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An Expat’s Guide to Living in Malta

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I first visited Malta during a short vacation when I was still living in the UK and I could not have predicted that I would move to this country 4 years later. Yet life is full of surprises, isn't it?

I loved my vacation in Malta and found the country to be beautiful, safe, and gloriously sunny.

But living in a country as an expat or even as a digital nomad is very different from visiting it for a few days.

I lived in Malta for 3 years and had an amazing time. Many of my friends still live there and if I had not quit my job to travel, I would probably still be there! I experienced everything Malta has to offer as a place to live. The great, the good, and the slightly uncomfortable.

That's why I have written this expat’s guide to living in Malta to share these experiences with you. So, let's dive right in and see if the Mediterranean island lifestyle is right for you.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Living in Malta isn't for everyone but for the right person, it's paradise.
🛂Many expats living here are on Work Visa, Student Visa, Retirement Visa, or the relatively new Digital Nomad Visa.
🏠When choosing where to live in Malta, most choose to be in one of the busier areas with more job opportunities, like in Sliema, Gzira, St Julians, or Pembroke.
🤫But for a quieter lifestyle, look to the northern coast or across the channel to Gozo instead.
🛏️When trying to decide where in Malta to live, start off somewhere centrally located and start your apartment hunt from there. Tinja BnB in Sliema is a fantastic home base for when you arrive.
☂️While it's certainly not the cheapest country to move to,
☀️Malta offers a unique lifestyle where beautiful beaches, warm weather, and vibrant nightlife is the norm.

What Is Life Like in Malta?

Malta is a small island country known for its warm Mediterranean climate, crystal clear sea, and rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Malta is also a very controversial and somewhat strange country to live in.

It's a bit like a Marmite - you either love it or hate it!

Amazing Weather

You can go to the beach as early as April and swim in the sea until the end of October. I have also seen brave swimmers in December! Spring and fall are the best months in Malta, with pleasant temperatures, fewer tourists and long sunny days - Malta’s climate is simply fabulous!

But in winter it can get rainy and windy, so do not expect glorious weather all year round. Even if it does not snow in Malta in winter, temperatures can drop to below 10 degrees and the rains can get pretty violent too!

Plenty of Things to Do

Considering the size of the country, there are surprisingly many great things to do in Malta! From the great outdoors, stunning coastal hikes, and a variety of beaches to cultural events, Malta offers a wealth of interesting sights and historic towns.

During the summer months, Malta hosts many festivals and outdoor events, including the Summer Jazz Festival, the famous Festival of Lights in Birgu, the Malta International Fireworks Festival or the vibrant Nottee Bianca in Malta’s capital! In February, the Carnival takes place, which has been the most important event in Malta for five centuries!

Malta’s entertainment scene is also very vibrant. In many towns, you will find excellent restaurants and great bars! Near St Julians, there is even a dedicated party district - Paceville!

But my favorite way to spend summer days and evenings was in some of the great beach bars and fish restaurants by the sea. What could be better than sipping a cocktail or GnT, eating octopus salad, feeling the sea breeze on your face or jumping into the pool?

Here are some of the most epic things to do in Malta:

  • Mdina the Silent City - Mdina, the former capital of Malta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an absolutely magical city. 
  • Valletta - the smallest capital city in Europe and another UNESCO World Heritage Site 
  • Gozo - Malta’s smaller sister island of Gozo is known for its incredible beaches and epic hikes. This is where the famous Azzure Window was located before it sadly collapsed in 2017. 
  • Comino - A small inhabited island famous for the incredible Blue Lagoon.
  • Marsaxlokk - A charming fishing village located in the Southeastern part of Malta. 
  • St Peters Pool - One of the most spectacular yet unusual beaches in Malta. It is a natural pool formation created by surrounded rock platforms and opening to the most glorious crystal clear sea.
  • Dingli Cliffs - The best sunset spot in Malta!
  • Popeye Village - An amusement park which was built on the site of a Film set from the 1980 musical ‘Popeye’.

Challenging Bureaucracy

If you choose to live and work in Malta, be prepared for the notoriously frustrating bureaucracy. Things get done but at a frustratingly slow pace and often not in the nicest manner. Things like sorting out documents, renewing visas, visiting public hospitals, and opening a bank account can make even the calmest person's hair stand on end.

But this is a very Mediterranean trait! You can also find commonalities throughout Southern Europe in countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, or Greece.

After all, a slower and more relaxed pace of life comes at a price.

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Malta’s Health System

On the contrary: Malta has an excellent public healthcare system. Malta’s state healthcare is available to all Maltese citizens and residents who pay monthly contributions.

The Maltese healthcare system is considered to be one of the best in Europe and was ranked fifth in the world in 2000, ahead of countries such as the USA and the UK.

If you're just visiting Malta and won't have access to their public healthcare, I recommend having private health insurance. SafetyWing is a great choice for travelers, nomads, and expats.

Best Areas in Malta to Live for Expats & Digital Nomads

St. Paul's Bay by depositphotos.com

Popular Areas

There are few areas in Malta where you will find the largest concentrations of expats - this is mainly due to the location of the main offices and job market. These include the following areas:

  • Sliema
  • Gzira
  • St Julians and Balluta Bay
  • Pembroke

All of these areas are on the northeast coast of Malta, facing the direction of Sicily. This is where you will find a variety of great restaurants, bars, cafes, plenty of supermarkets and a wonderful seafront dotted with many beaches.

However, these areas are also very popular among tourists, so you can expect some crowds in the high season.

If you decide to find a job in Malta, your office will most likely be located in these areas.

📍If you're interested in living in Malta on the northeast coast like these cities and towns listed above, I recommend you start off at a hotel or vacation rental while you apartment hunt. These are great, well-positioned options:

  • Budget Option: Best Location Apartment: Enjoy a super spacious one-bedroom apartment that won't break the bank yet still put you in the perfect location in Sliema.
  • Mid-Tier Option: Tinja BnB: Want something far more stylish? This loft apartment is centrally located, clean, and pet-friendly.
  • Luxury Option: Doris Suites Sliema: This modern penthouse apartment offers a large balcony, soaking tub, and plenty of space for a high-end stay.

Lesser-Known Areas

Alternatively the quieter but still pretty popular and recommended areas to stay in Malta are:

  • St. Paul’s Bay including Buggiba 
  • Mellieha
  • Marsaskala

Located in the north of Malta, with the exception of Marsaskala in the southeast, these areas are more popular among families and retirees looking for a relaxed and laid-back lifestyle. If you are a digital nomad or work remotely - these could be great options!

📍If you're seeking a life in Malta away from the hustle and bustle from the main towns, try giving the north a chance before you sign a lease. Choose between:

  • Budget Option: Park Lane Boutique Aparthotel: This studio apartment offers a rooftop pool and sweeping ocean views for those who moved to Malta for the sea above all else.
  • Mid-Tier Option: Broadway By The Sea: For more privacy, enjoy this two-bedroom apartment with a private balcony and sea views in St. Paul's Bay.
  • Luxury Option: Seafront Luxury Apartment: Enjoy more space, better natural lighting, and a location in the heart of town at this incredible two-bedroom apartment.

The Quiet Life on Gozo

For those looking for an alternative place to live in Malta, away from the tourist resorts and closer to nature, Gozo, one of the Maltese islands off the northern coast, is a great option.

Gozo is renowned for its spectacular beaches, great coastal hikes, and a very relaxed lifestyle. However, you need to be aware that the only way of getting from Gozo to the main island of Malta is by ferry.

This is another good option though if you're working remotely and don't need to commute to Malta often.

📍Give yourself a taste of the quiet life before you sign a long-term lease. You'll quickly realize if you love it or need a little bit more action. Start off somewhere comfortable and well-positioned in Victoria, like:

  • Budget Option: Ta' Didi B&B: Just outside of Victoria, this bed and breakfast offers breakfast, a swimming pool, and a stay in a historical home to immediately give you the "I'm actually living in Malta" vibes.
  • Mid-Tier Option: Narrow Street Suite: Grab more space at this picturesque one-bedroom apartment centrally located in the heart of Gozo.
  • Luxury Option: Tuta Agrotourism: If you've ever spent time in Italy, you know how wonderful agrotourismi are. Here you're sure to have great food, stunning views, and an incredibly comfortable stay while you apartment hunt.

Getting around Malta

The Maltese often say: we do not drive on the left, we drive in the shade.

That pretty much sums up the driving experience in Malta. As in many Mediterranean countries, Malta is exercising a very relaxed approach to road safety. Driving in Malta is an experience in itself.

Fun fact: The Maltese love their cars and many households have at least 2 cars.

For this reason, my preferred way to get around Malta was by public transport.

Public transportation in Malta is great! I lived there for 3 years and never bought a car. My friend and I rented a car a few times so we had a good sample of driving around, but I much preferred using the buses.

Public transport in Malta is cheap and convenient. You can get a rechargeable Tallinja card, and one bus ride costs €0.75. A €20 credit on a Tallinja card will get you a long way.

Speaking Maltese

People often ask me if you need to speak the Maltese language to live in Malta.

English, together with Maltese, is the official language in Malta and almost everyone speaks perfect English. Learning a few Maltese words and phrases is appreciated by the locals, but not necessary since the country has two official languages.

Finding a Job in Malta

Most expats in Malta work either in the hospitality industry or in the i-gaming and finance sector. Malta is an EU tax haven for businesses, which is why many international companies make Malta their home.

And since English is the country's second official language, Malta is one of the best countries in Europe to find job opportunities without knowing the local language.

Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance in Malta is excellent! With 24 statutory vacation days and a whopping 14 national holidays, you can really enjoy your time off. What's more, you get extra vacation days every year to make up for public holidays that fall on a weekend.

You will be expected to work around 40 hours per week and once your working shift is over there are just so many ways you can enjoy your free time!

Malta has a thriving expat community so it will be easy to make friends and be social.

Cost of Living in Malta

Maltese sea by depositphotos.com

Malta is definitely not the cheapest European destination, and prices are often comparable to those in Western Europe.

Although prices of rental accommodation are still much lower than in the UK, France, or Germany, you still need to be prepared to pay at least €600 for a decent studio flat. Prices vary depending on standard and location, but for example, a one-bedroom apartment in Sliema will cost between €750 and €900.

Grocery prices are also very comparable to those in Western Europe. Malta is more expensive than countries like Spain or Portugal since the majority of products are imported.

Long-Term Visa Options

If you are an EU/EEA or Swiss citizen, you can stay and work in Malta indefinitely but you must apply for a registration certificate.

If you are from a non-European Union country, will have to apply for a permanent residence permit.

A Malta D visa (national visa) is for those who want to move to live, work, invest, and study in Malta and is issued for one year at a time.

There are a few types of D visas and those include:

To apply for one of these visas, you will need to make an appointment at your nearest Maltese Embassy to submit the visa application. If you're moving to Malta for a job offer, the company who hired you should help you through the process.

What I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Malta

There are no mountains, forests, lakes, or rivers

Many affectionately call Malta a rock in the sea. Much of the coastline is rocky and there are more rocky beaches than sandy ones. If you are a nature enthusiast who enjoys hiking in the forests and summiting peaks, Malta might disappoint you.

But in the three years I spent in Malta, I discovered many hidden gems: man-made lakes and forests, dramatic cliffs and hidden beaches, as well as some of the most incredible coastal hikes.

Malta gets crowded!

Malta is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but many dream of moving to this land of sun and warm seas. Due to the size of the country, booming tourism and the large number of expats, you will be surrounded by lots of people, which brings pros and cons.

There is a thriving expat community in Malta and it is very easy to meet people and make friends. But Malta can also be crowded, noisy and dusty.

With the influx of international companies and expats, development has increased. 

Unfortunately, this is not very well regulated by the government, so historic townhouses are being demolished for the modern office or apartment complex to be put in their place.

With that, there is a constant sound of construction, especially in the south of the island.

But don't worry! Even in a small country like Malta, you can find a quiet spot for yourself. Gozo could be a great option. Many say that Gozo is what Malta used to be 20 years ago!

The weather plays a role in the apartment you'll want to rent

It is important to consider the weather when renting a home in Malta. There is no heating in Maltese houses and winters can get cold and damp. It is always better to rent an apartment in a newer building.

Also, you should always view the apartment before renting it. Unfortunately, landlords in Malta are not always the most honest. There are some great real estate agencies that can help you navigate around renting an apartment.

So much happens on Facebook

Facebook will be your best friend. In Malta, everything happens on Facebook. You can buy and sell things, rent an apartment, and ask for any type of advice. Join as many Malta FB groups as possible!

Is Living in Malta Right for You?

Street in Valletta by depositphotos.com

Malta is a stunning and fascinating country and for its size, it packs a lot of culture, things to do, and stunning landscapes.

But Malta is not for everyone.

I highly recommend moving to Malta for a few months and deciding for yourself. Committing to a permanent move without getting a feel for the country is always a bit risky.

But for many, Malta has become a new, permanent home, and maybe it will be for you too.

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