A comprehensive guide, aiming at those considering moving to Malta. All the pros and cons and real ex-pats opinions. The truth about living in Malta.
There is a big difference between travelling to a country for leisure and actually living there. Often we fall in love with the idea of a country, and when we move there – the reality hits us hard. Just like in a relationship. We idealize, make assumptions and tend to forgive or overlook the problems or minor issues. Yet, as time passes, the problems become everyday life.
But wouldn’t it be nice to know about some of these issues upfront? Before we engage in this relationship? Or at least, if you are determined to give it a go, see what you are getting yourself into?
I moved countries quite few times by now. Hence, I had my fair share of surprises and love affairs that I wish never ended, and those I knew would not go anywhere further than a fling. And I know how it feels when expectations are confronted by reality.
Thus, if you are considering moving and living in Malta, I am here to give it to you straight. The pros and cons and the real ex-pat’s opinions. The truth about living in Malta.
Malta has recently become a great relocation option for all types of ex-pats. Over 300 days a year of glorious sunshine, mild winters and relaxed island life – what else could you want. But no place is perfect, and everyone’s preferences are different. Depending on your needs and priorities, Malta could be the best or not such a good option.
But let’s start with the most important question.
Is Malta a good place to live?
Definitely yes! If I had to answer in one sentence, I would undoubtedly say it’s a beautiful, sunny and safe corner of the European Medditarenian where life can be very enjoyable and keeping a work/life balance is extremely easy.
Malta offers not only plenty of year-round sun, stunning beaches and a constant ‘vacation feel’. Malta is also one of the safest European countries to live in and offers an overall pretty good living standard.
If what you seek is a relaxed island life while still having access to cultural events, great entertainment and glorious food – Malta is a place for you.
Malta is a tiny island. It is made up of three main islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino), which put together make the smallest country in the European Union. Given its size, it is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
In recent years, Malta became very popular amongst digital nomads as well as entrepreneurs wanting to base themselves in Europe. With favourable corporate taxes, Malta has welcomed several finance and I-gaming companies and what comes with it, a massive influx of international workers and economic immigrants. This small country seems to attract many ex-pats, which comes with its cons and pros.
Many times I heard that Malta is not what it used to be 10 or 15 years ago. And opinions on whether it is a good or bad thing are divided. Some love how cosmopolitan and open this once very traditional country became. Others disapprove of the number of foreign nationals and the continually changing face of the island. Some are happy with new employment openings and opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Others long for a once quiet and peaceful island where everyone knew everyone.
So if you are considering moving to this sunny and interesting island here are all the pros and cons of living in Malta.
The weather in Malta most of the time is glorious. You can sunbathe and swim in its warm turquoise waters as early as April all the way to mid-November. Malta enjoys around 3000 hours of sunshine per year – one of the highest in Europe. In comparison, London only enjoys around 1500 hours of sun per year.
What can I say? In Malta, you can enjoy the sun most of the year, with summer spanning over 7 months which is the biggest advantage of living in Malta.
The weather in Malta can get crazy though. Especially in winter. With extreme weather changes, in a span of 6 hours, you can see a thunderstorm with a downpour and clear blue skies a few hours later.
Winter storms in Malta can get quite violent as well. I have heard many stories about the 2019 storm with waves so high that fish was thrown from the sea into the streets, and balconies of seaside apartments were swept away. But don’t worry -this was the biggest storm Malta has seen in 37 years.
And once the sun comes out, you can easily walk around the town in your T-shirt or enjoy a picnic on the beach in the middle of January. I have recently seen some people sunbathing (presumably tourists) in February – yet this is a bit too extreme for me 🙂
Mid-summer months, especially August, get really hot and humid. With the sea being nearly the same temperature as air and giving only temporary relief, air conditioning will be your best friend. Saying that, if you like hot weather – you will love it. I’d swap rainy and grey skies for hot summer ant time.
As much as Malta enjoys mild Mediterranian winters – the indoors can be pretty cold. Houses are not made for cold weather in Malta, and at times, you will feel colder inside than outside. Comes January and February, you will wear light jackets outdoors but warm socks and woolly sweaters inside the flat.
Lifestyle, Culture and Entertainment in Malta
Culture and Lifestyle
Although Malta is a tiny country, there is plenty to do and see there. The way I see it, there are more opportunities to keep the work/life balance in a country like Malta, then it is in a big city like London. Yes, entertainment options might be limited. There are only a certain number of cinemas or theatres or cultural events, but something has to give. But in return, you will get endless opportunities to spend time outdoors, relax on the beach or sip G&T in a promenade bar while watching boats sail by.
Malta’s history dates 7,000 years back of history; therefore, the Maltese Islands are steeped in heritage. Its history is fascinating, and there is plenty of archaeological sites, Medieval monuments, or Baroque architecture to explore. Also plenty of museums of fine art, the National Museum of Archaeology and many more.
There are also many annual festivals combining entertainment and art with Valetta’s Notte Bianca and Malta Jazz Festival, amongst others.
I was never bored in Malta. Whether it was a dinner with friends, a Comedy Night in Valetta followed by a visit to the famous Bridge Bar or an evening spent in Birgu during the Festival of Lights. There is always something going on if you are willing to look for it. I also loved the open-air cinema and dinner experience in Buskett Château- highly recommended!
And the nightlife? There is plenty of late bars and clubs mainly located around the Sliema and St Julians area, with the infamous Paceville being a centre of the clubbing scene. For more sophisticated tastes, there are plenty of beach clubs located all around the island, like Cafe del Mar near Malta’s Aquarium or 1926 Beach Club at the Sliema waterfront.
If you are coming from a big city or a larger country you might miss some possibilities that big city life offers. The same goes for self-development, education or courses, especially for adults. I struggled to find flexible photography courses and searched for months for a vibrant salsa scene. But yet again, it all comes down to your priorities. Being a small country, Malta has limited options in this area, but there is always a way. During my time in Malta, I still felt like my entertainment options were greater than they were in a small Spanish town I lived in before my relocation.
The best thing about living in Malta are outdoor activities and an excess of all types of beaches, picturesque coastal and country walks and of course, Comino and Gozo islands. How about popping on a ferry on your day off and spending a day at Comino’s Blue Lagoon, where you can take a jet ski or banana ride? Fancy some quiet and relaxed time away from the hustle and bustle of tourist resorts? You can spend a couple of days on charming and magical Malta’s sister island of Gozo. Possibilities are endless.
If you like going out for a nice meal – Malta is your place. There is plenty of excellent restaurants across all Malta and Gozo. From sushi through traditional Maltese cuisine to the fantastic Italian eateries – there is something for everyone.
Malta is the place where I finely fell in love with Pizza. Never a pizza eater; even when in Italy, I would always opt for a pasta dish. It was in Malta, where I tasted a Napolitan pizza, and what can I say, my life will never be the same.
Dining out is reasonably priced, and it was one of the main entertainments for my friends and me. You can have a nice meal with a view, with some appetizers and a bottle of wine for €20-30 per head. A budget dinner with one course and a soft drink – between €10 and €15.
People and the ex-pats community
When it comes to people, it is an even bigger mixed bag. You can really see the big gap between older and younger generations here, especially when it comes to tolerance towards other nations.
Don’t be surprised if you hear someone telling you to go back to your own country once you dared to make a complaint. Simultaneously, people can be very helpful and assist you more often than in other, more ‘civilized’ countries.
I could say good morning to strangers and thank you to a bus driver without feeling like a weirdo. People help you on the street whether you need a direction or not feeling well. Yet they can scream at you, in front of your kids for walking your dog on pavement or pretend they don’t speak English when they do.
But I guess it is the case everywhere you go. People have a different opinion on emigration, and the biggest difference is that in other countries, they politely won’t say it to your face, but here, they will. Whether its a good or a bad thing – I will leave it to your personal preferences.
But I have to say that a great majority of Maltese people are lovely and very welcoming. The younger generation, having travelled more and taking advantage of an influx of international companies and people from all over the world – seem to be happy with the growing status and economic growth of their country.
There is a large ex-pat community in Malta. People from all walks of life and for different reasons, choose to relocate to this sunny corner of Europe. For any questions or advice, join the Expats Malta Facebook group. Everyone will be happy to help or give advice, whatever your query. I regularly used it whether I wasn’t sure how to get somewhere or where I could get hardware tools.
A lot of things is happening on Facebook in Malta. You will be able to find accommodation, sell or buy or swap stuff or talk about your Vegan or Keto diet – there is a FB page for everything. This is also a great way to meet other like-minded people and get a feel of the community.
I asked the Expats Malta community for help with this article and they gave me loads of great pointers and all the pros and cons of living in Malta.
Cost of accommodation in Malta
How expensive exactly is rental accommodation in Malta? As for 2021, it can be pretty expensive if you compare it to countries like Spain, Portugal or any Eastern European country. Yet if you compare it to the UK, for example, Malta is still pretty affordable. Prices increased significantly in the last few years due to the influx of Igaming companies and increased demand. You cannot rent a place for yourself for €400 anymore – unlike some older guides claim.
Although, keep in mind that prices are always negotiable. Don’t let the agency prices scare you, as you can often get the apartment much cheaper if you are prepared to negotiate hard.
Prices will vary depending on the location. Sliema and St Julian’s s are areas most popular amongst international workers and digital nomads. Consequently, the prices in those areas will be much higher. Apartments with sea views or located directly on the coast will also be more expensive.
A one-bedroom flat with a sea view in Sliema or Balluta Bay will cost you a minimum of €800 per month with the same type of apartment costing even €200 less further into the town.
If you are prepared to drive, then the further North of the island to go, the cheaper the rent will be. With that in mind, take into consideration traffic and parking problems – more on this later on.
General rental accommodation price breakdown depending on size and location in Malta:
Prices brackets depending on the standard and type of location (beach, amenities, views)
- Studio flat in Sliema, Balluta Bay, Ta’ Xbiex and St Julian’s area – €500 – €600
- One-bedroom apartment in Sliema, Balluta Bay, Ta’ Xbiex and St Julian’s area – €600 – €800
- Two or three-bedroom apartment in Sliema, Balluta Bay, Ta’ Xbiex and St Julian’s area – €700 – €1300 (of course, you can pay more, all the way up to €3000 for an extra luxurious apartment with a roof terrace and swimming pool – the sky is the limit here)
- Townhouse in Sliema, Balluta Bay, Ta’ Xbiex and St Julian’s area – €1200 (very basic and hard to get by) – €1800 (more realistic yet you will get at least three, most often four bedrooms and at least one patio and roof terrace). A townhouse can go all the way to few thousands a month depending on the standard.
Deduct at least €200 if you choose to rent up North or more inland like Mellieha, Mosta, Birkirkara or Bugibba.
Warning: Most of the apartments advertised by the agencies are not available or have been rented a long time ago. Pictures of those apartments are used to attract people who are then told that this apartment isn’t available anymore, however, we have … Then they will show a completely different apartment with prices not matching the ads either. I know people living in a lovely townhouse apartment for a year now who has just seen it advertised online. Be firm and stand your ground. You will be shown the worst first. Stick to your budget and the standard required.
The quality of rented accommodation varies greatly. Make sure you see the apartment before renting it out. Pictures very often don’t reflect the actual state of the property. Do check if the appliances are in working order and the general condition of the apartment. Maltese landlords tend to try and minimize the amount of money they invest in rental accommodation. But you will be able to find an abundance of newly built and brand new apartments as a new one literally appears every day.
Bills are most of the time charged on top of your rental price, and it is a common practice that landlords take €50 per person upfront towards the bills. But that’s a practice, not law – so this can be negotiated.
€50 per person per month is, however, pretty accurate as there will be some months when you pay less and some when more (with the perfect weather during spring and autumn, there will be no need for airconditioning or heating)
The general cost of living in Malta
Groceries and shopping
Malta is an island. Therefore, a lot of goods are imported – and this comes with the price. Opt for local fruits and vegetables sold directly from the vegetable vans or via local online markets like Mgar Farm. Quality will be better, and vegetables will be fresher and cheaper.
Market shelves are full of local but also imported goods from Italy and other neighbouring countries. There is plenty of Balkan or Eastern European products as well as UK imported goods. But yes, you guessed it – all more expensive. Opt for local produce of which you will find plenty, in order to save money.
If you have some special dietary requirements – plenty of Vegan, Vegetarian, gluten-free, even Keto options can be found on market shelves these days.
When it comes to groceries cost of living in Malta, ex-pats claim it can be anything from €50 up to €150 per week/per person depending on your requirement. If you are willing to shop in cheaper shops like local markets or Lidl and haven’t got any specific dietary requirements – €50 per person per week is entirely doable. Once you decide to eat more organic, maybe vegan, fancy fresh fish or some quality red wine to go with your dinner – the cost will go up.
Internet and communication
There are three major internet and phone providers in Malta: GO, Melita, and Epic (former Vodafone). Epic tends to offer the most reliable service in Malta, as well as many package deals. The most popular due to their prices are Go and Melita. GO offers free installation and Melita charges a €75 installation fee.
Monthly internet costs range from around €15 per month for the slower plans to around €100 per month for the fastest connections.
There are Free (public) Wi-Fi hotspots across all of Malta and Gozo.
Currently, there are 192 free Wi-Fi spots across Malta and Gozo and most public gardens in Malta and Gozo (like the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens in Valletta) have free and open Wi-Fi coverage.
Wireless Internet is also widely available throughout Malta and Gozo in many hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.
Getting around Malta
Commute and transport in Malta is such a broad and controversial topic. It could probably make a separate article. Locals have a joke describing the Maltese style of driving, saying, “We neither drive on the left nor the right, we drive in the shade.”
Malta is a small island that has seen a significant influx of ex-pats in recent years, with infrastructure not prepared for it at all. On top of that, Maltese are well known for their love of cars, and many households own more than one vehicle. Pair this with narrow roads, minimal parking space and some ancient narrow roads – you get the idea.
For many of my friends and me, one of Malta’s most significant advantages is that nowhere is too far to go. After living in London for many years, I love being able to walk to work or use transport only on special occasions. I lived in Malta for nearly two years – I have seen almost every corner of the island. I have not had to purchase a car or spend hours on the bus or train.
Public transport in Malta is cheap. If you get a Tallinja card, a trip will cost you €075. A €20 credit on a Tallinja card goes a really long way. Busses are pretty frequent yet not always reliable. They hardly ever adhere to a timetable so I wouldn’t even bother with that. But most recently, it has definitely improved with the option of life timetable that the Tallinja app offers. I used busses a lot and manage to get to nearly every corner of the island during my escapades.
Driving is an entirely different story. The biggest complaint you will hear from people living in Malta is that driving here is atrocious. Roads are narrow and often not maintained for years. The driving skills of many local drivers leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, drink driving is pretty acceptable, as well. Traffic tends to be pretty bad in bigger towns. Many taxi drivers explained to me that it is mainly due to drivers not having any consideration for others. The list could go on.
Outside of the town, some country roads can be ridiculously narrow. Two cars won’t be able to pass, so the horn is used as a notification device before each corner. Then, if there isn’t enough space, one of the cars will have to reverse until there is enough room so another vehicle can pass. This always makes me laugh.
We rented a car quite few times, and I even braved driving in Malta on one occasion. I never experienced it to be so bad. Though, I have seen a car swaying out of the road for no apparent reason (hmmm…). So driving is definitely not one of the best things about living in Malta.
Luckily, there is Bolt! Uber-like taxi service is very popular and widely used in Malta. With very reasonable prices and great service, this was my preferred way of commute after busses, and I never had to spend a fortune.
Malta’s Development and Infrastructure
Malta has drastically changed its face in the last decade. The country is developing fast, and this as well comes with its pros and cons.
With Malta being an extremely popular tourist destination – getting in and out of the country is very easy. Malta’s airport operates flights to the majority of the World’s popular destinations. Also, flights to Malta are much cheaper these days, thanks to competitive prices by low-cost airlines.
Unfortunately, with the growing popularity amongst international companies as well as their workers – Malta has become a perpetual building site. My heart was breaking seeing a traditional house demolished for the luxury apartment or office building to be erected in its place. And I am not the only one being sad seeing the unique architecture of Malta disappearing under the blanket of modern infrastructure.
The biggest complaint amongst ex-pats living in Malta (and everyone, really) is a constant view of construction, cranes and building sites accompanying by dust and noise. If you moved to a lovely, quiet penthouse today, the chances are that in a few weeks, and there will be a construction site growing right next to you.
Hopefully, in the future, we will see some legislation protecting both Maltese architectural heritage as well as the quantity and quality of investment and construction in Malta.
Getting things done in Malta
Things are not very efficient in Malta, and bureaucracy is tragic. Getting basic things done like renewing a residency card or changing the address on your ID card, or opening a bank account – can be very baffling. If only it was taking a long time – I could live with that. After living in Spain for several years, I am used to the ‘slower pace of life’. Yet when things just don’t get done or get done in a weird, unlogical way – this is just frustrating.
I set up a post redirection while I was arranging the change of the address. Half of my post came to the new address and another half (later on) to the old one. Luckily a kind new tenant found me via FB and handed me my new driving licence.
In order to open a bank account, a friend of mine was asked to bring hundreds of pieces of paperwork. She gave up and opened an international bank account in Poland with her ID only.
I personally have a pretty poor experience with banking in Malta. Therefore I cannot be impartial. But I have a feeling that many ex-pats share my frustration. There are two main banks in Malta – HSCB and BOV. I will not be reviewing their banking services; I will just say that I have never been this frustrated with the banking services before. But I know plenty of people who are perfectly happy and never had any issues.
Saying that changing my UK driving licence to Maltese went pretty smooth, so it can also be a mixed bag.
Living in Malta – Important General Information
- Currency – Euro
- Official Language – Maltese and English
- Driving – On the left side
- Timezone – Central European Standard Time Zone (GMT+1)
- Safety – Malta is one of the safest countries in Europe to travel and to live in. Travel Safe-Abroad gave Malta a safety score index of 78.
Malta’s Health Care – Malta’s state healthcare system is available to all Maltese residents and is funded by weekly social security contributions that all employers and employees pay (dependants are covered by employed family members). Malta’s Healthcare system is also regarded to be one of the best in Europe and in 2000 was ranked fifth in the world ahead of the United States of America and of the United Kingdom. Free state healthcare is available for:
- All citizens of Malta.
- Legal residents (Ordinary, Permanent or Long Term) who pay social security contributions, either employees or those who are self-employed Those deemed exempt from making social security contributions (mainly retirees.)
- Those deemed exempt from making social security contributions (mainly retirees.)
Of course, Private Health Care is also widely available in Malta and has become increasingly popular amongst ex-pats. This article will give you more in-depth information on both state and private healthcare in Malta.
I really enjoyed my time in Malta. This is a beautiful country with the best sunsets I have seen in Europe. Its sea is incredible and weather to die for. I felt safe, welcomed and very well entertained. If you fancy relocating to Malta I have one piece of advice – just do it!
Try it for yourself and see if this is your corner of the world. There is always something to complain about, no country is perfect. Important is to find what ticks your fancy, and who knows, Malta might be just that 🙂