Why spending the winter abroad could be the answer to your high electricity bills

winter abroad holiday avoid cost of living crisis gas energy bills digital nomad spain

winter abroad holiday avoid cost of living crisis gas energy bills digital nomad spain

It’s hard to keep up with the latest bad news about the rising cost of living. But the latest figures suggest electricity bills could hit north of £4,200 a year for the average UK household in January, as the energy giants rake in big profits.

That’s an average of £355 a month, according to consultancy group Cornwall Insights. Only we use more gas and electricity in winter – 36 per cent more, the now-defunct Department for Energy and Climate Change calculated – so it could cost more like £480 a month. Ouch.

Britain’s growing army of home workers are likely to feel the pinch more than most if they want to stay warm while hunched over their laptop. It raises a pertinent question: For those who have the luxury of working remotely, does it make economic sense to see out the winter somewhere warm? Andalusia, perhaps. Turkey? India?

Brits ask similar questions on Google. When Ofgem increased the energy price ceiling by 54 per cent in April, searches for “move abroad” rose to record levels.

It’s not just Google people are turning to: Belvin Franks, a financial adviser to expats, has reported a “significant” increase in the number of Brits looking to move abroad.

“People are paying a lot more for everything and it’s a culmination of bad news. It makes people think about needing a fresh start, and they know they will get a much cheaper life abroad, says the firm’s Jason Porter.

Crush the numbers

Assuming Cornwall Insights is right (and takes into account winter weighting for energy bills) turning off the gas and electricity could theoretically save the average bill payer upwards of £500 a month – or £115 a week – for the winter. How far will it take you abroad?

As for Malaga, where winter temperatures rarely dip into the single figures, two-bed flats are listed for around €600 (£507) a month. And with Spain offering free train travel until the end of the year on many Renfe services (a policy implemented to ease the cost of living crisis), it will cost you to get around nothing. This is all before you take into account lower prices for groceries, eating out and drinks.

Renfe trains Spain - Getty

Renfe trains Spain – Getty

Of course, inflation also pushes up prices abroad, but as Porter said: “Countries like France, Spain and Portugal are starting from a much lower point because the cost of living was so much cheaper – and will continue to be even if they have strong inflation.”

Money that would otherwise be spent on gas bills goes even further in Turkey, which the Post Office has recently identified as the most valuable destination for Britons.

“The Turkish lira has collapsed to almost 50 per cent against the pound, making a trip to Turkey for British tourists much more affordable,” said Sam Rantage, a chartered financial planner at Tideway Investment. “[At the time of publication] a three-course meal in a medium-sized restaurant will cost £12 for two people. A coffee £1, a beer £1.40 and a soft drink 50p.”

Then there are the costs of accommodation. Smart beachfront apartments in Antalya are listed on Airbnb for around £500 a month. And the weather? Winter temperatures routinely flirt with tall teenagers.

Going further east offers further savings (although it is more expensive to get there). Beach cottages in Kerala are available on Airbnb from around £220. Their leafy verandas offer a tropical backdrop for Zoom meetings, but one obvious downside is that you’ll have to work irregular hours if you’re on Greenwich Mean Time.

And all this is before you bring rent. According to Zoopla, the average tenant in the UK now coughs up nearly £1,000 a month for their digs, rising to £1,700 in London. No wonder so many remote workers are fleeing abroad and joining the growing community of portable tappers known as “digital nomads”. Their ranks include copywriters, social media influencers and even brokers, who, not unreasonably, would rather feel the sand between their toes than sit in the spare room looking out a rain-splattered window in the British winter.

The nomadic life

European nations are cashing in on the economic benefits that so-called digital nomads bring, with many now offering special visas for remote workers.

Portugal was an early pioneer. The D7 visa allows non-EU nationals to work remotely in the country, provided it is not for a Portuguese employer. Compared to other nations, the minimum income requirement is low: applicants must deposit just €8,460 (£7,160) per year into a Portuguese account. It is also a popular route in for many pensioners.

The Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece and Malta – said to be the sunniest place in Europe – have also launched such visas. Italy, meanwhile, has gone further by helping to pay the rent for some digital nomads, provided they settle in depopulated regions, where locals are dying or fleeing to the city.

Some remote workers go even further off-piste. “I’m not interested in going digital nomad with a honey pot,” said writer Damien Gabet, who is hiding from the English winter in Lebanon. “Beirut is a wonderful place. People know how to have a good time, the weather is good and the food is excellent.”

Damien Gabet

Damien Gabet

With less financial pressure, Gabet also has time to teach English and play football with local children. “I can do my work in a beautiful little coffee shop in a quiet part of town, sitting under trees, and then I can go for a smart cocktail and a little bit of dinner, and it’s all going to cost me £15. Living in England is dear because writers don’t get paid much. I am pushed away by England. And I’m drawn to a more relaxed lifestyle in Beirut.”

For Britain’s army of remote workers, it’s a timely reminder that a winter flare-up over gas bills is not inevitable.

Would you like to go abroad to escape the UK’s cost of living crisis? Let us know in the comments below

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