Review: a British Airways day trip to Gibraltar
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This is our review of a British Airways day trip to Gibraltar.
There are very few places at the moment that have no entry restrictions on arrival (such as quarantine or a requirement to show a PCR test) or upon returning to the UK.
Gibraltar is one of them, and reader Matthias recently decided to go for a same-day break. Coupled with the unique Gibraltar airport experience we thought it would make an interesting piece.
Over to Matthias:
“Desperate for a trip out of the UK but short on time, I’d been watching the UK ‘travel corridor’ list during lockdown, hoping for a lucky break.
None came (unfortunately my budget does not extend to private jets to Bhutan or Botswana!). The only destination left without the need for quarantine or test in either direction was the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.
I’d visited Gibraltar once, 20 years ago, and my memories weren’t the best – aggressive monkeys and run-down pubs seemingly the only thing I could remember.
I figured at the very minimum it would be a fun flying experience. Gibraltar Airport usually ranks high in a list of ‘exciting airports’ due to its unique characteristics:
- The short runway has water at both ends
- The main road into town actually crosses the runway so must be closed every time a plane lands or departs
- You get great view of the Rock on either departure or landing, depending on prevailing wind conditions and a judicious choice of seat
Conveniently, British Airways runs double daily Heathrow – Gibraltar flights on certain days, allowing a long day trip with around 6.5 hours on the ground. I got a great deal at under £80 return booked a month out, although I did notice the prices were nearer to £500 just before departure.
(Wizz Air has also just launched flights from Luton if you want another option. They depart at 13.40 every Monday and Friday.)
Sadly the flight time is just too short for an 160 tier point Club Europe run. This meant I stayed in Euro Traveller despite BA’s best efforts to sell me an upgrade.
The morning flight is quite early at 7.10am but has the benefit of getting you to a pleasantly warm Gibraltar by 11.00.
The flight was packed but immigration was efficient as long as you showed the barcode proving your completion of the online health form.
Because Gibraltar is less than 7 square km or 3 square miles, the airport is literally next to town. You can walk to Casemates Square in around 15 minutes including, of course, the crossing of the runway!
Alternatively, there are taxis and buses, although these can be slow as traffic seemed to be generally quite terrible.
Things to do & see in Gibraltar
Gibraltar is, of course, mainly known for the Rock. This is where all the main sights are, which I’d decided to visit first before ending back in town for a walk and pitstop.
You need to buy a Nature Reserve ticket to access the Rock, but as this included entry to all the sights it was a real bargain at £13 considering the variety and quality of the attractions. Even if you’re not interested in military history, reading about the Moors, Spaniards, Brits and others fighting for the Rock is thoroughly engrossing.
I started off at the Moorish Castle (really only a tower, but a very old one and with a nice bonus view of the airport). I progressed to the Great Siege Tunnels (fascinating and superbly refurbished), the new Windsor Suspension Bridge (mildly scary) and the Mediterranean Steps up the steepest part of the Rock, but with great views along the way.
After my first encounter with the famous Barbary macaque monkeys – who truly have no fear and can be mildly intimidating – I made my way past O’Haras Battery to St Michael’s Cave, bigger than expected and beautifully showcased in son-et-lumiere.
After a fleeting visit to the new but unimpressive Skywalk, I finished at the top station of the rickety old Cable Car, which whisked me back into town in a couple of minutes.
Rather unhelpfully, seeing all the sights involves a fair bit of backtracking and ups and downs, so I ended up covering around 10km and 1,000m climb. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are keen on some serious exercise. I did it running, with a backpack. Everyone’s crazy in their own way.
For a more comfortable experience, you could either leave out the odd landmark, start with a taxi to the far end, rent e-bikes or hire a tour guide who will gladly ferry you around in a car or minibus.
The alternative is to split your visit over a couple of days – any more and you’ll be bored, unless you’re once again allowed to cross the nearby border into Spain without triggering quarantine.
From the bottom of the cable car station, it’s a short stroll into Gibraltar town, which after an ‘extensive beautification programme’ now boasts the wonderfully pedestrianised Main Street. You can amble this back to Casemates Square for an alfresco pint and some tapas.
Soon enough it was time to walk back to the airport, making sure I crossed the runway before the inbound flight.
After gliding through security in the beautiful but rather over-specced airport building, I was pleased to hear that the business lounge had reopened. I was less pleased to hear that British Airways had stopped paying for access so that my Silver card was useless.
Instead of paying the (surprisingly reasonable) £13 access fee, I grabbed a beer from the main bar and sat on the balcony, watching my plane come in with the Rock as backdrop.
As night fell, there was one last highlight to come. Due to the westerly winds, the plane would take off into the Bay of Algeciras and do a full circle around the Rock before heading back home.
The view from the left-hand side really was something else and almost made up for the absence of a G&T!
I’ll be honest that the flight back dragged on a bit, but when I arrived back home roughly 16 hours after I’d left, I concluded that it had definitely been worth it.”
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! Read our full review
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.