If you are visiting Southern Spain and are going to rent a car from Seville or Malaga, this guide is for you! Seville and Malaga are two of the biggest cities in Andalucia, and are generally the jumping off point for most people for a Southern Spain (or just Spain in general!) road trip.
If this is you, and you’re planning on renting a car from Seville or Malaga and embarking on an epic Spanish road trip, I’m SO excited for you! You’re going to have the best time.
I road tripped around Andalucia for two weeks and had the time of my life, visiting the cities and small little villages, and enjoying all the beautiful scenery. I also learned a lot about what its like to drive in Spain. In this guide, I’m sharing everything I learned about renting a car, driving, navigating, parking, getting gas, and more, so that you’re prepared for driving around southern Spain.
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When deciding what company to rent a car from, my top pick is always DiscoverCars.com. They have great rates, an easy to navigate website, and usually free cancellation. They also have a lot of availability, but rates go up and availability goes down as your dates get closer, so I’d book your rental ASAP!
Okay, let’s get into everything you need to know about renting a car and driving in Spain.
Renting a Car in Seville and Malaga
In Spain, you really only need a car to get between cities, you don’t need a car to get around within a city – you can just walk, take public transportation, or ubers/taxis.
So if you are flying into Seville, spending two days there, and then leaving for your road trip, there’s no point in picking up your car when you fly in, just for you to pay for 2 extra days (and probably 2 days of parking as well).
Train Station Versus Airport
While you can find car rentals at the train station closer to the center of the city, I found that the best rates for rental cars in Seville or Malaga, by a big margin, were from the airport. It’s worth to check both locations, but likely you’re going to get the best prices by picking your car up at the airport.
What You Need to Rent a Car
Here are the different documents you’ll need and requirements to follow to rent a car in Spain:
- Have a drivers license – Duh
- Be at least 21 years old – But some rental companies require you to be 25
- International Drivers License – They didn’t actually check my IDL when I was picking up the rental, but they did ask if I had it. I was told that if I got pulled over, the police would want to see it. You can get an international drivers license at AAA or online.
- Rental Car Insurance – Your regular car insurance may include rental cars when abroad… but it most likely does not. If this is the case, then I would definitely recommend procuring some rental car insurance. I always use the rental car insurance provided to me through one of my travel credit cards.
Rental Car Insurance Through a Travel Credit Card
Some of the best travel credit cards offer rental car insurance as a perk of membership. This insurance covers collision damage and theft, but it does not cover personal liability.
All you need to do to have your credit card cover your rental car insurance is A: Check that the card does indeed offer insurance, B: Use that card to pay for your rental car and C: Decline the collision damage insurance offered by the rental company.
I love travel credit cards for a variety of reasons, and this perk is definitely one of them. My top two favorite travel credit cards that include rental car coverage are the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Capital One Venture.
What Kind of Rental Car Should You Get?
When renting a car from Seville or Malaga, less is more. I would highly recommend getting a the smallest car that your group will comfortably fit into – streets, parking spaces, turn lanes, everything in Spain (and in Europe in general) is just made for smaller, more compact cars.
And in general, smaller, more compact cars are going to be your main options in Europe, since that’s just what they drive.
Be aware that these smaller vehicles also do come with smaller trunk space. In our car, we fit our group of 3 very comfortably (and easily could have fit four people), but our trunk would only hold 3 carry-on sized suitcases, plus a backpack on top of the suitcases, and a few small shopping bags around the sides.
Manual Versus Automatic
While Spain does have automatic vehicles, if you’re looking at rental cars, the default will have manual transmission (aka stick shift). If you aren’t comfortable with driving stick shift, then you’ll want to make sure that you filter for automatic transmission.
And if you definitely need automatic transmission (hi, it’s me, I’m guilty of this), then DEFINITELY make your car reservation early, as there are far fewer automatic transmission cars available than manual transmission cars.
When Should You Book Your Rental Car?
Okay, I kid, but only a little. Car rentals are definitely one of those things you do not want to wait to book – prices will only go WAY up and availability will go WAY down.
If you’re not totally sure about your dates, make a few reservations to cover your options and then cancel what you don’t need when you firm up your plans. (Just double check that you will have free cancellation.)
As I mentioned above, Discover Cars is always the first place I check when looking for a rental car, so I’d highly recommend you check out prices and availability here ASAP.
Parking in Spain
Parking is obviously a big part of renting a car from Seville and Malaga and driving around southern Spain. The parking situation varies substantially between larger cities and smaller towns, so we’ll discuss both.
One thing to be aware of is that no matter where you park, parking spaces tend to be pretty tight. There’s not a ton of extra room, and often you’ll be parking by poles or columns, so don’t be surprised when you need to wiggle into a parking spot!
Parking in Bigger Cities in Southern Spain
While there *can* be free parking available on the sides of streets in southern Spain, I wouldn’t plan on being able to find it. Parking in the cities is pretty cutthroat, it can be difficult to find it, you may need to drive around or parallel park in tiny spots (not my personal cup of tea), or drive through the more hectic streets of the central parts of city.
Additionally, it is likely that whatever hotel you are staying at will either not offer parking at all, or will require you to pay for the parking there.
If you happen on free parking unexpectedly, great! But I’d plan on paying for parking for your rental car.
I found it easiest to search Google Maps for parking near the hotel but on the outskirts of the center of the city, or the old town, and off of a major street. There are a lot of paid parking lots around the cities, so it’s thankfully not hard to find.
Generally, parking costs about 1-2 euros an hour, and 20-30 euro a day.
Finding Parking in Towns and Villages
In smaller towns and villages, I’d always recommend parking on the outskirts – you do NOT want to be driving through the tiny roads of a mountainous village. While there are plenty of paid parking lots in smaller towns, I also had a lot of luck with free parking areas here.
For example, in Montecorto, there was a parking lot by the church that was free parking. In many towns, there is free parking along the main road leading into town – I found free parking this way in Frigiliana, Zahara de la Sierra, and Olvera.
Paying for Parking (Important – Don’t Skip!)
In every single parking lot I parked in, you always took a ticket when entering, and then had to scan the ticket when leaving. The process for paying for your ticket is a little bit different in Spain compared to the United States, though.
Instead of inserting your ticket and then paying with your card right at the exit gate, you actually need to find the payment machine located within the parking structure, pay there, and then get in your car and exit with your ticket already paid for.
The TL;DR is don’t drive up to the exit gate without first paying for your ticket!
Navigating in Spain is generally really easy, but there are some quirks. Overall, the infrastructure is very good, roads have a lot of signage, and people follow standard traffic rules.
There are a few things that can be tricky, though. First, intersecting roads can sometimes be a very weird spaghetti mixture. Lanes can do surprising twists, get unexpectedly scrambled, or split unexpectedly. One time in Cordoba we came up to a roundabout within a roundabout, and another time there was a roundabout intersected by a road going straight through the roundabout – with a stoplight. Talk about messy.
Also, every so often the exit numbers on Google Maps didn’t line up with the actual exit numbers or road names on the road signs (HOW?? WHY??? ).
For all of these reasons, I would highly recommend always having your Navigation running (with the little person talking you through the steps), and also having the passenger looking at the map to help explain any funky business you might encounter.
You’ll FOR SURE want to have offline maps downloaded – this will ensure you have fast loading, accurate maps and needed navigation tools no matter where you are in Spain or how much cell service you have. It’s very easy to do – but to help, you can check out our step by step guide to downloading offline maps.
Overall, I found road conditions to be very good in Spain. Roads were well-maintained, had lines and shoulders, and very few potholes. In the central parts of the city, roads were often narrow, one way, and cobblestoned, but were still good roads. I have zero complaints about road conditions in Spain.
Driving Through the Countryside
Okay, prepare for gushing.
Southern Spain is BEAAAAUUUUUTIFUL. I mean, the cities are gorgeous and the towns are charming, but dang. Just doing our road trip from Seville and driving our rental car through the countryside was so so pretty.
Spain is the highest producer of olive oil in the world, which means that there were olive trees e.ve.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. Olive trees are one of my favorite trees, so I absolutely loved this. You will drive past grove after grove after grove in the Spanish countryside. Plus, there are lots of hills and mountains. The scenery is really spectacular. I was not prepared for that, but I was absolutely delighted by it.
Road signs in Spain are generally intuitive and easy to follow. Here are a few signs that you’ll see frequently:
Speed Limit Signs
Speed limit signs in Spain are white circles with red borders. And of course, since this is Europe, all speeds are given in kilometers per hour.
Merge signs are white triangles with a red border, and have a large arrow with a little offshoot “merging” in.
Entering/Leaving a City
These white rectangular signs with the city name on it and a red slash mean that you have left the city limits. The same sign, but without a red slash, means that you have entered the city limits.
You’ll see these big signs at many of roundabout intersections in Spain. They indicate what street to exit on for a variety of destinations. This one in the picture is fairly straightforward, as its just a regular cross intersection.
However many roundabouts are more complicated, like having 5+ streets coming in at all sorts of angles. Or, there will be 4 exits, but the streets are at non-regular intervals. These signs can help you keep straight which exit from the roundabout is the one you actually need.
Don’t Be Crazy Sign
This sign really just made me laugh – don’t drive crazy!
Gas Stations in Southern Spain
Gas stations in Spain are set up a little bit differently than in the United States. When you arrive, the pump is open and you can start pumping right away. There’s no place to insert your credit card at the machine, nor do you need to pay in advance.
Once you’re done pumping your gas, you simply go up and pay at window. There’s usually a window at the exterior of the building if you’re just buying gas, or you can go inside if you want to buy some food as well.
The price of gas is given per liter. (FYI, there are approximately 3.75 liters per gallon). When I was there, the price ranged from 1.47 euro/L to 1.54 euro/L. This is equivalent to about $5.50 per gallon.
IMPORTANT! In Spain, petrol gasoline is in the green handled pump, whereas diesel is in the black handled pump. Double check with your rental car company, but you will almost certainly be using the E95 gasolina with the green handle.
The Wrap Up – Renting a Car and Roading Tripping in Southern Spain
Driving through Spain on a road trip from Seville or Malaga is totally worth the effort and logistics. Overall, I found driving through Spain to be totally manageable, and I loved having the flexibility to go where I wanted, when I wanted.
Unless you’re an extremely nervous driver, I think it’s manageable for just about anyone. So get out there and start your Spanish adventure!
Ready to go on a road trip from Seville or Malaga through Spain?
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