Parking in Spain

Parking in Spain, what can one say but…….”good luck”. Living in Spain or just visiting you will find that parking your vehicle in Spain can be a bit of a challenge.

Depending on where you are, a big city or a small town, you will see all manner of parking “styles” here. Regardless of the fact that Spain is actually quite strict about enforcing their (unintelligible) parking regulations, many Spaniards continue to park where they want, when they want!

Spaniards are parking anarchists and are champions at the art of ‘creative’ parking, they will park almost anywhere it’s illegal!

You will see cars double (and sometimes triple parked if the street is wide enough) parked in the most unusual places…..crosswalks, corners, in front of entrances and exists and on streets where it is impossible to pass!

Inside the cars may be children, dogs and grandma!

You imagine that they are double parked for an emergency and don´t have time to look for proper parking, however, usually drivers have stopped for a quick “cerveza” or to chat with their long lost neighbour.

Another very common “style” of parking is parking on the opposite side of the street. You will see cars pointed in every which direction on the same side of the street.

My favourite is when the spot is too small for a car to park parallel so they pull in perpendicular to the curb, with the back of the car sticking out into the middle of the street.

Many streets in Spanish villages and towns are very narrow and cars are invariably parked opposite garages making access even tighter. If someone blocks your car in town, they will usually be shopping or working locally.

You should ask around the local shops and businesses or ask a parking attendant for help before calling the police. Failing that, leaning on your horn (although illegal) may help.

Some people leave their cars in neutral and the handbrake off when they double park, so that drivers of other parked cars can move it if necessary.

Though these are typical parking habits in Spain, they are not legal and the police do ticket and tow cars quicker than you can blink!

Parking regulations vary and quite often are very difficult to comprehend. It is important to read all signs carefully and not to assume that one street or town is the same as the next.

Particularly in the larger cities is where it is most complicated. Depending on the area of a city, the time of day, the day of the week, and whether the date is odd or even, and what side of the street……. parking may have strict regulations and may even require purchasing parking permits (from the local town hall – with proof of residence) if you live or work in the area.

Parking Signs and Street Markings

There is restricted parking in all cities and towns and parking is prohibited altogether in certain areas. Below is a list of many common signs and street markings you may encounter:

• “Estacionamiento Prohibido” – parking is forbidden/restricted, accompanied by the sign of a red circle with a blue background and a red line through it.
• “No parking” – yellow, red or white curb or road markings.
• A blue and white curb stone indicates that you can stop briefly but cannot park.
• “No parking” signs also indicate the direction (shown by an arrow), i.e. left or right of the sign, where it’s illegal to park. If parking is illegal in both directions, a sign will have two arrows.
• A tow-away zone is usually shown by a sign of a hoist on the back of a truck and the words retirada grúa.
• “No parking” signs- large ‘E’ (for estacionamiento) with a diagonal line through it.
• In many towns, private entrances and garage doors have a ‘no parking’ (prohibido estacionar or vado permanente) sign accompanied by a police permit number enforcing the parking restriction. Parking in front of this sign may mean a fine or that your car is towed away or clamped.
• Any sign with a diagonal line means something is prohibited

In most Spanish cities ticket machines (expendedor de tickets de estacionamiento) line the streets indicated by blue street markings with blue or grey ticket machines which display instructions, restrictions and prices.

Money is put into the machine and the received ticket is to be displayed in the car window as proof of payment (in order to avoid ticketing).

The price is modest, usually 0,70-1,00 euro per hour. If you exceed your time, you can often cancel it out by paying a penalty (anulación aviso de sanción) of around 3 euros (purchased in ticket form from the ticket machine) and either ‘posting’ it in a special slot in the ticket machine, displaying it in your car window or giving it to the parking attendant.

This must, however, be done within a limited period, otherwise you could be fined up to 40 euros.

In some towns an ORA ZONA system is operated, whereby parking tickets are sold by tobacco shops (estancos) and other retail outlets. Look out for the ORA ZONA signs.

You punch holes in the ticket indicating the date and time you parked and display it in your car window.

Parking lots are the solution to many of these street parking nightmares, they are easily located in the cities and towns by the blue sign with a white letter “P” to indicate the closest lot.

These are not too expensive, but make sure to pay before you leave at the ticket machine or cash desk (cajero) before attempting to leave through the gate, you cannot pay at the exit. To exit you must insert the paid ticket in the slot.

Parking rates vary considerably and are usually from around 1 euro an hour or 15 euros for 24 hours. Many of these parking lots have video security if you wish to leave your car overnight.

If you are considering purchasing property in Spain it is important to make note of the parking situation near your potential home or business. If there is inadequate street parking, it is possible to rent a parking spot in “aparcamientos”, private parking lots which are usually advertised in the local papers.

Parking attendants are also quite common in larger cities and tourist areas. They look official with their bright yellow vest, but in reality they are generally not employed by the city and have no official reason to be there.

They will give you a ticket when you park and ask for a payment (usually 1 or 2 euros), but it is not mandatory to pay them anything, they are just looking for tips.

They say they will watch over your car while you are gone and make sure nothing happens to it, but there is no guarantee of this. It is up to you whether you want to pay them or not.

Parking fines in Spain

Parking fines (multas) have skyrocketed in recent years and there have been many reports of bogus fines where previous free parking zones are changed almost overnight.

Parking is also affected by the many holiday celebrations and processions. Streets are temporarily marked (at the last minute) as no parking zones so the processions can pass through. Thus, if you are unaware of an upcoming holiday you can unexpectedly be caught up in the holiday ticketing madness.

Many town halls have allegedly targeted the motorist as a way of buying their way out of bankruptcy, particularly through extortionate parking fines. Residents are allowed 15 days to pay or formally protest a fine. A fine may be drastically increased if you don’t pay within the prescribed period.

If your car is towed away, you must pay a towing fee, usually 50- 70 euros in addition to the parking fine (around 20 euro per day).

Non-residents must first pay the fine (in cash) before paying the towing (grúa) charge, usually at two different places.

Towing is big business in Spain, a large number of cars are towed daily.

As you can see from the information above, oftentimes it is a bit of a hassle (and expensive) to deal with the parking situation in Spain.

The transportation system in Spain is great and many hassles can be avoided by using the trains or buses.

Note that in many small towns and villages it’s advisable to park on the edge of town and walk to the centre, as many towns are difficult to navigate with many narrow and dead-end streets.

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