Barcelona to London: Top tips from the world’s most famous commuter

Priced out of London and looking for a better life-work balance, he decided to set up home in Barcelona and commute back and forth to his job in the British capital. Sam Cookney shares his top tips for a smooth commute.

Barcelona to London: Top tips from the world's most famous commuter
After nine years in London, Sam Cookney relocated to Barcelona but kept his job in London. Photo: Sam Cookney

He first told The Local back in October 2013 how, having done the sums, it could feasibly be cheaper swap his residence in London for a flat in the Catalan capital, make the 930-mile commute a couple of times a week and still save €387 (£330, or $530 according to prices and exchange rates at the time)

Three months ago, the 32-year-old who works in social media, decided to do just that and is now enjoying a sunshine filled social life in Barcelona returning to London half a dozen times a month.

His story went viral, an example of how property prices had spiraled out of control in London and coinciding with a campaign pitch by London Labour mayoral candidate Tessa Jowell who argued it was now cheaper for a London worker to commute from Spain than live within central London.

An expert at the five-hour commute between his flat in Barcelona and his office in London via Barcelona’s El Prat and Gatwick Airport, the world’s most famous commuter shares his tips with The Local.

1. Booking flights

Firstly, never assume the budget airlines are the cheapest option – just this week I flew British Airways to London, as bizarrely they were the cheapest of all the airlines that particular day. I use to compare routes.

2. Save money on water

Take an empty bottle of water with you to the airport. Barcelona’s Terminal 1 water fountain near the FX bureau dispenses disappointing lukewarm water, but the one next to Pans and Company is ice cold – magic. It saves you spending €3 every trip, which soon adds up.

3. Buy your friends a drink

The Duty Free opens at 6am – when you tell London friends a litre of Tanqueray is currently on offer at €13, you suddenly find an active social life awaiting your arrival.

4. Avoid the germs

A mini bottle of hand sanitiser – essential.

5. GSOH? Not always appreciated

Kurt Geiger shoes have a long strip of metal in their base – it’s a bizarre quirk of the brand that’s known to airport security across Europe. The UK metal detectors seem to be more finely tuned than Spain’s, and always seem to pick them up. After a dozen full body gropes, you give up and realise it’s easier to simply take them off and put them in the scanner. (Do not say “to be honest, I just appreciate the human contact” to the man touching you down again. My sense of humour was *not* appreciated by Gatwick security).

6. Enjoy the views

On the morning flight out, the A seats are the best – the plane banks left up the coast, and you get a great view of Barcelona waking up.

7. Follow the cabin crew

If you’re not in a rush on the way home, take one of the local buses back into the city. They’re a bit slower, but are part of your T-10 pass, so only cost 1€ each way. They’re generally full of cabin crew, which suggests they’re a wise life choice.

8. Avoid the maze and always choose cava over champagne

The quickest route through the obligatory Duty Free is straight on. I know it looks tempting to wriggle in and around the various maze-like stands en route to the exit, but it’s an illusion – just go straight. If you’re lucky, you may get a free shot of whisky (not recommended at 6am, however). There’s a new Moët bar too. This is best avoided. You’re much better off with a decent cava like a Juvé Y Camps, a Mestres, or a Gramona.

9. Come and say hello!

Spot me in the morning? Best to solemnly and silently nod. I’ll understand. Spot me in the evening? Let’s grab a G&T and change the world.

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