Calling Shopaholics Everywhere!
As if the department of the Pyrénées-Orientales didn’t have enough going for it already, for those with a passion for shopping there is an added bonus to be found on its south-west border … Andorra!
Shopaholics look away now … you can buy EVERYTHING and it is very, very CHEAP! If you are the sort of person who would gladly make the day trip across the Channel from Dover to Calais to stock up on cheap goods, then prepare to be blown away by what awaits in the small duty free principality of Andorra.
Admittedly, travelling from the Aude or Pyrénées-Orientales by car means that you have definitely got 3 to 4 hours’ driving ahead of you as Perpignan is 180 km and Carcassonne 300 km away from the border. Having said that, if shopping is your thing and you are handy with a calculator, then you will not find it hard to justify the journey. The obvious bargains are to be found on the usually highly taxed items, such as cigarettes, alcohol and petrol. It costs around €15 for 200 cigarettes, which is €1.50 a pack, compared to about €5 in France. The same discounts can be found for alcohol – I almost wept with joy when I found a litre bottle of my favourite Jim Beam bourbon for €5.55! If you plan your journey carefully and arrive in Andorra with an empty tank, then you can fill up for little more than €1 a litre, whatever your petrol type, which in itself justifies the journey.
Having got your attention with these bargains, the canny Andorrans then overload your materialistic senses by filling their enormous hypermarkets with every other type of conceivable goods. There is shelf upon shelf of chocolates and sweets, every brand of condiment, toiletries, household goods, clothing and sportswear and electrical departments for all your home entertainment needs. And then, I guess just because they can, they also supply everything else your heart could possibly desire – for example, every variety of plastic fruit, a plethora of ornate boxes and cabinets, indoor water fountains and enough beaten copper pots and pans to adorn every olde worlde pub in Britain!
As I’d never seen some of these items before in my life, it was hard to gauge what kind of discount I was being offered. I would recommend making a detailed shopping list of what you want before you go, with all the necessary information for you to make an educated price comparison. Otherwise, you may be as overwhelmed as I was and feel the need for a lie down!
Most of your shopping can be done minutes after you cross the border into Andorra at Pas de la Casa. However, if you are after designer clothing and goods you will need to drive further in to Andorra la Vella. If you want do this you may want to save time by driving through the Envalira tunnel which costs a whopping €5.70 each way, but this really is the only rip off you will encounter!
Don’t forget to bring your passport, although you are unlikely to be asked for it, and remember that on your way back into France it is quite possible that you will be stopped by customs officials checking duty free allowances. As in all countries the customs men and women are concerned mainly with black market smuggling rather than a tourist who has bought one bottle of wine too many. For instance the allowance on cigarettes is 300 but as you buy them in boxes of 200 the accepted wisdom is that you’re allowed two packs of 200. However the limits on duty free are quite generous so you shouldn’t really find yourself going over them.
DUTY FREE LIMITS
1.5 l of spirits over 22% a.b.v.
3 l of spirits under 22% a.b.v.
5 l table wine
150 cigars (under 3g each)
75 cigars (over 3g each)
400g of pipe tobacco
375 ml eau de cologne
400g coffee extracts
80g tea extracts
Other agricultural products
Up to a value of €175
(Under 15 year olds up to a value of €90)
– not in excess of:
2.5 kg powdered milk
3 kg condensed milk
6 kg fresh milk
1 kg butter
4 kg cheese
5 kg sugar
5 kg meat
Other industrial products
Up to a value of €525
(Under 15 year olds up to a value of €270)