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Although many might deem it a pointless exercise to rent a vehicle while visiting Gibraltar, ‘The Rock’ surprises visitors with the amount of attractions it has on offer within its small territory and beyond in Spain. Having a hire car is the greatest way to see the Upper Rock's natural attractions, including the Great Siege Tunnels, St Michael's Cave and Apes’ Den.
Holidaymakers who plan on doing extensive sightseeing around Gibraltar will soon learn of the advantages of having their own rental car as there is little in the way of public transportation and taxis and private drivers often charge astronomical fares. The roads are well-maintained and signage is abundant.
Driving licences: English-language driving licences are accepted in Gibraltar alongside International Driving Permits.
Which side does Gibraltar drive on: the right.
Urban roads: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent is Gibraltar's legal limit, which is stricter than Britain's 0.08 per cent allowance. Around the country, police checkpoints are regularly set up to catch offenders, who might have their vehicle impounded or spend time in prison.
Driving age: 18 years; 21 years to rent a vehicle.
Seatbelts: must be worn by every passenger in the vehicle. Hefty on-the-spot fines are issued to anyone found not complying. Child restraints must be used for children under the age of three.
Mobile phones and GPS: those found using a mobile device while driving risk being prosecuted. GPS comes in handy when navigating the country's narrow streets or when venturing into Spain.
Cost of fuel in Gibraltar: all forms of petrol and diesel are cheaper here than in the UK and Spain.
Car hire and fuel payment: a credit card is a prerequisite for picking up a hire car. The 10 petrol stations scattered around Gibraltar accept credit cards as payment.
Insurance: car hire firms provide third-party insurance but arranging additional cover is advised due to minor scratches or dings often being experienced when driving along the territory’s narrow streets.
Traffic and parking: pedestrian crossings in the centre can mean traffic moves slow. Due to infamously poor parking conditions, drivers are advised to make use of the designated car parks on Devil's Tower Road and Corral Road, among others.
The Gibraltar Taxi Association is the main player here and its cabs are easy to spot around the territory. Typical fares from the airport to main points of interest, such as Sandy Bay, usually run between £8 and £10.
Buses from Spain don't run directly into Gibraltar but instead they stop in La Linea, from where it is a mere three-minute stroll to the territory’s border. Fares for short journeys typically cost around £1.50 but are much more expensive from Spanish cities such as Seville, Granada, Malaga and Cadiz. Avanza Portillo is one of the main providers of coach and bus transport between Spain and Gibraltar. There is a limited domestic public bus network but the number 3 bus runs right through the centre to Europa Point.
Transcoma supplies daily ferries between Algeciras in Spain and Gibraltar. There are currently five crossings per day, each of which take half an hour and cost £5 to £7. Until recently, there was a frequent service to and from Morocco. Due to Gibraltar's small size, domestic sea travel isn't possible.
As the territory belongs to the UK, there are regular flights from Britain to Gibraltar Airport. Flights are supplied by British Airways from London-Heathrow, EasyJet from London-Gatwick and Monarch Airlines from London-Luton or Manchester. A typical return fare from the UK costs roughly £100 and British citizens do not require a visa to enter the territory.
Of all the main areas of focus, Europa Point is arguably the most popular as it offers some of the most breathtaking views known to man. From here, the meeting points of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea are easy to spot, as well as the coast of Africa.
Although tourists might not think a military installation has much to offer, the Upper Rock is famous for its barbary macaques. This part of the Rock hosts a nature reserve that is a famous tourist attraction and noted for its monkeys.
Historians will want to dedicate some time to St Michael's Cave. The natural grotto is impressive to say the least and was used by this part of the world's Neolithic inhabitants many moons ago.
Also of interest are the Siege Tunnels, which take their name from their involvement in the 18th century Great Siege. Around the time of the conflict, this system of tunnels was masterfully constructed to fend off French and Spanish forces.
More about this time in history and other important factors that made Gibraltar what it is today can be taken in at the territory's museum in the city centre.
Those that don't mind a leisurely stroll will love a walk up the Mediterranean Steps, which arguably offer the best views of Gibraltar. Other popular activities include dolphin watching from the bay and shopping in and around Market Place.
Upper Rock Nature Preserve – tourists enjoy driving to the very top of the Rock, which is famous for being where Gibraltar rock apes roam free while also being the host of St Michael’s Cave, among other attractions.
Moorish Castle – heading to the Upper Rock's western edge allows visitors to explore this unique 8th century Moorish castle as well as Princess Anne’s Battery or the Great Siege Tunnels.
Devil’s Tower – stunning views are offered to those that decide to explore the Rock's eastern flank via Devil’s Tower Road. Catalan Bay is noted for its picturesque fishing village.
Military Might – the south side of Gibraltar has the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque and the 100 Tonne Gun. Great access to the Europa Point Lighthouse is also provided.
New Year’s Day (1 January)
Queen’s Birthday (12 June)
Christmas Day (25 December)
Gibraltar National Day (10 September)
Gibraltar enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate, which means that winters here are mild and summers are both hot and dry. From May until September, temperatures often exceed 30°C; however, the humidity and heat are bearable due to the sea breezes. For British tourists, winter is probably the best time to plan a visit as temperatures often hang around 17°C and sunny days are common. But as the territory is exposed to at least 300 sunny days a year, there is no real bad time to come here.
Those from the UK in a search of a familiar home on their European ventures will find plenty to please them in Gibraltar. This British outpost which sits comfortable between Europe and Africa boasts a pleasant climate most of the year round, has a host of mostly historical attractions and is known for its warm and friendly ex-pat community.
Gibraltar contact numbers
Country code - (+350)
Emergency services – 199
British Embassy, Gibraltar – +350 45440
British Consular Emergency Services, Gibraltar – +350 45440
US Embassy, London – +44 20 7499 9000
Canadian Embassy, London – +44 20 7258 6600
Irish Embassy, London – +44 20 7235 2171
Australian Embassy, London – +44 20 7379 4334
Payment in Gibraltar can be made using British pounds sterling or the local Gibraltar pound. Euro may also be used widely although the exchange rate is usually poor. Most businesses accept travellers’ cheques and ATMs are easy to find along Main Street.
Health and safety
Visitors to Gibraltar should vaccinate themselves against hepatitis. Free emergency medical treatment is available to UK and EU citizens at St Bernard's Hospital and Casemates Health Centre. Visitors of other nationalities should arrange health or travel insurance as medical care here can be expensive.
Tourists to Gibraltar may not see much difference between the territory and England, making interactions particularly easy for those that speak English. Most shops have food, drinks or other goods from the UK ready for purchase. Speaking disapprovingly about either Gibraltar or Spain should be avoided.
Visas for Gibraltar
EU nationals must show a national identity card to enter Gibraltar, while UK, US, Australian or Canadian citizens are required to show their passports to gain access to the territory. EU and British travellers may stay for six months, while American, Australian or Canadian visitors may stay for three months without arranging a visa.
Unlike in mainland Europe, outlets in Gibraltar are practically identical to the ones used in Britain, meaning that conversion plugs aren't needed by UK travellers. Tourists from elsewhere may require a converter to use the round, two-pin type plugs which run at 220-240 Volts.
Businesses: 09:30 to 17:00, Monday to Friday
Government offices: 08:00 to 14:00, Monday to Friday (summer), 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday (winter)
Shops: 09:00 to 19:30, Monday to Friday, 10:00 to 13:00, Saturday
Banks: 09:30 to 15:30, Monday to Thursday, 09:30 to 16:30, Friday
English is the official language yet locals commonly speak Spanish as a second language due to the territory’s proximity to Spain. Llanito is the local vernacular, which is a combination of Spanish and English, among other languages.
Aiva - That's right, yes
Forma? - Are you serious?
Propio! - Good!
Que hai? - Hello
Shin shin - Cheers
Vale - Okay