Contrary to popular belief there is no Spanish requirement to obligate a valid UK plastic European style driving licence holder to change their licence to a Spanish one in order to drive on Spanish roads, either as a resident or visitor.
What is true is that if you permanently live in Tenerife, or indeed anywhere else other than the UK you will be breaking the DVLA’s regulations.
UK driving licence renewal forms require the applicant to sign a declaration saying that they do not live outside the UK and in the motoring section of the official UK government web site it states:
Remember, if you permanently move to another country, you can’t register your new address on your British driving licence. If you move abroad, check with the driving licence authorities there to find out how to get a local driving licence. http://www.direct.gov.uk
However EU directive, 2012/126/EU, which comes into force on 19 January 2013, and is intended to harmonise licensing rules throughout Europe, means licence holders from countries with permanently valid licences like France, or licences valid up to age 70 like the UK, must comply with the same rules as residents of the European country in which they are resident.
In reality this means the holders of these types of licences will now have to take a driving fitness medical test every ten years if under age 65, or every 5 years if over 65.
The rules will apply to all British drivers in Spain once they have been resident here for two years, and Trafico will impose a €200 fine on anyone who doesn’t comply.
The medical fitness controls, which include hand-eye coordination exercises, sight and hearing tests and general health questionnaire, are performed at various centres locally – there is a list for Tenerife here.