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While I am looking for some nice roads in Spain for my next roadtrip, I noticed that the roads there have different numbera A-, B-, N- etc, some of them have even a letter at the end (C-1412a)

What is the meaning of all those letters and numbers? Does a bigger number mean a smaller road?

map of random region in Spain

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The letter determines the ambit of the road. The number is the identifier. Basically the main roads we have are (ESP):

  • A / AP: Highways
  • N: National roads
  • Autonomic roads

These are ordered from better to worst, but there are exceptions (i.e. you can find a new secondary road that has better pavement than a nearby national road). Anyway, in general, the roads in Spain are quite good and relatively free compared to other European countries.

Some considerations:

  • A/AP highways are two types of roads that are equivalent and represent the better/faster roads you can find. The difference used to be that the A were free but you have to pay for the AP. Nowadays you can find a lot of AP for free (check on Google Maps or similar, they know which are free).
  • N roads and A/AP highways sometimes share the code with E that represents European roads. Forget about E because doesn't exist pure E roads in Spain, all share code with Spanish roads and always the Spanish code is put before and bolder.
  • As you may know in Spain we have 17 different regions and each one is in charge of part of the roads. These roads that usually connect internally the region are called "Carreteras Autonómicas" and are represented by one or two letters taken from the name of the autonomy. For example, in Comunidad Valenciana you have CV-XXX or in Madrid you have CM-XXX. Each region is divided in "Provincias" and each of these has also a road network that uses one or two letters from the name of the Provincia. In Almeria, for example you will see AL-XXX roads. In the wikipedia link provided you can find all the letters used, but really, don't bother about it: these roads are usually a surprise, sometimes are better than N roads and sometimes are bumpy and dusty roads.
  • You also can find some special roads like M-30, M-40, etc. that are like highways but local used to encircle big cities (M i.e. is for Madrid, but you have also in Sevilla or Barcelona).
  • When a road has a sufix like N-343a these letter is a variant for that road. So, the road goes to the same place but you'll go through different routes (normally you will connect with the same road in a few kilometers).
  • As rule of thumb, the bigger numbers represent lower levels in the same level. So A-7 is a very nice road and A-77 is secondary to that.
  • In all A/AP roads you can reach 120Km/h in general while in the rest of the roads the maximum allowed speed by default is 90km/h, except if they are inside a town or city and then the default maximum is 50km/h.

In general, if you are finding good/fast roads try to take the A/AP network. If you are looking for scenic go to the autonomic roads, specially those that appears white in Google Maps.

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    Just an addition about sufixes like N-343a: These are used for older versions of the same road. For example, if N-343 used to go through a town and now and a newer faster N-343 that goes around the town, the old piece of N-343 gets a suffix. Therefore, if you don't want to stop there and are driving a car, you usually don't want the suffixed version of the road. If you are riding a bicycle or you want to tour the town, then you may want the older suffixed road.
    – Pere
    Dec 30 '20 at 11:51
  • The word highway might be a bit unfortunate as any public path can be a highway, even a footpath. Perhaps a motorway instead? Or is the US English highway more specific?
    – Vladimir F
    Dec 30 '20 at 12:34
  • @VladimirF - In US English ‘highway’ is more specific to mean a road with a reasonably fast speed limit connecting towns. Motorway is not commonly used here.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 30 '20 at 13:37
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Road class Syntax explanation
European road E-[0-9]<2-3>
Motorway (Autopista) AP-[0-9]<1-2>
Expressway (Autovía) A-[0-9]<1-2>
Radial motorway R[1-5]
National road (Carretera Nacional) N-`Roman`{a};N-[0-9]<3>{a}
Regional road (Carretera Comarcal) C-[0-9]<3-4>{a}
Community road see region table

The table comes from roadnumberingsystems (mirror), which gives a more thorough explanation:

enter image description here

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    My complaint about the table was not that it was difficult, it is that it is a picture and no use unless you can access the text in it, which a lot of people can not. Your short version does help there.
    – Willeke
    Dec 30 '20 at 10:43
  • N-'Roman'{a}? huh?
    – Sneftel
    Dec 30 '20 at 11:32
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    I've never seen backquotes, brackets, or the word "Roman" in a Spanish road number.
    – Sneftel
    Dec 30 '20 at 11:45
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    @Sneftel in the huge document to which the question links you can find that Roman means a Roman numeral from I to VI.
    – mdewey
    Dec 30 '20 at 12:05
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    You may want to put that data in the form of (recently introduced) table format instead of an image. At least the bottom table.
    – Alex
    Dec 30 '20 at 13:59

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