4 lessons we learned the hard way from driving in the Costa del Sol

First published: January 14,2023
Last update: July 8, 2023

Driving in the Costa del Sol, specifically within its cities, is quite an adventure. Let me tell you the main characteristics and then we’ll see how they work together: the cars are small; there is almost no parking space available; the area is hilly (though Fuengirola is a bit less) and there are lots of roundabouts, plenty with 2 lanes – so much so, this post was originally called “about driving around a roundabout”.

A (3D?) roundabout in Benalmadena, known as Ferrero Rocher. Picture by MamaMalaga.

When driving in the Costa del Sol, choose a small car

People prefer to have small cars in the Costa del Sol to save money and fuel. Given that the average monthly salary in Spain is just slightly above 2.000 euros (and that is gross income, before taxes) – according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, data from 2021 – and that taxes are high, you can see there is not much money left for a big car. On top of that, fuel prices in Spain are also high, as you can see in the picture below, where I compared transportation costs of Malaga with New York:

Numbeo’s comparison of transportation prices between the cities of Malaga and New York. Data collected on July 8, 2023.

Given that a big car would consume more gas than a small one, you get it: people prefer small cars in the Costa del Sol. From the comparison above you can also see that, despite the high cost of gasoline, public transportation and even taxis are relatively affordable; I may also add, the public transportation is good, in my opinion. So, people end up either walking and using public transportation or taxis more often than they would elsewhere.

Speaking for my family, we use our only car (which by the way is small) mostly to go to the supermarket, travel to other cities or to take Kiddo to sports classes (because of the time; at 4:00 it is a bit hot to go walking).

But I did save for last what I think is the main reason why people that live in the Costa del Sol choose to have small cars: it is just ridiculously difficult to find a place to park, and a small car is easier to fit than a big one.

Related post:
Transportation in the Costa del Sol – joyfully riding waves and wheels
Solving Parking and parking tickets in the Costa del Sol

There will be no parking spaces

We have seen that people prefer to have small cars so that they can fit anywhere to park. Now, it needs to be said that this ‘anywhere’ is really inclusive!! We’ve seen people parked in front of garage exits, under ‘no parking’ signs, in the middle of the street, on two lanes along a street and even around a roundabout. And the roundabout was on a highway!!!

We’ve seen Police parked wrong too, and it didn’t look like an emergency was going on (let me clarify: the Police car was parked in a no parking zone every day at the time I took Kiddo to school). The problem is so pervasive that I believe it is accepted that parking properly is too much to ask, given the cities don’t have enough parking spaces available.

Personally, I’m not that Spanish yet. The thought of parking in the wrong place gives me the shivers. So, before I go driving somewhere for the first time, I often check on google how is the parking situation in the area. It is good to go prepared with some possible park locations in mind, even if paid (it is usually less than one euro per hour).

To pay the parking, I use a nice app called Telpark that avoids having to deal with the cumbersome parking meters – we gave up learning how to use them.  Another strategy I use is to park in a supermarket parking or garage; they are often the best spots, but they require that you buy something from the shop. No problem, we can always get something that is about to run out at home.

Related post:
Solving parking and parking tickets in the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is hilly

Benalmádena is so inclined that going to and from the A-7 – the highway that connects the cities of the Costa del Sol – you can feel the same kind of pressure in the ear canals that you feel while a plane is taking off or landing. The good side is that one can rest assured that there will be no speeding in the cities, because there is too much inclination for a small car to run up. When going down, the cars that are parking along the streets and the roundabouts also prevent the speeding.

Does this surprise you? Use the tips on how hilly is the area to find out if your location is gonna be very hilly too! And you can check this from abroad 😉

Roundabouts are everywhere

Talking about roundabouts, they are everywhere. Everywhere you look you see one, or probably three roundabouts. Some of them without a clear reason to exist. I get it that people find they good looking, and many are cute indeed. They often have a fountain, a sculpture or some well-groomed tree surrounded by flowers – the Costa del Sol is really formidable – but they can cause some difficulties to drive, particularly when on a hill or when they are not in the center of the roads.

I guess they are indeed part of speed control; either that or there is a conspiracy of car mechanics promoting roundabouts, because many an accident occurs around them. Below, some images from google maps to illustrate my point and for your delight:

Beautiful Ferrero Rocher roundabout in Benalmadena.

A roundabout that could simply be a curve.

The two-lane roundabout where we had our accident. I have more fear of it than of cockroaches.

Can you spot the tiny, misaligned roundabout? I’ll give you a tip: it has a sign informing it is a roundabout that is just a little smaller than itself!

While driving in the cities of the Costa del Sol requires some adventure spirit, driving between the cities in the Costa del Sol is a breeze. The highway that connects much of the region, A-7, is well kept, well signalized and safe.

Next: Free train travels in the Costa del Sol

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