Planning to tour Spain with a motorhome or campervan? 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 campervanning or motorhoming in Spain.
Don't forget to grab your FREE motorhoming in Europe checklist below to help you stay organised and remember everything you need.
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Motorhoming 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 in a motorhome or camper.
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.
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
Campervanning in Spain- Where to go
When planning a motorhome 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 driving 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 Andalucia and possibly even get to enjoy motorhoming in Portugal if you're happy to drive every day.
When to go motorhome touring 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.
READ MORE: Discover the best & warmest places to enjoy winter in Spain
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 Motorhome 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'…!)
If you are going to be travelling to Spain during summer, we highly recommend you have an awning- you'll definitely need the shade and protection from the sun. You'll probably also want some form of air conditioning or at least a fan in your camper- temperatures can get up to 40+°c
Road tripping Spain in Spring and Autumn
The best times to visit 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 and you will be able to find motorhome parking without booking in advance.
TOP TIP: If you are travelling outside of peak season, definitely get an ACSI CampingCard– you'll save a fortune on campsites all over Europe, including Spain
Planning a driving route from UK to Spain
For some reason, 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 (feel free to join our motorhoming Facebook group here)
Ferry or driving from UK to Spain?
The first question to ask yourself if whether you want to drive 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).
New to motorhome or camper travel in Europe? You might find these posts helpful:
NEED GEAR? If you need any kit or essentials for motorhoming in Europe, here's what we recommend and where to find it
Ferry with a motorhome direct to Spain
You can travel with Brittany Ferries 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. They also have dog kennels onboard but you CANNOT keep your dog in the ferry cabin with you (like you can from Portsmouth to Caen).
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 motorhome 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.
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 in your motorhome or camper- 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 motorhome) 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 motorhome or camper to tour Spain
If you don't have your own vehicle, 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.
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 driver, not the company. Check in advance with the company what kit they will provide with the vehicle and what you will need to bring.
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.
Make sure you have proof that you can take the vehicle across a border into another country if that's what you're planning to do. Read the article below for other things to check as well before you agree to hire.
Want to rent a vehicle for your road trip?
These might help
Daytime Motorhome Parking in Spain
You can park a motorhome during the day anywhere parking is allowed (as long as there are no signs banning motorhome parking) and as long as you aren't overhanging a space or blocking the road.
Many places have a sign saying NO motorhome overnight parking, but you are fine to park during the day. You can pull over into a rest stop and eat and drink within your vehicle, but setting up a table and chairs next to the road is not allowed.
Nor is getting out the awning and putting up your TV aerial. (Yes, you will see other people do it- some areas are stricter than others. If everyone else is, feel free to join them but remember you may be asked to move on.) Remember, this is for daytime parking for motorhomes- let's move on to overnight parking…
Campervanning in Spain- motorhome overnight parking
As with most countries in Europe, you have four options when it comes to where to park your motorhome or camper overnight:
- Motorhome campsites
- Approved motorhome overnight parking places/ aires
- Free approved overnight parking spots/ schemes
- Motorhome wild camping spots
Sadly, Spain is getting tougher about free overnight motorhome parking spots and many places now ban them completely. Legally, you're only allowed to stay on approved overnight motorhome spaces or campsites. Wild camping is not allowed in any of the Spanish National Parks.
Motorhome campsites in Spain
It's easy to find motorhome campsites in Spain and they're much like campsites anywhere else in Europe. Some are rustic and have basic facilities, while others are designed for long-term visitors and have entertainment, clubs, pools and bars! Expect to show your passport or identification on arrival and many places require you to leave one passport behind the reception.
If you're travelling out of high season and are planning to use campsites, we highly recommend buying an ACSI CampingCard membership, but be aware that many campsites either shut during the winter or are booked up entirely months in advance, so you may wish to book one too. Also, many campsites put ACSI users on ‘lesser' pitches (either bad view or no electric or drainage). You can ask for a different pitch, but will usually need to pay a supplement which wipes out the ACSI discount!
At some campsites, you will need to pay extra for shower or electric usage. Be warned- the hot water in the shower is on a timer- usually between 3-5 minutes per token. Water is regulated in much of the country, especially in the south, and many sites provide de-salinated water instead of potable.
We recommend you don't drink this water and also clean out your motorhome freshwater tank thoroughly before refilling it to get rid of the particles found in de-salinated water.
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.
Motorhome Aires in Spain
Aires are just approved motorhome overnight parking places- often provided and maintained by the local commune. If you've been motorhoming in Italy, you might surprised to learn that aires are called Aires in Spain, just like in France (they're called Sostas in Italy).
There aren't quite as many aires in Spain as in France and they're often a little more out of the way, but the network is still very useful and easy to use.
READ MORE: Learn how we find and use aires and approved free overnight motorhome stopovers across Europe
You cannot book motorhome aires in advance- it's first-come, first-served, so if you're visiting at peak times you might feel happier booking a campsite so you're assured of somewhere to stay.
A good tip is to try and arrive AT your destination just before lunchtime. Many people move on after. a lazy morning, and stop en-route, so you have the best chance of finding a spot around this time, but that's when the day is at its hottest, so be careful.
It’s always worth investing in a book of aires, as well as an online app- just in case you find yourself without internet in your motorhome (or without a wifi signal). Of course, the downside with any book is that it goes out of date, but don't worry if it's only a year or two out- most information about aires won't change too much.
Here are some we recommend:
Wild camping in a motorhome in Spain
Like much of Europe, wild camping in Spain for motorhomes and campers is ‘tolerated' in many places but not strictly legal and it's certainly not a right. Many people seem to think they can turn up and park wherever they want, but this is not the case.
Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe
For information on how to find good wild camping places, WHAT to do when you're there and how to stay safe, check out our step-by-step guide for motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe, complete with database of 250+ overnight spots we've stayed with our motorhome.
Don't forget to grab your free wild camping checklist here
In practicality, you'll find that the further than civilisation and the beach you are, the better your chances of finding a quiet, free overnight parking spot will be. If in doubt, you can always ask at the tourist office or town hall- many places are happy to allow you in their car park for the night.
However, with a little common sense and staying within the restrictions, it's often possible to stay off-grid with your motorhome or campervan.
- Don't try and wild camp on the coast unless you're somewhere REALLY remote (more likely to be allowed in the North and centre of Spain)
- Don't try and wild camp in busy/ popular areas- like the Costa del Sol- unless you're visiting in the lowest of low season. Anywhere near the beach will be tough all year.
- Get the permission of the landowner if possible
READ MORE: There are some basic rules to follow whilst motorhome wild camping – here's everything you need to know to stay safe and find free spots.
Can you wild camp with a motorhome in the Spanish National Parks?
No- wild camping is not permitted in any of Spain’s National Parks.
Other Motorhome stopovers in Spain
If you'd like to avoid campsites and aires, but don't want to risk staying off-grid, there is a scheme which connects business owners to people motorhoming or campervanning in Spain, called Espana Discovery.
You can buy an annual guide for just 23€ (in 2021) and if gives you access to over 200 businesses which allow motorhomes to park up overnight in exchange for buying a meal in their restaurant or a few bottles of wine at the vineyard. Some spots are even right on the beach!
Motorhoming in Spain- what gear do you need to carry?
Just like motorhoming in France, there are certain things you MUST carry with you in your motorhome or campervan whilst touring in Spain.
Don't forget, if you are driving through France to get to Spain, you need all the kit required by France as well as the kit for that country.
Grab your FREE France travel checklist so you remember it all!
Planning a trip to France with your motorhome or camper?
GUIDE– For a step-by-step guide, with video walkthroughs of aires, motorhome set up, checklists and more, grab our France Road Trip & Motorhome Travel Planner
CHECKLIST– Don't forget to grab your FREE France motorhome travel checklist HERE
GEAR– And if you need any motorhome gear for touring France or Europe, here's what we recommend.
Things you need to drive in Spain- safety gear
These are the things you MUST have with you when you're motorhome or campervan touring in Spain.
- Hi-vis reflective jackets – not as strict as in France, but you must wear them on the side of the road or hard shoulder or risk being fined.
- Warning triangle
- Headlight beam converters– must be fitted before you drive in Europe. Some vehicle allow you to adjust the beam automatically so you won't need these.
- GB car sticker attached to the back of car or reg plates.
- A spare wheel (and tools to change it!), or a tyre repair kit.
- If you wear glasses you MUST carry a spare pair!
- If you're towing with your motorhome or campervan in Spain and the overall train length is 12m or more you must have at least one yellow reflector on the rear, sized 130cm x 25cm (or two sized 50cm x 25cm).
- Red/ white warning board sign – for bike racks or anything overhanging the end of the motorhome or campervan. Lines must point into the middle of the road.
TOP TIP: Buy these essentials for driving in Spain in advance. One of the cheapest places is on Amazon. If you wait until you're at the ferry/ tunnel, you could spend THREE times as much!
Road trip accessories you MIGHT need when campervanning in Spain
The following kit are things you might need to carry in your car, motorhome, caravan or campervan, depending on when you are planning your road trip in Spain.
- If you are travelling between 15 October and 15 April and driving near the mountains, you will need to have winter/ all- season tyres and carry snow chains. Make sure you check them in advance! If you're not sure, read THIS
- First aid kit – not compulsory in Spain (unlike many countries in Europe) but worth carrying. Find out what we carry in our European first aid kit here
- Spare bulbs for all lights in the vehicle
- Fire extinguisher
- Road Trip snacks and water- just in case!
Motorhomes or campers with a total train length of over 12m
If you’re travelling in Spain and your outfit exceeds 12m, you need to have marker boards fitted to the back of your vehicle. You can either have two small boards or one large board but they must be placed at the back of the outfit between 50cm and 150cm off the ground.
Your marker board must:
- be yellow in the centre with a red outline
- be made out of aluminium
- be manufactured to ECE70 standard
What documents do you need to drive in Spain?
If you're driving in Spain, you need to carry the following documents:
- Passport (or identity card)
- Driving licence (check it is in date!)
- Motorhome Insurance documents- check you are covered for driving in Europe
- Breakdown cover
- Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address)
- Vehicle must be legally taxed and MOT'd
- Trailer certification
- Green card (get from your vehicle insurer)
- International Driving Permit if required
- Personal travel insurance
Do I need an international driving permit to drive in Spain?
Most UK citizens do not need an IDP to drive in Spain, as long as you have a card driving licence issued in the UK (in date, of course!)
You might need one if you have:
- a paper driving licence only
- a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man
(If you do need an IDP, here’s an in-depth guide on how to get an International Driving Permit and which one(s) you need from a UK post office.
Motorhome touring in Spain- Other useful things you might need
We've been touring Europe in our motorhome for several years. We've tried all sorts of kit- some useful, some not so much.
Here is a list of things we highly recommend when motorhoming in Spain, but which are NOT essential:
- Motorhome WiFi– learn our favourite way to get internet on the road
- Toll pass (see below)
- TV- If you'd like TV in your motorhome or camper, here's how to get it.
- Motorhome sat-nav– get one you can enter your motorhome dimensions into, like these
- Motorhome security camera– this thing is GOLD for allowing us to go exploring and leave the van for a short time.
- Solar panel- perfect if you want to wild camp in Spain with your motorhome
- Inverter- a motorhome wild camping essential
- An awesome motorhoming logbook to record and remember your adventures!
Driving tips for Spain
Ok, let's deal with the basic rules and some tips for motorhoming and road tripping in Spain:
- Spain drives on the right
- Seatbelts are compulsory
- Driving in flip-flops or open-backed shoes is illegal
- Speeds are in km/h, not mph (you might want to change the setting on your sat-nav)
- You cannot touch a screen while driving (television, video, DVD etc.) This also includes a motorhome sat-nav- program it before you leave and don't touch it unless you're parked up safely.
- You need lights on in the tunnels (there are signs to remind you)
- Road surfaces are generally pretty good and, unlike France, they try to avoid 10,0000000 road works on a bank holiday weekend.
- On hills, use the crawler lanes to get out of the way of faster-moving traffic.
- Avoid cities if you're driving in a motorhome- many of them are too crowded and the streets are just not cut out for large vehicles. Park outside and use public transport to get in.
- 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.
- You may carry a load, such as bikes on a rack, extending by up to 10% of the length of the vehicle to the rear. The load must be indicated by a board/ panel with diagonal red and white stripes
- 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.
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 motorhoming in Spain, here are some tips for you:
- The weight of your motorhome no longer matters- all motorhomes are charged the same.
- Just like 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.
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
Speed Limits in Spain (unless otherwise signed!)
Cars and vehicles under 3.5 tonnes:
- 120 km/h (74mph) on motorways/ autovias and many dual carriageways
- 100km/h (62mph) on major roads
- 90 km/h (55 mph) on minor roads (out of town)
- 50 km/h (31 mph) in built-up areas
- 25km/h in signposted residential zones
Motorhomes and Campervans weighing over 3.5 tonnes:
- motorways 90 km/h (55 mph)
- major out-of-town roads 80 km/h (50 mph)
- minor out-of-town roads 70 km/h (43 mph)
- urban areas- 50 km/h (31 mph)
- 25km/h in signposted residential zones
Motorhomes with trailers or caravans (over 750kg)
- motorways 80 km/h (50 mph)
- major out-of-town roads 80 km/h (50 mph)
- minor out-of-town roads 70 km/h (44 mph)
- built-up areas- 50 km/h (31 mph)
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 vehicle 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
For more details, read our step-by-step guide on dealing with a road traffic accident in Europe
Other essential tips for campervanning in Spain
Petrol and Diesel
Petrol and diesel are widely available. Many fuel stations are 24h on the main roads and are self-service with card machines.
If you have refillable gas bottles in your motorhome, you can find LPG pretty easily while touring around Spain. Spain uses the Euroconnector adapter.
NOTE: Gas bottles can be tough to get- and it's forbidden to fill foreign gas cylinders. Don't forget you will need to bring a different nozzle to connect the Spanish gas bottle fitting to your UK system. If you're not sure what we mean, read more about getting gas in Europe:
Motorhome Service Points in Spain
You will find some petrol stations with additional facilities for motorhomes, like waste disposal, water (NOT always drinkable!) and washdown areas.
Campervanning in Spain- security
We highly recommend paying extra attention to your motorhome security when travelling in Italy. You might even wish to fit an extra camper habitation door lock and never leave your vehicle 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 motorhoming 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.