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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

The Driving Licence Issue - Resolved
Sunday, May 1, 2022 @ 10:23 PM

My first road-legal vehicle was a Vespino. This is a moped with a 49cc motor. With such a machine, I could pedal away to help its small engine get me and a packet of cigarettes up the hill to the village. I was sixteen.

Following this, and a few other mopeds (the pedals were usually removed to make the bike look a bit racier, and the motorbike would be ‘trucado’ to get it up over whatever the limit was, I think it was 60kph in them days).

Like most young fellows, I wanted a car and, in 1975, the year that Franco died, I passed my driving licence in Huercal Overa and took over operation of the Peugeot that my dad had bought in Madrid a few years earlier on tourist plates (from Bert Schroder, if there are any old-timers reading this). A succession of cars followed, usually second-hand, and there it was – the perfectly normal story of a fellow living in España, trying to impress the girls with his wheels.

Many Brits living here in Spain, in this post-Brexit time, seem surprised that the rule to stop the legal use of a British driving licence for foreign residents of the British persuasion should not have been subject to yet another extension once again as May 1st 2022 rolled around. Somehow, many of us British are convinced that we should be allowed to be different from the American or South African resident or anyone else who aspires to drive on his home-licence.

The message evidently didn’t get through to the Spanish – we Brits are special. Oh, but we are allowed to drive with a British licence in France, we say – why not ’ere?

Thus, the cold water of reality now means classes and both a written and practical driving test, which is a serious bother. They’ll do a health check as well.

Mind you, one can always wing it – how many times does one get stopped by the tráfico anyway; and if you do, you simply explain to them in a condescending yet respectful way that you are British.

They’ll soon see your point and will no doubt wave you on your way with a crisp salute.

It’s clear that many of this unfortunate set of non-European foreign residents will need to bite the bullet and go through the rigmarole, and it is not easy. Fifty years driving and now told to watch your rear-view mirror and to hold the steering wheel properly, with three eighteen-year-olds squeezed across the back seats nudging each other and chuckling.

For some, the answer is a taxi or a bus. The Tarjeta SensentayCinco for the Oldies gets you discounts on travel. Or then there’s the car-share app Blablacar for long trips. For others, perhaps, one can acquire a vehicle that doesn’t need a full licence. Not the Vespino, no, nor a mobility scooter (not yet, anyhow), but something to do the shopping with or to go out as a couple to a favoured restaurant.

The answer to this is the ‘coche sin carnet’, the microcar. The reality is that one does need a licence for these, the same AM permit as for mopeds and three-wheelers (it’s very easy, just drive a zigzag and a circle). They have a limit of 45kph and, needless to say, with their egg-beater engine, they can’t go on the motorways.

There are a few brands available in Spain, including the Aixam, the Ligier, the Chatenet and the Microcar.

Even cooler is the all-electric city-car, the Citroën Ami (road-test here). To drive one, you just need to be sixteen years or older and perhaps equipped with a keen sense of humour.

It’s not easy changing one’s feathers as one gets older, but a golf-cart with windows, heating and a radio doesn’t sound so bad.

At this stage, who did you want to impress anyway?

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