Difference between revisions of "Andorra"
Revision as of 14:39, 3 October 2013
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 Western 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.
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.
Andorra is not a member of the EU, EEA or Schengen Area. However, 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.
Visitors from outside the EU should note that as Andorra is not a Schengen member, exiting France or Spain into Andorra will (theoretically) terminate a single-entry visa. In practice, though, immigration does not enforce this, seeing as one must re-enter the Schengen Area in order to travel onwards.
There are no airports in 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.
Lleida (Spain) 157 km to the south, Lleida-Alguaire Flights from the UK only during the ski season, chartered by Thomas Cook Airport is 2.5 hours away from Andorra by bus. This airport was chosen in 2011 by the UK-Based tour operator "Neilson" to cater for tourists visiting the ski resorts. Flights arrive/depart on Sundays. For independent travellers, getting to Andorra from Lleida Airport can be difficult, as Montmantell bus company will leave you in Lleida town, a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport.
Barcelona (Spain) 202 km to the south. Travellers will appreciate the frequent connections to Andorra from Barcelona town and airport.
(From airports to Andorra by car: 3 hours)
From Andorra la Vella, La Massana, or Arinsal airports, the journey, for a maximum of 4 passengers, takes around 30 minutes and costs €3000.
Andorra heliport .
There are no train lines or stations in Andorra, and none close to the Spanish border. The nearest rail stations are:
That said, buses operate daily from L'Hospitalet to Pas de la Casa, the first town after the Andorran border, from where it's possible to take frequent buses to Andorra-la-Vella — every 30min with Cooperativa Interurbana line 4 (+376 806 556, ) or cia Hispano-Andorrana (+376 807 000, ). Timetables can be found here .
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 assistance, 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 on the main road 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 - Andorra has many steep roads at high altitude.
Also beware of black ice and snow drifts as the temperature in Andorra can be much colder than at sea level.
If entering from France, one can pass through the 2.9 km-long Tunel d'Envalira, which requires a fee payable by by cash or credit/debit card. The amounts are: winter (remainder of year)
Winter is from 1 Dec-31 Mar.
Car rental The usual car hire companies operate from Andorra la Vella / Santa Coloma; the desks are sometimes quiet and unmanned so it may be a good idea to book in advance online. Your rates should still be a good value.
Drivers are considered to be at fault in fatal accidents, and 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.
There are many coach services operating into Andorra. From France there is a coach service, Novatel  from Toulouse 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.
Novatel also operates a service from the Barcelona airport, outside terminal 1 and 15 minutes later outside Terminal 2. €31 one-way or €52 for a round-trip (as of May 2012), tickets available on the official website  or on the bus.
Autocars Nadal  also travels between Andorra and Barcelona and its airport.
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.
Alsa  has daily trips between Barcelona and Andorra.
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 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:
Andorra's official language is Catalan, however Spanish is the dominant language of communication amongst people of different linguistic backgrounds. French is widely spoken, especially in Pas de la Casa. In addition, 13% of the population speak Portuguese as their native language. English is also spoken by those involved in the tourism industry.
Andorra has the euro (€) as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money. These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, 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 the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 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 bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Andorra's huge ski resorts with their family-friendly slopes are probably the main reason for Andorra's popularity among tourists, but the tiny country does have other things to offer. In terms of landmarks and culture, the many churches and shrines are a main sight. The famous statue of Our Lady of Meritxell was destroyed in a 1972 fire, but a nice replica is still on display. In the country's capital, Andorra la Vella, you'll find the Romanesque Església de Sant Esteve, located in the old part of town and therefore a perfect stop during a city walk. Just 2 kilometres out of town, the church of Santa Coloma d'Andorra is even older, as it dates back to the 9th century.
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 pistes.
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 Mountain huts in Andorra . If you are afraid of sleeping in a tent because of the wild animals and night sounds (demons), a good place to stay while hiking and trekking in Andorra is staying at the Himàlaia Hotel in Soldeu , which has its own team of hiking guides who go every day with their guests to walk and discover a lot of interesting hiking routes around the country. Be sure to bring something other than sandals for your feet and a purse for your cellphone.
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).
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 Meritxell (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 (CORREUS FRANCESOS) located at Carrer de Bonaventura Armengol 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 (CORREUS ESPANYOLS) is open from 8:30AM - 2:30PM Monday - Friday and Saturdays from 9:00AM - 1:00PM Tel: +376 820 257.
Visitors should note that since Andorra is not part of EU/EEA, using mobile phones may be a lot more expensive than in France or Spain.