Having decided to retire to Spain we set about doing a little research. We joined a few online forums and social media groups aimed at ex-pats in Spain and starting asking questions and reading all the information available from previous posts.

What a mistake that turned out to be!

It turns out that everybody is an expert. People living permanently in Spain, people who own a holiday home in Spain, people who went to Benidorm once in 1997, people who have never been further south than Hunstanton… everybody has an opinion.

Us British are used to a rigid system. If I asked, for example, how I would apply for a provisional driving licence in the UK, the answer is simple. At the time of writing, according to the gov.uk website:

To get your first provisional driving licence online for a moped, motorbike or car you must:

be at least 15 years and 9 months old
be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away
provide an identity document unless you have a valid UK biometric passport
provide addresses where you’ve lived over the last 3 years
pay £34 by MasterCard, Visa, Electron, Maestro or Delta debit or credit card
have your National Insurance number if known

Your licence should arrive within one week if you apply online.

The answer in the UK applies whether I lived in London, Newcastle, Birmingham, or Chipping Norton.

Spain though, is made up of 17 autonomous communities. Depending where you live the answer to the same question will differ. Does that mean there are potentially 17 different answers? Of course not. In reality there are far more.

Let’s use the region of Murcia as an example. I live in Spain and I want to exchange my UK driving licence for a Spanish one. The first thing to appreciate is that the process is likely to be different from that in neighbouring Alicante. Then you have to understand that one major city in the region might use a slightly different system to the one in another city. Finally, one official in the office might do things differently to the person on the next desk.

So asking on social media will solicit dozens of different answers – which are usually followed by threats and insults.

The honest answer to any question is, “it varies but this is how I/we did it”.

So here is Rumour Control: Spain.

This is how I/we did it. If you heard a rumour that it’s done differently, or if you did it differently yourself, please don’t argue with me. This is how it can be done.