Avoiding the High Cost of Living: Commuting to Work in Basel
There is no denying that more people are now opting for a longer commute to work. In fact, according to Michael Page, 1 in 10 Brits would travel more than 3 hours in the morning for their dream job.
There are various reasons people choose to commute to work rather than live closer to their workplace. Most commuters report that they do so to avoid the high cost of living in cities where their offices are based. Others say it is a lifestyle choice.
With 37,000 cross-border commuters, Basel faces the same situation as many expats working in the city choose to live outside of Basel, opting for a longer daily commute to work.
Why commute to Basel?
Although salaries are high and taxes are low in Switzerland, general living costs are considerably higher than most other European countries. Not only are housing, food, clothing and leisure activity costs more expensive, however, a large proportion of an employee’s gross income is automatically deducted for health insurance.
In fact, as a result of Switzerland’s high cost of living, Zurich, Geneva and Basel featured in Mercer’s top 10 most expensive cities in the world in 2017.
Despite the cost of living, Switzerland remains a popular destination for expats - the 12th most popular destination amongst British expats, to be exact. However, 1 in 6 of those employed in Basel either live in Germany or France to avoid the high living costs while benefiting from generous Swiss salaries.
Relocation to France
The majority of expats opt to live in the Alsace region in France, located on the west bank of the river Rhine in northeastern France.
The following Alsatian villages and towns are popular amongst expats who want to live near Basel - Hegenheim, Hesingue, Leymen, Huningue, Hagenthal le bas, Hagenethal le haut, Blotzheim and St Louis.
However, if you don’t mind a longer commute, you will also have the option of the following villages - Folgensbourg, Muespach, Ranspach le bas, Ranspach le haut, Attenschwiller and Sierentz.
Located in the Haut-Rhin area in Alsace in north-eastern France, St Louis is a small village with a population of around 20,000. As the crossroad of 3 countries – Switzerland, France and Germany – St Louis has a unique transport network including EuroAirport. Many expats who work in Basel yet decide to relocate to France, live in St Louis given its short distance to Basel.
The quick 8-minute journey on the SNCF train (the national train operator in France) from St Louis to Basel SBB makes the crossing of the French-Swiss border a short daily commute.
Trains are frequent with 48 trains per day travelling from St Louis to Basel SBB. The first train departs at 05:12 and the last train departs at 22:31.
The endearing, medieval fairy-tale like village of Colmar, nestled amongst vineyards, canals and classy boutiques is also another popular destination for expats working in Basel.
A little further than St Louis, the average train journey from Colmar to Basel SBB is 58 minutes with the fastest journey lasting 45 minutes. Each day 29 trains travel on this route with the first train leaving Colmar at 05:50 and the last train departing at 23:59.
So if you don’t mind a slightly longer commute, this exceptional town also known as “Little Venice”, brimming with century-old half-timbered houses, idyllic scenery, limitless shopping opportunities and exquisite cuisine, may just be perfect for you.
Points to consider before relocating
Whether you choose to live in France, Germany or Switzerland, this will affect the health insurance you pay for and the cost of such insurance. Whilst you may opt for the tri-frontiere insurance enabling you to choose whether you receive medical care in France Germany or Switzerland, as a Swiss worker you can always take Swiss health insurance SWICA, however, the insurance costs are expensive especially if you reside outside of Switzerland.
If you are relocating with your family and have children who attend school, the available schooling options is another aspect to consider before your big move. There are currently no English-speaking international schools in the Alsace region of France so if this is your preferred option, you will have to send your child to an international school in Basel.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of reputable French private schools in the Alsace region for college age upwards which offer English and are popular with expats, costing only a fraction of the Swiss fees.
If you are interested in a move to Basel or anywhere else in the world and would like to speak to Kingpin International about international tax opportunities, please contact a member of the team. Alternatively, please browse our current international tax vacancies.