Andorra is a small (pop. 73,100, size 464 km2), mountainous country in the Pyrenees mountains in Europe, and is on the Iberian Peninsula, on the border between France and Spain, in Southern Europe.
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.
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 neighboring 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 is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types.
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.
There are no airports in Andorra - however there are daily coach services from the airports in Barcelona in Spain and Toulouse in France to Andorra.
The nearest airports are: Perpignan (France) 128 km 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 (121.8 mi) to the north Barcelona (Spain) 202 km (125.5 mi) to the south (From airports to Andorra by car: 3 hours)
By helicopter from the above airports, up 4 places, 35 minutes.
Andorra heliport 2007-05-14
There are no train lines or stations in Andorra, and none close to the Spanish border. The nearest rail stations are:
That said, the French railway company, SNCF, operates a daily bus service (TER Midi-Pyrénées line 22 Toulouse/Foix/Latour-de-Carol) connecting 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 supposedly shoppers paradise Pas de la Casa, from where it's possible to take frequent buses to Andorra-la-Vella — every 30min with Cooperativa Interurbana (+376 806 556, line 4) or cia Hispano-Andorrana (+376 807 000, ).
From L'Hopitalet to Pas de la Casa, the journey with the SNCF bus costs 2,90€ full fare, and all the regular SNCF discounts apply. For the scenic journey between Pas de la Casa and Andorra-la-Vella, the price is 5,60€.
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€.
As of October 2010, reaching Andorra by train is only cost-effective for holders of SNCF discount cards such as Carte 12-25 or those coming with the sleeper train from Paris; other travelers would be better off taking a direct bus service from nearby cities like Toulouse. In any case, everybody under 26 years-old traveling off-peak hours with SNCF is entitled to the "Découvert 12-25" discount.
Caution: one should bear in mind that the L'Hospitalet train station is located in a deserted area, is often unmanned, and its rooms have restricted open hours, so it's important to match connections well. If you need assistence, you may want to call the Toulouse train station at +33 8 91 67 76 77.
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 . Be sure your car is in good condition, since Andorra is very high.
Also beware of black ice and snow drifts as the temperature in Andorra can be much colder than at sea level.
The approach from the French side passes through the 2.9km 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 1st December to 31st March
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 online, your rates should still be good value.
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.
There are many coach services operating into Andorra. From France there is a coach service, Novatel from Toulouse downtown at the bus station (Matabiau) as well as from the Toulouse–Blagnac airport. Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure as the driver will leave once everyone who was waiting has boarded. The Novatel bus is easily identified by its name in large letters on the side. The bus stop at the Toulouse airport is close to where the fire truck is parked. A second coach service operates via L'Hospitalet and La Tour de Carol. From Spain, coaches to Andorra can be caught from a variety of locations, such as Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Lleida and Valencia.
There are at least 2 bus companies operating daily service from Barcelona airport. Eurolines goes from outside the door of Terminal B, but you must be early and quick because the driver has a habit of arriving early and driving off if no-one is there. Also you don't pay for the ticket at the airport, but travel to the Barcelona Sants and have to get off to buy a ticket. Service is slow. One should also remember that you will need to show your passport here. Trip time is about 3.5 to 4 hours.
The bus company Alsina Graells has eight trips a day from Barcelona. The trip takes 3.5-4 hours and costs €23 one-way and €40 round trip.
Novatel also operates a service from the Barcelona airport.
Bus or shuttle services between Andorra and:
If you have a few days in Andorra, then you can easily visit most of the main villages by the local bus service called the 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 anything from 1€20 to two or three euros depending on how far you are going. Drivers will provide change. For the towns nearest to Andorra La Vella, the service is very regular, and as frequent as every 30 minutes during the day. If you are travelling to the outlying places like El Serrat, Arinsal and El Pas del la Casa, there are only 2 or 3 buses per day.
The lines are:
Andorra's official language is Catalan, but almost everyone speaks Spanish. French and Portuguese are widely spoken too. English is also spoken by those involved in the tourism industry.
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 just two 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. 93km of pists.
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 193km of ski slopes between 1710 and 2640m of high. The surface of grandvalira is about 1.926 H, and it's dividid in 6 different areas:
If you would like more information on the mountain huts in Andorra, go to Mountain huts in Andorra . A good way for hiking and trekking in Andorra is staying at the Himàlaia Hotel in Soldeu , that has its own Hiking team of guides who go every day with their guests to walk and discover a lot of interesting hiking routes around the country.
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) and the Pic de Médécourbe (2,914 m).
Panoramic view over the Ordino mountains and la Massana. Ideal picnic and meditation site. One can continue along the GR11 to Arans (parking at Mas de Ribafeta 1466m) but transport back to Arinsal must be provided.
Andorra has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, Andorra belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 million.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Andorra La Vella is a good destination to buy all kinds of cheap goods, due to the country's status as a "tax haven."
Out of town
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.
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.
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.
The main hospital in Andorra is the Merixtell (pronounced merichai) Hospital (+376 871 000).
Internet Andorra is a well-connected country, and has accepted the Internet with open arms. Almost as many people subscribe to the Internet as own landline phones.
Postal Service Andorra relies on the Spanish and French postal systems. The main office for both are located in Andorra La Vella.
The French post office (CORREOS FRANCESES) located at Carrer de Bonaventura Armengo AD500 Andorra la Vella, Andorra is usually open from 8:30AM - 2:30PM Monday - Friday and Saturdays from 9:00AM - 11:59AM Tel: +376 820 408
The Spanish post office (CORREOS ESPAÑOLES) is open from 8:30AM - 2:30PM Monday - Friday and Saturdays from 9:00AM - 1:00PM Tel: +376 820 257.