Last Updated on August 26, 2020 by Bryony Clapperton
Over the last couple of years I’ve had to visit Gibraltar for work several times and for the sake of these trips and infrequent flights I have often had to fly into Malaga and cross the border from Spain to Gibraltar.
Regular flights from Liverpool and Manchester fly direct to Malaga and ever since the collapse of Monarch Airlines, which was a main operator flying into Gibraltar frequently, we’ve had to take this route.
As a routine part of this trip I often spent the first part of my day crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar. A trip many people and commuters take everyday. Here’s how to tackle the Gibraltar border crossing from Spain.
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. It is essentially the very tip of Western Europe! Hows that for a fact?
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.
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.
As mentioned in my intro the collapse of Monarch airlines has led to a deficit of flights into the petite airport of Gibraltar. This means if you do want to visit its likely you’ll have to fly into Spain and cross the border at La Linea.
On several occasions I’ve flown in and out of Malaga Airport. This is a popular option for people but it will require a car, taxi or transfer down the coast past Merballa and onwards to La Linea the border town.
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Crossing the border from Spain into Gibraltar
The Gibraltar border crossing or Gibraltar frontier is located in small town called 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 opening 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 you want.
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.
Lots of people choose to park in Spain and travel into Gibraltar on foot – you’ll notice how common this is from all the parking near the border.
Gibraltar border control & crossing by vehicle
I know from overland border crossing in Latin America that a general busyness and loitering should always be expected at an overland border. The Gibraltar border crossing is no different, there are plenty of taxis around too which is also as to be expected.
The border can get very busy depending on how speedy the border control are. Cars and traffic does get backed up and gridlocked giving things a car park feel.
Note that the wait times at Gibraltar border control can vary depending on how busy the time of day or year is. This is often why many people often to travel on foot.
Wait times can also be impacted by landing planes. Gibraltar airport is located at the border and often traffic is halted to let planes land and take off.
If you do decide to take your car things are well sign posted and you can join the queues and wait. Otherwise head to the small border office on foot to get your passport checked.
When leaving Gibraltar and for those of you that are super organised, you can check out the frontier queue cams and wait times on the live stream!
Crossing on foot
To cross the Gibraltar border and get into border control we slipped through a metal gate in the fence that’s clearly signposted and followed the signs to enter into the Gibraltar/the U.K.
Hundreds of people make this journey into Gibraltar from La Linea daily so everything seems very laid back and unofficial. On a couple of occasions we haven’t actually even had our passports checked, you just have to hold it in your hand.
Other times you’ll need to present it at the desk. In all my times doing this I’ve never had to queue when crossing the border from Spain to Gibraltar on foot. Who knows what this will be like post-Brexit
For EU residents no visa is required, but for people outside of the EU regular UK visa rules apply for Gibraltar.
More travel advice for entry requirements to Gibraltar can be found on the U.K gov website.
The passage into Gibraltar form the border goes directly over the runway. This shocks most people when arriving and doing the Spain to Gibraltar border crossing for the first time.
The airport and runway sit directly behind the Spanish border which can cause delays as mentioned above.
Currency and time zone
Once you enter Gibraltar from Spain you are technically on U.K soil so the currency used is Sterling and the time zone is regular GMT.
This can obviously be quite confusing for tourists who decide to visit Gibraltar from Spain.
Where to stay in Gibraltar?
I’ve actually stayed in a few different hotels in Gibraltar over my many trips.
First up is the Caleta, it’s a bit out of the way and you do have to walk in and out of town, but Gibraltar is tiny so it’s not really an issue if you have full mobility.
Taxis to and from Ocean Village can be pricey though so if you don’t fancy the walk I suggest staying in a hotel closer to the centre.
The Caleta itself has some stunning sunset and sunrise views, a great deck with a pool to have your morning coffee on and most of the rooms have balconies. Note, some look out onto the rock.
The hotel itself is cute with a nice bar and friendly staff – a great location for a nice weekend or week long getaway. I’d definitely recommend this Gibraltar hotel and have some family who have also stayed here and say the same.
I’ve also stayed in the newish Holiday Inn Express, it’s clean and pretty standard for a Holiday Inn. The key selling point is it’s location, of all the Gibraltar hotels I’ve stayed in this one is the closest to the airport and other amenities. I’ve also used the conference room facilities with it being for a work trip.
I have nothing against Holiday Inn’s especially for a work trips, but for an actual holiday maybe try the Caleta or Sunborn.
A review of the Sunborn Gibraltar
The Sunborn is definitely the jewel of Gibraltar hotels and accommodations. It’s also the only yacht I’ve ever stayed on!
If you’re into something a little fancier and want the luxury and bragging rights of saying you’ve stayed on a yacht then Gibraltar’s Sunborn is for you.
With multiple restaurants, a casino, several bars and a a rooftop pool The Sunborn is definitely my favourite of the Gibraltar hotels I’ve stayed in.
The rooms are exceptional, with big spacious bathrooms and the breakfast included is far better than your standard Holiday Inn buffet let me tell you.
If you’ve stayed at The Sunborn before, it’s likely you’ll get the pick of the better rooms and not to mention a welcome drink on arrival.
A quick guide on things to do in Gibraltar
If you’re spending a day or two in Gibraltar or staying for longer in any of the Gibraltar hotels above, you’ll want to tick off all the must do things in Gibraltar.
It’s a tiny little place with quite limited things to do so if you do brave the border crossing to Gibraltar you’ll want make the most of it.
Things to do 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 and marina. 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 and bars here too.
- Ocean Village! The main place to be in Gibraltar. As a rule, you must visit Ocean Village when in Gibraltar, it’s the go to place for food, drinks and casino’s if you fancy wasting some cash. Check out O’Rileys Irish Pub.
- Visit Main Street and Grand Casemates Square and get to know the real Gibraltar and it’s history. There are also quite a few shops here where you can purchase duty free booze and goods.