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The teacher becomes the pupil - a personal story from Ruth Collins

Ruth Collins was a driving instructor in the UK. Newly arrived in Spain, she is preparing to take the Spanish driving test. Here, she shares some insights into the process and describes some of the differences between driving in the UK and driving in Spain.

Ruth's story

Ruth Collins - driving instructor

We moved to Spain – just outside Granada - in November 2021, just over six months ago at the time of writing.


My advice to people in a similar position to me – don’t delay starting the process of applying for a Spanish driving licence.

It’s tempting to wait until you’ve ‘got everything sorted’ after your move, but even though you arrive with six months’ validity on your UK licence, it can take six months to get through the process.

My husband passed his test this morning – with eight days left of our period of grace!

If you’ve been driving in the UK, taking the practical test is a different experience from your test in the UK. It’s more of an assessment that you can drive than a test. That will be different for 17-year-olds and other new drivers, of course, but if you have been driving already, this is recognised.


The medical

Before you can apply for a test, you need a medical. This tests eyesight by means of shapes, colour recognition (the differences between colours) and hand-eye co-ordination (keeping a spot on a white line while using both hands to turn a wheel. Great for young people who are gamers. Less easy for old crusties like me!)

The theory test

You have 90 days after the medical to pass your theory test. You will complete the test on paper or on a PC, depending on what your local test centre uses. There are thirty questions, and you are allowed three mistakes.


You can practise for this. gives you 60 days’ worth of tests if you enrol with them–it costs around 36€. There are 3000 questions you can try. My husband and I quizzed each other with the questions.


The practical test

The practical follows. While you can get the medical and sit the theory test yourself, you must be presented for the practical by an autoescuela. Nor can you practise in your own car, as you can do in the UK, as long as you are accompanied by a qualified driver who has held a licence for more than three years. So,in order to practise, you must have an instructor with you and that can be expensive.


What are the biggest differences between driving in Spain and driving in the UK?

First of all,to pass the theory, much more knowledge is required. You can be asked the legal limits of things such as tractor towing weights and motorbikes, for example. If the knowledge required in Britain is five on a scale of ten, here in Spain it’s nine.


In practical terms, roundabouts are treated differently, and it’s an important difference. In the UK, as we enter a roundabout we signal our intention – which exit we intend to take. In Spain, you signal on exiting. In Spain the outside lane is used for all exits, whereas in the UK we use a different lane depending on when we are going to exit.


Visually, junctions are different, too. They are very busy with signs, each of which contains different information and all need to be noted. I find the capacity to do that diminishes with age!


What do I think about the process? 

I feel that preparing for the Spanish driving test has made me a better driver. In the UK I got my instructor’s licence with good grades, but I still didn’t know it all!

With thanks to Ruth Collins who is soon to take her Spanish driving test. 

Good luck Ruth!

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