Located on the border between Spain and France, Andorra is an independent principality situated high up in the Pyrenees mountains. Here you’ll find breathtaking mountain views, tax-free shopping, high standards of living, and lots of recreational activities to keep you busy.
Because of its size, Andorra is considered a micronation that ranks as the 6th smallest in Europe. It covers an area of 468 square kilometres with a permanent population of 77,006. Residents are always 30 minutes away from reaching every point in the country by car.
Andorra has become a tax haven for many since it has the lowest corporate rate in Europe with a low income tax rate at a maximum of 10%. Additionally, there is no inheritance tax and social security costs are some of the lowest in Europe.
While it may not be a member of the European Union, Andorra still uses the Euro as the official currency. It also isn’t a part of the Schengen area, to prevent illegal commerce from its duty-free shops. All in all, the principality is very secure and has zero to barely-existent crime rates.
If you’ve been thinking of making the shift to Andorra and find yourself wondering “What is Andorra like?” then this guide is perfect for you. We’ll take you through all there is to know about Andorra, from its high standard of living to its stunning landscapes and ease of residency.
Getting to Andorra
Making your way to Andorra may seem challenging at first, since the principality doesn’t have any airports of its own. The good news is that you can gain entry via its shared borders with France and Spain.
Barcelona and Toulouse are the nearest cities with access to large airports, which means a three-hour-long drive from either of them. Once you’ve booked a flight to either Barcelona in Spain or Toulouse in France, you’ll find a number of bus and car services that’ll transport you to Andorra — either to the national bus station, or directly to a private address or hotel accommodation.
Who Lives in Andorra?
Andorrans belong to the Romance ethnic group and are of Catalan descent. The people have strong Catalan traditions, while the population is largely bilingual or trilingual. French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English are commonly spoken.
It’s easy to see that Andorrans are very proud of their nationality and independence. While many of the customs in Andorra are influenced by the neighboring countries of France and Spain, the people do not consider themselves Spanish or French. They are, however, ruled by co-princes: The French president and the Bishop of Urgell.
Andorrans reside in towns and villages scattered all over the Pyrenees mountains. The country attracts a high-net-worth of expatriates and international residents all year round. These individuals are often pro athletes, remote internet workers, self-sufficient investors and entrepreneurs.
Why Should I Move to Andorra?
Andorra is much more than its scenic views and low taxation policies — though we’re not complaining about either! Here you’ll find a mixture of cultures residing harmoniously while they bask in the rich lifestyle that the country has to offer.
If you’ve been thinking of making the move but aren’t sure what to expect, a trip to Andorra in the quieter months would be a great idea. Nevertheless, we’ve put together a list of everything that makes Andorra a great country to relocate to.
High Standard of Living
Andorra is famous for being one of the wealthiest microstates in Europe and frequently mentioned among the likes of Monaco, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Isle of Man, and Luxembourg. The GDP per capita of Andorra is $45,887, ranking it higher than nations such as Japan, UK, France, and Spain.
Unemployment rates here are the lowest in the world at only 1.7%. Work is available all year-round and it also attracts seasonal workers from nearby Spain and France who work in the principalities numerous ski-resorts and duty-free shops.
Those working in finance and IT industries will find an abundant amount of opportunities waiting for them. The principality is also historically sheltered from economic crisis due to its small and wealthy population. Some of the highest paying occupations in Andorra are:
- Doctors & Surgeons: €11,500/month.
- Judges: €9,690/month.
- Lawyers: €7,860/month.
- Bank managers: €7,410/month.
- Chief executive officers: €6,950/month.
- Chief financial officers: €6,490/month.
- Orthodontists: €6,260/month.
- College professors: €5,580/month.
- Pilots: €4,660/month.
- Marketing directors: €4,210/month.
Andorran residents enjoy world-class healthcare, education, security, infrastructure, environment, and housing quality. There is a wide variety of housing options ranging from residential apartments with open views of the Pyrenees to Alpine-like mountain chalets and exclusive villas.
Shopping & Cost of Living
When choosing a country to live in, its cost of living is an important deciding factor. In comparison to most European countries, Andorra has a lower cost of living and taxation. Wealthy countries that have similar tax policies (ex. Monaco or Liechtenstein) tend to be on the expensive side regarding groceries, housing, utilities, and entertainment.
Andorra is the only exception because it is 20% less expensive than neighboring France and Spain on average, and 40% less expensive than other popular expat destinations such as Singapore.
One of the biggest perks is the affordable rent and housing sector, which is great for foreign residents looking to shift here. You can live on an income similar to the one from your home countries such as the UK, Germany, US, and other developed nations.
Aside from groceries, items such as electronics and furniture are also more affordable than in France. The VAT is only 4.5% and many products are duty-free.
As for shopping, think of Andorra as a giant duty-free airport. Here you’ll find over 2,000 stores dispersed all over the country’s villages and towns. The stores offer a wide range of products for every budget, ranging from low-cost tobacco shops up to luxury high-end shopping branches.
The low cost extends to regular bars and restaurants in the principality. As a full-time resident, you can cut down on your living costs by eating out at the lower-cost restaurants. For instance, it is possible to get a full 2-course meal at any restaurant for less than €20.
Andorran Passport: Pathway to Citizenship
Let’s not forget about the Andorran passport which ranks 21st in the world for travel freedom. Andorran passport-holders enjoy special privileges with the European Union and they have access to EU/EFTA citizen lanes when crossing borders in the Schengen Area, instead of third-country national lanes. They can permanently reside in France, Spain, and Portugal due to a special agreement. This gives them more power than, say, Monaco citizens who can only reside in France.
Owning an Andorra passport also means you get visa-free access to 167 countries and all EU member states, and less restricted travel to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America. The Andorran passport is also one of the rare passports that gives visa-free access to Russia.
Andorra conducts its entry requirements based on the Schengen visa process and only allows tourists who were permitted entry into Spain or France prior (as there is no airport in the principality).
Freedom of movement is guaranteed to all Andorran citizens in France, Spain, and Portugal. Andorran citizens can take up residence, gain employment, buy property, and conduct business in these states without registering. Andorrans also enjoy free healthcare in the aforementioned countries paid by CASS.
Zero Crime & High Safety
With a country that prides itself on a high quality of life, you can expect to see zero to exceptionally low crime rates in Andorra. Events such as break-ins, robberies, and murders are rarely heard of.
The people of Andorra are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners as a large part of the economy is tourism-oriented. The economy is very strong, the infrastructure is developed, and the high elevation brings fresh air year-round.
Climate & Geography of Andorra
Surrounded by mountains on all sides, the climate here is similar to that of any alpine region. Sunshine is abundant and the principality receives more than 300 days of sunshine in the year. The high elevation means that snow is all but guaranteed and can be found on the mountains just about year-round. Summers are warm but not scorching as in Spain and the average temperature is around 25°C (77°F) in the summer.
Winters in Andorra are cold and filled with snow but they aren’t harsh. Around this time you’ll find thousands of tourists flocking to Andorra for its famous ski resorts. It isn’t hard to find a spot to ski or snowboard any day in the winter.
Its favorable weather puts Andorra on the radar for all sorts of recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, skiing, horseback riding, bird watching, swimming, mountain biking, and rock climbing. UNESCO protects 40% of the territory as a national park and the government restricts industries to preserve the crystal-clear air.
Thanks to the influx of tourists, Andorra feels a lot livelier than its population of 77,000 indicates. The principality receives in excess of 10 million tourists each year, mostly arriving for day-trips from neighboring Spain and France.
What draws so many tourists to Andorra, you ask? Aside from its scenic views, here you’ll find low VAT and duty-free shopping on tobacco, perfumes, and alcohol products.
There are limits on the number of products tourists are allowed to export out of the principality:
- 10-15 packs per person or 300 cigarettes.
- 5 litres of wine, 3 litres of beverages with 22% alcohol or less, and 1.5 litres of beverages over 22% alcohol.
- 350 ml of perfumes.
Food and beverage exports are heavily controlled and every tourist is checked on the borders of the principality. The Andorra customs officials are a lot more rigid in enforcing the rules than their French and Spanish counterparts.
Remember that Andorra is not an EU member state, which means high-value items leaving Andorra are subject to taxation in the European Union.
Andorra has public schools in every town and village, including international schools. The main language in public educational institutions is Catalan and some are taught in Spanish and French.
The schools are free for the children of all non-citizen residents, which means if you have “residencia” your children could enjoy world-class schooling in the principality.
There are also two international schools where the curriculum is taught in English. These schools have application and admission fees that can amount to €2,500, while yearly tuition costs between €8000-12,000.
Andorra has numerous ski resorts that come alive during winter. Whether you’re a resident or a tourist, it would be a shame to not experience the world-class skiing and snowboarding that the country has to offer.
The “Ski Andorra Pass” is a singular ski pass that can give you entry to all Andorran slopes — currently totaling out 300 km. Residents can enjoy discounted rates for ski passes.
The largest ski resort in the country (and southern Europe) is the Grandvalira Resort group. Combining the slopes of Pas de la Casa/Grau Roig/Encamp and Soldeu/El Tarter/Canillo, it offers a total skiable, groomed terrain length of 210 km across 127 slopes. Recently, it added the resort of Ordino Arcalis to the group, adding another 30.5 km of terrain across 28 slopes (as well as marked and unmarked freeride routes).
The principality is also home to Vallnord – Pal Arinsal, with a total of 44 pistes. Come summer, the slopes of Pal are transformed into the country’s world-class downhill mountain bike park.
Other activities than you can enjoy throughout the year include:
- mountain biking
- rock climbing
- horseback riding
- bird watching
It’s not uncommon to see Andorrans venture out on foot when great weather presents itself. Hiking here is quite an experience and many popular trails are located near the villages of Ordino and Soldeu.
Mountain biking in Andorra is also very popular, albeit difficult for the inexperienced. For the skilled, experienced or brave, the Vallnord bike park is the place to be. Offering a numerous trails with varying difficultly, it provides plenty of options for xc enthusiasts and Adrenalin-junkies alike. For more family-friendly mountain biking, the Ruta del Ferro and trail between Les Pardines and Engolasters Lake are more scenic and flat.
High Political Stability
Since 1993, Andorra has maintained an independent democratic government. It is a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, where it enjoys special privileges, similar to those of EU citizens.
Andorra is co-ruled by the President of France and the Catalan Bishop of Urgell. The political environment is arguably the most stable in Europe. The state has remained independent for 700 years, and during this time it has experienced very few conflicts.
Proximity to the Mediterranean & Europe
Andorran residents enjoy fast access to the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. Andorra is only a short 3-hour drive from Toulouse and a 2.5-hour drive from Barcelona. It is connected to major airports in the area such as Barcelona-El Prat and Toulouse-Blagnac Airports.
These airports have low-cost airlines that provide cheap access to the rest of Europe. Andorra’s population can also take advantage of other services in the area including shuttle buses, private shuttle services, luxury limousines and even helicopters — if their budget allows.
Andorra does not have an airport but the nearest airport is the Pyrenees Airport located in La Seu D’Urgell, only 8 km (5 miles) from the border. The Pyrenees Airport has direct connections to all major cities in the UK and Spain, including other European capitals.
Living and Retiring in Andorra: How Do the Residency Permits Work?
The principality of Andorra attracts a lot of entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals from Europe and other countries. The government of Andorra (Govern d’Andorra) issues residence permits to foreign citizens who wish to take up temporary or permanent residence in the principality.
The government is highly restrictive about who it allows in and issues residence permits on a limited basis. The requirements to obtain a residence permit include:
- an address in the principality,
- a bank account, and
- a declaration to become a member of the Andorran community.
If you spend more than 183 days a year in the principality you will need to report yourself as a tax resident.
To retire in Andorra, we can help you get a residencia that will qualify you for citizenship. There are income regulations that require applicants to show an account balance greater than 300% of the yearly Andorran minimum wage. The annual minimum wage is defined by law as €12,720, which means you must have a bank account balance in the area of €38,000 to prove self-sufficiency.
Deposit requirements vary based on the type of residency, but the lowest requirement is €15,000 in a government bond paid to the Andorran Financial Agency. If the applicant brings dependents with them such as a spouse or children, they have to add €6000 to the total sum. This deposit will only be refunded if the applicant leaves Andorra and gives up their residency. The “residencia” is issued for a fixed period of 1 year, after which it is renewed as a 2-year permit.
A bank account has to be opened in the name of the person taking residency. The government will require notarized copies of documents such as a passport/government ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate, a police certificate of good conduct, proof of Andorran address, health insurance, and 2 passport photographs. All documents have to be officially translated into Catalan and you will need a physical presence in the country to file them.
Applying for an Andorran residencia is a complicated procedure that requires filling out paperwork in Catalan (the official language in Andorra). To make sure you meet all the requirements, reach out to us and we’ll help you obtain your permit in as little as 6 weeks.
Want to become a resident of Andorra? Consult us for residency permits, migration advice, and real-estate purchases in the principality.