Living in Andorra: Pros and Cons

Andorra is a wonderful country to live in. From the mountain views out almost every window to the favourable tax system, it has many distinctive characteristics.

But it can’t possibly be well-suited for everyone. Before moving here, it makes sense to balance the pros and cons of living in Andorra.

Moving to a new country, especially one that is a bit unusual like Andorra, is a huge decision. This article will be a helpful aid for your process.

We have complete and detailed guides to many of the sub-topics, all linked from this post. So, take this article as a good starting point and use it carefully to build your own list of pros and cons.

Pros of Living in Andorra

There are many upsides to living in Andorra. Here are six that we have discovered.

Safety

Living in Andorra has pros and cons, but safety is one of the strongest benefits. In a bad year, Andorra might have one murder and the country has almost no violent crime.

There are basically only two ways in and out of Andorra, so illegal guns are extremely rare and criminals know they will be caught before they get very far.

The very low unemployment rate (around 3.7%) means that property crime is also rare in Andorra.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Andorra is on par with affordable Spanish cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Especially for things like accommodation, transportation, food and utilities, Andorra’s cost of living tends to be 30% below what you’d expect in major world cities.

The list of below-average costs of living in Andorra includes:

  • A two-bedroom, one-bath apartment (at 80 m²) in La Massana for only €650/month.
  • One of the lowest gas prices in Europe at €1.20/litre.
  • Internet service (at a rated speed of 300 Mbps) for €39/month.

Taxes

The tax system is another pro of living in Andorra. We thoroughly discuss the tax system in Andorra in other posts, but here are a few highlights:

  • Married couples can earn up to €40,000 before they pay any income taxes and a maximum of 10% on income after that.
  • There is no sales tax and the VAT in Andorra is only 4.5%.
  • Entrepreneurs who want to start a company will be pleased to read that corporate income tax is only 10%.

While it certainly isn’t a tax-free haven, Andorra managed to deliver a high level of government services without the usual tax load on citizens.

Outdoor Lifestyle

It’s difficult to overstate how beautiful Andorran scenery is and how close everyone in Andorra is to a long a list of outdoor pursuits.

Cycling at Beixalis in La Massana
Beixalis in La Massana is a popular place for cyclists and mountain bikers. IMAGE: @jaserodley

Obviously, the country is known as a top-level ski destination and living in Andorra offers the chance to hit the slopes spontaneously, not just when the kids have time off school.

For residents of Ordino and La Massana, a year-round pass for the ski resort and bike park costs only €168.

In the summer there are just as many ways to stay active outside in Andorra, including:

  • Road cycling is enough of a pro to living in Andorra that many international stars make their home here.
  • The mountain biking is good enough to attract UCI World Cup races every year.
  • What would be a once-in-a-lifetime mountain hike for some is the sort of thing you can manage in Andorra on an ambitious weekend afternoon.

Healthcare

Andorra’s healthcare system has 3.6 physicians for every 1,000 residents. Many world-class medical services are offered locally but Andorra is also integrated into the neighbouring healthcare systems in France and Spain.

According to the Lancet’s 2017 Global Burden of Disease publication, Andorra is the best country in the world when it comes to quality and access to its healthcare system. It ranked better than countries like Switzerland, Norway and Australia, which are widely known for their progressive systems.

Andorra’s health insurance system, Caixa Andorrana de Seguretat Social (CASS), covers the majority of most healthcare costs. As a few examples, the system covers the following percentage of the stated costs:

  • 75% for a medical or dental appointment,
  • 90% of hospital visits and
  • 100% of the costs of giving birth

Andorrans who plan to travel to France, Spain and Portugal should notify CASS and any unexpected medical costs that arise during their trip will be covered.

Community

Once you get past the language barrier, Andorra is a particularly friendly and welcoming place.

Andorra also has a thriving community of expats from all over the world. Many of them gather in forums and Facebook groups based on their interests, careers or life stages.

Cons of Living in Andorra

When moving to any new country, part of the bargain is that you take the bad with the good. Here are some of the things to watch out for when deciding whether Andorra is right for you.

No Airport or Train Service

One of the most compelling reasons to live in Western Europe is how easy it is to get to other parts of the continent — or to other parts of the world. Flights are cheap and trains are fast here.

Unfortunately, Andorra does not have its own airport or a link to Europe’s rail system. There is a small airport near the border in La Seu D’Urgell, but it mainly handles expensive and private flights.

For Andorrans, the closest major airports are in Barcelona (2.5 hours away by car) and Toulouse (3 hours).

Andorra does not have the high-speed trains that much of Europe is known for, and isn't connected at all to the European rail system.
Andorra does not have the high-speed trains that much of Europe is known for, and isn’t connected at all to the European rail system.

The nearest train station is at L’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre, 3 km from the border with France. There is a night train direct to Paris Austerlitz, and once you make it to Toulouse there are many fast connections to other locations.

Travellers wishing to connect with Spanish trains can do so at Lleida Pirineus station.

Learning Catalan Can Be Tough

Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It is the first language of only about 10 million people worldwide, so it’s likely that most newcomers to Andorra won’t speak it already.

It’s not all bad news though, with the government offering free classes. These also happen to be a great place to meet other new (and sometimes old) residents.

Most Andorrans also speak French or Spanish as a second language. English is on the rise in Andorra, but it’s still most common in tourist areas. It is also starting to play a more prominent role in Andorra’s school system, in particular, at international schools in Andorra.

This can also create an issue for newcomers who want to access government services in Andorra. Information about programmes and regulations can be tough to find and what is published online will be in Catalan.

Small Things Can Make Andorra Feel Disconnected

If you’re accustomed to life in a big city where Amazon will deliver almost anything to your door on a few hours’ notice and you can use an app for ordering everything from a plumber to pad thai for dinner, Andorra can seem behind the times.

Some online retailers don’t include Andorra on the list of countries they’ll ship to and Andorra’s 6-digit phone numbers can cause problems for certain online forms.

While there’s always a way around these hassles such as getting parcels sent to a shop in La Seu d’Urgell, it’s important to be aware of these minor annoyances before moving here.

The flipside of this is that Andorra has some of the best internet service in the world. A recent upgrade to the modems in 30,000 homes and 5,000 businesses has bumped the average download speed to a remarkable 285 Mbps.

Balancing the Pros and Cons of Living in Andorra

The process of moving to Andorra is distinctly different than resettling from one EU country to another. There are a few unusual pros and cons to living in Andorra — which go well beyond the idea that Andorra is a low-tax jurisdiction.

If you plan to move to Andorra you should definitely assess these pluses and minuses and decide that it is right for you. Most people are particularly drawn by one of the pros — they want to be outside, enjoying the captivating scenery on a daily basis — and know they can handle the major drawbacks — they like learning new languages and don’t mind living far away from international airports.

Did I miss something that you’ve wondered about? Please contact me and I’ll be happy to fill you in on more of the pros and cons of living in Andorra.