Malta is a tiny island nation which can be found just a few miles south of Sicily, surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. Playing a vital role at the crossroads of European history for centuries, today Malta is a prosperous member of the EU and a magnet for ex-pats seeking some year-round sunshine.
We moved to Malta in late 2016 to live and work there and ended up staying 2.5 years before continuing our travels around Europe. During our time as expats in Malta we experienced many sides to the country, some good and some bad.
If you are an expat considering moving to Malta, here is some advice from both sides of the coin.
10 things we wish we knew before moving to Malta
There’s Unlimited Ancient History
We had no idea about the mind-blowing megalithic temples Malta has before we moved there. It was only after being on the island for a few weeks that we started to seek out some interesting things to do in Malta.
The best of the lot is the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum which is a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating back to around 4000 B.C. This UNESCO site is so precious that only 10 visitors per hour are allowed inside to help preserve it. If you want to visit, make sure that you book tickets well ahead of time.
Parties All Summer Long
Malta is truly the land of fun and fireworks when the communities of the island play host to local village feasts. Also known as ‘festas’ these celebrations can take over entire towns and villages for days and focus around the local parish church. There’s an intense rivalry between villages which each one vying to host the biggest and best party around.
This can either be a major draw, or a massive downside of expat life in Malta, depending on your personality.
The streets are decorated with lights, flags and banners, roads are closed and tables and chairs are prepared for a whole lot of food. Fireworks and explosions are also a big feature of any festa with loud bangs heard all day long. This can come as a surprise when you first move to Malta but you soon get used to the feeling of living in a war zone!
Tasty Pastries on Every Corner
Taking a short walk around any district in Malta you’ll soon notice the prevalence of tiny pastry shops selling freshly baked hot snacks. Known as Pastizzerias, these outlets are where you can find one of the legendary national foods, the Pastizzi. This is a small savoury pastry usually filled with either ricotta or mushy peas.
They only cost a few cents each and make a good snack on the go. However, be aware that a pastizzi is not exactly health food.
One too many of these mixed with other baked delights from a Pastizzeria can see you quickly piling on the pounds. Consume Pastizzis in moderation!
Public Transportation Isn’t Good
Despite being just 246 km2 (95 sq mi), Malta island can be tricky to get around without a car. Most people live and work along the island’s northeast coast between the capital city Valletta and St Julian’s area. This makes the main coastal road here pretty congested at most times of the day
Using public transport isn’t a pleasant experience in the summer months as thousands of tourists add to the strain on the local busses. The best advice to combat this is to either live a walkable distance to your workplace or buy a car and live further away from the main areas.
300+ Days of Sunshine
One of the big selling points of Malta is the 300+ days of sunshine a year. This means while being an expat in Malta you can maintain that year-round tan. Obviously, weather can always throw up some unexpected surprises but it’s true that for most of the year you can wear t-shirts and shorts.
Just be aware that temperatures can creep into the 40’s (Celsius) in the summer months and combined with the humidity it can totally wipe you out. Take it easy and make sure you are renting a place with good air conditioning included.
Well Paid Jobs Are Available
When moving to a new country, finding work can be a big concern. Many gambling and financial service companies have decided to make Malta their home thanks to the favourable tax rates there. This means that well-paid work opportunities can be found depending on your skillset.
We both ended up working as English copywriters with a decent salary. Our combined wage meant we could save up over €20,000 for the next step of our travel adventures in less than a year. Have a look online for work opportunities before you move to Malta as many companies offer a relocation package for the right people.
Overpriced Apartments and Rental Fees are Shocking
When we started looking around for a place to rent we were shocked by the rental prices and agent fees. Most local state agents will charge an extortionate fee of 50% of the first month’s rental cost. This means that you can easily end up paying them €500 or more in fees when renting a new place.
Just a few years ago Malta was known for its low costs of living but with the influx of workers in recent years it is now hard to find even a small apartment for less than €1,000 a month. On top of this, the type of places being offered are not always the best. Poor construction and the humid climate means that mould is a common problem here so look carefully.
There is Constant Construction
One of the major downsides of the country becoming a place for ex-pats to find good jobs is the construction boom that comes with it. As mentioned above the existing housing stock in Malta is not great and can’t cope with the demands of an increasing population.
This has resulted in a relaxation of the planning laws meaning anyone can apply to add more stories on top of their building. A quick scan across the Maltese skyline and you can see a mishmash of cranes and construction sites. The apartment we lived in had builders working next door and across the street 7 days a week. The dust and noise drove us crazy sometimes!
English is an Official Language
A lot of people don’t realise that alongside Maltese, English is counted as an official language. It is estimated that 88% of the local population speak good English meaning that communicating is no problem at all.
The places we worked had a high percentage of Scandinavian ex-pats meaning we were more likely to hear Swedish being spoken than Maltese. Of course, it’s always good to pick up some local phrases and learning a bit of Maltese will go a long way to prove that you’re not just another tourist.
Cheap Flights Across Europe
Malta can make an ideal European base because of the good air connections with many cities across Europe. Malta International Airport is relatively small and easy to reach from anywhere on the island making weekend city breaks in other countries a real option. For example, a flight to nearby Scilly for some tasty pasta takes just 40 minutes.
This makes expat life in Malta super convenient to see the rest of the world quickly and on a budget.
Whether you plan to stay in Malta as an expat for a few months or a few years, it will be an experience you will never forget!
About The Author:
Charlie is the co-founder of MapTrotting.com and has been exploring the world independently since 2001. He’s passionate about helping others to build their travel lifestyle so they can achieve true freedom by making money online. Currently, Charlie is enjoying touring around Europe in his self-built van conversion.
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