With 300 days of sunshine a year (and very little rain), impressive architecture, duty-free shopping and breathtaking nature, Gibraltar is an expat favourite.
But does this fascinating region live up to all the hype? Here are 10 things you should know before moving to The Rock.
1. It’s Very… British
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory (one of 14, in fact). This has been a point of political tension with Spain (who borders the region) for over 300 years. But the Gibraltarians themselves are very happy living under UK jurisdiction and many consider themselves culturally British.
You’ll find fish and chip shops, red post boxes and high street favourites like Marks and Spencer. However – and this is very important – Gibraltar has its own political system and can enact laws independently of the UK.
2. It’s Quite Small
Gibraltar covers an area of just 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) and a good portion of land is taken up by The Rock itself.
With a population of 30,000, it has the 5th highest density of any country in the world so it can feel a little… cramped. The majority of people live in apartment blocks at the base of the rock.
As a result, many expats don’t actually live in Gibraltar. They live across the border (along the Costa del Sol) and commute into the region for work.
3. They Speak 3 Languages
Gibraltar is primarily English-speaking, but most people also speak Spanish. Then there’s a third language, known as Llanito, which is an eccentric mix of the two. Knowing a bit of Spanish will be very helpful, and will help you integrate nicely.
Important note: road signs etc. are in English.
4. The Currency
The legal tender of Gibraltar is essentially the pound, but in two forms; pound sterling and the Gibraltar pound. These can be used interchangeably across Gibraltar. The Gibraltar pound cannot be spent in the UK however, so be sure to convert it before you leave.
You can also spend euros but the exchange rates are poor and you might get ripped off. It’s worth keeping some aside for frequent trips into Spain though.
5. The Cost of Living and Taxes
Gibraltar is one of the richest countries in the world, but it’s a very expensive place to live. Property prices are much higher than those across the border in Spain, and things like groceries cost more too.
As for taxes, Gibraltar is considered tax friendly as there’s no VAT, low corporation tax and income tax is quite reasonable – many expats would consider themselves better off in Gibraltar than their home country. You won’t pay capital gains or inheritance tax and many people are entitled to tax relief when buying their first property.
6. Wild Barbary Apes Roam
Gibraltar has the only wild population of apes in Europe. There are about 250 Barbary macaques roaming the top of the rock and sometimes causing trouble with tourists. They can be mischievous so hold onto your camera and bags tight.
7. There’s Only One Way Into Gibraltar*
And that’s via the main road. The road into town crosses the airport runway (don’t worry, it closes when a plane is due to land or take off). The runway runs the entire width of Gibraltar, alongside the border with Spain.
*Okay, technically there are two; you can also sail into the harbour.
8. Healthcare is Free
British Citizens and EU nationals (with a valid EHIC) are entitled to free health care. You simply have to present the required documentation at any healthcare institution.
Residents and those who work in Gibraltar (but live in Spain) are also entitled to free healthcare since they pay social security. You’ll need to go to the Healthcare Centre in the ICC building to register yourself and your family.
9. That Border Crossing…
Many people cross the border from Gibraltar into Spain (and vice versa) every day. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned political tensions, the crossing can be problematic.
Delays of a few hours are not uncommon and in extreme cases it might take up to 8 hours to get through. People often blame the Spanish police for the delays, suggesting they hold things up to annoy the British. Of course, it could just be that they’re really thorough..
The easiest way to get through is on foot.
10. It’s a Magical Place
Despite its issues with it’s neighbour (and what country doesn’t have problems?), Gibraltar is a beautiful place to live and work. It’s a wonderfully unique country, equal parts mysterious and familiar. If you’re planning a move to Gibraltar, we think you’ll love what you find!
* This post is sponsored by Currency UK. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Mum on the Rock.