For members


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

Operación Salida is 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
Tips for driving during the Easter getaway in Spain. Photo: Ri Butov / Pixabay

The Easter holidays in Spain officially began on Friday March 31st, with millions taking the opportunity to leave home for the week for a short break, but will continue until April 10th. 

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. During this time another 9.4 million trips are expected, 2.5 percent more than last year.

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 31st 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 (April 1st) 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.  

During the second phase, peak departure times on Wednesday April 5th will be between 3pm and 11pm and Thursday morning from 8am to 2pm.

On Good Friday, movement will continue in the morning out of the large cities, which may cause high traffic intensity. Saturday will be the calmest day and on Sunday the first return phase will begin. 

On Monday, April 10th, the return will take place in the regions where this day is a public holiday (Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Navarra, the Basque Country and La Rioja) which will cause traffic problems between 1pm and 11pm. 

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.

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For members


EXPLAINED: What you need to know about road tax in Spain

Here's what you need to know about IVTM, Spain's road tax, as well as how much it is, how to pay it, and what happens if you don't.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about road tax in Spain

If you live in Spain and own a car, you’ll have to pay road tax.

Road tax in Spain is known as IVTM (Impuesto sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica) and is a tax you pay at the municipal level, that is, to your local town hall.

According to Spain’s General Directorate of Traffic (DGT), “the Traffic Tax of a vehicle is a mandatory tax that is applied on all motor vehicles, allowing them to circulate on public roads throughout the country”.

Key things to know about IVTM

  • You pay the tax in the municipality where the vehicle is registered.
  • The municipality where the vehicle is registered and where the owner is resident must be the same.
  • The exact amount you pay depends on where you live.
  • The legal owner of the vehicle is the one who must pay the tax, nobody else.
  • In Spain, the road tax period begins on January 1st of each year, and payments are usually taken sometime between April and June. 

How much is it?

How much IVTM you pay depends on where you live in Spain and the type of car you have. Ultimately each local council decides how much you pay, so it’s always best to check with them first.

Generally speaking, the annual tax is between €112 and €300 for the year.

There can be quite significant rates in different parts of the country, but it’s based on the ‘taxable horsepower’ (THP) of your vehicle, which basically means how big and powerful the engine is. You are taxed according to its capacity. If you have a smaller, less powerful car you’ll pay less road tax, whereas gas-guzzling four-wheel drives pay more.

In Madrid, for example, the annual road tax for a car with a THP of greater than 20 (a relatively powerful car) is €124 for the year, but in Oviedo in Asturias, it is almost double at €224.

The Basque municipality of San Sebastián has the highest road tax rates in Spain, while Melilla and Ceuta generally have the lowest.

How do I pay or check my road tax status?

There are several ways to check the road tax status of your car.

You can do it on the DGT website, using your NIE, digital certificate or [email protected] password, and you just have to input your license plate to see the tax status.

You can also do it on the miDGT app, or in person at DGT traffic offices, but must make an appointment first via phone or online.

The local town hall (Ayuntamiento) also allows you to pay road tax there, as well as the possibility of paying directly to them online. Check your local town hall’s website to see if this is possible in your municipality. 

You could also check your bank statements to see if the DGT or Ayuntamiento has already charged you for the road tax this year.

If you move and need to reregister the tax address of your car, you can do it on the DGT website here.

What happens if I don’t pay road tax in Spain?

If you fail to pay your road ta in Spain you could be fined or worse.

According to the Spanish motoring website, however, as the IVTM is technically an administrative procedure, if you’re stopped by the police and can’t provide your road tax paperwork you shouldn’t be fined.

It’s worth keeping in mind though that the fines handed out by the DGT added up to a whopping €507 million in 2022, the highest figure ever recorded, so it could definitely be a possibility. 

If you don’t pay the tax within the payment period, the town hall will also add a surcharge for any late payments. It is a five percent surcharge if you pay it late, but before they formally notify you;
a 10 percent surcharge if you pay the tax after having received the notification and before the new deadline; and a 20 percent surcharge beyond that.

If you simply don’t pay the IVTM and your debt grows to more than €500, the local council can even seize your car.

Similarly, if you have an accident without valid road tax, many insurers will reject compensation claims, and you will not be able to legally sell your vehicle if you haven’t paid it.