Catalunya Life

The road to ruin

After five years of planning my life around Barcelona’s excellent (if expensive) public transportation and the kindness of licensed drivers, I’ve decided it’s finally time to get my very own Spanish driving license.

I’ve had my New York State driving license since I was 16 years old. However, the Spanish government does not recognize U.S. licenses and will not hand you a Spanish one simply because you’ve had an American one for half your natural life. Countries whose licenses Spain will validate include all EU member states plus Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Andorra, and Switzerland. Also, most of Latin America (a small consolation prize for centuries of imperialism?). Oh, and South Korea and Japan.

Yes, even the Japanese–who drive on the left-hand side of the road–get a free pass.

I’m not going to chronicle the many hoops I’ll have to jump through to get my license, as that has already been done very well by this nice lady. (Just double most of the prices she lists for each step and you’ll have the going rates for 2014. That’s the “ruin” part of this post’s title.)

I will be posting amusing trick questions from the practice written exams (are you ever allowed to organize drag races on public roadways? hint: the answer is not no) and anecdotes from my driving practice sessions (like the time I stalled out on my way into Plaça Espanya, one of Barcelona’s biggest traffic circles).


Here is the chronicle of my Spanish license adventure:

January 28
Enrolled in driving school (yes, driving school.)

February 11
First driving practice session

February 18
Got required “medical certificate” (eye test and an ancient video game for testing reflexes, I guess)

April 24
Passed “theory” exam (30 multiple choice questions about traffic rules and the like). The delay for scheduling this was due to bureaucratic nonsense.

May 27
Let’s call this the practice road test. The first one doesn’t count, right?

July 4
Passed the road test. Happy Independence Day to me!