Andorra

Capital Andorra la Vella
Currency Euro, €
Population 85,458 (July 2014 est.)
Electricity 220/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +376
Time zone UTC+01:00, Central European Time, UTC+02:00

Andorra is a small, mountainous country in the Pyrenees mountains in Western Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. It has a border with France to the north and Spain to the south.

Cities

Other destinations

Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley

Understand

For 715 years, from 1278 to 1994, Andorrans lived under a unique co-principality ruled by the French chief of state and the Spanish bishop of Urgel. In 1993, this feudal system was modified with the titular heads of state retained, but the government transformed into a parliamentary democracy. Long isolated and impoverished, mountainous Andorra achieved considerable prosperity since World War II through its tourist industry. Many migrant workers (legal and illegal) are attracted to the thriving economy with its lack of income taxes.

Economy

Tourism, the mainstay of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts. Andorra's comparative advantage has recently eroded as the economies of neighbouring France and Spain have been opened up, providing broader availability of goods and lower tariffs. The banking sector, with its "tax haven" status, also contributes substantially to the economy. Agricultural production is limited—only 2% of the land is arable—and most food has to be imported. The principal livestock activity is sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of cigarettes, cigars, and furniture. Andorra is a member of the EU Customs Union and is treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods (no tariffs) and as a non-EU member for agricultural products.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50 Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types.

Get in

Entering Andorra by car from France
Scenery is the country's greatest treasure.

Due mainly to the mountainous nature of Andorra, there is only one road entering Andorra from France, and only one widely-used road entering Andorra from Spain. Almost all entry into the country happens at one of these two points.

Visitors from outside the EU should note that Andorra is not a Schengen member, and exiting France or Spain into Andorra will (theoretically) terminate a single-entry visa. In practice, though, immigration does not enforce this. Non-EU citizens with a residence permit in a country that is a member of the EU do not require a separate visa to enter.

By plane

There are no airports in Andorra. The nearest airports are:

Perpignan (France) 128 km (80 mi) to the east, no coach connections but you can take a Yellow train to La tour de Carol and further to l'Hospitalet.

Toulouse–Blagnac (France) 196 km (122 mi) to the north. You can pre book a coach or a taxi from Toulouse Airport to all the resorts in Andorra with Sea-Lifts.

Barcelona (Spain) 202 km (126 mi) to the south.

(From airports to Andorra by car: 3 hours)

By helicopter

To Andorra la Vella, La Massana or Arinsal heliports, the journey from airports in Toulouse or Barcelona for a maximum of 5 passengers, takes less than an hour and costs €2500.

See the Heliand website for more information.

By train

While there are no train lines or stations in Andorra, stations near the border can be accessed easily from Barcelona, Perpignan and Toulouse. There's also even a direct sleeper to Paris.

The sleeper train from Paris calls at both stations. If you can find the cheap tickets, a 2nd class bed can cost €30-50, otherwise it'll be around €70-100.

The French railway company, SNCF, operates one bus per day (TER Midi-Pyrénée, dep 09.35, 26 min, €3.20, SNCF discounts apply) from the train station of L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre (also called Andorre-L'Hospitalet-SNCF or simply L'Hospitalet) to the first town after the Andorran border, the supposed shoppers' paradise of Pas de la Casa, from where it's possible to take frequent buses to Andorra-la-Vella (€5.85) — every 30 min with Cooperativa Interurbana (+376 806 556, line 4) or cia Hispano-Andorrana (+376 807 000,).

Alternatively, Hispano-Andorrana bus company runs services twice a day from the L'Hospitalet train station directly to Andorra-la-Vella, also calling at some other stops, for ±€8.

From France, getting to Andorra by train and onward bus costs around the same as the direct bus. It is very cost-effective for holders of SNCF discount cards such as Carte 12-25 or those coming with the sleeper train from Paris. Anyone under 26 years-old traveling at off-peak hours with SNCF is entitled a 25% discount (called "Découvert 12-25").

From Barcelona, the train-bus combination is much cheaper than the direct bus; however, it requires two changes: one in Latour de Carol and one in L'Hospitalet.

Caution: L'Hospitalet train station is in a deserted area, is often unmanned, and its rooms have restricted open hours, so in winter it's important to match connections well. If you need assistance, you may want to call the Toulouse train station at +33 8 91 67 76 77.

By car

Roads in Andorra are generally of a good quality. Entering from the Spanish side is a relatively straightforward drive; however entering from France is a more stressful affair involving many hairpin bends. Border control officers at both sides are generally fine. Entering Andorra, you generally do not need to even stop, but you must slow down and be prepared to stop if requested. When leaving Andorra, you must stop and be prepared for delays during busy times.

Also beware of black ice and snow drifts as the temperature in Andorra can be much colder than at sea level. Be sure your car is in good condition.

The approach from the French side passes through the 2.9 km-long Tunel d'Envalira which requires a credit or debit card for payment of the fee. The amounts are: winter (remainder of year)

Winter is from 1 December-31 March

Occasionally the road through to France can be closed in winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanche risk.

Car rental The usual car hire companies operate from locations such as 'down town'; the desks are sometimes quiet and unmanned so it may be a good idea to book in advance on-line, your rates should still be good value.

Drivers considered to be at fault in fatal accidents are always prosecuted and usually imprisoned.

Taxi Taxi Josep provides a Mercedes Benz car and speaks many languages Tel: 376 323111; Taxi Domènec Segura provides a van but does not speak English or French tel: +34 636 490 685. Taxi Josep can arrange the ride with Taxi Domènec Segura if you absolutely need a van. Payment must be in cash.

Taxi Barras +376 323743 provides local service.

By bus

Many coach routes serve Andorra, particularly from Spain, mainly Barcelona but also Girona, Madrid, Malaga, Lleida and Valencia.

From France

Toulouse is the main hub for accessing Andorra.

Novatel runs from Toulouse's Matabiau bus station and Toulouse–Blagnac airport (both 3 hr, €35). The stop at Toulouse airport is close to where the fire truck is parked.

Other coach services operate via the French border towns L'Hospitalet (3 km from Andorra) and La Tour de Carol (Spanish: La Tor de Querol, near the Spanish border, 20 km from Andorra).

From Spain

The trip from Barcelona takes 3h30–4h.

Novatel also connects Andorra to Barcelona's airport (€32); and Girona's bus station and airport (both around 3h30, €32).

Eurolines runs from Barcelona airport (outside the door of Terminal B), via Barcelona Sants train station to Andorra. Arrive early as the driver doesn't hang around and may leave early. You pay for the ticket at Sants, not the airport. You will need to show your passport.

Autocars Nadal also travels between Andorra and Barcelona and its airport.

Alsina Graells has eight trips a day from Barcelona (€23 one-way and €40 round trip).

ALSA has daily trips between Barcelona and Andorra.

Get around

The Envalira mountain pass

If you have a few days in Andorra, then you can easily visit most of the main villages by the local bus service operated by Cooperativa Interurbana Andorrana, S.A.

There are 8 main bus lines or 'linies', and all of these pass through Andorra La Vella. The fare is between €1.20 to €3 depending on how far you are going. Drivers provide change. For the towns nearest to Andorra La Vella, the service is very regular, and as frequent as every 10 minutes during the day. If you are travelling to outlying rural places like Canolic, there are only 2 or 3 buses per day.

The lines are:

Talk

Andorra's official language is Catalan, and almost everyone speaks Spanish as well. French and Portuguese are widely spoken too. You may be able to find some people with some English ability, mainly among those involved in the tourism industry, but you might want to learn some phrases in Catalan, Spanish, or French before you go.

Buy

Andorra uses the euro. It is one of several European countries that uses this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender within all the countries.

Countries that have the euro as their official currency:

One euro is divided into 100 cents.

The official symbol for the euro is , and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.

Andorra La Vella is a good destination to buy all kinds of cheap goods, due to the country's status as a "tax haven."

See

The 9th-century church of Santa Coloma is the oldest one in the country.
Gentle slopes make Andorra a favourite winter sports destination for beginners.

Threatened by seemingly unchecked development, the country's main draw are still its magnificent mountainous landscapes, offering spectacular vistas in every season. At these heights, summers are cool, making for excellent hiking conditions through the romantic green valleys. Challenging day long hikes can be had on even higher grounds, and will take you through truly memorable scenery. Don't overlook the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, Andorra's only UNESCO World Heritage site. Only reachable on foot, this undeveloped area is an important wildlife sanctuary and consists of forest and fields, dotted with the odd shepherd's hut. In winter, snow covers large parts of the country, changing the Alpine character into an equally beautiful stage for various winter sports.

Yet, there is more to this tiny country. There are a number of lovely historic villages, home to centuries old houses and medieval Romanesque churches and shrines along cobblestoned streets. Good places to sample some culture are Ordino, Santa Coloma d'Andorra (home to the oldest building in the country, a 9th-century church) and Sant Julia de Loria. In between the village of Canillo and Encamp stands the shrine of the country's patroness, Our Lady of Meritxell. A 1972 fire ruined the original statue, but the excellent replica makes a fine stand-in. Les Escaldes is a good place to witness some traditional dance.

The country's capital, Andorra la Vella, may seem like a traffic and shop heavy place at first - and indeed it is. Look a little deeper however, and you'll find the 11th century Església de Sant Esteve, a Romanesque church dedicated to St. Stephen. A nice piazza and the historic parliament building make for other highlights in your city explorations.

Do

Ski Resorts

Most of these resorts were once small mountain villages which have grown in recent years due to skiing. In recent years the resorts have all joined together so that your ski pass covers neighbouring areas. As a result there are now two large alpine skiing areas known as Vallnord and Grandvalira.

Vallnord covers Arcalis and the Arinsal-Pal ski area. Arcalis is quite distant away from Arinsal-Pal but the latter have been joined up in recent years by a cable car connecting the two ski areas. The Arisnal-Pal ski area is directly accessible from La Massana right from the middle of the town. 93 km (58 mi) of trails.

Grandvalira covers Soldeu and Pas de la Casa. The Soldeu ski area is also accessible from Encamp and Canillo. This quite cleverly has opened up these areas to cope with the influence of visitors without putting all the strain on Soldeu. It has 193 km of ski slopes between 1710–2640 m. The surface of grandvalira is about 1.926 H, and it's dividid in 6 different areas:

La Rabassa is a cross-country (Nordic) skiing area in southern Andorra above the town of Sant Julia de Loria.

Hiking and trekking

If you would like more information on the mountain huts in Andorra, go to this site. Be sure to bring something other than sandals for your feet and a purse for your cellphone.

Mountain stream during summer, Andorra
Pont de la Margineda, in Santa Coloma d'Andorra, was built in the 14th-15th centuries; the fast current below is in the Gran Valira River

Andorra is a great place for hiking. The point of departure is the town of Arinsal at the foot of the Coma Pedrosa (2,942 m/9,652 ft) and the Pic de Médécourbe (2,914 m/9,560 ft).

Spa

In Andorra La Vella there is the famous Caldea to visit which is a spa/swimming pool complex. This is very popular. It is located up the top end of Andorra-la-Vella and you cannot miss it because it is the large glass spire structure which is quite an attraction on the skyline itself.

Eat

The country's towns are packed with cafés and restaurants

Escudella De Pages (Catalan peasant soup) is often considered as the national dish.

Work

To work in Andorra you are supposed to have a work permit issued by the government. If you are on business for only a few days then this would not apply.

Stay safe

There is not much threat from other people in Andorra, but keep safe on mountains. Don't go too high without knowing what you are doing. See Altitude sickness for more.

Drivers are warned to avoid crossing back into France if the Spanish side of the Pyrenees has enjoyed beautiful warm sunshine all day and the road temperatures drop considerably towards the evening - there is danger of black ice from ice melt. The weather in the French Pyrenees is frequently vastly different than that of Andorra and the Spanish Pyrenees. Stay overnight if necessary, as cold morning temperatures are more apparent and less treacherous than sudden evening icing.

Stay healthy

The main hospital in Andorra is the Meritxell (pronounced merichai) Hospital (+376 871 000).

Connect

Internet

Andorra is a well-connected country and has accepted the Internet with open arms. Almost as many people subscribe to the Internet as landline phones.

Postal services

Andorra relies on the Spanish and French postal systems. The main office for both are located in Andorra La Vella.

The French post office (Correus francesos) is located at Carrer de Bonaventura Armengol is usually open M-F 08:30-14:30, Sa 09:00-11:59 Tel: +376 820 408

The Spanish post office (Correus espanyols) is open M-F 08:30-14:30, Sa 09:00-12:59 Tel: +376 820 257.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.