Living in Malta

10 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Malta

Online you’ll hardly ever read anything negative about Malta. Googling will find you reading things like – Malta: the Mediterranean on a dime, the island with 300 days of sun. You might stumble upon companies luring in skilled professionals with “live the Mediterranean lifestyle” and expat reports on the low cost of living and all around livability of Malta. Just over a year ago I started dreaming of living in Malta – a Mediterranean island paradise. I spent hours scanning Pinterest and reading the very few blogs I found from expats living in Malta. Photos of Valletta and the brilliantly turquoise seas were hard to believe to my American suburb eyes. When I found out that the economy is booming, jobs are plentiful and English is Malta’s official business language – I was convinced. We would make Malta our home.

As the days came closer to our first flight into Malta, I imagined myself living seaside, sailing on the weekends with my Maltese friends in their yachts and eating Greek salads. When we first arrived in Malta, it was a little dream come true (minus the sailing with my Maltese friends part, that never happened, and instead of Greek salads I’ve been munching on pastizzis). Anyway, for us, living in Malta was so much of a little dream come true that I thought I better not write about Malta on the internet because I would rather keep the island to myself (there’s an over-population problem as it is).

Now it has been a year living in Malta and my once curious, awe-inspired eyes have settled. I live a pretty standard life as I would back in the states. In the course of a year, I have experienced enough to objectively provide some brutally honest information (positive and negative) that could come in handy for those thinking about moving to Malta.

1. Island delays

island delays malta
Island delays go both ways

You’re going to have to get used to a completely different tempo. Everything just takes longer. We’re talking DMV waiting room agony long. This can be a struggle for people from very organized and efficient countries *cough my German boyfriend and family*.

My bus pass took over a month. Anything government or administrative, may get lost or, yep, just drag on over months. I feel incredibly lucky that my work permit even happened.

On that note, if you work for a Maltese company, in my experience, something that would normally take a week you can just multiply by some multiple of 3 and add 10. At first this was entirely frustrating. Not only do I come from fast-paced California but I’ve been working with startups and entrepreneurs for most of my professional life where there’s less bureaucracy and corporate red tape.

But hey, island delays go both ways. Being late to work or an appointment for instance is not such a big deal. You can start when you get there. Deadlines are flexible. People can wait, things can be extended. Punctuality is not a thing and I’m totally okay with that.

2. Malta’s booming economy (meaning heaps of jobs)

portomaso malta
Malta’s controversial skyscraper, housing several igaming and financial companies.

The employment rate in Malta is something crazy like 95%. There are so many jobs thanks to the igaming and gambling industry that get major tax breaks to open up in Malta.

Maltese companies are regularly hiring and the restaurant scene is never short of business.

You can find a job from the popular job search engines – keepmeposted and Jobs in Malta, in the local papers, on Facebook, direct from the company websites and from recruitment agencies.

The minimum wage in Malta is around €750 a month – that’s like working in a café or shop. The average mid-range Maltese salary is around €1500 and if you work at a igaming company you can expect €2-3k per month for entry to mid-level jobs. Paired with the relatively low costs of living, Malta is definitely livable.

3. Malta has a traffic, pollution and overpopulation problem

traffic malta
Traffic in Malta

Malta is totally totally overpopulated. People, cars and buildings – it can sometimes feel like an absolute infrastructure-less mess and I know being an expat in this tiny little country is a part of the problem.

What’s worse than the crowds in the densely populated tourist resort areas (Sliema, St Julian’s and Pacevile), where we happen to live, is the insane insane traffic problem. The Maltese people have a love affair with cars and while having a car culture is something I can completely understand coming from another car loving country, there is definitely progress to be made.

What should be a 15 minute bus ride often takes me an hour stuck in traffic. With narrow streets and high buildings, the fumes from the cars gets stuck between the streets. When I opt to walk in the mornings, I cover my mouth with a scarf just like I did in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

There is effort being made with the newly installed Nextbike stations promoting more green ways of transport. However, ride-sharing and cycling have yet to take off in Malta.

Public transport in Malta deserves an article of its own. I’ll save public transport thoughts for another blog post.

Development is another biggie. I never thought buildings could be such a source of depression. I also never knew how much I would fall in love with the old limestone buildings in Malta. There are so many abandoned homes and sites that could be fully restored which are instead knocked down to be replaced by some outdated concrete monstrosity trying to be modern. Casinos are being scheduled to be built next to medieval fortifications. It’s crazy.

4. Language(s) in Malta

Maltese man
A Maltese man and his hinney

English is one of Malta’s primary languages alongside the Maltese language. Mostly everyone you encounter in Malta speaks English – and they speak it very well. I’ve met many Maltese who even grow up learning English first and then Maltese. Actually, come to think of it, I have yet to meet a Maltese person who doesn’t speak English. So basically, for English speakers, this is ideal. You can work and live in Malta with minimal effort.

It is important to note, that the igaming industry in Malta actually seeks foreigners who are native or fluent in Scandinavian languages, German and even Spanish and Italian.

Italian is also widely spoken amongst older generations of Maltese. In addition, many Italian businesses have come to Malta so Italian speakers can find their niche as well.

Lastly – Arabic. The Maltese language is a Semitic language heavily derived from Arabic. It’s basically Arabic with some English and Italian words thrown in with a unique Maltese dialect. Most Arabic speakers will be able to understand Maltese. However, from what I’ve learned speaking to local translators, Maltese people will unlikely be able to understand Arabic as it has many additional words that are unfamiliar.

5. You better like rocks…

Sliema, Malta
Rocky coastline in Sliema, Malta

For an island, there aren’t that many sandy beaches in Malta. There is one sandy beach that I enjoy in Malta and two that I enjoy in Gozo. So you better get used to the rocks. Malta is not short of gorgeous rocky bays and ladders leading into the absolutely divine sea.

Back to the sand. If you’re dreaming of fine white sand, go somewhere else.

Ladder into the sea, Gozo, Malta
Ladder into the sea at Hondoq Bay, Gozo

Malta’s beaches get really crowded in the summer. I’m from California, a place with seemingly endless coast so the small beaches of Malta lined with rows of deck chairs and umbrellas were a bit of surprise and took adjustment. But the turquoise water is unreal and basically anywhere you go you will find a café right on the beach where you can order thin crust pizza and cold drinks.

6. Malta has freezing cold winters & gorgeous green springsgreen spring in Malta

Malta gets cold. Most houses lack insulation and the cold just chills you to the bone. They say it’s because of the humidity – I don’t really understand but I can tell you it gets freaking cold. Then again, I’m from California.

The spring in Malta transforms the whole landscape. From the scorching hot summer, Malta turns into an arid desert. When spring comes around, the countryside comes alive with life. The hills of Malta and Gozo are vibrantly green and yellow flowers blossom.

7. Amazing lidos around the island

cafe del mar malta
Cafe Del Mar, Malta

If you need a little piece of paradise, head to one of Malta’s many luxurious lidos. International Djs spin at Cafe Del Mar regularly year round. Other popular spots include the new SkyBeach in Paceville and Pearl Beach in Sliema.

cafe del mar malta
Lounging at Cafe Del Mar, Malta

8. Claustrophobia

I mentioned Malta is a tiny island right?

You can really feel how small the island is during peak hour in the supermarkets and mom and pops. There’s just not a lot of space; everything is smaller in Malta.

There’s also increased privatisation and lack of public spaces.

9. Rent in Malta is skyrocketing for local standards

traditional maltese house
Our traditional Maltese maisonette

I remember reading we could find a three bedroom apartment for €300 per month in Malta. In my dreams. Okay, yes this is possible on Malta’s sister island of Gozo. If you live in Gozo you will most likely need to work remotely or work a minimum wage job.

On the main island, where you’ll likely find work, rent is getting a bit out of control when you think about the minimum wage here of €750 a month.

In the main parts of the island where you’re likely to find a job, expect to pay AT LEAST €550 per month for a 1 bedroom and definitely over €750 per month for a 2 bedroom.* You can find 2-3 bedroom apartments for €550 elsewhere on the island with a daily commute.

*Due to many comments from expats, I feel it is important to note that in areas like Sliema, Gzira, St Julians and anywhere nearby this main business area, it will be very difficult to find decent properties for the rates I have mentioned above. You will not find these rates through an agent. It is not impossible as my maisonette pictured above is in the best possible location in Sliema for €580 per month. If you’re determined to live in these areas, finding a place may take a bit of creativity like searching through the classifieds of the Times of Malta every Sunday, making a haggle by offering to pay 6 months of rent up front, or going door to door through the neighbourhoods asking if anyone around is renting within your budget.

10. In Malta, everything is on Facebook

You will find everything you need in Malta on Facebook. It’s Malta’s favourite form of social media and they use it for everything beyond their personal network to selling cars, making friends and reviewing restaurants. Some industries like creative agencies post job openings solely on Facebook, skipping online job boards entirely. Many businesses in Malta use Facebook as their website. So find some groups and make some new friends.

Thinking of moving to Malta? Already live in Malta – what are your pros and cons? 

Sasha

Writer and Founder at DO YOU EVEN TOURIST?
Passionate traveller. Sea gypsy. Digital Nomad.
No fixed plans and not intent on arriving.

14 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Malta

  1. Agree! I just moved here (to St. Paul’s Bay) about two weeks ago, the first thing I noticed was the amount of garbage everywhere!!! Big shock for such a beautiful island. I found myself wanting to buy a large garbage bin to put at the end of my street where most of the garbage piles up (random things like bins, tires, boxes, etc..). And also the dog poop everywhere (in large fields and sometimes on the sidewalks..). I still want to clean up when I walk by areas where garbage piles up… I’ve already taken a lot of stuff I find and repurposed it for my balcony garden (like tires, cement blocks, wooden pallets). It’s funny though, because the garbage truck and men come every morning… so.. I am not sure why things are just dumped everywhere.
    The next was the driving — I drive, and I have a mild panic attack most days. People driving too fast, in too much of a hurry. Also – Google Maps has most streets wrong and had me driving in one-way streets the wrong way multiple times — and the signage for those streets is also poor. Most drivers are very polite though – pulling to the side to let someone through and giving a nice thank you wave.
    The people are so friendly, so kind. It’s nice to chat to someone walking along the road or doing grocery shopping.

    1. Thanks Alanna! Yes the garbage can be bothersome! It’s a lack of education I think. Many people don’t recycle either. It’s awesome you’re taking to a bit of upcycling. If I had a car I would do that too! There are a few beach clean up groups on the island I want to join at some point.

      Driving is scary! Google maps is terrible!

      The people are very friendly and are up for a random chat.

  2. Hi,
    Very honest and observant post. To add my two cents:
    The positive: It’s safe, I don’t worry so much about my son growing up here. One can still find a lot of local and family owned businesses, unlike the rest of Europe where franchises have mostly taken over. Malta has also evolved immensely in the last 10 years (I’ve lived here 9), as when I first moved here you wouldn’t find “European businesses” like healthy food alternatives, playgrounds or childcare past 1pm, etc
    Negatives: uff there’s plenty 🙁 the sidewalks are a danger, forget about strollers or wheelchairs, and even able bodied adults can break an ankle trying to manoeuvre the sidewalks here. The garbage collection is a huge issue, they should adopt the Spanish system where bags are left out after 9pm and collected around midnight. This would prevent the smell and traffic problems since the trucks pick up the garbage during rush hour sometimes. Different prices for foreigners than for Maltese, one needs to be careful or you’ll be taken for a ride every day. Rental prices are mush higher at the moment than you mention, one would struggle to find a 1-bed below 900 in Sliema, especially if one wants a decent place.

    1. Hi Justyna thanks for your thoughts! Yes, I agree I love how safe Malta is! I’m from the US so it is really such a wonderful feeling not to be afraid to walk the streets at night on my own. Must be wonderful not worrying about your son growing up and able to roam the streets just as kids should.

      The local and family owned businesses adds such a pleasant charm. Unfortunately more and more chains are coming like Dominos is even set to come. 🙁 Doesn’t make sense to me with such wonderful Italian pizza options. 🙁

      Wow! I’m sure you’ve seen a lot change in that time! I’m sure there will be plenty more changes to come! Hopefully with the sidewalks and roads! I hope more public spaces and parks will be developed.

      Sidewalks are an absolute mess! I also feel so bad for the elderly or disabled – it must be so hard to get around.

      Garbage – you’re soo right. Definitely improvements to be made!

      The rental prices, I put in my perspective as I signed an agreement just last summer (peak season) for a 1 bedroom in Sliema – great location and old maisonette for 580. That was a steal for this area but you’re absolutely right – most places are advertised as even 800-1000 for a 1 bedroom in this area. Too much! I found this price searching the classifieds in the Times of Malta! Also you can offer to pay for 6 months of rent up front for a lower price (that’s what we did) 🙂

    2. Hi Justyna,
      I plan to move to Malta in a few months. Since you’ve been there for nine years, could you please tell me something more about the weather in Malta, especially in winter. What is the lowest temperature, is it rainning a lot, is it windy? How long does it last? I really don’t like winter 🙁 I thought they have mild winter, but now I get impression that I was wrong.

      1. Hi Sanja, I know this comment was for Justyna but just in case she doesn’t see this I can say a few things but I’ve only experienced one winter…

        The temperature drops to around 13 celsius. So it’s not that cold but there’s humidity and lack of insulation in many houses that can make it feel colder. If you have a house with proper heaters or a fireplace you will be fine.

        It does get windy and the seas got quite violent last winter, destroying a lot of bus stops, boats, park benches, etc..

        There was also quite a bit of rain last winter. During the winter months, it is a good idea to always have an umbrella with you.

        The winter was comparatively short to the long summer.
        December to February – peak winter
        March, April – spring, everything is green and beautiful. The cold and rain mainly pass.
        May – warmer and the water almost becomes swimmable again.
        June to October – swimming weather
        November – Autumn. You don’t see anyone really swimming.

          1. Sasha explained it very well 🙂 one needs to be aware that it’s very cold inside houses/apartments during the winter months, and unless you live in a newer type property it will be difficult (and expensive) to heat up. I’ve spent many a winter evening watching tv while wearing a woolly hat and gloves 😀

  3. I would add something about the excessive fireworks (even during the day!) and the colourful festas throughout summer, but overall I love this post it sums up Malta so well to anybody thinking of moving here. And your maisonette for €580 – wow!! 🙂

  4. You are right about the fireworks. This weekend we had a big dose of fireworks and festas in Sliema. Non stop! I will have to write a post about the fireworks and festas.

    Thank you so much. And yes – that Sliema maisonette will be up for grabs soon as we hope to find a better deal on the island 😛

  5. The worst part of winter is February and its cold, I hate winter myself and after 27 years still can not get used to it. Everything in your wardrobes and drawers feel damp, Its very rare to find central heating so most people use gas fires. If its a rainy winter be careful of flooding in some parts of the island as they can actually be enough to take cars on a water ride. Make sure you have plenty of woolies to keep you warm and as someone said above always carry an unbrella with you just in case. You will find it a bit cheaper to live more in villages than the hot spots of Sliema, st julians and Buggiba because they are mainly tourist places so rents are much much higher, Fireworks normally start around April and you will find every week there is some Village festa going on, So the noise is constant throughout the summer months.

    1. Hi Donna! That’s a good tip! Last year the cars were taken for a ride, crazy!

      Can I ask you if you have any recommendations on how you find housing in the villages? I’m actually looking at moving from Sliema to like Qrendi or Siggiewi but of course most of the agents actually don’t cater to these areas. Is it best going there and looking for TO LET signs and talking to people? Thanks! 🙂

  6. Awesome post, great to see someone writing down their actual experiences as we are just thinking in moving to Malta. We work remotely so maybe Gozo is a even better spot. But I guess we will just look around once we are there and take enough time to know which area is best for us. Offering 6 month rent in advance to get a good price is an excellent tip!

    1. Hi Jascha, as a remote worker I think Gozo is a dream come true. Its a beautiful island and the sort of places you can rent there…are well, you will see for yourself! Its amazing. Definitely rent a car for a week if you arent bringing a car over and explore the area to quickly get to know the islands.

      Enjoy Malta!

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