Located on the very southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar is a tiny British Territory covering an area of less than 4 square miles (7 km). Locals fondly refer to their home as 'The Rock' in tribute to the soaring Rock of Gibraltar that dominates the space. Expats moving to Gibraltar are in for a relaxing and largely fulfilling experience in the British territory.
Living in Gibraltar as an expat
Surrounded almost completely by water, Gibraltar is joined to Spain by a land border of just 0.75 miles (1.2 km) as a comparatively long coastline of 7.5 miles (12 km) winds around Gibraltar. At first glance, Gibraltar may not stand out as an expat destination, but it has long held a reputation as an international banking centre, especially when it comes to offshore banking. While some expats are attracted by lucrative employment offers within the financial industry, others come here to spend their twilight years on the Mediterranean coast. It’s especially popular among British retirees.
Though it has a small population of just a little more than 33,000, Gibraltar's diminutive size means that it's far from spacious and accommodation is hard to find. Residents on the island are far outnumbered by tourists, who frequently exceed 10 million visitors a year. It follows that tourism is a thriving industry, with plenty of opportunities for seasonal workers or those looking to start a business.
Gibraltar is a British colony with a local government. They are entirely self governing aside from matters of defence and international affairs, which are handled by Britain. Despite this, Gibraltar's culture is largely influenced by its Spanish neighbours rather than its British rulers. Those unused to the relaxed, languid lifestyle typical of Spain may take a while to adjust to life in Gibraltar.
Cost of living in Gibraltar
Despite the lack of value-added and sales tax in Gibraltar, the cost of living in the territory is high. Owing to Gibraltar's small size, accommodation will be the biggest expense expats must prepare for. Living further out from the city centre and securing shared housing are some of the ways to minimise this cost.
Almost everything has to be imported into Gibraltar, which makes for pricey groceries, furniture, clothing and electronics. Most expats and locals choose to shop in neighbouring Spain to save on some items. A major advantage of Gibraltar's size is that the territory is compact, making it easy to get around, so expats can save some money on their commute.
Families and children in Gibraltar
Expat families are more likely than not to enjoy their time in Gibraltar, owing to the plethora of family-friendly attractions and excellent public education on offer. State schools in Gibraltar are free to attend between the ages of four and 15, but most students choose to continue their sixth form education thereafter.
While there are no international schools in Gibraltar, expat parents have the option of sending their children to international schools in Spain. Parents who would like for children to learn a globally recognised curriculum or continue in their home country's syllabus typically choose this option. There are also two private schools in Gibraltar that teach through a Roman Catholic lens, although parents interested in this option will need to apply well ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Private and international schools are generally associated with high fees, expats are advised to negotiate an education allowance in their relocation package where possible.
Climate in Gibraltar
Gibraltar is blessed with 11 hours of sunshine a day. The weather in Gibraltar is characterised by dry (May to September) and wet seasons (October to April). Fortunately, temperature variations are rare and expats can expect warm weather year round.
The lifestyle on The Rock is generally excellent, and even expats moving to Gibraltar for career-related reasons are sure to find some time to kick back, relax and enjoy their beautiful surroundings.
Population: Approximately 33,600
Neighbouring countries: Spain is to the north and is the only land border of Gibraltar, Morocco lies across the Strait of Gibraltar to the south, and the Mediterranean lies to the east.
Geography: Gibraltar is a small territory on a peninsula at the southern tip of Spain. The peak of the Rock of Gibraltar is its highest point, and the rest of the territory is sea-level lowlands.
Political system: Devolved representative democratic parliamentary dependency under a constitutional monarchy
Main languages: English and Spanish
Major religions: Roman Catholicism
Money: The Gibraltar Pound (GIP) is divided into 100 pennies and is pegged to the British Pound. To open a bank account, expats will usually have to present a valid passport and proof of address.
Tipping: A service charge is generally included in restaurant bills, and a 10 percent tip for good service is standard.
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Plugs most commonly in use are the round two-pin type or the rectangular three-pin plug typical of Europe and the UK respectively.
Internet domain: .gi
International dialling code: +350
Emergency contacts: 190 (medical and fire) and 199 (police)
Transport and driving: Thanks to Gibraltar's small size, it's quite easy to get around on foot. Others prefer to drive cars or motorcycles. For public transport, there is a well-established bus network, which makes it easy to get around, and there are taxis available as well.
►For info about medical treatment, doctors and hospitals, see Healthcare in Gibraltar
Are you an expat living in Gibraltar?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Gibraltar. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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