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Overcoming the obvious

Within the expat community there are shades of opinion whether it's legal to drive on a UK licence or not. I decided that it was safer to get a Spanish licence so I exchanged my UK one for a Spanish one.

When Spaniards first get their licence and every time that it is renewed they have a sort of medical that checks general health, eyesight, hearing, reactions and what not. It is not difficult and I know what it involves because, when I was still driving on my UK licence, I wasn't sure whether I needed to do the medical or not so, again, I chose the safest option and did one.

When I exchanged my licence I was not asked for a medical certificate so I presumed that the Spanish authorities took it on trust that I was medically fit because I had a UK licence. I thought I wouldn't have to take the medical until my Spanish licence became due for renewal in 2022. However the medical certificate I had expired last week and it made me wonder whether I was driving legally or not. So I asked on one of the many forums that exist for expats. I have had several replies with every shade of opinion.

If the Brits aren't sure I thought I should ask some Spanish friends and students. I've come up against an obstacle though. For the Spanish it is obvious that to get a licence you also need to present the medical certificate. They can't understand how we Britons can drive without periodically proving that we are still fit to do so. When I point out that the fact that I have a licence must mean that I am considered medically sound to drive they have no answer.

It's not the first time that I have bumped into this credibility gap. I don't approve of the Spanish insistence on my proving my identity to every Tom, Dick and Harry but Spaniards are so used to carrying an ID card that they simply don't understand my problem.


  1. My parents lived in the Valencia area for about 15 years (till 2006) before they died and on the advice of neighbours they kept their driving licences and medical certificates up to date. This was not just to be seen as being law-abiding, but because if they had had an accident (sheer miracle that they didn't) they would have had the book thrown at them if the paperwork wasn't spot on, and they could forget any insurance cover. (Perhaps the insurers will be the ultimate experts to ask?) It would also have been a problem for receiving their pensions (from the UK and Argentina) if everything hadn't been up to date. I noticed that ex-pats would make comments to the effect that if nobody told them to do it, then it wasn't their fault if they didn't. Wrong, you were expected to be proactive in these things. Sharing your personal information with every official body is a fact of life there unfortunately. (The difference that was hardest to bear for our family was when either of them was hospitalised, because you were expected to provide by-the-bed support 24/7. If it hadn't have been for the wonderful neighbours who were well used to this sort of thing, I don't know how we would have coped. This applies to all hospitals, whether state or private schemes - apologies if you already knew!).

    1. Yes, I always tend to go for the safest option when in doubt especially when insurance companies are involved. I've now got a definitive response from Trafico to say that I do not need a medical until I exchange the licence in 2022.

      I don't suppose I can do much about the hospital care beforehand so I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.


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