Andorra has a relatively long history as a shopping destination. In the last couple of decades of Franco’s dictatorship, it was a very popular destination for Spaniards looking to buy restricted goods. Between then and deeper European integration, Andorra was basically a tax-free zone that drew tourists from France and Spain who wanted to avoid paying sales taxes. These advantages are no longer as extreme, but Andorra is still a prime target for travellers who shop.
Whether flying or driving, it makes sense to do a bit of planning and research so that you know what to expect. This guide will take you through what you need to know about shopping in Andorra.
What are the Basics of Andorra Shopping?
The best way to capture the scale of Andorra shopping is to note that there are roughly 2,000 stores packed into a country that you can drive across in about an hour. Those numbers become even more striking when you note that most of Andorra’s shopping centres are concentrated in the capital, Andorra la Vella. The city of only 22,000 people manages to support roughly 400 shops and stores of all descriptions, so obviously some are designed to cater to tourists.
One of the best reasons to go shopping while away from home is to search for a discount. Pricewise, Andorra shopping is quite attractive, largely because of the principality’s favourable tax system.
No sales tax is added at the register – the sticker price is what you pay, however it does include a low value-added tax which is applied indirectly. Called the I.G.I., most goods see 4.5% added to their cost before the retail stage. This is even lower for food (excluding alcohol), magazines, newspapers and books at 1%, while art and tourism services have a rate of 2%.
By comparison, most European countries apply a VAT of 19% or higher, so prices in Andorran shops can be 15% lower than across the border in France or Spain. Because of these savings, it’s not out of the question to see French or Spanish tourists browsing at a shopping centre in Andorra la Vella with a calculator in hand!
Where to Shop…
If shopping is high on your priority list for your next vacation, you probably have specific items in mind. It makes sense to go in with a list of priorities to avoid too many impulse purchases and to best plan where to stay. Whether you’re looking for gourmet items or a new pair of skis here is some guidance on where to start looking for it.
Women and men’s fashion: Guess, Lacoste, Benetton, Levi’s, Zara, Desigual and other international brands all have stores in Andorra la Vella’s main shopping district. These mix in with shops by more on-trend operations like Lolë, Superdry, Napapijri and Oysho.
Jewellery, watches and other accessories: By comparison to other clothing options, more of the jewellery and watch boutiques are on the west side of the river, mostly on Avenue Meritxell. As well as clothing, Gallery Andorra on Meritxell has one of the best selection of handbags and other accessories from premium designers. There are also several perfume boutiques (perfumerias) mixed in on the main shopping strips, but take note of the duty-free export limitations.
Sporting goods: These stores are much more widely dispersed across Andorra. Understandably so, since those selling skis and bikes tend to want to be as close to the ski runs, bike, and hiking trails as possible. For instance, the well-reviewed Esports Sant Moritz operates right here in Arinsal. The selection will obviously change with the season with all things skiing taking centre stage in cold months and equipment for summer activities in Andorra taking over when the weather warms up.
Food, drink and cigarettes: Right next door, Supermercat Sant Moritz is a good option for groceries, including luxury items imported from across the E.U. and the U.K. They also carry a wide range of wine and spirits at competitive prices. Shopping for duty-free cigarettes and liquor is so popular that it’s not uncommon for major supermarkets to have 1/4 of their space stocking these goods. Andorra 2000, E.Leclerc, CCA and Pyrénées are all in Andorra la Vella and have competitive prices for everything from cigars to Spanish jamon.
Souvenirs and specialty gifts: Casa Danesa has an impressive variety of gifts, toys and souvenirs and nearby Casa Bella is a bit more upscale. As well, there are a few art galleries in Andorra la Vella, such as Galeria Pilar Riberaygua.
Electronics: Electronics are not the deal they were before online shopping and Euro adoption in Andorra. That said, major retailers like Pyrénées Andorra still have large electronics departments like FNAC and there are many standalone shops lining the streets, stocking brands like Bose.
Other Things to Know About Shopping in Andorra la Vella
Twice every year, around the end of April and beginning of November, Andorra hosts a shopping festival meant to attract visitors to the stores in the capital. The draw of these events is mainly steeply marked-down prices, but special entertainment (for adults and families), decorations and contests also all help.
Shopping centres (or centres comercial) are clustered on the two main shopping streets in Andorra la Vella, Avenue Meritxell and Avenue Carlemany). Illa Carlemany and Pyrenees Andorra are the two best-known and most-visited upscale shopping malls in Andorra. Both have a wide range of international luxury and fashion brands, on-site food options and plenty of parking. Equally, there are plenty of standalone boutiques for local, European and global brands.
Compared to other shopping destinations there are fewer vintage and secondhand shopping options in Andorra. Occasionally one of Andorra’s local government will organise an annual flea market.
Technical Details of Shopping in Andorra
Once again, the Andorran government applies the 4.5% I.G.I. indirect tax to most goods. Visitors from outside the E.U. can have this refunded by saving the receipts for their large purchases and getting the proper form from the VAT office at the airport where you are leaving the E.U. Companies like Global Blue can help expedite this process.
Many countries around the world limit how much alcohol, tobacco and other goods its own citizens can bring home after travelling abroad. Andorra flips the model and imposes the limit on how much visitors to Andorra can take back to the European Union (in an effort to keep you out of trouble).
Some of the numbers seem reasonably high like 75 cigars or 5 litres of wine, but certain shoppers might bump up against the 1.5-litre limit on spirits and have to pay duties. Here is a full schedule of the current export limits.
Sant Moritz as a Base for Shopping in Andorra
Here in Arinsal, we are ideally located for a vacation. As well as the nearby options discussed above, Apartaments Sant Moritz is a short 15-minute drive to the main shopping centres in Andorra la Vella. That said, almost all visitors to Sant Moritz take advantage of the wide range of outdoor pursuits and really feel like they are away from the hectic city life. Book your stay with us and we think you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your shopping cravings.