Transport and Travel

Flying to southern Spain

Over 20 UK airports operate regular flights to Spanish Airports like Málaga. The flight takes just two and a half hours and there are plenty of low cost flights on offer from companies including EasyJet, Monarch, Mytravel, British Airways, FlyBe, BMI Baby, Air Berlin, Air 2000, Air Europa, Iberia and Spanair.

Málaga Airport Expansion

The Costa del Sol’s continued popularity is clear from the increased number of passengers passing through Málaga airport. Since 1995, passenger numbers have more than doubled from 6 million to around 13 million in 2008. Acknowledging the need for airport expansion, the government approved massive investment in the airport. Work began in 2004 and it’s estimated that €890m will be spent on the construction of a third terminal, due to open in 2009 and a second runway, which will be completed by 2010. It’s thought that by 2015 passenger numbers will rise to around 20 million.

AVE High Speed Train

The AVE is Spain’s pride and joy and the government has ambitious plans for it, such as eventual speeds of up to 300km per hour, meaning that passengers will be able to reach all provincial capitals from Madrid in less than four hours (6.5 hours from Barcelona). It’s thought that, when completed, the AVE will replace the majority of air traffic between Madrid and Barcelona and it will eventually connect with the French TGV high-speed network, taking passengers onward to destinations such as Marseille and Avignon.

Within Spain, the AVE now operates between Málaga and Madrid and takes just 2.5 hours (via Antequera), Málaga to Barcelona and a range of other services from Madrid. More information is available on the website of the Spanish railway, RENFE.

Public transport

If you’re planning to live in a city or town in southern Spain, you can get by without a car, as public transport is pretty efficient.


Most taxis are un-metered with set prices for certain journeys. You should only use taxis that display a special licence as they’re governed by strict legislation. Flag a taxi down if its green light is displayed, or look for a taxi rank. You can also phone to be picked up.


Local buses in towns and cities are very good. They run regularly from 6am until between 10pm and midnight, and there are often night buses after that. All towns have a bus terminal (“Estación de Autobús”) and you’ll see lots of bus stops dotted around. Stick your hand out to make sure the bus stops for you.
Long distance buses are clean, air-conditioned and really good value.

There’s a good network of state-run trains operated by RENFE. These include:
”Cercanía“ – local commuter trains,
”Regional” – intercity trains and
”Largo recorrido” – long-distance express trains, including the high speed AVE.

Internal flights

These are mainly operated by Iberia, Spanair, Air Berlin and Air Europa but they can be expensive.

Boats and ferries

There are regular ferries to North Africa and the Canary Islands from Algeciras, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Málaga and Tarifa.

Driving in Spain

Although the public transport system is generally excellent here on the Costa del Sol, if you’re going to be living here permanently, and particularly if you’re working, you’ll need a car to get around. The roads and infrastructure of the Costa del Sol have improved dramatically in recent years. Most of the main roads and motorways have recently been resurfaced and there are several good toll motorways in the area, all in very good condition and rarely very busy. The tolls are very reasonable, between 1-3€ per car, although prices do go up during the summer months and over the Easter holidays.

Driving rules and regulations

You’ll need to ensure that you’re driving legally on Spanish roads. If you’re stopped by the police and don’t have the correct paperwork, you can be fined. We’ve put together a list of what you must produce if asked to do so by the Traffic Police and, more importantly, where and how you can obtain it.

Driving licence (“Permiso de Conducción”)

Your EU or British driving licence is valid in Spain, but if you’re going to be living here or staying for more than six months, you should register it with the nearest traffic department, which is in Málaga (details below). EU licences need to be stamped for a fee of around €7. British licences must be exchanged (“canjear” in Spanish) for a Spanish licence at a fee of €16. The Málaga office of the Traffic Department (“Jefatura de Tráfico”) has recently moved its offices from the centre of the city to a gleaming new building close to the fair ground (“recinto ferial”). The address is Calle Max Estrella 12, CP 29071, Málaga, Tel. 952 040 770. It’s a good idea to take someone along who speaks fluent Spanish, as the Traffic Department staff don’t usually speak English.

Opening hours vary, particularly during the summer, so check on their website before turning up – (the website is only in Spanish but go to “Trámites y Multas” and then “Jefaturas Provinciales/Jefaturas”. Enter Málaga under “provincia” and the “poblacion” sections and you will find the address and opening hours). Alternatively, if you’re working, it may be a good idea to ask your tax consultant to go for you. They always know which queue to stand in to get the paperwork processed as fast as possible! You’ll need to provide your current driving licence, evidence of your residency, your passport and several passport size photos.

Proof of Ownership (“Permiso de Circulación”)

If you buy a new car, the garage will obtain this on your behalf from the Traffic Department. If you buy a second-hand car, you must ensure that you obtain the “Permiso de Circulación” and all the other relevant documents from the person selling the car. You’ll have to present them at the Traffic Department along with an application form to officially register the car in your name. This can also be done by your tax consultant.

Technical details document (“Ficha Técnica”)

If your car is new, this will be provided by the garage or dealer selling the car. If it’s second-hand, you should make sure to get this from the person selling you the car. If the car is more than four years old, remember that this document must also have details of its ITV inspection (MOT equivalent, see below).

MOT inspection (“Inspección Téchnica de Vehículos” IVT)

ITV is just like an MOT in the UK. All vehicles must be inspected once they are four years old. Once the car has been satisfactorily inspected at an approved ITV centre, you will receive a sticker for your windscreen and your “Ficha Técnica” will be stamped and signed with details of when the next inspection is due. Click here to find a centre near you.

Road tax – IVTM (“Impuesto de Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica”)

This must be paid at your local Town Hall (“ayuntamiento”) once a year, and you’ll be given a certificate to prove it’s been paid. Check it’s up to date if you buy a second-hand car. You will then take over payment of this tax once the old one expires. Go to your local town hall and they will set up a direct debit for you so you don’t have to go every year.

Car insurance

You must also have valid car insurance and proof that it’s been paid and that payments are up to date. All of the above must be obtained before you may drive your car. They must all be kept in the car and produced on demand to the Traffic Police.

Rules and regulations for drivers

The Spanish drive on the right and you should give way to vehicles on the left. Seat belts must be worn at all times in the front and back. You must be 18 or over to drive. Children under 12 cannot sit in the front without a suitable child seat. You’re legally required to carry at all times spare tyres and all the tools needed to change them, two warning triangles (bearing the symbol E9 and code 27R03), a spare set of headlight bulbs (it’s illegal to drive with a broken light) and a reflective jacket (which must be worn if you break down or get a flat tyre and have to get out of the car).

Spanish point system

Since 1st July 2006, the Traffic Department has brought a points system for traffic offences into operation. It works in the opposite way to the UK system; you start with 12 points for a clean licence and, when you commit an offence, the traffic authorities deduct points. When you have no points left, you’re banned from driving for six months after you notify the Traffic Department of the loss of your licence. You must take a driving course and pass a test before you may drive again. There’s detailed information available in Spanish on the website

Note: Drink-driving laws are stricter than the UK with a much lower allowed alcohol level. Speeding fines are payable on the spot for non-residents.

Buying a car in Spain:

New cars are cheaper than in the UK, but you won’t get the bargains you find in some EU countries and there isn’t a huge choice. It’s fine to bargain over the price and ask for a few extras to be included. Tax on new cars in Spain is higher than in any other EU country, with a registration tax of 12%, plus VAT at 21%.

Required paperwork

To buy a Spanish registered car you’ll need at least one of following:

  • Either a residence card or your passport and an NIE (foreigner’s identification number).
  • The title deed to your Spanish home in your name, not a company name.
  • A certificate from the Town Hall confirming that you are a registered inhabitant of the municipality.
  • A rental contract on a Spanish property for at least one year.
  • You also have a legal requirement to transfer the vehicle into your name as soon as possible after its purchase

Please note: As with everything to do with your money and property, you should always take independent advice before entering into any kind of agreement. The article(s) above are written based upon our understanding of the facts but do not constitute financial advice of any description.