Living in Malta: An Expat Perspective
Living in Malta: An Expat Perspective
A much-loved tourist destination for sunseekers, Malta is best known for its warm climate and desirable location. Despite attracting visitors from all over the world, the British, Italian, French and Spanish account for the large majority of tourists each year.
This little gem in the middle of the Mediterranean is only 122 square miles. To put this into perspective, the city of London is 4 times the size of the entire country of Malta. Located south of Italy and East of Africa, Malta boasts over 3,000 hours of sunshine every year.
All sounds really idyllic, right? But what is living in Malta like? Not a quick stopover with a suitcase, but actually laying down roots on this small island? As a British ex-pat living in Malta, I’m here to tell you all about what life here is like, and whether it’s something you should consider.
Areas of Malta to Live in
The country of Malta can be split into 3 sections, the north and south, and the central area. Starting with the north, the popular locations include Mellieha, certain parts of St. Pauls Bay and Bugibba.
Mellieha is beautiful, and peaceful, and boasts some of the best views. That said, it’s much more of a holiday spot for tourists, or for somebody living in Malta looking for a break. Your commute to work is likely to be a nightmare from Mellieha (more on that later), so it isn’t the most practical. St Pauls Bay and Buggiba are both very popular with tourists. Although there is still some beauty to these areas, it can feel a little run down, especially during tourist season.
The central region includes the extremely popular towns of St Julians, Sliema, and the beautiful capital of Valetta. These areas have the highest percentage of ex-pats because of the nightlife and proximity to workplaces. The large majority of jobs within I-Gaming (Malta’s biggest market outside of tourism) are based here. Again, like a lot of the country, these areas attract large volumes of foreign visitors during peak season.
If you choose to live in a central area, you can expect to pay higher prices for property. You will also have to deal with a certain level of noise and crowds depending on your specific location. It’s for these reasons, that a lot of Maltese choose not to live in St. Julians or Sliema. That said, if you want an active social life and don’t mind what comes with that, it’s a great option.
In the southern parts of Malta are charming towns like Marsaxlokk and Birzebugga. Much quieter than the central areas, this part of the country is a favourite for families and the older generation.
The Cost of Living in Malta
Living in Malta doesn’t come cheap, with average rent prices coming in not much lower than the average salary. Honestly, you can live very comfortably in Malta if you earn a nice income, but if you don’t, it can be pretty miserable because of these costs.
A one-bedroom apartment in a central area will set you back around €800. This rises to €1,500 for a 3 bedroom. Bearing in mind that this is based on fairly basic accommodation, you would be looking at more if you wanted a nice finish. As of 2020, Sliema was rated as the most expensive area to live in, with the average one-bed costing almost 900 euros.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most important costs you can expect when living in Malta:
|One-bedroom Apartment (Central)||€800|
|Utilities for an 85m2 Apartment||€82|
|1kg of chicken breast||€7|
|Milk and a loaf of bread||€2.50|
|One month bus pass||€26|
One of the most affordable things in Malta is public transportation, costing only €26 per month for an adult bus pass. It’s not overly expensive to go out for a drink, or a meal, either. The biggest expense you will face is household costs.
The average salary in Malta is only €1,150, so it doesn’t leave much left over for the average person. The average salary within the I-Gaming industry is higher than this, but it’s difficult to measure. So what you earn will depend on what you do, and within which sector.
The Food in Malta
Quite honestly, you can get whatever you want in Malta. There is traditional Maltese cuisine, including the popular delicacy of the rabbit. Who can forget about the trusty Pastizzi, too? The dreamiest combination of pastry and cheese (or many other fillings) that can be grabbed on the go for less than 50 cents.
Because of the Italian influence, you will find a wealth of pizza and pasta joints that make great quality food. The Italian food in Malta is of a much higher standard than that in the UK. Equally, because of the British influence, you can also get fish and chips, burgers, and pretty much anything else.
Seafood is incredibly popular here and Malta is renowned for the quality of its fish dishes, as you would expect from a country surrounded by water. You will find the best seabass and salmon you have ever tasted, especially in a fancier restaurant.
I was hard-pressed to find a decent Chinese in Malta but ended up enjoying one or two. The one thing that drives me a little crazy is the lack of quality Indian. I must have tried 10 different Indian places and I’ve been underwhelmed by every single one, so there’s definitely a gap in the market.
Fast-food-wise, there are plenty of takeaways. There are a ton of McDonald’s and a handful of Burger Kings, but at the time of writing this, only 2 KFCs on the island – and they don’t sell gravy! All in all, I encourage you to try some traditional Maltese cuisine to get a feel for what’s available and a little history of the island. But, if you’re a fussy eater like me, you can get your hands on anything here.
The Maltese Climate
If you ask people why they chose Malta, most of them will say the weather. It’s true, the island has a fantastic climate, including a very long and warm summer. But let me tell you about the humidity. You have felt nothing like it, trust me.
With an average daily humidity of 70% and higher, the summer can get unbearable. Even worse is the winter. A humidifier is needed in the winter if you wish to avoid always feeling like your bedding and clothes are damp. You do get used to it after a while, but it’s a lot at first.
From early April right through to the end of October, Malta is predominantly summer and warm. Really heating up in the later summer months, with July and August having average day temperatures of 33c. The start of the year from January through to March can be pretty wet and miserable, but we can forgive this for the 300+ days of sunshine we get in return.
This climate means that evenings are spent outside and weekends are spent at the beach. It’s fantastic for your quality of life and it’s had me wondering for a long time whether I could ever trade it in and head back to the UK. The truth is, probably not.
The Benefits of Living in Malta
There is a lot to summarise, and a lot I haven’t mentioned. To make it easier to digest, here’s a list of the best parts of living in Malta:
- The Maltese ‘charm’. It has a rich history and friendly people, and there’s something wonderful about the Alfredo lifestyle. Every café is full of people having breakfast, and every bar has ex-pats in after work, it’s such a social place. Things move slower here, and although this can be frustrating, it’s wonderful if you slow down, too.
- The weather is great. The humidity can be a real killer and takes some managing, but overall you can’t make any complaints. We get a load of sunshine and a very long summer. Did I mention sunlight from 6am until 9pm in the height of summer?
- Eating out is affordable (I’m talking a gastropub here, not a fine-dining place) and so is having a cocktail. Happy hours are available all the time, so there are plenty of bargains to be had.
- Malta has a strong history with the UK, and so the large majority of people here speak English. The two National languages are Maltese and English. This makes it very easy to adjust and settle in.
- There are plenty of job prospects within the gambling industry. From customer service, to finance, marketing and much more. The starting salaries are usually higher than in the UK.
- You will meet people from all over the world, but the most common nationalities in Malta include those from Finland, Sweden and Serbia.
The Drawbacks of Living in Malta
It’s not all rosy, and in the name of being honest, it’s only fair that I highlight the cons of living in Malta too.
- There is a lot of ongoing construction in the central areas, especially the likes of St. Julians. As the industry continues to grow, so does the demand for new offices and apartments. It really can feel like a concrete jungle of construction sometimes. That said – if you don’t live near it (sometimes easier said than done) it’s avoidable. You won’t be able to look at any view in the whole country without seeing a collection of cranes, though.
- Impatience is rife here. It’s ironic really. The Maltese can be incredibly impatient, despite not being in a rush themselves. You will hear horns beeping all the time, including if you don’t move your car within a millisecond of the green light.
- The quality of customer service in Malta is nowhere near what it is in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, you can, of course, get good service here. But it’s more than often just average, and it takes a little getting used to.
- The infrastructure of the roads needs dramatic improvement. It can cause a lot of traffic. Although not a huge problem for those that aren’t travelling far, it’s this exact reason why living any more than a few miles from work just isn’t feasible.
- The ex-pat community can be VERY negative. Like very, very negative. You have to learn to ignore it and make up your own mind.
Living in Malta: The Conclusion
Look, I love living in Malta. The country is far from perfect, and my God, can it get on your nerves sometimes. But honestly, I love living here. I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever, but it’s taught me the world is a big place and I can’t see myself going back to the UK.
I now live for my after-work drinks, morning coffee and spending most of my life outside. The sun, the crystal blue sea and the warm weather will never be boring. Whether Malta or somewhere else in the world, it’s so worth trying to live in a new place, you might just love it. If you’re considering moving abroad, don’t forget to check out our guide on the things to think about before you do.