Hey guys...Iīm surprised that Asterault hasnīt posted any wisecracks about my L and driving 80 kmph.
Steve, hereīs the low down since I have recently been through the process. I was in your situation (17 yrs driving experience...had to learn stick shift here, etc) but got my license within 3 months passing both exams on the first try.
1. Americans can drive here with an international license. The international license is good for a year.
2. If you are an American citizen with legal residency in Spain (without an enchufe...lucky you Tony) you have 6 months from the date of your residency being issued to get your carnet de conducir. And your international license becomes null and void.
3. Up until recently you had to get your carnet through the backing of an autoescuela. You can opt to take the written test in English and/or can enter the examination room with a dictionary if necessary. However, itīs difficult to find the books in English (at least my autoescuela didnīt have them). I did it all in Spanish. I have heard that you can take the test on your own (without the backing of an autoescuela), but I have not verified that.
4. Each test costs about 60 Euros, plus the cost of autoescuela and taxes. You can fail the written, I believe, 2x before having to reregister with your autoescuela for more classes. On the written, there are 40 questions, you must score at least 36 correct to pass (I scored 39 on the first try
5. You can take the driving part of the test on the next scheduled date after passing your written test (you canīt take both on the same day). You are tested 2 and 2 for the driving test, meaning two students are tested at a time. The first student gets behind the wheel and the driving school instructor in the front passenger side. The examiner and second student ride in the back. The examiner, generally very cut and dry (at least mine was...not friendly at all, no smile no have a nice day nada de nada), will put you through the paces. Tell you where to go what to do etc. No 3-point turns, but there are parallel parking, circles, highway merges, etc. One student takes the car out, the other student brings the car back.
6. Shortcuts? Hmmm...I think I exhausted the idea trying to find some. Had no luck. If you have luck with shortcuts, be sure to post them so others can benefit!
7. Helpful sites: Todo Test
is a great website where you register for free and can take practice tests on the various subject matters as well as try some of the official tests. The site even charts your progress and walks you through your most common errors. Site is all in Spanish. Dirección General de Tráfico
is also a great resource to answer some of your questions regarding insurance and rules of the road. I believe there are also practice tests on that site and itīs available in English.
8. Helpful hints: Given to me, passing them on to you -- in your autoescuela book, make sure you know the speed limits and signs. They will certainly be on the test. Know all the charts well, understand the distancia de frenado, etc. Know the legal alcohol levels (different than the states!) and pay attention to the small print under the pictures and charts. Also, if you have a car to use, go to Mostoles on the weekends to the centro de examinación (donīt enter), wait for the cars with the blue L practicas to come out (these are the unfortunate souls taking their exams) and follow their routes. You will see first hand what you have to do.
9. Once you pass your exams and get the lovely pink tri-fold carnet with your pic stapled to it, you will have to purchase a green "L" to stick in your back window for a year (costs about 9 euros and you get it from your autoescuela). This lovely green badge of courage enables you to travel at a maximum of 80 kmph and invites all experienced drivers to treat you like dirt, tailgate you, cut you off, flash their lights at you and in general make your driving life miserable. My autoescuela instructor told me that the L, while required, really only plays importance in the case of accidents where you may be at fault. Generally the Guardia Civil donīt follow you down the highway to make sure you are only going 80kmph. Ahhh here I have an enchufe Tony! A friend told me he would currar any speeding ticket I get. Hee hee. :p
What happens if, God forbid, youīre in a serious accident that is your fault. Would there be legal implications for someone that is sort of skating around the rules?
I think the answer to that question is fairly obvious. If you are in an accident where itīs your fault and you have been skating around the rules... your insurance company (given that you have it) will not pay for damages and you will be legally responsible for all expenses. I suppose there are some things (particularly with the way some Spaniards drive and knowing that I spend a good percentage of my driving time on highways) that I do not want to risk. Steve, my recommendation? Go through the process. Itīs a hassle, but in the end I think you will be glad that you did!