Difference between revisions of "Gibraltar"
Revision as of 20:19, 18 September 2013
Gibraltar, colloquially known as The Rock, (or simply 'Gib'), is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom sitting at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Spain to the north and the people of Gibraltar are ferociously loyal British citizens despite being bilingual in English and Spanish.
Gibraltar is a unique place for the curious traveler. Take time to explore the caves and tunnels especially those not meant for tourists! The inside of the rock is an absolute labyrinth with secret internal roads and tunnels four times longer than those on the surface. Military presence and security in this otherwise deserted area is strong but almost invisible.
In Greek mythology Gibraltar was Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules, which marked the edge of the Mediterranean and the known world. In 711 Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Muslim governor of Tangier, landed at Gibraltar to launch the Islamic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. The Rock took his name - Jabal Tariq (Mountain of Tariq) eventually became Gibraltar.
Strategically important, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht; the British garrison was formally declared a colony in 1830. Spain has made recent attempts to attain this territory that it legally ceded to Great Britain about 300 years ago. In referendums held in 1967 and 2002, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to stay a territory of the United Kingdom. On June 10th 2004, citizens of Gibraltar voted for the first time in the UK MEP (Member of the European Parliament) elections, as part of the South West constituency.
The topmost part of the Rock is still a British military installation, and off-limits to the public.
Gibraltar is a member of the European Union, however it is not part of the Schengen Area or EU Customs Union. This means that there are immigration and customs controls when travelling between Spain and Gibraltar. Citizens of the European Union are required to have a national identity card or passport, while all others are required to have a passport to enter. The entry requirements for Gibraltar are not the same as the United Kingdom. Unless exempt from visa requirements, to enter Gibraltar you must have either a Gibraltar visa (to be applied for separately from a normal British visa at a British embassy/consulate), a UK visa valid for at least one year, or a UK permit of residence valid for at least 5 years. If arriving by air, Gibraltar airport staff will refuse entry to anyone who does not comply with these requirements.
Although entry into Gibraltar will technically invalidate a single-entry Schengen visa, in practice passports are checked but not stamped on entry by land, and those with single-entry visas usually get re-admitted to Spain without any problems.
After crossing customs, you may be asked to cross the airfield, being absolutely exposed to planes. DO NOT behave differently in this area. Sometimes, if you are on a tour you can stay on the vehicle and citizens using cars can cross by car.
Gibraltar Airport (IATA: GIB) has daily scheduled flights to and from London-Heathrow (LHR, British Airways), Gatwick (LGW) (EasyJet), London-Luton (LTN) (Monarch Airlines) and Manchester (Monarch Airlines) in the UK.
Iberia operated flights to Madrid-Barajas (MAD) but due to lack of passengers this route was terminated Sep 2008.
easyJet has daily scheduled services between The Rock and London Gatwick. A daily British Airways service is available, operating to and from Heathrow. Flight schedules varies depending on the time of year. With the introduction of easyJet's operation from Gibraltar, together with the government's planned airport expansion and reduction of airport charges, it opens the door for possible new routes from Gibraltar to other European cities.
The most popular alternative airport for Gibraltar is Malaga Airport in Spain, some 120 km to the East, which offers a wide range of destinations. Malaga can be reached by bus, but there are only a few services available per day and the trip is approximately 3 hours. Jerez Airport is normally the second choice, despite being closer to Gibraltar.
Queues at the border may make it less time-consuming to park cars in La Línea and walk across. While parking in La Linea immediately next to the border charges, there is free parking throughout town and next to the stadium if you are willing to walk an extra kilometre. This also has the advantage of avoiding Gibraltar's complex one way system with very narrow and badly signposted streets, and limited parking. The land border is open 24 hours a day, though expect delays when planes are landing - the only road into Gibraltar runs right across the airport runway!
However, once the airport expansion is complete, traffic (except buses) will be diverted around to the east side of the runway to ease overall traffic congestion.
Motorists, and on occasion pedestrians, crossing the border have been subjected to long delays and searches by the Spanish authorities. Spain has closed the border during disputes or incidents involving the Gibraltar authorities, such as the Aurora cruise ship incident and when fishermen from the Spanish fishing vessel Piraña were arrested for illegal fishing in Gibraltar waters. . As of mid-August 2013, a row over a concrete reef has caused the Spanish government to increase searches and so queues can be expected.
Despite being an overseas territory of the UK, traffic in Gibraltar moves on the right-hand side of the road and the speed limits are in kilometres per hour.
Buses from Spain stop just short of Gibraltar in La Línea, but its bus station is only a three minute walk to the border. From Algeciras San Bernado bus station route 120 can be taken to La Linea. This costs 2.40 euros for an adult single (you buy the ticket from the driver); the bus runs till 23.00 about every 45 minutes. The bus station in Algeciras is opposite the railway station. To go to the bus station from the harbour, turn left, walk along the main street for about 100m and then turn right. Continue about 200m along this street to the small building with railroads.
At the end of May 2011, bus routes and fares were revised for a trial period of 3 months. Most bus routes became free to travel on for all. However, at the end of the 3-month trial, and following public consultation, the Gibraltar Government decided that free travel should be available to Gibraltar residents only. As a result, tourists and Spanish commuters now have to pay a fare once more. Route 5, which is the only bus service between the Frontier/Airport and the bus station in town, was not affected by the trial or the subsequent changes, and visitors and residents alike are charged a fare on this service. Full details of bus routes.
Tour buses and coaches can be available at all Andalucian major cities, holiday resorts and some mainland hotels.
When the frontier was closed, there was a ferry service from Gibraltar to Morocco. There's a passenger service geared up to the Moroccan workers in Gibraltar, who have problems crossing the frontier, but only about once per week on the weekend.
There used to be a daily service between Gibraltar and Algeciras in Spain, however this service ceased in January 2012 due to low passenger numbers.
Cruise ships often include Gibraltar as part of their itinerary.
Gibraltar receives a large number of visits from cruise ships, and the strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Passenger and cargo ships anchor in the port of Gibraltar.
Catalan Bay also offers access to enter Gibraltar.
There is no train service to Gibraltar, but a connection by bus from Algeciras train station to La Linea or a taxi is possible.
Gibraltar is less than 7 square kilometres, so most of it can be seen on foot. Bear in mind, though, that some of the roads (especially up to the Upper Rock) are very steep. Taxis will take the strain out of the climbs, and all the taxi drivers seem to know all the Barbary macaques by name. There is a (number 3) bus service that runs from the frontier, through the town and on to Europa Point. This said, travelling in a small group is problematic as most taxis are "minibus" style and the drivers prefer to fill them- or you pay for the entire taxi! This often entails sharing a "Rock Tour" taxi with total strangers. Taxi drivers are also sometimes reluctant to run you up one of the sights on the Rock as they would much rather sell you a longer, more expensive tour!
Gibraltar's official language is English. Spanish and Llanito are also widely spoken.
Llanito is essentially a mix of Andalusian Spanish and British English; a creole unique to Gibraltar. The term gibberish came from the Llanito habit of randomly alternating between English and Spanish words all the way through a sentence. (This is more formally known as "code switching". In the United States, it may be called Spanglish). New words appear at random and spread quickly through the tight-knit community of Gibraltar, then could disappear just as fast.
Many businesses such as cafes and fast food outlets tend to employ Spanish workers from across the border, so many of these people speak only Spanish. Almost all locals are bilingual in English and Spanish.
Stop by the tourist office in Casemates Square (if entering by land, this is immediately after passing through Landport tunnel). The tourist office will give you a map and recommend the following basic itinerary. Take bus #3 from Market Place (around the corner of the tourist office) to Europa Point. Take pictures and enjoy Europa Point with the rest of the tourists. Then take the bus back towards Market Place but get off at the cable cars. Ask the driver for help, but you will see the cable cars before the stop. Take the cable cars up to see the Upper Rock and Nature Reserve. Then take the cable car down and walk main street back to Landport tunnel.
Cable cars run from 9.30AM until 5.45PM to the Upper Rock, but the last car up the hill might leave as early as 17.00PM. A "cable car and nature reserve" ticket costs around £28 return, this includes entrance to the cave, the Great Siege Tunnels, the City Under Siege exhibition, the Moorish Castle and the Apes' Den. The best option, however is to buy a one way version of this ticket (£25) and walk down the Rock, seeing the sights, monkeys and views on the way- although sensible shoes, a hat and plenty of water are required. Alternatively, a 'Taxi-Tour' (typically for 8 people in an MPV) will cost more for a 1.5 hr tour, and this includes the fees for entry to the Cave, tunnels and upper rock- this does of course save walking and is a more comfortable experience.
In the summer season the middle cable car station is closed. The rest of the year however, you can do a return trip by taking the cable car up to the top, walking to St Michael's Cave and through the nature reserve to the Apes' Den intermediate station and returning to town by cable car.
A very informative Historic Walking Guide to Gibraltar can be purchased online or in local book shops and provides an excellent companion for those wanting to enjoy Gibraltar's best sites on foot.
The official currency of Gibraltar is the Gibraltar pound (GIP), which is pegged to the British pound sterling at a 1:1 exchange rate. While the British pound sterling is legal tender in Gibraltar, and is accepted by all banks, government offices, and businesses, the Gibraltar pound is not legal tender in the UK.
While banks in the UK will exchange Gibraltar notes, they may charge a service charge for it. They are also highly unlikely to be accepted in any other country for exchange purposes, so unless you want to keep them as a souvenir it would be wise to spend them in Gibraltar.
Shops in Gibraltar will usually give you change in UK notes on request, if they have them. Any leftover Gibraltar pound notes at the end of your trip can be exchanged for UK pounds at par in any of the local banks (but not at banks in the UK) with no service charge.
If you find you have some Gibraltar coins left over then it is not such a big deal as they are identical in denomination, color and size to UK coins. While they are not technically legal tender you are extremely unlikely to have such coins refused in a shop back in the UK as most people wouldn't even notice them. It is actually fairly common to get Gibraltar (as well as many other UK dependencies and overseas regions) coins in your change in the UK anyway.
Most shops in Gibraltar will accept US dollars and Euros. Bear in mind that shops will generally give you a more expensive rate of exchange than the numerous exchange offices and generally won't accept small change. Government offices, post offices and some payphones do not accept foreign currency, and will require you to pay in pounds.
Credit and debit cards are sometimes not accepted in some shops (especially restaurants).
If you like to sit outside and watch the world go by, head for Casemates Square  where a number of pubs & restaurants serve fairly similar meals, with the exception of Cafe Solo which serves good Italian food.
Irish Town, the road which runs parallel to Main Street has a number of bars, like The Clipper which has good food, friendly staff, and satellite television. They serve a hearty English breakfast. There is also Corks which serves more substantial lunches.
If you fancy dining waterside the marinas are worth a visit. 
The Edinburgh Arms - The most southerly pub in Europe. Good food, draught Bass and many others on tap. Happy hour daily at 6pm. Full Sunday lunch available.
Queensway Quay  is home to The Waterfront, which serves a good quality, if somewhat eclectic menu which ranges from steak to high quality local fish and Indian food. Casa Pepe's, on the other side of the marina is worth a splurge.
Marina Bay  is home to several restaurants. Bianca's and Charlie's Tavern at Marina Bay are worth a visit, the former being very well known for its busy ambience. Marina Bay has recently also become home to Gibraltar's first Mexican restaurant.
Ocean Village , Gibraltar's newest marina, is an extension to Marina Bay. It is home to several new pubs and restaurants, including a Chinese, and an Indian.
O'Reilly's Situated on Leisure Island, part of the Ocean Village marina complex, the traditional Victorian Irish bar has been designed and built by Ireland's leading design teams.
The Gibraltar Arms is situated next to Stag Bros' at 184 Main Street, telephone 200 72133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and is open from 7.30am (9.30am on a Sunday) serving meals all day until late.
The Star Bar in Parliament Lane holds itself out as Gibraltar's Oldest bar. With a menu and drinks selection to appeal to most tastes the pub seeks to cater to a wide audience.
The Lord Nelson In Casemates Square, the official home of the Gibraltar Rugby Club and Live Music Venue Of The Year, top entertainment on stage every night. Offers free WiFi.
The Horseshoe 193 Main Street, near King St & Bombhouse Lane & Gibraltar Museum. Small pub with nice outdoor seating, decent prices, homemade pies on the menu, and offers the local beer Gibraltar IPA on tap. Free wifi, ask a staff member.
There are a couple of Kosher restaurants, bakeries and minimarkets in Gibraltar. Just ask around and someone will point you in the right direction. Unless you're planning on going to Morocco, Gibraltar is NOT the only place you could stock up on Kosher food when you're travelling in the Costa del Sol; there are many Kosher shops and restaurants in Marbella, Torremolinos and Málaga.
In the early 2000s, many bookmakers and online gaming operators relocated to Gibraltar to benefit from operating in a regulated jurisdiction with a favourable corporate tax regime. However, this corporate tax regime for non-resident controlled companies was phased out by January 2011 and replaced by an across the board Corporate Tax rate of 10%. Regardless, many online bookmakers continue to make Gibraltar their base of operations and employ thousands of people in an ever thriving jobs market.
Gibraltar's international telephone code is +350. Spain finally recognized this code in 2007 and the old domestic (Spanish) code of 9567 was discontinued, making calls from Spain into Gibraltar in sync with the rest of the world. Another indirect consequence of this was that all landline numbers in Gibraltar have been prefixed with 200 in October 2008, making all numbers 8-digit long now. If you come across with a 5-digit number, just prefix it with 200 (and, of course, with the country code prior to that if you are calling from out of Gibraltar). Mobile phone numbers have not been affected by this change, however.
The prefix to dial prior to country code for international calls is 00 in Gibraltar.
Free wireless is available in the following places:
Gibraltar has a low crime rate and a large and efficient police force modelled on the British system to ensure it stays that way.
There are a few recent reports, however, of people being attacked on the Spanish side of the border while returning to Gibraltar on foot late at night. It might be smart to take a taxi home after dark if you have been drinking at the bars in Spain, especially if you are by yourself.
Gibraltar is part of the European Health Insurance Scheme and has a health service similar to the United Kingdom, with a modern Hospital. If you are from a participating country, your EHIC card will entitle you to full free emergency medical treatment. For more information see this wikipedia article: .
Tourists should be aware that the Barbary macaques are wild animals and do bite. It is advisable not to feed the Barbary macaque, despite encouragement from irresponsible taxi drivers. In addition, there are kiosks recklessly selling 'monkey food', further encouraging this. It is indeed illegal (hefty fines are in force) and bad for their health. Never try to pick up a baby Barbary macaque - its mother will not be happy, and neither will you. If you are bitten by a Barbary macaque, you will require hospital treatment. Whilst the Barbary macaques are rabies-free they can infect you with hepatitis, and they are most aggressive on the top of the rock, as the most successful animals claim the uppermost reaches of the rock, with their less successful fellows being shoved down the rock and the social pecking order. This said, the macaques will generally ignore you if you are not openly carrying food or plastic bags in your hands. They associate plastic bags with food, so as long as you keep everything food-related inside your bag you will be safe. As of June 2013 there are no longer any kiosks that sell food for the macaques; some taxi drives will encourage you to touch them but it is better to avoid doing this.
Remember that Gibraltar is a British overseas territory.
People from Gibraltar refer to themselves as Gibraltarian or 'Llanito' pronounced Ya-ni-to. Even though the vast majority of Gibraltarians speak Spanish (with a local dialect), they are easily offended if referred to as Spanish because they regard themselves as Gibraltarians and are very proud of their identity. Some Gibraltarians also feel sensitive to the erroneous use of the term 'colony' due to its connotations of being a depositied population or ruled by a foreign country or lacking in self-government, none of which apply to Gibraltar now or historically. Additionally the term 'colony' is legally incorrect, it is a 'British Overseas Territory'. The term 'colony' wasn't used in reference to Gibraltar until the 1830s, at this time there were other places that were colonies and their circumstances fitted use of the word and Gibraltar being grouped with them under the term colonies despite the circumstances being different.
Although the popular view is that the Spanish Government is the cause of many problems concerning Gibraltar, there is no animosity to individuals and Spanish tourists and workers experience no problems. Recent airport agreements have opened up the relationship Gibraltar has with Spain.