of cabin).
Ferry with a motorcycle direct to Spain
You can travel from Portsmouth or Plymouth and go to either Santander or Bilbao (both on the north coast of Spain)
A one-way trip takes about 24 hours and booking a cabin is recommended.
The biggest consideration to this ferry (apart from the cost), is the weather. You will be crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay- and it can get ROUGH. Even in the middle of summer. As someone who gets seasick (hilarious considering I’m ex-Navy and lived on boats for 15 years), I avoid this crossing and prefer to drive from the UK through France to Spain, but it’s entirely up to you.
Driving through France to Spain
If you decide that you want to drive your motorcycle or camper down to Spain, you first need to decide if you’re going to take the ferry or tunnel from UK to France (there are pros and cons to both).
Then you have two main routes through France to Spain. Each route takes about a day to drive, so take this into account when planning your Spanish road trip itinerary.
Route 1 is via Tours, Bordeaux and down the Atlantic coast on the N10 until you cross the border between Biarritz and San Sebastien. You can join this route easily if you decide to come over on a ferry to Caen, Le Havre, Dieppe or Cherbourg.
This is our favourite route for a France road trip as you pass some incredible places (including some of the most historic places in France!)
Route 2 is straight south from Calais, skirting around Paris and then down to Clermont Ferrard and Perpignan on the A75 (which is largely free from tolls). The huge highlight from this route is crossing the Millau Viaduct on your motorcycle- it’s well worth the experience.
Of course, you can always drive down one route and back up another!
Can I drive to Spain in the Winter?
Yep. I know there are those HUGE mountains called the Pyrenees, but the routes are all open, unless you happen to be really unlucky and hit it in the middle of a snowstorm (do check the weather forecast before travelling.)
If this happens, then we recommend stopping for the night somewhere safe (the beauty of travelling in a van) and then continuing on when the snow has stopped and the roads have been cleared. Don’t forget you will need snow chains and make sure you have fitted all-weather tyres.
Hiring a motorcycle to tour Spain
If you don’t have your own bike, or don’t want to take it, you can easily fly into Spain and hire one. Just make sure to ask how to get from the airport to the rental agency- not all of them are at the airport itself and you might need to book a taxi.
To rent a motorcycle in Spain most places will expect you to be:
- 21 years or over, depending on the company’s rental policy; (18 years old for scooters and some very small bikes)
- Have a minimum of 3 years riding experience (in practice, this seems flexible)
- show identification (identity card for EU citizens or a valid passport for other nationalities)
Make sure you have proof that you can take the vehicle across a border if that’s what you’re planning to do.
Don’t forget, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the vehicle has the required safety equipment. The on-the-spot fines apply to you as the rider, not the company. Check in advance with the company what kit they will provide with the vehicle and what you will need to bring. If you are solo motorcycle touring, remember you’ll need to carry everything yourself, including any motorcycle camping kit.
Take a list of what is legally required with you and check it off one by one as you are given the handover. Do not drive until you are happy you comply with the local laws.
You can expect to pay anywhere from 80€-180€/ day- based on model. Make sure you ask the right questions to know what’s included in your rental, such as:
- Mileage limits/ surcharge
- Kit included
- Luggage included
- Helmet rental available
- Pillion allowed
- Breakdown/ insurance cover
- Times & location of pick up/ drop off
- Documents needed
Motorcycling in Spain- what gear do you need to carry?
Just like most of Europe , there are certain things you MUST carry with you whilst motorbike touring in Spain.
Don’t forget, if you are motorcycling in France to get to Spain, you need all the kit required by those countries, as well as the kit needed in Spain.
Things you need to ride in Spain- safety gear
These are the things you MUST have with you when you’re motorcycle touring in Spain.
- It is NOT mandatory to wear any other protective gear- but I highly advise that you do!
- Hi-vis reflective jackets – you must wear them on the side of the road or hard shoulder or risk being fined. You do NOT have to ride with one on if you don’t wish to.
- You do not need headlight beam converters on a motorcycle in Europe unless your headlight points dramatically to the left.
- Country (UK) sticker attached to the back of bike on reg plates. (NOT the EU or GB sticker anymore!)
- If you wear glasses you MUST carry a spare pair
- Wearing a helmet is mandatory for riders and pillions and you will be fined for breaking this.
NOTE – If buying a helmet, check for an ECE 22 E-Mark label to be road-legal on European roads. Read more.
TOP TIP: Buy these essentials for riding in Spain in advance. If you wait until you’re at the ferry/ tunnel, you could spend THREE times as much!
Recommended bike accessories you MIGHT need when motorcycling in Spain
The following kit are things you might need to carry in your kit.
- Winter tyres are compulsory
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit – not compulsory but worth carrying.
- Spare bulbs
- Snacks and water- just in case!
Don’t forget to do your motorcycle maintenance checks before you leave- grab your FREE motorcycle maintenance checklist here
Are bluetooth headsets or intercoms illegal in Spain?
No. There are several blogs and websites (some of which I would consider a fairly high authority) which are incorrectly reporting that bluetooth headsets are illegal in Spain. Whilst it IS illegal to use headphones or ear buds, or connect the bluetooth system to a phone, having a fitted bluetooth intercom system is not illegal.
Basically, just like when motorcycling in France, anything which goes INTO the ear (and therefore blocking your ability to hear other noises) is prohibited, but anything which sits outside the ear, even in a helmet, is allowed, as it’s akin to a ‘speaker in a car’.
What documents do you need to road trip in Spain?
Unlike when motorcycling in the UK, if you’re riding in Spain, you need to carry the following documents with you at all times- failure to produce them immediately will result in a fine.
- Passport (or identity card)
- Driving licence (check it is in date!)
- Motorcycle Insurance documents- check you are covered for riding in Europe
- Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address)
We advise to also have the following documents to hand:
- Vehicle tax
- Breakdown cover
- International Driving Permit if required
- Trailer certification (if towing)
- Personal travel insurance
Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Spain?
- You do not need an IDP to drive here for periods up to 6 months.
- You do not need a green card to drive/ ride in the EU.
Motorcycling in Spain- where to stay overnight
In Spain, there are several types of stopovers you can use.
- B & Bs
Spanish Camping sites for motorcycles
It’s easy to find motorcycle campsites in Spain and they’re much like campsites anywhere else in Europe. Some are rustic and have very basic facilities, while others are designed for long-term visitors and have entertainment, clubs, pools and bars!
Many campsites have large pitches, excellent (and clean) facilities and stunning views. And most have staff who speak excellent English.
TOP TIP: If you’re touring Spain in summer, make sure to get a pitch with shade. You’re going to need it when the sun gets hot!
TOP TIP: If you’re planning to stay in one area for a long time (30+ days), negotiate a special rate with the campsite directly. Most of them have some sort of discount- some are as little as £10/ day, including electric.
Can you wild camp with a motorcycle in the Spanish National Parks?
No- wild camping is not permitted in any of Spain’s National Parks.
Driving tips for Spain
Ok, let’s deal with the basic rules and some tips for motorcycling and road tripping in Spain:
- Spain drives on the right
- Speeds are in km/h, not mph (you might want to change the setting on your motorcycle sat-nav)
- You need dipped headlights/ daytime running lights on
- Gloves are mandatory
- Children under 12 are not allowed on a motorcycle without permission (don’t ask me how you get that!)
- Road surfaces are generally pretty good and, unlike France, they try to avoid 10,0000000 road works on a bank holiday weekend.
- Yellow diamond signs mean you have priority. Diamonds with a black line through mean you no longer have priority ( this is usually on roundabouts.)
- Trams always have priority everywhere- keep eyes in the back of your head if you’re driving near a tram network.
- If you are driving in the mountains, you MUST sound your horn before a blind bend but you are NOT allowed to use your horn in built-up areas. The Spanish ignore this law completely.
- The use of winter tyres in Spain is regional. Look out for traffic signs indicating that winter tyres or snow chains are compulsory where you are.
- IMPORTANT: Drivers do NOT have to stop at a zebra crossing for pedestrians IF there are no lights. So don’t walk out into the road thinking traffic will stop for you.
- Some places have a speed sensor before a normal traffic light. If you are travelling at or below the speed limit, the red traffic light will change in your favour. If not, the light will remain on red to slow you down!
- In some places, to turn left across a dual carriageway you need to pull-in on the right and wait until it is clear in both directions.
- If you are overtaking a cyclist or a group of cyclists, you must leave at least 1.5m of clearance, and also reduce speed by 20kmh (WHY Spain, WHY?) You are allowed to cross a white line to overtake a cyclist AS LONG AS nothing (not even another cyclist) is coming the other way.
- Motorbikes are, bizarrely, allowed to use the bus lanes mostly marked ‘BUS-VAO’ (VAO means High Occupancy Vehicles). You’ll find these in Barcelona, Madrid and a few other places but beware the high-speed buses!
Is filtering legal in Spain?
No. You must leave a 1.5m gap between you and whoever you are overtaking.
Roads in Spain
The Spanish road network is pretty good and has a mixture of paid and free roads.
- ‘Peaje’ or ‘AP’ is a toll road. Autopistas are marked red on the map and they will have the letter ‘P’ next to the number
- Toll-free motorways are marked with the letter ‘A’ and are marked blue on the map
- Main routes /dual carriageways (green on the map)
- An “autovía” is like a motorway, except that bicycles and agricultural vehicles can use it.
Restricted driving days in Spain
Spain has certain days where driving is restricted. You can find out more about them here
Restricted Zones in Spain
Some of the bigger cities in Spain have environmental zones which only residents are allowed to drive in. These zones are indicated with ‘Area de prioridad residencial‘ and are banned to anyone without a permit (or special exemption.)
Toll roads in Spain
If you choose to use the Autopista toll roads while motorcycling in Spain, here are some tips for you:
- Just like most other tolls in Europe, you’ll usually get a ticket when you enter the toll route, then have to pay when you exit at either a manned or automatic toll booth. Occasionally, some sections of road have a fixed fee, so you pay when you enter.
- Tolls can be paid for in cash (Euros) or cards at selected booths. American Express is rarely accepted but UK credit or debit cards should work (but not always, so carry cash to be safe!)
- Alternatively, get a toll pass/ payment tag so you can use the ‘Telepeaje’, ‘VIA-T’ or ‘T’ lanes. We use e-Movis and it’s well worth it- especially on busy days where you can drive right on by the queues.
Bizarrely, some toll roads in Spain are being ‘demoted’ to free routes, but are still marked as AP on the map. This site has more information about tolls in Spain and what you might expect to pay on the various Autopistas.
Speed Limits in Spain (unless otherwise signed!)
Cars, Motorcycles and vehicles under 3.5 tonnes:
- 120 km/h (74mph) on motorways/ autovias and many dual carriageways
- 90 km/h (56 mph) on secondary roads (out of town)- can increase to 110km/h to overtake
- 50km/h (31 mph)- on roads with two or more lanes in the same direction
- 30 km/h (19 mph) on roads with one lane in each direction
- 20km/h on small lanes where road & pavement are the same level
Speed Cameras in Spain
Many roads have automatic speed cameras on in Spain and they’re quite happy to send tourists a fine through the mail.
You might also find random traffic lights, which turn to red in the middle of nowhere if you’re speeding and make you wait for a couple of minutes before turning to green so you can move off again. These are surprisingly effective!
Driving in Spain- what to do in the event of a road traffic accident
You should have a European Claim Form provided by your insurer before you leave. In the event of an accident, all parties complete and sign the form at the scene and then send a copy to your insurer for assessment.
What to do at the scene:
- Stop your motorcycle immediately but safely- out of the flow of traffic if possible.
- If a vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and put the red warning triangle 30 metres from the scene to warn approaching traffic
- Exchange your details with the other involved parties. Be sure to get:
- Name and address of all the people involved in the accident
- Vehicle registration numbers of all parties
- Insurance company details of all parties
- Take photos of damage using a camera, GoPro or phone
Other essential tips for motorcycling in Spain
Petrol (and diesel) are widely available. Many fuel stations are 24h on the main roads and are self-service with card machines.
Motorcycling in Spain- security
Spain has a fairly high crime rate and motorcycle thefts do happen, as does petty theft and pickpocketing.
We highly recommend paying extra attention to your motorbike security when travelling in Spain. I know it’s not always possible, but try not to leave your bike unattended in an unsecure area.
Touring Spain with a dog
Spain surprised us with their attitude towards dogs. They’re not often allowed on public transport, even with a muzzle, which made visiting places difficult. (PLEASE do not leave a pet in a van or car while you go sightseeing, especially on a hot day.)
Now that BREXIT has happened and the UK pet passport scheme is no longer valid, you will need to get an Animal Health Certificate before you leave the UK.
You will need to get a worming treatment done by a registered vet before you leave Spain, or between 24 hours and 5 days before re-entering the UK.
Sandflies, fleas and ticks are common in Spain, so get a collar or treatment which protects against these.
More useful things to know when motorcycling in Spain
Emergency Numbers: 112 will get you everything
Language– There are several local variations of Spanish. Castilian is most common, but there is also Basque, Catalan and some smaller dialects. English usually spoken in campsites and in tourist areas, but not often elsewhere
Cards– most major credit and debit cards are accepted. American Express is only taken in large stores (not at tolls and often not at fuel stations)
Timezone– GMT+1 (or one hour ahead in BST)
Mobile Phone and Internet – It’s usually possible to use your UK phone and data in Spain, but do check with your provider. If not, 1p Mobile SIM cards are widely available and a cheap option for phone calls.
Tipping– Service is usually included in a restaurant, but do check. It’s common to tip other services, like taxi drivers
Shops– Food prices are pretty inexpensive. Many shops close on Sundays. Bigger supermarkets may be open, but will close at lunchtime. If bakeries open on Sundays, they are often closed on Mondays instead. Many shops and businesses also shut for a long lunch (between 12-2pm) and some will not open on Wednesday afternoons.
DISCLAIMER: This post was last updated in October 2021. We try to keep it as up to date as possible, but cannot be held responsible for any changes made to the law since the last update. If you do find any discrepancies, please do let us know. Thanks.
1 thought on “Motorcycling in Spain- the Ultimate Guide”
Thank you very much for this Indepth and very informative guide. I have found so much great tips and advice. Good job I found you I could have easily got fined or sent straight back to the UK. So much I didn’t know. Thank you once again you lovely people.