Should you rent a car in GibraltarGibraltar>Gibraltar

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If you are just making a short visit the rock itself, then there is clearly no need to hire a car as it is easy to walk both around Gibraltar itself and to walk from the airport to any part of the peninsula. However, for anything longer than a day or two, then you will want to head into Spain, and a hire car is going to make this a great deal easier, despite the hassles of crossing the border, however you choose to do it.

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  • Bus disconnect: A relic of tensions between the UK and Spain is that local bus services in the border town of La Linea terminate in the town’s bus station, so there is no continuity through to Gibraltar. You will need to walk across the border into Gibraltar — as a pedestrian you won’t need to queue long. Allow around 5 minutes to get from La Linea bus station to Gibraltar airport / frontier, and another 10 minutes to walk to Grand Casemates Square. First time round, this is a bit of a novelty, after that, it is easier in a car.
  • No station: Unsurprisingly, considering the long history of political tensions, there is no railway station in Gibraltar. Instead, you would need to take the boat or bus from La Linea to Algeciras, from where you can take a slow but scenic train journey to Ronda and beyond. There is only one train route available — Algeciras is very much at the end of the line. Note that the station at San Roque-La Linea is closer, but there is no public transport link to it
  • Gibraltar v Malaga flights: Car hire in southern Spain is generally extremely cheap, and prices for Gibraltar airport car hire are also reasonable. However, the range of flights to Gibraltar is relatively small compared to nearby Malaga, so you may find it easier to fly there instead and drive to Gibraltar (see below!).
  • Go West: Heading west of Algeciras, the level of development is much less intense that it is along the Costa Del Sol, and you can continue through to Cadiz and Costa De La Luz. The only realistic way to explore this area is by car.
  • Visit Seville: Although Saville itself is a traffic nightmare, public transport connections between La Linea and Seville are poor (slow bus), so a car is much better.
  • Driving right: Whereas other British territories drive on the left, driving in Gibraltar is on the right, so there is no adjustment going into mainland Spain and back.

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  • Cable car: A cable car trip to the ‘Top’ (actually not quite, but the views are breathtaking) of the Rock to see the Barbary apes is a must — no car needed. This is the absolute ‘must-do’ experience when visiting Gibraltar, and is up there with some of Swizterland’s finest as a top European cable car trip.
  • Fill ‘er up: Petrol is cheaper in Gibraltar than it is in Spain, leading to a similar situation to that experienced by drivers going from France into Andorra – long queues of traffic, even if there aren’t any long border checks on the way in. If you happen to be leaving or coming into Gibraltar when the runway is in use, expect to wait even longer – but the site of the road being closed to let aircraft take-off or land is one to enjoy anyway! This will be ‘resolved’ by a new tunnel under the runway, but pedestrians will still cross at surface level. You can also sometimes experience long queues going back into Spain, especially during the busy summer months. This isn’t a problem on foot.
  • Rock of faith: Gibraltar is an eclectic mix of faiths, with all three major Abraham religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) having strong histories, as well as a small Hindu community being present. Despite being strongly British, the majority of Gibraltarians are Roman Catholic – although the Rock has a cathedral for both, aswell as numerous other churches and the impressive Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, built using funds from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. This presents an opportunity for endless exploration on foot.
  • Magical History Tour: Various tours are also available around the rock, and this will give you access to places which can’t be reached by cable car or on foot. As Gibraltar packs so much history into such a small area, you will learn a great deal from taking a guided tour (I don’t usually say this, I hate packaged tours!).
  • Take the boat – a much better way of reaching Algeciras, whether for an excursion in its own right, or for onward travel by train or by ferry to Morocco, is to take the newly restored boat link. The journey time is just 35 minutes, so this is quicker than it would take to walk to La Linea bus station and get the bus, and you avoid the dreary industrail areas the bus goes past. Single journeys start from €7 in the low season, the bus is €2.10.
  • Free bus: Despite Gibraltar’s small size, regular bus services are available if you get tired of walking, and four of the five routes are free.
  • One way note: Gibraltar Airport is still a single entity, not like Basel, which counts as being in both France and Switzerland – so you can’t pick up a car here and drop it off somewhere else in Spain. However, you can easily hire a car just across the border in La Linea instead, prices are similar to Gibraltar Airport car hire.
  • The train is superb: The route winds its way to spectacular cliff-top Ronda (dare I say nearly as impressive as Gibraltar itself) before giving options to connect through to either Cordoba or Malaga. However, it is much easier to drive to Ronda, and you won’t have to go to gritty Algeciras first
  • Coach links are available from La Linea along the Costa Del Sol towards Malaga, including to resort towns like Estepona and Marbella. You can also use this coach to transfer between Malaga airport and Gibraltar, but you obviously have much more flexibility in a hire car.
  • Fly into Gibraltar, don’t drive: Whilst it is true that there are many more flights to nearby Malaga than there are to Gibraltar, the new terminal should attract more flights into Gibraltar. Low cost airlines such as Monarch, and easyJet already offer a reasonable range of cheap flights to Gibraltar from London and some regional airports. The temptation might be to look for a cheaper or more convenient flight to Malaga instead. Don’t! The view of the rock on landing or take-off is one of the most impressive of all airports. Unfortunately, there is no way of guaranteeing the wind direction, so it is best to get a window seat in both directions and hope for the right good view.
  • Morocco: For the ultimate excursion from Gibraltar, why not head across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier and beyond. Although ferry services are no longer available between Gibraltar and Tangier, you can take the boat or bus to Algeciras first, and continue on from there. Andalusia has many fascinating Moorish relics, which are easy to tour around from Gibraltar, or, as a more spicy alternative, you could head into Morocco and fly back from there. Note that the UK Air Passenger Duty rates for flights to Morocco are the same as they are to Europe, so this won’t make it more expensive to fly out to Morocco and back through Gibraltar as an alternative.


Should you rent a car in Gibraltar? Based on Gibraltar being so poorly connected to Andalusia by public transport, and Gibraltar Airport car hire prices being very reasonable compared with nearby Spanish cities, you will certainly be much better off with a hire car. However, there are various interesting options to explore both the rock and beyond by everything from cable car to boat to scenic train from slightly further afield – or indeed in a different continent! Therefore, even though a car is useful, with a bit of planning, it is perfectly easy to get by without a car.

VERDICT: YES (a car is extemely useful for driving into Spain but not essential)


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Author: Carometer

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