Europe, Spain, United Kingdom

Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border

Last Updated on by Bryony Clapperton

I recently and very randomly visited Gibraltar and for the sake of the trip it made sense to fly into Malaga and travel south through Cadiz to reach this petite UK territory. As part of this trip I had to attempt crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar.

Regular flights from Liverpool and Manchester fly direct to Malaga and since the apparent collapse of Monarch Airlines, which was a main operator flying into Gibraltar frequently, the less frequent flights and uncooperative flight schedules into Gibraltar led us to make this money and time saving decision.

From Malaga we hired a mini bus to the border of Spain and did the Gibraltar border crossing from a town called La Linea right across the Gibraltar frontier, a trip many people take everyday.

Spain to Gibraltar

A concise history of Gibraltar, United Kingdom

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory that sits at the bottom of southern Spain to reach Gibraltar you can travel to the border which is just south of Cadiz. Gibraltar sits at the very tip of Western Europe and if you haven’t heard of Gibraltar itself I can imagine you have probably heard the term ‘The Gibraltar Straits’.

Gibraltar is located at the bottom of an area known as the Iberian Peninsula of southwest Europe and The Gibraltar Straits are important for a couple of key reasons, the first being that Gibraltar Europe’s gateway into Africa, with a ferry to Tangier, Morocco taking on average one hour and a half.

The ex-pat community that is Gibraltar is entirely separate to Spain and Spanish culture and despite its size and has remained a British overseas territory since 1704.

We chose to cross the border from Spain to Gibraltar due to flying into Malaga but Gibraltar does have its own airport and as mentioned less frequent flights do fly in and out of its tiny airspace and runway, but I’ll get to the runway in a second. Most of the cheap flights to Gibraltar are operated by EasyJet and British Airways.

With a permanent population of around 29,000 residents and despite its tiny size, Gibraltar is actually one of the largest of the British overseas territories. The entire area of Gibraltar is overlooked by the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ which essentially is Gibraltar due to its iconic reputation.  

Crossing the border from Spain into Gibraltar

The Gibraltar border crossing or Gibraltar frontier is located just outside of La Linea, Spain.

As the United Kingdom is officially outside of the Schengen Agreement where EU citizens can move freely within selected member states of the European Union known as the ‘Schengen Zone’. Visiting Gibraltar which is United Kingdom via Spain requires an actual overland border crossing with passport security and all. What does this mean for Brexit? Who knows.

The closest town in Spain to the frontier of Gibraltar is La Linea. Wherever you are heading from in Spain the town of La Linea is where you’ll need to be to cross the border of Spain over into Gibraltar.

The official ‘border’ is only semi-official looking and appears at first glance as more of a car park than a countries entry point. Don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you when crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar. Expect lot’s of traffic and a few bored looking border control officials.

Gibraltar border crossing times

The overland border between Gibraltar and Spain is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means you can cross at any time.

This applies for both pedestrians and vehicles crossing to and from Gibraltar. Although, most people visiting for a short period prefer to cross over on foot for ease and experience.

Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border
The Spain to Gibraltar border
Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border

Border control

I know from overland border crossing in Latin America that a general busyness and loitering should always be expected at an overland border and this one was no different. Many cars, gridlocked and probably wondering ‘is this an actual car park or not’ hang around the confusing and blocked off roads just before the official customs crossing.

Note that the wait times at Gibraltar border control can vary depending on how busy the time of day or year is.

Apparently it is much cheaper to live over the border in Spain than in Gibraltar itself making the town of La Linea Gibraltar’s designated car park for commuters.

To cross the Gibraltar border and get into border control we slipped through a metal gate in the fence and followed the signs to enter back in the UK. 3 hours approximately in total spent in Spain making this ‘trip’ to Spain officially my shortest round trip on record technically speaking.  

The border control in the Spain to Gibraltar border crossing are relaxed. Hundreds of people make this journey into Gibraltar from La Linea daily and the unofficial nature and laid back approach to getting into Gibraltar poses a few interesting questions post-Brexit. I guess you can contact David Davis directly for answers on that one.

Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border
Sunsets over the Gibraltar Straits
Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border

Walking through passport control I briefly flashed my British passport and received a sort of ‘welcome home nod’ I suspect all Brits and EU nationals alike get the same nod. For EU residents no visa is required but for people outside of the EU regular UK visa rules apply for Gibraltar.  

Anyway, with our passports checked and clear of customs we had officially arrived in Gibraltar, United Kingdom and the next step of our journey would be to cross Gibraltar Airports runway to leave the border zone.

The passage into Gibraltar form the border goes directly over the runway.

Gibraltar frontier queue

I’ve briefly mentioned but all vehicles also have to make the journey across the runway into Gibraltar from the border.

If you don’t fancy walking over the runway, which I should probably add is perfectly safe and normal, you can take a taxi from just outside the crossing on the UK side of the border. They are usually white mini buses.

It is worth knowing in advance that the frontier queue can become very busy at times and it is much slower to travel by vehicle than on foot. Many people opt to leave their cars at the various car parks on the Gibraltar border.

Gibraltar frontier queue times vary, however, if you are travelling my moped or motorbike it will be significantly quicker for you.

Spain to Gibraltar – Crossing the border
View of the Gibraltar rock

Things to do in Gibraltar

If you’re spending a day or two in Gibraltar you’ll want to tick off all the must do things in Gibraltar. They include the following;

  • See the rock. It’s actually difficult to not see, but if you don’t have a room with a rock view like I did, why not take the cable car to the top of the Gibraltar rock?
  • Speaking of the cable car, head to the top of the Gibraltar rock and see the famous monkeys of Gibraltar. They are vicious and the cable car will cost you around £16 so you may want to assess the value of this one.
  • Explore the port area. If you enjoy looking to yachts you’ll never be rich enough to own then a harbour walk should be at the top of your Gibraltar to do list. There’s also some nice restaurants here too.
  • Ocean Village. You must visit Ocean Village when in Gibraltar, it’s the go to place for food, drinks and casino.
  • Visit Main Street and Grand Casemates Square and get to know the real Gibraltar locals and all that’s happening in Gibraltar.
The view from the top of the rock
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