I get asked this question regularly, largely, I think, because I’ve done it myself, and a good number of my work colleagues do so at the moment. In fact, that commute across the land border from Spain to Gibraltar in the morning sees small communities of people who get to know each other just from the walk through, or the bus ride into town. And yes, you actually do make friends with people you see daily on your commute!
The great thing about cross-border working is that you do get a chance to experience the best of both worlds. Gibraltar’s job market is vibrant and there are many opportunities to develop your career, make a career change and also to train and enhance your skills – the University of Gibraltar is easily accessible from the border with Spain and offers numerous professional development courses. At the same time, if you live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, you get the chance to really immerse yourself in the relaxed Spanish way of life and enjoy the magnificent landscape and wonderful cultural scenes of Spanish towns and cities.
My friends and I discussed the many options over lunch recently and here are some of our thoughts:
Working in Gibraltar and living in Spain: pros and cons
👍 Pros to living in Spain:
There are many pros, and it was hard to know where to start with this! Firstly there’s the weather. Look, Gibraltar’s weather is pretty good (especially if you’ve spent most of your life drenched by the continuous English drizzle!). But it’s even better in Spain, where the easterly wind does not bring quite the level of humidity that it does in Gibraltar, and when it blows it’s not quite so fierce either. The sunshine in Spain, I’m convinced, is warmer, and if you like the cold, a drive into the mountains in winter and you can actually enjoy some skiing weather!
There is, of course, much more open space in Spain, and with property at a much lower cost even within a half hour drive of Gibraltar, it can make financial sense for many. The joy of having a small garden, a communal swimming pool (or even a private one!), living right on the beach front, or by a golf course is often pretty persuasive, and can outweigh the effort of the commute.
The cost of living in Spain is overall lower than in Gibraltar and there are many more shopping centres with greater variety of products. Living in Spain you can easily enjoy the benefits of living in a large country, while still taking advantage of the brilliant job and career prospects of Gibraltar.
👎 Cons to living in Spain:
Well, nothing is perfect, even though living in Spain is really good and I really enjoyed it for the years I was there. The biggest con, of course, is the commute and the possibilities of traffic jams because everyone else is commuting to and from Gibraltar at the same times. Sometimes the queue of traffic to get out of Gibraltar and back into Spain can be long and the wait can get frustrating, but this happens less often then you’d think. The journey does add to the working day and with public transport from some Spanish towns right to the border not being great, you can get a bit reliant on your car. Then again, you can carpool, which loads of people are doing these days and that is really helpful and cost effective.
I guess the weather can be a con as well. It doesn’t rain that often, thank goodness, but when it does, it really lashes down and you can quickly get soaked and cold, especially if you’re doing the crossing into Gibraltar on foot. So it’s worth investing in good wet weather gear: you might not need it very often but when you do, it feels like a life-saver!
👍 Pros to living in Gibraltar:
If you really dislike the idea of commuting, or your job means you’re on call and need to get into the office in Gibraltar quickly, then it’s probably best to find a home on the Rock itself. The greatest benefit is how quickly you can get to places here – and buses are free if you have a local ID card so you don’t need to rely on a car. Roads are relatively narrow, and if you have an electric bike or scooter, you’ll find these nippy, easy to park and you’ll be helping reduce air pollution!
Living in Gibraltar means everything you need to enjoy life is within easy reach. And if you have a young family, and you are mainly English speakers, then you can ensure them good, free health care and an excellent education system, including subsidised university education if your children want to take up this option.
The lifestyle in Gibraltar is fun, young and buzzing with restaurants, bars and clubs open long into the night, and with numerous events at excellent prices for the public to enjoy. Last year we seemed to go from Jazz Festival to Electronic Dance Festival, the MTV Gibraltar Calling Music festival, National Day festivals, the annual fair, food and wine festivals….it’s just so enjoyable living here!
👎 Cons to living in Gibraltar:
I guess there have to be a few things that aren’t quite so great. For some people it’s the fact that Gibraltar is small, its beaches really accessible. But they miss the wide open spaces of Spain’s beaches, and if you enjoy certain sports like hiking, biking, surfing, horse riding and golf among others, you might prefer to live somewhere where these are readily available instead of having to cross the border on your days off.
There is also the cost. It is more expensive to rent or buy property in Gibraltar, the cost of living is generally higher than in Spain, and that is sometimes quite an important reason for making your decision.
Working in Gibraltar – so where should I live?
Well, if you’re asking yourself: can I live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, you now know perfectly well, that by setting yourself the right routine and making sure your documents are always up to date, the answer is: yes, you can! But what are the best choices of somewhere to live in Spain.
Of course, the answer lies partly on your income and partly on the lifestyle that you want for yourself.
For easy reach of the border, the best places to live in Spain are probably La Linea, Campamento, San Roque, Los Barrios, Alcaidesa and Sotogrande. These towns are all within a short drive of the border and have some great facilities.
- La Linea directly borders with Gibraltar, and in fact, from many places in La Linea, you could actually just walk/bus to work. La Linea is a sprawling city with beaches both on the west and the east and a good bus network to the port city of Algeciras (where you can get a ferry to North Africa if you fancy a day trip to Tangiers). The city has a lovely town centre, sporting amenities (including a football club in the Spanish league), loads of shops and a food market, theatres, parks, art galleries – everything you could want from modern city living. And the rents are much less than in Gibraltar. If you go a little to the north, you’ll find Santa Margarita on the outskirts of La Linea. It’s a borough that’s really popular with Gibraltarians.
- Campamento is also on the outskirts of La Linea, to the west. Rents are slightly lower here than in La Linea and many people from Campamento commute to Gibraltar. Because it’s on the flat, it’s really easy to cycle from Campamento to Gibraltar, and cycling often means being able to avoid the worse of the border queues as and when they happen.
- San Roque is a little further afield from La Linea than Campamento, but a pretty, white Andalusian town on a hill, and when you look back towards Gibraltar from San Roque it feels as if you can touch The Rock! There is a wide variety of properties to rent or buy here, from apartments to country villas, and the town is full of amenities: shops, restaurants, medical centres, schools, a train station, and a pretty town square which hosts a bustling market on a Sunday morning.
- Los Barrios is a small town between La Linea and Algeciras and is also popular with commuters. Many of its inhabitants, as is the case in Campamento, La Linea, San Roque and all the surrounding area, commute to Gibraltar day to day as Gibraltar has a good deal of work available. Los Barrios is a pretty little town, just inland and surrounded by farms. If you love space and the countryside, this is ideal for you.
- La Alcaidesa is an urban area just on the coast – the tip of the Costa del Sol, some people say. From its gorgeous beaches you can see the Rock of Gibraltar. There are some lovely properties in La Alcaidesa, and a numerous British population, many of whom commute daily to work in Gibraltar. If you like beaches and golf courses, La Alcaidesa is an ideal option if you want to live in Spain and work in Gibraltar.
- Sotogrande is a luxurious town on the coast just beyond La Alcaidesa. Of course, some of the luxury villas can be pricey, but they really are magnificent! And if you like horse riding, Sotogrande boasts some internationally renowned stables. Sotogrande is a little jewel by the sea, with a gorgeous marina, excellent restaurants – and only a twenty-minute drive from the border with Gibraltar.
If you’re moving to work in Gibraltar, then living in Spain is definitely a good option worth considering!