The Cayman Islands is famous as a tax haven with beautiful beaches, but a British woman who moved there during the pandemic says the cost of living is enormous.
Claire, whose surname i agreed to withhold, decided to leave west London for the offshore financial centre in November 2020, when the UK capital was entering another Covid-19 lockdown.
Lured by the fact the archipelago had no restrictions except for a two-week quarantine period upon arrival, the 30-year-old and her partner moved to George Town, the capital of the idyllic islands.
But the marketing and communications professional, originally from Suffolk, said that “despite the tax-free salaries, you’d be naive to think it’s a tax-free lifestyle”.
The former British Airways flight attendant pointed to the fact that the Cayman Islands has been ranked the world’s second most expensive country to live in.
“It really is an expensive place to live,” she said, adding that it would only be feasible for her to stay if she kept progressing in her career.
While there’s no tax on corporations or income, taxes on everything else are high. Claire says a pack of Waitrose bacon costs CI$16 (£15.80) in the supermarket, and three peppers come in at CI$9.99 (£10).
The average rent on a two-bedroom property in one of the main areas is CI$2,400 (£2,408), which is comparable to the City of London. The website Numbeo puts estimated monthly costs for a single person, excluding rent, at £1,440 in the Cayman Islands, compared to £754 in the UK.
With property prices being “super high”, the couple intend to return to the UK within the next five years.
However, while the couple only planned to stay for 18 months, three years on, Claire says they are in “no rush to head back”.
“The surroundings, the zero commute, post-work sunset dips and Saturdays on the water just don’t compare to anything else. We rarely travel further than 5km and I’m definitely not ready to face a return to the London Underground,” she said.
She estimates that her salary is around 11 per cent more than she would earn for the same in London – and she doesn’t pay tax. Her partner works in financial services, and jobs in finance and law are “so good that people in those sectors can make serious money”, she adds.
Claire said that what made them want to stay was the “exceptional” lifestyle of weekends spent by the beach, which also helps to minimise costs.
She hailed the region for its “incredible” sense of community, with people “throwing themselves wholeheartedly” into friendships as they become each other’s support network while far from their homecountry.
With activities being quite limited on the island, sports take centre stage as they are the “best way to meet people”, Claire added.
“I found myself learning how to play Gaelic Football at the ripe old age of 28 and love it,” she said.
“My boyfriend returned to playing rugby 10 years after hanging up his boots – just for the social aspect.”