If you’ve seen photos of the beautiful scenery or have read about Andorra’s tax, healthcare and school systems, it’s easy to fall in love with our tiny country.
But, understandably you’re cautious. Exactly what is it like living in Andorra? Is there more than meets the eye? Surely there’s something you’re not telling me?
In this guide we’ll answer these questions and many more and give you an in-depth view of the lifestyle in Andorra.
From the environment and the community to the benefits and downsides of the country, and much more. Let’s take a look.
Where in the World Is Andorra?
This European microstate is hidden in the Pyrenees mountains, landlocked between Spain and France.
A country of only 468km2 (180.5mi2) that can only be accessed through land, either from Barcelona or Toulouse – where the nearest major airports are located. It’s around 2.5 hours from Barcelona by car, or around 3 hours by bus at a cost of €15 one-way.
Despite being located in Western Europe, Andorra is not part of the EU but does use the Euro for currency. The official language is Catalan – however, most locals speak at least two, if not three or more languages, varying between Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese.
Why Should I Consider Andorra as Place to Live?
If you’ve never visited Andorra it’s understandable to be unsure about making the move.
We always recommend people take the time to visit, ideally during the quieter months of the year to see if it is really a place they can call home.
But outside of visiting, we feel the best way to show you the benefits of living in Andorra is by showcasing what we believe are the top reasons to live here:
Andorra is a combination of lifestyles – the tourism-based country has something for everyone, including:
- outstanding natural views that some tourists pay thousands to see for only a few days of their life,
- bars, cafes and restaurants from high-class to rustic,
- modern ski and bike resorts,
- high-end retail shopping, and
- world-class events such as the free Cirque du Soleil.
You can go hiking one day, head out to go road cycling the next, then enjoy a rest day at the many restaurants and cafés lining the country on the third, before spending the fourth shopping for a new wardrobe.
The luxury of course is, you can just stay at home and enjoy the spectacular views from your lounge – it is borderline impossible to find a property in Andorra without at least one great view.
If you’re into cars, you’ll find all sorts here, from historic classics, to modified sports cars and plenty of supercars too.
There’s a little bit of everything for everyone here, whether you’re an outdoors enthusiast or a party-goer, or if you want to live surrounded by the city atmosphere versus being out in the countryside.
One of the main concerns of tourists and people looking to finally settle down in a new country is safety. It doesn’t get much safer than Andorra.
Locals claim that Andorra is the safest country in the world and the reality is that it’s fairly close; in the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Andorra ranks 178 out of 219 (where a lower score is better) for homicides.
However this number is likely skewed due to the small population in Andorra. This chart shows a more telling story:
Most years there are no homicides. On a bad year there is 1.
It’s safe to walk the city (or village) streets at dark. Cyclists don’t lock up their bikes while at a cafe. It’s not uncommon to see a car idling, keys in the ignition outside of a bakery or bank!
This is mostly thanks to Andorra’s low unemployment rate, claimed to be 3.7%, but again is likely skewed by the small population.
Perhaps more importantly, there are only two entrances to the country and both are land borders patrolled and enforced by the police. With a strict control it’s almost impossible commit a crime in Andorra and get away with it.
Cost of Living
Compared to major cities in the United States, France, Canada, Australia and Singapore, Andorran cost of living is around 30% cheaper. It’s about the same as you’ll see in Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
Typically you can expect lower costs in accommodation, food, utilities and transportation.
Something to keep in mind is you are often eligible for a tax refund on goods purchased abroad. Buying furniture in Barcelona is a popular way to furnish a house in Andorra, as the VAT is refunded as the goods are exported from Spain.
Commonly branded a “tax haven”, Andorra’s tax system is simple and fair with both income and corporate taxes maxing out at 10%, but with many residents legally paying far less than this.
When compared with most other developed countries, these tax rates are minuscule, which makes for a more prosperous population, which in turn supports the local economy.
Tax on goods and services is capped at 4.5%, a significant discount for British (20%), French (20%) and Spanish (21%) visitors. Of course, this rate is much more affordable than most countries around the globe.
Perhaps more significant, duties on fuel, alcohol and tobacco and other goods aren’t excessive.
For more information on taxes, see out in-depth guide on the Andorran tax system.
The Healthcare System
Andorra is lucky enough to have one of the more generous healthcare systems in Europe.
Patients are reimbursed for a portion of their fees for medical consultations, examinations and pharmaceutical expenses. Hospital visits are typically covered up to 90% and services such as dental, GP, physiotherapy and so on are covered up to 75%. Giving birth in Andorra is 100% covered, as are work-related accidents.
Chances are the healthcare system in your country of origin is not as generous as Andorra’s, despite your lower contributions.
For more information, see our guide on the healthcare system.
In a small country with less than 80,000 people, those looking to settle down in Andorra often have their doubts about the community. Will they accept a foreigner? Am I going to be able to find friends and a welcoming community?
The short answer: yes! Andorrans are a friendly society of people of different origins. There are obviously Andorran born locals but there’s a large number of families that emigrated from Europe, America and the whole world.
With such a multicultural society and a huge amount of events and activities to meet people at, you’ll likely find it easier to make friends in Andorra than it was in your country of origin.
You can also try meeting others via the internet; take a read of our article on living in Andorra forums and social groups.
Sports & Activities
Hiking, Cycling, and Skiing are the main “mountain” sports of Andorra and practiced all over the country, there are large ski resorts, mountain bike parks and the entire splendor of the Pyrenees to explore and hike.
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast who loves nature and exploring everything, you’ll feel at home in Andorra.
Of course, team sports such as football (or soccer) is still hugely popular here, as is rugby.
Andorra’s climate is typically very liveable given it’s high altitude.
Compare Andorra with other popular mountain locations and you’ll realise the winters are usually much shorter, the winter days are longer and there’s a lot more blue skies than grey.
What Do I Need to Live in Andorra?
It’s best to come prepared with some insight into how you can make living in Andorra a reality. For some, it’s a matter of investing. For others, it’s done by starting a business and employing themselves. For the determined, it’s through finding a job here.
You’d do well to read up on active residency and passive residency; as you will ultimately be joining the society here through one of these two programs.
Your choice will mostly depend on whether you wish to be employed in the country or not.
The Downsides of Life in Andorra
As much as we think Andorra may be one of the best places to live in the world, there’s always always something you not to like about any country.
We present to you some counter-arguments on living in Andorra:
- Despite our efforts in documenting Andorran life and administration, you won’t find much correct information about the country in English – most government policies and official data is in Catalan and hard to find.
- If you don’t speak Catalan, Spanish or French you will find things more difficult – although there’s an effort to learn and speak English in most tourist services, most locals prefer Spanish or French as a second language.
- You really need to “hit the ground” and explore Andorra to see everything it has to offer – some of the best bars and restaurants in the country aren’t on the internet.
- There are no airports in Andorra – if you like to travel, you’ll have to take a 3-hour bus ride to Barcelona or Toulouse to leave the country, or pay through the nose to fly Air Andorra from La Seu D’Urgell.
- There’s a quota on residency applications, if by any chance you missed the quota you may have to wait another year to apply for residency, though do know this is very rare.
- It can be difficult to find e-commerce stores to ship to you in Andorra.
- Sometimes it’s impossible to enter the short 6 digit Andorran phone number on a website. As in – you can’t place the order/request and need to do it over the phone.
- Even though they usually aren’t, winters can be cold. Prepare for the worst!
Life in Andorra
Living here is a beautiful experience, filled with endless activities and views to see.
The information in this article is just “the tip of the iceberg”. Andorra really is one of those countries that you need to visit to really get a strong impression of.
If you have any doubts or concerns, don’t hesitate in contacting us. We’re here to show the world as much we can about Andorra.