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Planning to rent a car on Tenerife? Then you might need these tips on surviving driving on Tenerife...

Cruising Tenerife’s highways and byways under your own steam is the best way to get to know the island and discover its dramatic scenery and picturesque villages. It also means that you’re going to encounter an animal that is, at times a source of amusement, at others a source of exasperation; the Tinerfeño driver. Some Tinerfeños (people native to Tenerife) follow quite a unique driving mantra; casual with a hint of unpredictability…

It’s all Napoleon’s fault

Firstly, for some, there’s getting to grips with driving on ‘the wrong side’ of the road. A local friend insists that the reason the British drive on the left when most of Europe prefer the right can be laid at Napoleon’s door. As his armies advanced along Europe’s roads they marched on the left, forcing oncoming merchants and travellers to the right; a tradition which stuck. The good people of Blighty, never having played host to the diminutive emperor and therefore free to choose whichever side they wanted, opted for the left. It’s probably a load of tosh, but it’s a good story and it does mean that when you try to change gear and accidentally open the car door instead, you can blame the French.

It’s good to talk…

Tinerfeños are a sociable lot; they love to shoot the breeze. Before mobile phones were invented, solitary road journeys must have been akin to a prison sentence. Now they need never be alone again and lone drivers are likely to have a phone pressed to their ear. To be fair, more and more drivers are showing awareness of the potential dangers to themselves and others and now stop the car whilst they chat… even if they happen to be on a roundabout or at a junction at the time.

Tinerfeño drivers always make time for family and friends; if they spot someone they know they’ll pull over to catch up on the latest gossip-wait, let me rephrase that. There’s no pulling over involved; they simply stop, even if it means causing gridlock. There’s no point in getting annoyed when this happens, it’s just part of the way of life; although, a gentle ‘beep’ of the horn is allowed if conversations drag on.

It’s parking, but not as we know it

Parking is a chaotic art form in Tenerife’s bigger towns where Tinerfeños squeeze their cars into places where even ‘Smart’ cars would fear to park.

One of the most bizarre attitudes to parking is Tinerfeños’ apparent belief that broad white lines painted on the road denotes another parking space; it’s almost impossible to use pedestrian crossings as access is blocked by the one or more cars parked on it.

If there’s a wrong way to do it

Some road layouts defy logic (note the avoidance of use of the term ‘road planning’ as that would suggest there is some). There are longer stretches on a ‘Scaletrix’ track than on some of the slip roads leading to and from Tenerife’s equivalent of motorways, the TF1 and TF5. Some act as both exit and approach, forcing nerve jangling formation lane changing.

The most frightening example of ‘non-planning’ is the positioning of pedestrian crossings; many are placed beside bus stops; no doubt with the intention that passengers don’t have to walk far to cross the road. Unfortunately this means that the bus blocks not only their view of the road, but also oncoming drivers’ view of them-the green cross code man would be spinning in his grave. Another popular spot for crossings are immediately after the exit from roundabouts and at junctions, preferably just around a blind corner. Is there someone out there who doesn’t like pedestrians?

Not so lazy Sunday afternoon

Sunday outings are very popular with Tinerfeños, making it one of the busiest days on the road. Add to this all the weird and wonderful things that take place on Tenerife’s roads on a Sunday and you could find yourself in the middle of a cycling ‘tour de Tenerife’, car rally, mobile home convoy, or even in the middle of thousands of good natured, middle aged ‘Hell’s Angels’. Progress might be slow, but it’s rarely dull.

Going Bananas

The antique trucks which transport bananas all over the island may look quaint, but are better kept firmly in your rear view mirror. The island’s sinuous roads can be a bit much for them and if you get stuck behind one, be prepared to complete the journey in second gear; perfect for enjoying the scenery. A pleasant surprise; however, is that truck drivers on Tenerife are normally very considerate; if there’s a hard shoulder of any sort, they’ll usually squeeze over, allowing any cars behind them to pass.

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Copyright © 2006 Real Tenerife Island Drives. All rights reserved. No part of this website may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Real Tenerife Island Drives.

In reality exploring Tenerife by car is a joy, instances of road rage are virtually non existent and most roads are generally quiet. With your copy of 'Island Drives' to help you, you'll find driving around the island an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

All of the roads in these photographs are featured amongst the routes in Real Tenerife Island Drives, as well as more tips on driving on Tenerife.

Click here to find out more

The definitive guide to exploring Tenerife by car
Road through the Teide National Park, Tenerife
Mount Teide's a regular companion on Tenerife's roads
The rock formations of La Tarta
Road to Masca, Tenerife
Spectacular landscapes when driving on Tenerife
Mount Teide's a regular companion on Tenerife's roads
Empty roads wind through spectacular landscapes
The incredible rock formations of La Tarta (the cake)
Hairpin bends on the road to Masca
Of course, not all Tenerife's roads are winding

ITV (MOT) Inspection on Tenerife

If you’re a resident in Tenerife and a car owner at some point you’re going to have to take your car for an ITV (MOT) inspection. Here are a few tips to help make the process a bit less of a mystery.

When do I need an ITV inspection?
Age of Car
0 – 4 years: There’s no requirement for an ITV inspection
4 – 9 years: ITV inspection is required every two years.
10 years and over: ITV inspection is required annually.

Where can I have my car ITV inspected on Tenerife?
There are only four authorised ITV inspection centres on Tenerife:
Arafo, El Rosario, Las Chafiras in San Miguel de Abona and Los Realejos.

What do I have to do?
Phone your nearest ITV centre for an appointment just prior to the anniversary of the car’s registration (matriculation) date.

What happens then?
On the date of the ITV inspection, take your paperwork (Permiso de circulación, Tarjeta inspección technical de vehículos and NIE number) to the centre’s office where you pay the inspection fee (approx €32 for a standard car) and be told which queue to join. (Tip; it’s probably wise to arrive a little before your appointed slot)

The ITV inspection
There are three stages to the ITV inspection and you’re responsible for taking the car through its paces. Lights, windscreen wipers emissions are inspected, then brakes, tyres, steering etc. (Tip: Make sure you know the Spanish for various car parts before you turn up)

After that you’re either given an ITV certificate and a sticker for your windscreen, or are told what you need to do and given fifteen days to correct any problems.

Tales of the unexpected

Occasionally you might be lucky enough to meet a true master of the unpredictable; those who excel in leaving you open mouthed with astonishment.

In third place
Returning, laden down with shopping, to his car, a friend discovered that he had a flat tyre. With the sun beating down, he duly raised the car on its jack and removed the offending object at which point he was interrupted by a shout. Covered in grime, oil and sweat he turned from his temporarily three wheeled wagon to see a woman in a car waving at him.
“Well,” she shouted impatiently. “Are you leaving or not? I want that space!”

Runner up
With a head full of measurements and calculations, I was strolling along a pavement linking two DIY stores when the impatient sound of a car horn behind me sent me straight into the air. As I struggled to regain some dignity and composure, the horn ‘beeped’ again, and the woman driver gesticulated indignantly for me to shift out of her way. Still in shock I obliged, letting her continue her way along the pavement to the next store. Obviously she couldn't see the point of using the road when the pavement was the most direct route.

And the winner is…
Pulling up behind a car waiting to join a small roundabout, I could see that the roundabout was clear of traffic. With a queue building up behind and the first of the inquisitive ‘beeps’ sounding, I drew level with the stationary car, keeping one eye on it to make sure it didn’t suddenly lunge forward. I needn’t have worried; the young woman at the wheel wasn’t going anywhere, she was far too busy concentrating on her rear view mirror as she meticulously applied her make up, oblivious to the chaos around her. Presumably the light at that spot must have been just right for a perfect finish.

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