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Andorra is famous for skiing and shopping, and Andorra la Vella, the capital and principal town, is the main stopping point for visitors. However, heading out by car on one of the secondary roads allows visitors to witness the breathtaking scenery of the Pyrenees. This tiny country has a number of amazing, extremely modern ski resorts, and even in the summer there are many fabulous hiking trails just a short drive from the principality’s heart.
Andorra is a mini-country, at only 180 square miles so navigating the well-signposted roads is easy. The roads are well maintained, but black ice and snow make winter tyres and snow chains necessities from November through April.
Driving licences: UK drivers must be able to present a valid UK photo licence along with the paper section of the licence. If you do not own a photo card licence, an International Driving Permit is required.
Which side does Andorra drive on: the right.
Rural areas: between 37 and 55mph (between 60 and 90kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent compared with 0.08 per cent in the UK. However, due to the altitude, alcohol can affect drivers differently, so it is advised drivers abstain from drinking and driving altogether.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: are required to be worn by passengers in the front seats. No child under the age of 10 should be in the front seat, unless they are a baby, defined as aged nine months or less and weighing less than 20lbs (nine kilograms). All children weighing up to 2 stone, 8lbs (15kgs) must be in a child seat or appropriate restraint.
Mobile phones and GPS: driving while using a mobile phone is only allowed when using a hands-free device. GPS is allowed, but the country is easy to navigate using road signs alone.
Cost of fuel in Andorra: Andorra is one of the cheapest places to buy fuel in Europe, with prices around one-third lower than those in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit cards are accepted at all petrol stations and car hire depots.
Insurance: third-party is included in rentals but optional excess insurance is recommended.
Traffic and parking: driving in the main town of Andorra la Vella can be difficult due to traffic and scarce parking. Away from the capital, driving is smooth and scenic.
Although there is no train service in Andorra, L’Hospitalet train station in France is less than two miles (three kilometres) from the border. A number of cities within France have direct services to this station including Paris, from where a sleeper train runs direct to L’Hospitalet. The French train company, SNCF, offers a daily bus service from L’Hospitalet to Andorra la Vella for about £4.50.
Taxis often drive from neighbouring countries into Andorra, particularly from the airports nearest to the border. Shared taxis are common and all taxis have set prices depending on the distance travelled. Within Andorra, metered taxis are not common outside of the main town of Andorra la Vella.
There are a number of coach services within the country, and several run from the neighboring countries of France and Spain into Andorra. Toulouse, in France, and Barcelona and Madrid, in Spain, are the main departure cities for bus services to Andorra. A ticket from Barcelona, for example, will cost around £18.50 one-way, and slightly less than double this for a return. Within Andorra, there are eight main bus lines. All run daily services to the towns surrounding Andorra la Vella. Tickets are reasonably priced and can be purchased on the day of travel.
There are no airports in Andorra, though there are three heliports that offer expensive commercial services. The nearest airports are in Perpignan, and Toulouse in France, and Barcelona in Spain.
Andorra is renowned for its world-class ski resorts. Many are family-friendly, although a number have some runs which are only suitable for experts. Many were previously small villages that have retained a lot of their original charm. The largest areas are Grandvalira and Vallnord, where a number of ski villages are located, with passes available for multiple resorts. A number of resorts are connected by cable car for ease of access.
However, the country isn’t only for ski enthusiasts. In Andorra la Vella, visitors will find the Església de Sant Esteve, a stunning church in the old town. A short drive outside of the town is the church of Santa Coloma d’Andorra, which dates back to the 9th century.
Hiking during the summer months is a pleasant way to experience the country. There is a mix of huts, campsites and hotels across the mountains for those wanting to spend a few days exploring the Pyrenees. Arsinal, a small town at the base of Coma Pedrosa and the Pic de Médécourbe, is the perfect base for hiking and trekking. After driving through to Torrent Ribal, visitors can then hike to the Pic del Pla de l’Estany and Montmantell Lakes.
Due to the altitude, Andorra experiences severe winters with plenty of snow. The northern valleys see the most snow and the lowest temperatures, which can drop to -3ºC in December and January. The summers tend to be mild and reasonably sunny, but are often wet, with most of the rain falling between April and October.