Difference between revisions of "Andorra"
Revision as of 20:34, 18 December 2009
Andorra  is a small (pop. 73,100, size 464 km squared), mountainous country in the Pyrenees mountains in Europe, and is on the Iberian Peninsula, on the border between France and Spain, in Southern Europe.
Andorra is arguably a city-state and has no distinct cities as such.
One thing that this charming beautifully set high mountain capital city does not have is a lot of room.
Imagine a steep gorge in the mountains and now cram into it a whole capital city complete with roads, restaurants, souvenir shops, services, hotels and transport system, and you have Andorra La Vella. That's not much room for nearly 24,000 citizens plus a vast number of tourists. It also doesn't lay the way for middle of the road prices and fast service. You need patience in Andorra La Vella and you shouldn't complain if the simplest business has made room for a couple of cars and charges you for it. Also be prepared to drive like a Spaniard and to give clear signals well in advance before turning. Do not brake suddenly and the other option is do not brake at all!
Parking before or after the city and using public transport is very definitely an option and a must if you didn't cover the excess (CDW) 100% on that hire car.
Principat d'Andorra (67'159*) is divided into parishes-administrative divisions named (population* in brackets):
Population * figures of = 2002
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 immigrants (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.
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.
There are no train lines or stations in Andorra, and none close to the Spanish border. However, the French train station of l'Hospitalet is located a few miles from the Andorran border. It is possible to catch an overnight sleeper train from Paris to l'Hospitalet, as well as many other services. There is a connecting coach service from l'Hospitalet into Andorra, calling at Pas de la Casa, Soldeu and Andorra La Vella.
The nearest rail stations are:
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, but be prepared for delays during busy times. However, 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
There are many coach services operating into Andorra. From France there is a coach service, Novatel  from Toulouse, and one that 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.
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.
There are 8 main bus lines or 'linies', and all of these pass through Andorra La Vella. The fare is anything from about a euro, to two or three euros depending where you are going. 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. Be sure to check the timetable.
The lines are:
Euros are used throughout Andorra. Andorra La Vella is a good destination to buy all kinds of cheap goods, due to the country's status as a "tax haven".
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.
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.
Hiking and Trekking
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.
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 La Vella and you cannot miss it because it is the large glass spire structure which is quite an attraction on the skyline itself.
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.