Driving licences: UK ambassador says hold up could be resolved ‘in coming weeks’

The UK Embassy in Spain on Friday laid out some useful information but gave no estimated date for the long-awaited deal on the exchange of UK driving licences. However, Ambassador Hugh Elliott said the hold-up could be solved “in the coming weeks”.

uk licences exchange spain
The wait for a licence exchange agreement is proving very troublesome for people in rural areas, those with mobility difficulties and others who need a car for daily life. Photo: Andreas Strandman/Unsplash

On Friday October 14th, the British Embassy in Madrid published its latest update on the driving licence debacle which has kept an unnamed number of UK licence holders living in Spain off the roads since May 1st.

More than five months since that date, Spanish and British authorities are still unable to reach an agreement during negotiations that have lingered on for at least two years now.

The latest ‘news’ included in Friday’s Facebook post is that “Ministers raised the issue again with their Spanish counterparts during our annual UK/Spain “Tertulias” summit last weekend in Oxford and we have continued to make progress on the outstanding points this week”. 

But there was still no exact date or rough timescale provided to give affected drivers an idea of when they can drive again in Spain, a situation which is proving very troublesome for people in rural areas, those with mobility difficulties and others who need a car for daily life.

However, in an interview with Spanish daily El Periódico de España published on the same day, UK Ambassador Hugh Elliott stated “I trust that in the coming weeks we’ll be able to resolve the remaining problems”. 

It was also the first time that Elliott gave an estimate of how many people may be affected by the driving licences debacle: “It’s a very unfortunate situation, with thousands of British residents in Spain who are currently unable to drive.”

On the embassy’s Facebook page, the reactions to the post have been mixed, with some calling for a “proper update” or for the embassy to be more candid about the reasons for the hold-up and a timescale.

“We appreciate you would like to understand exactly what the hold-up is, but as we have said before, there are some details we cannot go into, as that could risk derailing the negotiations – which is the last thing that any of us want,” the UK Embassy stressed.

The UK Embassy in Spain did mention that they will be “meeting one of the groups specifically lobbying on this issue to discuss their, and your, concerns”. 

This is the “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” group, whose head Pascal Siegmund is due to sit down with Hugh Elliott along with three other members of the group on October 18th.

The rest of the British Embassy’s Facebook post was made up of a Q&A confirming certain information and providing extra detail with regards to doubts such as how the exchange agreement would become legislation, who the deal will cover, appointment availability for licence exchanges and other matters. We’ve included it word for word below.

Note that the UK Embassy isn’t suggesting the deal isn’t 100 percent certain anymore, nor recommended that people who need to drive take their Spanish driving test rather than wait. 

That doesn’t mean that they won’t change their rhetoric, they have done so previously, but it does seem that as things stand it’s more a case of when rather than if there will be an agreement for the exchange of UK licences into Spanish ones.

What happens once the agreement is final?

“Once the negotiation teams have agreed on the text, it will then go forward for final legal and political approvals. On the Spanish side, this means going through the ‘Consejo de Ministros’ (Spanish Cabinet). On the UK side, it will be approved by relevant Ministers.

Then it will be published in the BOE (state bulletin) and should come into force the same day. You will then have six months to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one (without having to take a test) and during that time you will be able to drive using your valid UK licence.” 

Will the agreement only apply to those who were here before the end of 2020 and registered their intent to exchange? 

No. The agreement will apply to anyone holding a UK licence, whether they were here before the end of 2020 or whether they move here in the future.

Will there be enough appointments within that six months? 

It will be for the Spanish Government to administer the process and ensure the provision of appointments. This is something we have raised throughout negotiations and Spain is conscious of the potential number of UK nationals who may need to exchange during the six-month window. 

We would encourage you to get an appointment as soon as you can and not leave it until the last minute, remembering that you do not have to exchange in the town/region where you are resident if there is greater availability elsewhere. 

Do I have to complete the exchange process within six months of the agreement coming into effect?  

No, but you will only be able to drive on your UK licence during this six-month window. After that, you can complete the exchange, but will not be able to drive on your UK licence while you are waiting to do so. 

My UK licence has expired. Will I still be able to get a Spanish licence without taking a test? 

The fact that some people’s licences have expired, or are about to, has been taken into account by the negotiating team. Expired licences shall be accepted provided that they were valid at the time that the licence holder entered Spain.

I renewed my UK licence with the DVLA when I was already resident in Spain. Can I still exchange it without taking a test? 

All valid UK licences issued prior to this Agreement entering into force can be exchanged. However, you should not renew your UK licence with the DVLA if you are no longer resident in the UK. 

Once the Agreement is in place, you must not try to renew a UK licence with the UK authorities if you are resident in Spain. If you do so, you will not be able to exchange it for a Spanish one.

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‘Operación Salida’: What you should know about driving during Spain’s Easter getaway

Friday March 31st marks the start of Spain's big Easter exodus when people flee the cities and drive to the countryside or the coast for their holidays. Here's what you need to know if you want to avoid traffic jams and other problems on the road.

'Operación Salida': What you should know about driving during Spain's Easter getaway

Friday is when the Easter holidays in Spain officially begin, with millions taking the opportunity to leave home for the week for a short break.  

Spaniards have dubbed the big exodus before the Easter and summer holidays Operación Salida.

The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) has predicted that this year there will be around 16 million trips on Spanish roads from Friday March 31st until next Monday April 10th, which is a public holiday in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia, La Rioja and Navarra.  

The DGT has warned that this holiday period is one of the most complicated of the year, as the volume of trips increases in a short space of time, with similar origins and destinations on the same days and times.

The grand getaway typically takes place in two phases. The first begins this Friday, March 31st at 3pm and ends at midnight on Sunday, April 2nd a period in which 4.3 million road journeys are expected.

The second phase is more important than the previous one due to the sheer volume of trips along the entire road network. This will begin on Wednesday, April 5th, and will end on Monday, April 10th.

READ ALSO – Driving in Spain: 16 things that could land you in trouble with the law this summer

There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic on a hot highway for hours and hours to put a dampener on that holiday feeling, but here are some important tips on how to stay safe and sane on the roads during this time.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid the busiest travel times, find the best routes, and avoid difficulties as you head off on your Semana Santa break.

Find out the best times to travel

One of your best options is to avoid the busiest times and plan your route accordingly. According to the DGT the hours that will be the busiest on Friday will be between 3pm and 10pm. During these times there may be traffic problems and delays at the exits of large cities, as well as at the accesses to coastal tourist areas.

On Saturday morning, the intense traffic leaving the large urban centres will continue mostly between 9am and 2pm, while those who return on Sunday, April 2nd, may encounter delays in the evening between 6pm and 10pm coming into large cities.  

READ ALSO: What over-65s need to know about Spain’s driving licence changes

Avoid risky behaviour

The DGT insists on the importance of not adopting risky behaviour behind the wheel such as having distractions, speeding or being under the influence of alcohol, the latter causing one in three fatal accidents in Spain. 

In fact, according to the 2021 report of the National Institute of Toxicology, almost half of the drivers killed in traffic accidents who underwent an autopsy had the presence of alcohol or other drugs in their blood. A percentage that rises to 75 percent in the specific case of alcohol.

The DGT also warns about the danger of walking on the road if your vehicle has broken down and the importance of adopting all the necessary precautions, especially on highways or dual carriageways where vehicles travel at high speed.

During the Easter getaway in 2022, the DGT reported a total of 25 fatal accidents, in which 27 people lost their lives. 

READ ALSO: How many drinks does it take to fail a breathalyser test in Spain?

Stay up-to-date and plan

To guarantee safety and fluidity on the roads, the DGT has several measures in places such as fixed and mobile speed control radars, helicopters and drones, as well as cameras and undercover vans to control the use of mobile phones and seat belt use.

Follow the Twitter accounts @informacionDGT and @DGTes or the news bulletins on radio and television, as well as on the 011 telephone number to find out about the traffic situation and any incidents that may have occurred. There are also several apps you can use to help you plan your journey and monitor the roads.

Google Maps

It’s most likely already on your smartphone and can provide real-time info on traffic jams and offers faster alternative routes.


This is one of the best apps for Operación Salida, providing real-time traffic and alternative routes, it also allows users to share information on accidents, police checkpoints and other roadside dangers or annoyances. It also offers comparative prices at fuel stations along your route.


The official app from Spain’s traffic authority provides info on speed cameras and up-to-the-minute trouble spots along your route.


This app doesn’t just provide minute-by-minute updates on traffic congestion, it also allows you to plan your journey to beat the traffic, calculating the best time to leave. You can also search for info on service stations along the route and parking at your destination.

Via Michelin

The Michelin app gives real-time traffic updates, and will advise you of a route to avoid tolls. It can also calculate how much fuel you need and the cheapest place to buy it on the way.

READ ALSO – EXPLAINED: What are the rules for parking in Spain?

Check your car before your journey

Spain’s car owners club, RACE, warns that the majority of car problems resulting in roadside assistance come from battery and tire problems.

Make sure that you check your tire tread (it should be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central ¾ line of the tire) ahead of the journey and that you have a functional spare tire in the vehicle.

Also check tire pressure at the start of your journey, and the fluid levels of oil, windscreen cleaning liquid and radiator coolant.