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Driving in Gran Canaria - Our Experiences

Road in mountains in Gran Canaria
Mountain drives are a breath of fresh air. You'll encounter minimal traffic, and the weather is usually sunny and pleasantly mild.

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The lack of sunshine enticed us to leave the cold weather of Finland behind for a week-long getaway in Gran Canaria. We preferred to establish our base in the island's warm southern region, but we opted to rent a car for the flexibility to roam freely. In this article, we divulge the insights we gained about navigating the roads of Gran Canaria and offer useful advice. Dive into the article to discover essential information you need to know about driving in Gran Canaria.

Trip to Gran Canaria - 7 Days of Driving

We were still waiting for the spring in Finland when we decided to take a one-week break in Gran Canaria. We had accumulated Norwegian's Cashpoints that were expiring soon, so we booked a flight from Helsinki to Gran Canaria with Norwegian Air. Since the return flight would have been quite expensive, we booked only one way and opted to fly back with Air France despite the layovers. The trip was a success as the weather was delightful, and we had the opportunity to explore Gran Canaria for seven consecutive days with a rental car.

We preferred having our base in the warmer and sunnier south of the island. After some research, we found that Marina Elite near Puerto Rico offered reasonable prices and had a convenient closed parking area for cars. As soon as we got our flights booked, we promptly booked the hotel and placed a booking for a week's car rental, and soon we were all set for our trip.

Renting the Car

As usual, we searched for different options at Discover Cars, our favourite car rental comparison website, to find the perfect vehicle for our journey. Discover Cars displayed options from various rental companies in one search. After comparing prices and reading previous customer reviews, we rented a car from Orlando Rent a Car. The cost of a mini class car for one week was only 90 euros, which we found reasonable.

We noticed already in the booking phase one drawback: Orlando Rent a Car did not have an office at the airport, but they offered a Meet & Greet service instead. Given the affordability, we chose to go on with this option.

We like Discover Cars for its convenient comparison feature but we hesitate to recommend Orlando Rent a Car due to the issues we encountered in Gran Canaria. Opting for a slightly more expensive option through Discover Cars might have ensured a better service experience.

Challenges with Orlando Rent a Car

Orlando Rent a Car failed to meet us at the airport at the pre-agreed time, and they did not initiate any contact with us.

Upon reaching out to them by a call, they assured us they would arrive soon, but it still took an additional 30 minutes. Once they arrived, they transported us together with other car rental customers to their office, where we encountered a lengthy queue that delayed us for an hour more. The process was cumbersome and slow-paced. We have never experienced this slow cap pickup.

Citroen C3 in Gran Canaria
Our mini car rental turned into a pleasant surprise! We ended up with a Citroen C3.

Eventually, two hours post-landing, we received our car, a Citroen C3. Interestingly, it was larger than we had initially booked, which was acceptable. However, the car had numerous scratches, necessitating considerable time to take photos and videos for documentation. The rental company did not introduce the car, but we managed without it. With the aid of Google Maps, we then proceeded to our hotel.

A few days later, the engine warning light of the car illuminated. We called the office of the rental company to notify them about this and one of their staff said they were aware of it saying we just ignore it as it's accordingly normal with this specific car.

Upon returning the car, we were confident that the car was in the same condition as when we took it on the first rental day. However, the representative of the car rental company claimed there was a new scratch on the car. With detailed documentation of the car, we proposed the car rental staff to scrutinize the images alongside each scratch on the car to verify if any new ones had appeared. Upon hearing this, the representative confirmed that everything was in order without bothering to review the photos and videos we took before we drove this car.

Tips for More Succesful Rental Experience

Discover Cars can be recommended as it efficiently aggregates information from numerous companies. It's crucial to read over the reviews by previous customers to gauge the quality of the selected rental company. Remember, the least expensive options may not always offer the best value. So our advice is not to settle for the cheapest option as usually, the car may not be in fully good condition.

Citroen C3
The engine warning light of our rental car illuminated after a few days of driving. While the rental company downplayed it, we were still a little worried.

Discover Cars offer affordable full protection to cover the car's insurance's deductible part. This operates in such a way that you pay the deposit directly to the car rental company, and in case of any incidents, they use this deposit to cover the excess charges. You can then request reimbursement from Discover Cars. While this process may seem slightly more intricate than opting for comprehensive insurance directly from the rental company, it can result in significant savings for those who rent cars frequently.

PRO TIP
Remember to purchase travel medical insurance with robust coverage for your journey. Check an instant quotation from Safetywing.

Take photos and videos of the car before driving to protect yourself. Documenting the car's condition with photos and videos is for your protection in case of disputes. Regardless of your insurance, it's your responsibility to drive the rental car carefully.

Driving in Gran Canaria

We outline key points to keep in mind about driving in Gran Canaria, drawn from our experiences and research. For detailed traffic regulations, always consult official sources and ask for help from the rental company.

License

All drivers are required to have a valid driving license to operate a vehicle in Gran Canaria. Licenses issued by EU and UK authorities are accepted, eliminating the need for an international driving permit. Should your license be issued by a country outside of the EU and UK, and you're unsure about its validity in Gran Canaria, it's recommended to check with an authoritative source for confirmation.

Rental companies might decline to rent a car to individuals with a license held for less than a year. Additionally, both young and elderly drivers may be subject to an extra fee. Fortunately, it is simple to review the rental terms on Discover Cars before finalizing the booking.

PRO TIP
Book a car with free cancellation on Discover Cars. This offers flexibility if your plans change or if you find a better option later.

Right-sided Traffic, Priority and Traffic Signs

In Gran Canaria, driving is on the right side of the road, and you must give way to vehicles approaching from the right.

When you encounter a triangle or STOP sign, it's mandatory to give way to all other traffic. Pedestrians at zebra crossings always have the right of way.

Traffic sign for narrowing roads
Watch for narrowing roads in Gran Canaria and drive cautiously, adjusting your speed as needed.

Show courtesy to fellow travellers in busy tourist areas by allowing them plenty of space to cross streets safely.

Municipal Roads

The roads in tourist areas are relatively easy to navigate with minimal traffic and a generally slow pace.

The situation changes as you head towards the mountains, small villages, or Las Palmas. Streets in small villages can be exceedingly narrow with steep inclines, necessitating very cautious driving. Traffic near Las Palmas can be hectic and might pose a challenge for inexperienced drivers. However, those accustomed to driving in other major European cities should be able to manage in Las Palmas as well.

We visited Las Palmas twice with the rental car. Parking was the major challenge.

Motorway and Superhighways

Gran Canaria features one motorway: GC1 links the airport to Maspalomas, Puerto Rico, and Mogan. There are also three superhighways called GC2, GC3 and GC4. They are almost similar to the motorway.

The motorway and superhighways expand to 2 or 3 lanes in each direction, with speed limits ranging from 80 km/h to 120 km/h. Despite the heavy traffic, the flow remains smooth, making it a pleasant driving experience.

Speed sign
Stay alert, obey speed limits and always watch for animals crossing the road.

Remember to turn the lights on in tunnels or when it's dark.

Mountain Roads

When you leave from the coastline, you will soon encounter mountain roads. Some of these roads feature smooth surfaces, ample width, and protective fences, making them easy to drive on as long as you maintain a low speed.

A mountain road in Gran Canaria
Road surfaces in Gran Canaria can change unexpectedly. Stay alert and always be ready to slow down.
Rest place on the mountain
The mountains offer plenty of scenic pullouts where you can take a break, cool down your car, and enjoy the views.

However, if you rely on navigation apps like Google Maps, as we did, you might find yourself on extremely narrow and steep roads with poor surfaces. Despite the minimal traffic, these roads can pose a driving challenge, requiring proficient clutch handling skills if you are driving with a manual transmission. Nevertheless, if you maintain a low speed, these roads are manageable but stressful.

Blind corner on the mountain
Expect blind corners on mountain roads. Slow down significantly and stay in your lane.

For inexperienced mountain drivers, it's important to remember to use engine braking when descending. This helps prevent your brakes from overheating.

Speed Limits

The speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h. Within urban areas, the speed limit is set to 50 km/h unless otherwise indicated. Beyond these areas, the default limit increases to 90 km/h or 100 km/h depending on the road type. However, be aware that specific limits can be indicated by traffic signs, and speed cameras are in operation to enforce these limits.

Obey speed limit signs for your safety. Especially on mountain roads, driving fast is not safe.

Parking

Parking in Gran Canaria is straightforward.

We suggest selecting a hotel that offers free, secure parking to alleviate the worry of finding a parking spot at night.

In tourist areas, there may be free street parking denoted by white zones. While parking there is free, it's important to observe any limits indicated by traffic signs. Metered parking areas are highlighted with blue zones, where a ticket must be bought from a machine or parking app used. Tourist regions, Las Palmas, and smaller towns are equipped with numerous parking garages which are the easiest way to parking. Simply drive in, collect a ticket, and pay the fee before exiting. This method is highly convenient for parking in busier locales.

Here's a summary of the different parking zone colours in Gran Canaria with their restrictions:

  • White Zones: Often free parking, but always check for local signs that might indicate time limits or other restrictions.
  • Green Zones: Resident parking only. Non-residents will likely be fined or towed.
  • Blue Zones: Paid parking. You must purchase and display a ticket from a machine.
  • Yellow Zones: No parking. These are for entrances/exits or other restricted areas.

Tip: Always pay close attention to the colour of the lines or curbs and check for any posted signs with specific parking rules before leaving your vehicle.

Free parking
White zones are used for free parking. Always check the traffic signage.
Paid parking
Blue zones typically indicate paid parking.

The majority of parking halls accept a card payment.

Ticket machine
Expect to pay a few euros for short-term parking in garages, making them a budget-friendly option.

It is easy to get cars scratched while parking so we recommend buying the full protection from Discover Cars.

Refueling

Fuel in Gran Canaria is inexpensive.

For the most budget-friendly option, consider self-service gas stations like PetroPix. These stations typically offer lower prices because you pump the gas yourself and pay at the pump with a credit or debit card. Expect to pay around 1.10 euros per litre for E95 gasoline.

Ceasar and Citoren C3 on mountains
Gas stations can be scarce in the mountains. Plan your route and ensure you have enough fuel before heading out.

Always pay attention to filling up the tank with the right fuel type.

Cyclists

One crucial point that cannot be emphasized sufficiently is the high presence of cyclists on the island, particularly on mountain roads from early morning to late afternoon.

It is your responsibility to ensure they have ample space to cycle safely. Take into account that they might be descending swiftly, and your visibility behind curves may be limited. Always anticipate the possibility of encountering a cyclist or another vehicle when navigating mountainous terrain. Minimizing risk is essential to ensuring the safety of all road users.

Cyclist and a shopping stall in the mountains
It is common to encounter cyclists on the road. Always prioritize their safety and provide ample space when passing.
Traffic enforcement sign
This sign indicates that there might be traffic enforcement in this area.

Buses on Mountains

While we encountered only a few public buses in the mountains, there is a notable presence of tourist buses. Due to their size and limited manoeuvrability, private cars need to yield to them when encountering them on mountain roads. Our recommendation remains the same: approach curves cautiously, and be ready to halt or even reverse if necessary to accommodate buses. Fortunately, bus drivers on the island are accustomed to tourist drivers, and they also exercise caution while driving.

Public Bus in the mountains
Sharing the mountain roads with buses requires extra caution, particularly on curves. Yield the right of way to larger vehicles and always prioritize safety.

Where to Go with a Rental Car

We give four suggestions as to where we recommend you drive with your rental car. These spots were our favourites.

Caldera de Bandama

Caldera de Bandama, situated near Las Palmas, stands out as an impressive volcanic landmark characterized by its vast crater and breathtaking panoramic views. This extraordinary natural marvel attracts hikers and nature lovers alike, eager to delve into its distinct geological structures and varied plant life. There is also a small mountain with a nice viewpoint and a sightseeing restaurant.

To arrive at Caldera de Bandama from the south of the island, begin your journey on the GC-1 motorway heading towards Las Palmas. Proceed to merge onto the GC-3 highway and look for the signs directing you to the GC-802; this road will take you straight to the location. There are free parking spaces.

Caldera de Bandama
While Caldera de Bandama shines on sunny days, it's a great hiking destination year-round.
Road to the top of Pico de Bandama
A scenic circular route winds its way around Pico de Bandama and continues to the mountain peak.

Pico de las Nieves

Pico de las Nieves stands as Gran Canaria's tallest peak, captivating visitors with its stunning panoramic views, making it a favourite spot among both residents and travellers. The summit reaches an impressive height of 1,949 meters above sea level, offering a spectacular viewpoint that overlooks the island and the vast Atlantic Ocean beyond. You can see even the Teide volcano in Tenerife.

Ceasar and Citroen C3 Stopped
Make the most of the crisp mountain air! Stop on the way up to Pico de las Nieves.

To journey to Pico de las Nieves from the south of the island, start on the GC-1 motorway heading towards Las Palmas. Utilize Google Maps to find the route to the mountains leading to your destination. These roads can be narrow and winding, so it's essential to drive cautiously, especially in the presence of cyclists.

Pico de Las Nieves
A free parking area is available for visitors at Pico de las Nieves.

Teror

Teror is a captivating town located in the north of Gran Canaria. It is distinguished by its rich historical and cultural heritage. It is famed for its exquisite architecture. Its quaint cobblestone streets, traditional houses adorned with distinctive wooden balconies, and lively markets brimming with local delicacies establish Teror as an essential visit. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in Restaurante El Encuentro de Teror with excellent service.

Teror
Among the villages we visited in Gran Canaria, Teror captured our hearts the most.

To get to Teror from the south of the island, one embarks on a picturesque journey through the heart of Gran Canaria. Beginning on the GC-1 motorway heading towards Las Palmas, then exiting onto the GC-3 highway. Continue on the GC-3 until it's possible to join the GC-21 road directed towards Teror. Following the GC-21 will bring you straight into Teror's centre. This route, offering splendid views of the island's landscapes, usually takes around an hour, though this can vary with traffic. Be prepared for narrower roads as you approach your destination, adding a bit of adventure to the final stretch of your journey. Remember to reserve enough time to drive back to the hotel before the sun sets.

Arucas sign
Just a short distance away from Teror lies Arucas, another charming village worth exploring.
Arucas street
Strolling through Arucas was a delightful experience. Consider parking your car outside the centre for easier exploration and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Los Azulejos

Nestled in the southwestern part of Gran Canaria, Los Azulejos is a geological marvel nicknamed "The Tile Fountain." This breathtaking landscape boasts vibrantly coloured rock formations, a result of volcanic activity and time's artistry.

Los Azulejos
The road to Los Azulejos had a good surface and it was easy to drive.

To reach Los Azulejos from the South, you'll embark on a scenic drive along the coast. Head first towards Mogán, and then continue westward on GC-200 towards La Aldea de San Nicolás. The colourful cliffs will soon come into view, marking your arrival at Los Azulejos. The route is easy to drive and the mountain roads are in good condition.

Big rock in Gran Canaria
The southern and eastern regions of Gran Canaria are generally drier, with a rocky and rugged terrain.

Dangers

Winding Roads and Sharp Bends

Gran Canaria's winding roads with sharp bends create many blind spots, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic. To navigate these safely, reduce your speed and stay strictly within your lane, especially when approaching corners with limited visibility.

Distracted drivers

Be aware that many drivers in the mountains are likely unfamiliar with the roads. They might be distracted by navigating, enjoying the scenery, or simply not used to their rental car. Don't rely on other drivers' alertness. Always maintain a safe following distance to allow for sudden braking due to unexpected manoeuvres.

Sudden Changes in Weather

Don't let mountain weather catch you off guard! Visibility can drop due to fog, rain, or strong winds. Be prepared to adapt your driving. If conditions worsen, pull over to a safe location and wait for things to clear. Headlights can pierce the fog, but remember to use low beams to avoid blinding oncoming drivers.

Falling Rocks

Watch out for falling rocks! Especially after heavy rain, loose rocks can become dislodged on the slopes. Always be alert for posted warnings and signs indicating potential rockfall zones. If you see falling rocks ahead, don't hesitate to pull over as far away from the danger zone as possible. Remember, falling rocks can damage your car – comprehensive insurance coverage is highly recommended for peace of mind while driving in mountainous areas.

Rocks that can fall on the mountains
Watch out for falling rocks after heavy rain.

Bottom Line

We rented a car in Gran Canaria and explored the island for a week. Despite some bumps along the road with the rental company, having a car gave us the freedom to discover hidden gems and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

While Gran Canaria isn't known for challenging driving overall, there are some key points to remember. Mountain roads require slower speeds due to blind spots, and village streets can be narrow with limited parking (consider garages!). So allow extra time for your journey along winding roads and narrow bends. Be prepared for occasional weather changes despite the island's usual sunshine.

Ever driven in Gran Canaria? Did you like it? Share your toughest challenges in the comments.

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Destination: Spain

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