When you first arrive, you will want a working cell phone. Most people sign up with a Spanish carrier, as opposed to keeping a U.S. phone service with an international plan. Pre-paid and contract cell phone plans though vendors such Movistar, Orange, Vodafone, and Yoigo are well priced and easy to use. There is a wireless service center conveniently located inside the NEX. If you already have a phone, you must ensure it is “unlocked” in order to use an international SIM chip. If you bought your phone through a U.S. phone company, there are often fees or penalties associated with unlocking your phone.
By agreement with the Spanish government, U.S. military, DoD civilian employees and their family members assigned to Spain on PCS orders must be in possession of a Spanish driver’s license to either operate or register a vehicle in Spain. To obtain a Spanish driver’s license, you must be 18 years of age or older and possess a valid stateside driver’s license. The international driver permit, military driver’s license, or any type of temporary license is not acceptable to apply for a Spanish driver’s license. Family members in possession of a valid stateside driver’s license, but not yet 18 years of age, are not eligible for a Spanish driver’s license and cannot drive.
Prior to applying for a Spanish driver’s license, applicants must satisfactorily pass a written test on Spanish traffic laws and signs. Security Department personnel administer this test during the week that you and your family members attend the Intercultural Relations (ICR) class. It takes approximately two weeks to get the Spanish license once the paperwork is submitted to security. In the meantime, you and your family members may drive legally in Spain by obtaining an official Spanish translation of your stateside driver’s license from Security’s Pass and I.D. department in Bldg. 3262 at no cost.
If you are in possession of a Spanish driver’s license, you will be able to drive in all countries that are members of the European Union (EU). Driving outside the EU will require an International Driving Permit, normally valid for one year. It may be obtained from the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the States, from any Royal Automobile Club Office in Spain, or from the Spanish Traffic Bureau in Cádiz.
Purchasing a Vehicle in Spain
Members of the force and the civilian component may purchase and maintain one European Union manufactured vehicle — with European or U.S. specs — acquired in Spain, free from Spanish Value Added Tax (VAT). Family members of eligible personnel, 18 years of age and over, in possession of a Spanish driver’s license, may also own and maintain one European Union manufactured vehicle, acquired in Spain, free from the VAT. There are several new car dealers in the area which cater to Americans.
In deciding whether to ship your vehicle or to purchase one after arriving in Spain, keep in mind that many of Spain’s roadways are narrow and parking is often tight. If your vehicle is small, it should blend in, but full-size pickups, large sport utility vehicles, and other large vehicles can be a hindrance while traveling off base or while driving through the older, narrow roadways of many cities.
Insurance and Registration
Vehicle owners must have a third-party liability insurance policy with coverages higher than what you might be used to in the United States to operate or register a vehicle. This is for bodily injury coverage AND property damage. Be sure to consult your insurance company for up to date minimums. To prove compliance with Spanish compulsory insurance laws, personnel holding POV insurance acquired in or outside of Spain must have an International Certificate of Vehicle Insurance (green card — though it doesn’t have to be printed on green paper).
If you wish to retain your current insurance, contact your agent before you move to Spain and request a green card. You can also buy POV insurance from legally established Spanish or U.S. companies in Spain after your arrival. It could cost between $400 and $1,000 for third party liability and as much as $2,500 for full coverage, depending on the type of vehicle, age of driver, etc. The green card is the only acceptable proof of compliance with Spanish compulsory insurance requirements. Therefore, the vehicle registration section will not accept any other document as proof of insurance for vehicle registration or re-registration purposes. Green cards are readily available from most international insurance agencies. They will email you the forms once you have established the policy with the required coverage.
To comply with Spanish motor vehicle regulations, you are required to register a motor vehicle in Spain. Vehicle inspections for both American and Spanish vehicles are conducted at the NEX Autoport by appointment. The American vehicles cannot have a vehicle inspection (ITV) done off base, but Spanish vehicles can have their ITV conducted at any of the ITV facilities throughout Spain.
Spanish traffic laws require installation of seat belts on all vehicle seats. The third brake light is authorized in Spain only if it is factory installed; aftermarket lights are prohibited.
All active duty motorcycle riders must complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the approved basic rider safety course, prior to riding on-base. Courses are usually held monthly and must be scheduled using the Enterprise Safety Applications Management System (ESAMS) or at the Navy Motorcycle Rider Website.
Motorcycles with U.S. specs are authorized to pass the Inspección Técnica de Vehículos (ITV) on base (at the NEX gas station). Spanish motorcycles or those with European specs must pass the periodic ITV off base, in a Spanish ITV station.
There are no provisions, customs clearances, or registration procedures under Spanish law permitting importation of mopeds (50cc or less engine displacement) to Spain. Only mopeds that were taken to the United States from Spain may be brought back, provided you have the original Spanish Certificate of Registration (Certificado de Ciclomotor). Spanish manufactured mopeds may be purchased upon arrival in Spain from any authorized distributor off base.
Mandatory insurance for mopeds often costs more than car insurance. Check with your insurer for details. Mopeds must pass an annual or bi-annual Inspección Técnica de Vehículos (ITV) safety inspection (depending on age of the vehicle). This inspection is mandatory if a moped is to be used on or off base. While the ITV location at the Navy Exchange gas station can conduct auto and U.S. motorcycle ITV inspections, moped ITVs are conducted off base only. Call the vehicle registration section of Security Department for schedules.
Spain requires proof of two years minimum of motorcycle driving experience prior to issuing a full motorcycle license, so make sure that your stateside driver’s license has been endorsed for motorcycle operations for two or more years or have written evidence that you have had a motorcycle license for more than two years, prior to your transfer. If your U.S. driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement was issued less than two years ago, you will obtain a Spanish driver’s license valid to operate motorcycles with no more than 500cc.
NIE (foreigner identification number)
A NIE is required for many different reasons such as: renting a house, Spanish bank accounts, utilities hook up, registering a Spanish second-hand vehicle, contracts for cell phones, or internet at home. This number is assigned to all requestors by Spanish National Police. For NIE requests, proceed Banco Popular on base and pay the NIE fee, then go to Security with the following documents:
- Receipt of payment from Banco Popular
- Military/dependent I.D. card
- Spanish I.D. card
The process takes from 7 to 10 working days.