THE TRAFFIC RULES IN TENERIFE
Traffic rules in Tenerife are largely similar to those in other European countries. Just like on the mainland of Spain, driving on the right is the norm. This can be challenging for people coming from countries where left-hand traffic is the standard. This transition is often noticeable on busy promenades, where such tourists stubbornly continue to walk on the left, much to the irritation of the local population. Whether you are traveling by car, scooter, bike, or on foot in Tenerife, it is important to adhere to the traffic rules and local norms!
The rules at a glance
Remembering all traffic rules might be a bit much to ask, but most of them should be common sense for regular road users. Nevertheless, it's handy to summarize the local regulations, just in case there's something you didn't know:
- Do not use a mobile phone while driving
- Eating while driving (or even nail-biting!) is punishable because it distracts and means you do not have both hands on the steering wheel.
- Adhere to safety measures:
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- Use only approved child seats in the car.
- Motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet and gloves.
- Possession of radar detectors in the car is prohibited, even if they are turned off.
- The speed limits are as follows:
- Within built-up areas: 20 km/h on roads with a single lane and pedestrian lane, 30 km/h on roads with one lane in each direction, and 50 km/h on roads with two or more lanes per direction.
- On highways: Maximum of 120 km/h, depending on the traffic signs along the road.
- Playing excessively loud music when passing hospitals or rest areas can result in a fine ranging from 80 to 100 euros.
- Driving without a shirt, even in the summer, can result in a fine of up to 200 euros.
Parking in Tenerife
Parking in Tenerife requires some caution. Stopping and parking are not the same; a brief stop to check a map or take a photo is acceptable as long as it does not last longer than 2 minutes and does not block the road.
However, there are places where parking is prohibited, such as in bends, tunnels, on zebra crossings, at bus stops, at intersections, and on tram tracks. When in doubt, it is advisable to opt for paid parking lots or garages to save time and avoid fines.
What to do if your (rental) car has been towed away?
It can happen to the best of us: you've innocently parked your car in a place where it's not allowed. And now it's gone. It's a bit of a shock, but don't panic! The chances of it being stolen are very slim. Most rental cars have a GPS tracker, which makes them unattractive targets for thieves. In most cases, the car has been towed away by a tow truck, known as a "grúa" in Spanish.
In that case, you should take the following steps to get your car back:
- Make sure you know in which municipality you parked your car.
- Note down the street name or the nearest landmark.
- Keep the license plate number at hand, usually found on the keychain of the rental car.
- Call the local police and provide the gathered information.
- The local police will confirm whether the car has been towed and where you can pick it up, usually at the local Depósito Municipal de Vehículos.
Environmental stickers: also in Tenerife!
The European Union has decided that as of January 1, 2024, vehicles circulating in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants are required to carry an environmental sticker. This sticker grants access to drive in an environmental zone, abbreviated as ZBE (Zona de bajas emisiones) in Spain.
The mandatory stickers in Tenerife consist of four categories, as shown in the diagram.
Vehicles that fall outside of this category do not receive a sticker and do not have access to the environmental zone.
For the time being, the only environmental zone on Tenerife is located in the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and covers the entire central area of the city.
Although the obligation to have the sticker is now in effect, no fines will be imposed during the first 6 months. Offenders will receive a notification. However, stricter enforcement will follow thereafter, and fines ranging from 100 to 1,800 euros can be expected.
What does this mean for the average tourist??
In principle, it doesn't have much impact for people booking a flight to Tenerife. Rental car companies are required to regularly update their fleets and equip their cars with such a sticker.
Furthermore, I recommend exploring the capital by public transport. Parking your car in this overcrowded city is difficult anyway, and the infrastructure for buses and trams is excellently organized. This way, you immediately contribute to making our beautiful island a bit more habitable again.