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Gibraltar, colloquially known as The Rock or Gib, is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Spain to the north; Morocco is a short distance across the strait to the south. Gibraltar has a population of 30,000 people.
Gibraltar is a unique place for the curious traveller: a British community on the Iberian Peninsula, separated by a narrow gap of sea from Africa . The historic military legacy has created a veritable labyrinth inside "the Rock" itself, with many secret internal roads and tunnels worth exploring. It is also worth climbing the Rock for its views and famous monkeys.
In Greek mythology Gibraltar was Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules, which marked the edge of the Mediterranean and the known world. In 711 Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Muslim governor of Tangier , landed at Gibraltar to launch the Islamic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula . The Rock took his name - Jabal Tariq (Mountain of Tariq) eventually became Gibraltar.
Strategically important for international shipping, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and was formally declared a British colony in 1830. Spain still claims sovereignty over this territory, although Gibraltarians consider themselves British with no apparent interest in rejoining Spain.
The topmost part of the Rock is still used as a British military installation, and is off-limits to the public.
Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen Area or the European Customs Union. This means that there are immigration and customs controls when travelling between Spain and Gibraltar. There are also immigration controls for air travel from the UK or EU countries. Citizens of the European Union are required to have a national identity card or passport, while all others are required to have a passport to enter. The entry requirements for Gibraltar are not the same as the United Kingdom . Unless exempt from visa requirements, to enter Gibraltar you must have either a Gibraltar visa (to be applied for separately from a normal British visa at a British embassy/consulate), a UK visa valid for at least one year, or a UK permit of residence valid for at least 5 years. If arriving by air, Gibraltar airport staff will refuse entry to anyone who does not comply with these requirements.
Although entry into Gibraltar from a Schengen country will technically invalidate a single-entry Schengen visa, in practice passports are visually checked but not stamped on entry by land, and those with single-entry visas usually get re-admitted to Spain without any problems.
() has daily scheduled flights to and from London Heathrow Airport , London Gatwick Airport , London Luton and Manchester in the United Kingdom .
The most popular alternative airport for Gibraltar is () in Spain , some 120 km to the East, which offers a wide range of destinations. Malaga can be reached by bus, but there are only a few services available per day and the trip is approximately 3 hours. () is normally the second choice, despite being closer to Gibraltar.
Queues at the border may make it less time-consuming to park cars in La Línea and walk across. While there are charges for parking in La Línea immediately next to the border, there is free parking throughout town and next to the stadium if you are willing to walk an extra 1 km. Parking on the Spanish side of the border also has the advantage of avoiding Gibraltar's complex one way system with very narrow and badly signposted streets, and limited parking. The land border is open 24 hours a day, though expect delays when planes are landing - the only road into Gibraltar runs right across the airport runway!
Motorists, and on occasion pedestrians, crossing the border with Spain have been subjected to long delays and searches by the Spanish authorities. Spain has closed the border during disputes or incidents involving the Gibraltar authorities.
Despite being an overseas territory of the United Kingdom , traffic in Gibraltar is on the right side of the road, the same with the rest of continental Europe.
At La Línea , Spain across the border, there are regular buses to and from Seville , Malaga , Cádiz , Granada and hourly to Algeciras (the latter one direct or with stops on the way). The station in La Línea is only a five minute walk from the border with Gibraltar.
The bus station in Algeciras is opposite the railway station. To go to the bus station from the harbour, turn left, walk along the main street for about 100m and then turn right. Continue about 200m along this street to the small building with railroads. There is a small sign for the bus stop. This bus can get you to La Línea for €2.35 (January 2013), and it goes every 30 minutes during the day. Some buses run non-stop while others make intermediate calls. In La Línea you will arrive at the bus station about 500m from the border with Gibraltar. In the summer it can take up to 2 hours to cross the border with a car.
Current info for Malaga bus station: Estación de Autobuses de Málaga
Tour buses and coaches can be available at all Andalucian major cities, holiday resorts and some mainland hotels.
There is a passenger service for Moroccan workers in Gibraltar, although it only runs once per weekend.
Gibraltar receives a large number of visits from cruise ships, and the strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. In recent years, over 200 cruise ships call each year on the Port of Gibraltar with a passenger total approaching 350,000. The cruise port is conveniently located at the western end of Waterport Road, about 1.3 km from Casemates Square and Main St. A port call is one of the easiest way to get in to visit Gibraltar, especially given the recent contentious delays at the land border crossing with Spain.
There is no train station in Gibraltar itself. The nearest train station is San Roque-La Línea, which is outside of La Línea proper and about 15 km from the Spain-Gibraltar border. Both bus and taxi are available for the last leg from the train station to Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is less than 7 square kilometres, so much of it can be seen on foot. Bear in mind, though, that some of the roads (especially up to the Upper Rock) are very steep. Taxis will take the strain out of the climbs, and all the taxi drivers seem to know all the Barbary macaques by name. Additionally, buses can be a cheap option to expedite things.
Though Gibraltar's area is small - it is long and thin, so distances can be a bit further than expected. Buses can be paid in pounds or euros. For at least some routes, the option is either for a single journey, or a pass good for unlimited rides that day. If planning to use the bus more than once, a one day pass is best. Of highest interest to the traveller is bus route 2, which in addition to going by the cable car station, is the only bus that visits Europa Point - the southernmost point of Gibraltar, and the one with all the views of Africa.
Gibraltar's official language is English, although most local people also speak Spanish .
That said, most locals converse in Llanito, which is essentially a mix of Andalusian Spanish and British English, a creole unique to Gibraltar. Also keep in mind that many businesses such as cafes and restaurants employ monolingual Spanish workers from across the border. In restaurants, it may not be that different from dining in Spain, language wise.
Stop by the tourist office in Casemates Square (if entering by land, this is immediately after passing through Landport tunnel). The tourist office will give you a map and recommend the following basic itinerary using the blue city buses (check fares). Take bus #2 from Market Place (around the corner of the tourist office) to Europa Point. Take pictures and enjoy Europa Point with the rest of the tourists. Then take the bus #2 back towards Market Place but get off at the cable cars. Ask the driver for help, but you will see the cable cars before the stop. Take the cable cars up to see the Upper Rock and Nature Preserve. Then take the cable car down and window shop Main Street back to Landport tunnel.
Cable cars run from 9.30AM until 5.45PM to the Upper Rock, but the last car up the hill might leave as early as 17.00PM. A "cable car and apes" ticket costs £8 return, while a ticket including entrance to St. Michael's Cave and the Siege Tunnels costs £16. Entrance to each sight costs £8 without this ticket. Alternatively, a 'Taxi-Tour' (typically for 8 people in an MPV) will cost £16 for a 1.5 hr tour, and this includes the fees for entry to the Cave, tunnels and Upper Rock.
A very informative Historic Walking Guide to Gibraltar can be purchased online or in local book shops and provides an excellent companion for those wanting to enjoy Gibraltar's best sites on foot.
The currency of Gibraltar is the Gibraltar pound (GIP) - equivalent in value to the British pound sterling. British pounds are accepted everywhere in Gibraltar, in addition to the local version.
Gibraltar pounds aren't accepted outside of Gibraltar - not even in the UK. If you are travelling to the UK you will be able to exchange them there at a bank for a service fee. If you are travelling elsewhere, then you may not be able to exchange them at all. Best to change any leftover Gibraltar pounds before leaving (free of charge to British pounds), and to ask shops to give your change in UK notes if you aren't going to spend them there.
Gibraltar coins are identical in denomination, colour and size to UK coins, and tend to circulate in the UK without question.
Most shops in Gibraltar will also accept U.S. dollars and Euros, with the risk of getting a poor rate of exchange. Government offices and post offices do not accept foreign currency.
Credit and debit cards are sometimes not accepted in some shops (especially restaurants).
If you like to sit outside and watch the world go by, head for Casemates Square where a number of pubs & restaurants serve fairly similar meals, with the exception of Cafe Solo which serves good Italian food.
Irish Town, the road which runs parallel to Main Street has a number of bars, like The Clipper which has good food, friendly staff, and satellite television. They serve a hearty English breakfast. There is also Corks which serves more substantial lunches.
Queensway Quay is home to The Waterfront, which serves a good quality, if somewhat eclectic menu which ranges from steak to high quality local fish and Indian food. Casa Pepe's, on the other side of the marina is worth a splurge.
If you fancy dining waterside the marinas are worth a vw - The most southerly pub in Europe. Good food, draught Bass and many others on tap. Happy hour daily at 6PM. Full Sunday lunch available.
Marina Bay is home to several restaurants. Bianca's and Charlie's Tavern at Marina Bay are worth a visit, the former being very well known for its busy ambience. Marina Bay has recently also become home to Gibraltar's first Mexican restaurant.
Ocean Village, Gibraltar's newest marina, is an extension to Marina Bay. It is home to several new pubs and restaurants, including a Chinese, and an Indian.
The Gibraltar Arms is situated next to Stag Bros' at 184 Main Street, telephone 200 72133 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and is open from 7.30am (9.30am on a Sunday) serving meals all day until late.
The Star Bar in Parliament Lane holds itself out as Gibraltar's Oldest bar. With a menu and drinks selection to appeal to most tastes the pub seeks to cater to a wide audience.
The Lord Nelson In Casemates Square, the official home of the Gibraltar Rugby Club and Live Music Venue Of The Year, top entertainment on stage every night. Offers free WiFi.
The Horseshoe 193 Main Street, near King St & Bombhouse Lane & Gibraltar Museum. Small pub with nice outdoor seating, decent prices, homemade pies on the menu, and offers the local beer Gibraltar IPA on tap. Free wifi, ask a staff member. "Jury's", a nice little cafe located on main street, near the Gibraltar Bookshop and Governor's House, has some very nice coffee, breakfasts, simple meals, and some sandwiches to go.
There are a number of kosher restaurants, bakeries and minimarkets in Gibraltar. Just ask around, and someone will point you in the right direction. Gibraltar is not the only place you could stock up on kosher food when you're travelling in the Costa del Sol; there are many kosher shops and restaurants in Marbella, Torremolinos and Málaga.
Presumably due to Gibraltar's very limited space - accommodation is expensive. Due to this, many opt for staying across the border in La Línea, Spain & walking across the border. That said:
Gibraltar has a favourable corporate tax regime, and many online gambling websites choose to make Gibraltar their base of operations and employ thousands of people in an ever-thriving jobs market.
Gibraltar's international telephone code is +350. All landline numbers in Gibraltar have been prefixed with 200 since 2008, making all numbers 8-digit long now. If you come across with a 5-digit number, just prefix it with 200 (and, of course, with the country code prior to that if you are calling from out of Gibraltar).
The prefix to dial prior to country code for international calls is 00 in Gibraltar.
Free wireless is available in the following places:
- Fresh - a cafe/bar just down through the archway when leaving the main square towards the bus stops.
- The Gibraltar Arms - about half way down the main street.
- The Lord Nelson - just by the tunnel exiting the main square.
- The Cannon Bar - behind the Catholic Cathedral.
- The Clipper - on Irish Town near Tuckey's lane. Ask bartender for password.
- Corks Wine Bar - on Irish Town near the Clipper. WEP key is written on a chalkboard above the bar.
- The Horseshoe - on Main Street near the Gibraltar Museum & King Street. Ask bartender for password.
Gibraltar has a low crime rate and a large and efficient police force to ensure it stays that way.
There are a few recent reports, however, of people being attacked on the Spanish side of the border while returning to Gibraltar on foot late at night. It might be smart to take a taxi home after dark if you have been drinking at the bars in Spain, especially if you are by yourself.
Gibraltar is part of the European Health Insurance Scheme and has a health service similar to the United Kingdom, with a modern hospital. If you are from a participating country, your EHIC card will entitle you to full free emergency medical treatment.
Tourists should be aware that the Barbary macaques are wild animals and do bite. It is advisable not to feed the Barbary macaque, despite encouragement from irresponsible taxi drivers. In addition, there are kiosks recklessly selling 'monkey food', further encouraging this. It is indeed illegal (hefty fines are in force) and bad for their health. Never try to pick up a baby Barbary macaque - its mother will not be happy, and neither will you. If you are bitten by a Barbary macaque, you will require hospital treatment. Whilst the Barbary macaques are rabies-free they can infect you with hepatitis, and they are most aggressive on the top of the rock, as the most successful animals claim the uppermost reaches of the rock, with their less successful fellows being shoved down the rock in their social pecking order.
People from Gibraltar refer to themselves as Gibraltarian or 'Llanito' pronounced Ya-ni-to. Even though the vast majority of Gibraltarians speak Spanish (with a local dialect), they are easily offended if referred to as Spanish because they regard themselves as Gibraltarians and are very proud of their identity. In fact, Gibraltarians have voted overwhelmingly to remain British in several referendums. Some Gibraltarians also feel sensitive to the erroneous use of the term 'colony' due to its connotations of being a deposited population or ruled by a foreign country or lacking in self-government, none of which apply to Gibraltar either now or historically. Additionally, the term 'colony' is legally incorrect; it is a 'British Overseas Territory'. The term 'colony' wasn't used in reference to Gibraltar until the 1830s, at which time there were other places that were colonies and Gibraltar was grouped with them under the term colonies, despite the circumstances being different.
Although the popular view is that the Spanish Government is the cause of many problems concerning Gibraltar, there is no animosity directed by Gibraltarians towards Spanish individuals in general; Spanish tourists and workers experience no problems. Recent airport agreements have opened up the relationship Gibraltar has with Spain.
You could travel across the border to visit Cádiz in Southern Spain, or cities such as Algeciras or Jerez de la Frontera . Or you could head south, across the Mediterranean, and visit Morocco , with places such as Tangier and Casablanca ready for visitors.
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