I’ve really enjoyed writing this one up as I have a complete obsession for these more unusual borders around the world. Sometimes there are even borders between places that others don’t class as a country. You might have read that I was recently backpacking in Gibraltar for the first time. It was my 46th country out of the 54 recognised countries in Europe going by UEFA. Gibraltar is a member of the EU but is not in the Schengen Zone. What I loved more is the fact that you learn that Spain has a land border with 5 other countries (Andorra, France, Portugal, Morocco and Gibraltar). Here I was ready for yet another adventure, I was upbeat as I made the trip from Malaga to La Linea de la Concepcion heading for Gibraltar.
I started my journey in the city of Malaga which is in Spain’s Costa del Sol. Malaga is actually a decent enough spot for backpackers despite its reputation as a family holiday resort type place and indeed there are a variety of budget hotels in Malaga to base yourself in.
To get to Gibraltar overland, you should try and base yourself in Malaga or Cadiz the night before as they are the bigger cities with more regular and obvious bus routes. Provincial towns are also an option, but it will cost you more time and money due to the bus connections. So I based myself in Malaga and got a direct bus from Malaga to La Linea de la Concepcion. I booked my bus online to ensure I had a ticket as I had no idea whether the buses got full or not. I used Avanzabus.com to book it.
Booking Your Bus
I went to the Avanzabus.com website and noticed they had a few departures per day direct from Malaga to the town of La Linea de la Concepcion. You cannot get a public bus straight to Gibraltar from Malaga, so get a bus to La Linea. My bus cost 15.67 Euros and would leave Malaga at 11.30 am. If you book online, you need to print your ticket, I found an internet cafe to do this. If you turn up on the day, you’ll pay slightly more for your ticket and have the risk of the next bus being full, but you won’t have to print your ticket.
Leaving Malaga for La Linea de La Concepcion
From Malaga main bus station, I found out that the bus to La Linea (and onwards to Algeciras) was leaving from platform 15. This could change of course.
I left Malaga bang on 11.30 am. The bus company is actually called ALSA despite the booking being from Avanza Bus. It was a dreamy bus ride along Spain’s famous Costa del Sol. I bought an ice cold beer for the journey, wrote up my travel notes and read Diego Maradona’s autobiography. I had the local Malaga beer – Victoria.
When I left Malaga, the bus was full of only Spaniards, but that all changes on the route down the coast as you stop off at all the resorts on the way. We must have had about 10 stops on route to La Linea de La Concepcion to drop passengers off and pick more up.
I didn’t make a note of all the stops along the way but these are some of them:
12 noon – Torremolinos
12.40 pm – Fuengirola
1.30 pm – Marbella
1.40 pm – San Pedro Alcantara
2.30 pm – Arrival in La Linea de la Concepcion
So the journey was almost exactly three hours, would be less than 2 hours without all the stops I reckon. Here is a map so you can see the route, driving south west out of Malaga.
Arrival in La Linea de La Concepcion
You arrive at the main bus terminal in the town of La Linea de La Concepcion. La Linea is not really a touristic town at all, it kind of serves its purpose as being the town that borders Gibraltar.
Once at the bus station, leave through the front exit and it will be obvious which way it is to Gibraltar. You won’t need a map or to ask anyone.
Leaving Spain at La Linea de la Concepcion
After leaving the bus station at La Linea de la Concepcion, it’s a quick walk towards the border point with Gibraltar. You can;t actually miss it, as it’s obvious which way is south. You will see the famous rock of Gibraltar and I would say if walking fast from the bus station, you will be at the border exit for Spain within 5 minutes. So basically just follow the rock!
You’ll see the Spanish flags for the exit from Spain and the entrance to Gibraltar in behind. If you want to change your Euros into Gibraltar (British) pounds then you can do so before you leave La Linea. Personally I had lots of pounds on me anyway so didn’t need to. You can also use Euros in some bars and restaurants in Gibraltar, though the exchange rate is higher – pounds are better! I’m biased of course. When leaving the Spanish side there was no border control or check point. This may vary from time to time. It’s a simple walk to the border and into Gibraltar.
Arrival in Gibraltar
On the Gibraltar side there is an indoor office for passport checks. On the day I crossed into Gibraltar, all passports were checked and there is some immigration information up. There were a couple of other backpackers in front of me and there was a big queue to cross the border.
Despite the big queue, it only really took about 6 minutes to cross the border into Gibraltar. My passport was checked only, not stamped. There were no bag checks and no paperwork to fill in. It was all very simple.
UK and EU passports don’t require a visa to visit Gibraltar, though it is not officially in the Schengen Zone, which is similar to Andorra (which is not in the EU) so you can get your passport stamped if you ask them apparently. I didn’t see anyone else doing this. You’ll see the Union Flag of the UK, the EU flag and the Gibraltar flag on the Gibraltar side of the border.
Once you have passed through the immigration hut, you are now on Winston Churchill Avenue and ready to explore Gibraltar.
You can get a bus from the border to the town centre of Gibraltar. I chose to walk in the heat, which takes you past (across) the runway of Gibraltar International Airport! Walking from the border to the town centre is only about 20 minutes so it’s the best backpackers option!
I loved my time in Gibraltar and I stayed in the cool downtown Cannon Hotel. I toured the top of the Rock, Europa Point and the main sights of the town centre. Some people class Gibraltar as a silly and odd place. And while it does have its doubters, I’m not one of them. I liked it and on talking to the people in the country, there is no chance of it being swallowed up by Spain. It is a country on its own right, and a proud one at that.
If you want to check out my post about coming the other way, I left Gibraltar by foot, for La Linea de la Concepcion.