Driving or private transport is essential on the Costa del Sol unless you live near a train station or town centre. Road communications have improved but haven’t kept up with demand. Traffic density has doubled since the mid-90s. The AP-7 toll motorway is the latest road in the area. Experts forecast that the A-7 will reach saturation point soon.
Traffic updates are aired hourly on major Spanish radio stations. The national Traffic Department also offers information via phone at 900-123-505. Additionally, illuminated panels are placed along the A-7, warning of accidents and driving conditions. However, the information is often not very helpful as you’re already stuck in traffic when you see it.
The A-7 (Old N-340) or Autovia del Mediterraneo is the new name for the N-340 road. Although the signs on the road have changed, it’s likely to be years before residents stop calling it the N-340. Some stretches of the old N-340 are now officially known as N-340; such as from Fuengirola to Torremolinos via the coast, Marbella to Puerto Banus and Rincon de la Victoria to Nerja (N-340a).
The A-7 runs from Cadiz to Barcelona forming the backbone of road communications along the coast. In many areas it provides the only means of getting from one place to another.
The road is mostly dual carriageway. There are numerous service stations along the A-7, some self-service and others, manned; be aware that not all fuel stations are open 24 hours but of those that are, you must pay at the cash desk beforehand if you want to fill up after 11pm. To prevent drivers from filling up without paying, some service stations have pumps that require pre-payment regardless of the time of day.
The AP-7 Motorway – known as the Autopista del Mediterraneo and Autopista del Sol along the western side of the Costa del Sol – provides a good alternative to the A-7 if you’re travelling long distances. The motorway has three stretches within the Malaga province:
- Fuengirola to Marbella
- Marbella to Estepona
- Estepona to Sotogrande
There are two types of fares for this highway, one for the low season and other for the high season. If you are driving from Malaga airport to Marbella, Estepona or Manilva you will have to pass through one of them at least.
The tolls are expensive particularly from June to September and during Easter week. You can find the latest toll prices at: https://www.autopistadelsol.com/en/prices-and-discounts/prices/
Driving conditions are excellent in the AP-7 and the speed limit is 120 km/h. A-7 driving condition will depends on the area, as there use to be more congestion near exit roads to towns.
At several points on the coast the road divides into the AP-7 toll stretches and the A-7 non-toll stretches; it’s easy to find yourself on the wrong one so pay attention. The AP-7 motorway is signposted and has a red circle under it saying Peaje (toll), and the A-7 is usually signposted as A-7 Costa. Once you’re on a toll stretch you cannot get off until the next exit nor avoid paying the toll fee. Aside from concentrating when approaching the division of the road, an easy rule is to always keep right for the A-7 or always keep left for the AP-7. Beware of drives changing lanes at the last minute on or near the interchanges.
If you’re travelling east-west along the coast you cannot avoid the A-7 or the AP-7 and there are few alternative routes. Sometimes it’s quicker to drive through the towns rather than use the congested bypass, but the chances are that if the bypass is busy, the town will be too. Numerous traffic lights and roundabouts also slow progress down. While planning your trip, it may be helpful to keep these alternate roads in mind in case you find yourself in a lengthy traffic jam.
You can find information about driving rules in Malaga in our blog.