How long is your commute to work? Thirty minutes, an hour, two hours? The travel time for many people has gradually increased over the years. Particularly for those who work in London and need somewhere affordable to live. But what about having a four or five hour journey that includes a flight? Believe it or not, that’s what some people are opting for in preference to paying extortionate rentals or mortgages.

Research reported in the ‘Independent’ and conducted by Tessa Jowell suggests that those who work in London could save more than £4,000 a year by living in Madrid. Tessa Jowell is standing as a candidate to be mayor of London and her research is part of an offensive on the high price of property, both to buy and rent, in the capital.

Commuting London to Barcelona

Now it’s becoming not just normal to commute between cities in a country but between countries themselves. The Guardian has run an article about Sam Cookney working in London and living in Barcelona. Barcelona is not one of the cheapest parts of Spain to live in, but he still finds that he’s saving €387 a month by conducting his life in this way.

He doesn’t commute every day but tries to limit it to three or four times a month combining this with working from home and from a rented co-working space that costs €90 a month. The journey takes him around five and a half hours but he feels that it’s well worth it just for the money he saves and – most importantly – for the additional quality of life he has. Sam can see no down side to his decision to move to Barcelona and feels he benefits from better housing, transport and food.

Could this work for you?

If you are your own boss it is an easier decision to make. If not, no matter how feasible it will be, you may have some work to do convincing those you work with. People can be very reluctant, for all kinds of different reasons, to let their work force off the leash. They might be jealous or feel that out of sight is out of mind. You will need to convince them of your commitment.

It can really be worth it however, particularly if the need to commute is infrequent and most of your work can be completed over the internet. Salaries in the UK far outstrip the majority of salaries in Spain and you can find that you end up making significant savings because of the UK salary differential and Spanish cost of living.

Of course, it’s not just about saving money. As Sam Cookney has found, Spain has lots of advantages in terms of its culture and lifestyle. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for many people the benefits that come with a pleasanter climate, the Spanish culture and people are all well-worth moving for.

Some people find that once they begin spending more of their time abroad they are able to increasingly juggle their responsibilities and may only need a handful of commutes a year. Initial flights back to the workplace can be fuelled by boss insecurity as much as the real need to be behind your desk in the UK.

It is a controversial lifestyle choice when it comes to the environment. There are those who argue that to commute by plane is a waste of natural resources and the preserve of those who can afford it to the detriment of us all.

If Tessa Jowell gets her way and replenishes London housing stock with  affordable homes, perhaps the pull of living abroad will diminish. However, with so many other advantages to living in Spain, other than just the cost of accommodation, we could find that taking the plane to the office could be here to stay.

Advice if this is an option for you

  • Choose a property close to a large airport in both countries
  • Try to fly midweek and avoid a Monday to Friday week as the weekend is when flights are most expensive
  • Consider whether this lifestyle choice matches your personality – are you independent?
  • You need to be your own boss or have an understanding one – there will be times when flights may be delayed or cancelled
  • Consider getting a UK phone number to take with you – this disguises the fact that you’re abroad
  • Get good financial planning and tax advice – a specialist who knows the tax arrangements in both countries can advise you how to proceed
  • Don’t skip on your internet connection – it will be your lifeline so only get the best and resist cheap offers
  • Consider sharing office space – working at home has its benefits but it doesn’t suit everyone
  • Work out what you will do during your travel time – it could be the time you catch up on your sleep or your reading

Commuting from Barcelona: a London worker who makes it pay

London became such a rip-off I moved to Barcelona and still save money commuting by plane

Living in Spain and commuting to London ‘cheaper than actually working in London’