On very small area of Andorra live almost 70,000 people and it seems that they all drive a lot in their cars. Add numerous cars of visitors and people just passing from France to Spain through the Pyrenees. In contrast to vast valleys of the Alps the valleys in Andorra are relatively narrow. Thus Andorra and especially its capital city suffers shortage of parking space, heavy traffic in rush hours and air pollution below the city skyline. The exhaust fumes of the non-stop parade of cars and motorcycles may affect some folks. You are warned.
In Andorra la Vella it took me some longer time to find a space for my car on a street and I was looking exclusively for free of charge parking space. I had to drive up and down steep and narrow streets to park a car on backstreet. The traffic became heavy in late afternoon but thanks to great job of policewomen it worked smooth.
Well, it's better to learn driving mountain, winding and icy/snowy roads as well as steep, narrow roads before heading to Andorra especially when you want to drive off the main Spain-France highway.
Believe it or not, you can actually get lost in Andorra. You will appreciate this when you go to look for a street sign, only to find out that the Andorrans just don't label their streets.
You will be happy to know that even if you do get lost, there is an inherent logic to the towns of Andorra. Because all the towns sit in a valley, they each have a shape which is somehting like a badly rolled cigarette, fat in the middle and tapered on the ends. By looking at the hills above, never a problem in Andorra, you should get some idea where in the town you are.
When we visit Andorra, we came by car and stayed in Andorra la Vella. And find out that so difficult to find parking, it's a small city with so many cars and small and narrow road. And if wrong parking, then will got a fine, the charge is 60 euro! More expensive than in Paris!
The traffic also make us difficult to enjoy the town.
Driving into Andorra from Spain, we encountered Police pulling over many motorists for speeding. We were behind a group of others, all going about the same speed, so, as usual, it can be the luck of the draw if you get pulled over or not.
But the fines can be hefty!!
ALSO FOR FOREIGN DRIVERS THEY DO REQUIRE AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE.
There are some tunnels, especially in the south when you are coming into Andorra from Spain. Just be sure to have your headlights on! Some of the tunnels are quite long, and you´ll find that locals in the Pyrenees know the roads well and are in a bigger hurry than you might be. Don´t forget your headlights!
The tax free status means some good bargins. Beware though that the border customs are on the look out, so loading up a car and driving into France or Spain might prove a problem. As it happens we had a French car and the Spanish customs showed little interest.
In my other tips, I have highly recommended driving around to visit different parts of the country. Keep in mind that most of the roads are windy, steep, and narrow. The point of driving is to enjoy the scenery, so don´t race or drive too fast, as you´ll miss the scenery and you´ll be in danger of falling off a cliff. Take the roads slowly, even if you have a speedy Andorran on your back. The locals know the roads so don´t try to go too fast just because of them. Be safe not sorry!
Though the prices in Andorra for cigarettes and other goods are very good it is not adviseable to smuggle.
The controls are very often and intensive.
It is not wearth the risk.
You will be fined high and it will take you a lot of time if you are caught!
The biggest danger is Andorra's kamikaze drivers. These people must believe in reincarnation: 'Who cares if I get killed in a traffic accident? One life down, thousands to go!' The Andorran drivers always exceed the speed limit, do not slow down for the mountain curves and passes that make up 99% of their country, and have no pitty on the terrified non-Andorran tourists. (The Spanish drivers are only marginally better than their Andorran counterparts.) For that matter, in the winter months, the dangerous roads can become treacherous as well. Snow tires are a must if you plan to come during ski season. Given the horrid drivers, roller coaster mountain roads and sometimes small parking facilities, buying the collision insurance on your rental car is probably a sensible thing to do. Also, Andorra is prone to traffic jams at its borders on the weekends as the French and Spanish enter the country to take advantage of the tax free shopping or to ski in the winter months. The jams are not only caused by the traffic volume, but because Andorra is not a member of the European Union and therefore all cars must go through customs. Be advised, the customs inspectors are extremely aggressive, so don't try to hide anything. You will only be penalized if you get caught, otherwise you will be allowed to pass through without paying duty - the exceptions to this being alcohol and tobacco products, which will be taxed, though you will still make a modest savings compared to France or Spain.
When boarding/skiing the obvious cautions should be taken - don't go off alone without telling anyone especially if the weather is bad, be careful when going off piste, and never ever sledge on your snowboard without your leash - ahem....!!!
Also a word of warning when taking in some Apres Board/Ski - it snows (obviously) and the streets aren't kept that clear especially at pub closing time, so when you're staggering your way back up or down the streets to your bed be careful as the streets freeze almost immediately. I found that walking with my hands in both pockets after a few pitchers of the local ale wasn't a good idea - I slipped and landed chin first on an icy road owch! However there was a little surgery just around the corner especially for these little accidents and they had me stiched up in no time!!!!
DON'T FORGET TO GET INSURANCE TO COVER MISHAPS SUCH AS THESE! We met some people who's friend has fell whilst skiing and had to be airlifted off the mountain - he had no insurance and was faced with a bill of £1000's
IN all seriousness: boars. I've literally fled two separate picnics because of them. And for some reason, my countrymen have a hard time keeping their dogs on their property. With boars, go up a tree as fast and high as you can. They'll leave you alone eventually. With dogs, your best bet usually is to grab a stick and scream at them while charging at them and swinging. Don't corner them though.
NEVER (I repeat *never*) eat ANYTHING with mayonnaise in the summer, I don't care HOW fancy the restaurant it. And don't trust the tap water. Unless you want a visit from my Sicilian friend Sal Monella.
The only way to reach Andorra is by road. Coming from Spain there are almost no problems, but coming from France you might encounter some troubles since the road over Pas de la Casa is often closed due to heavy snowfall. Be prepared and get some snowtires or other quipement with you !!
There is somethig important you have to know if you are planning to go to visit this small country: As you have
read, the only way to arrive is by car, but don´t try to do
this in a week end or in especial days, as main holidays.
In this case you are advised than you can spend more
time in the road waiting to cross the border than walking
along the Andorra streets.
I consider Andorra as a very civilized country, a small country there many people should know each other. But I just want to warn for the very intensive traffic, and sometimes I felt it was a macho thing, that many motorcycles and cars drove in a very speed and quick. Mostly men what I saw. Maybe a cultural thing here, to drive their vehicle very fast and loud. It was my experience and my feeling I got from my time there.
This is a mountain country, so unless you're in summer, if you drive, just bring some basic gear with you: contact wheels or wheel chains are very handy if you don't want to slip out of the road in a snow storm... of course there's maintenance and roads are cleaned regularly, but sometimes snows faster than the maintenance services!
Salvia hotel is very good located. Even the hotel is a 3 star the looby seems a 4 or 5 star....more
Carretera General d'Arinsal, Arinsal, AD400, Andorra
Good for: Solo
My friends, passionate skiers, following my suggestion went to Andorra for skiing in February 2006....more