Imagine if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Would you opt for London, France or perhaps like me…Malta?
It’s the smallest country in the EU, measuring 316 square kilometres. And , described as “densely populated” with over 450,000 people living there. Unsightly cranes line the work-in-progress Maltese skyline. Corruption dominates the headlines. There are 400,000 cars on the road and the safety of the driving on the (left-hand) is at times questionable, if not dangerous.
But it’s home.
And whilst Malta doesn’t rank as highly as the Norways, Denmarks and Switzerlands in those
smarmy best-places-to live-lists.
It is still a great place to live and…here are 10 reasons why.
What, Where, Why Malta?
On, learning that Malta is located between the south of Sicily and the coast of Libya…my initial thoughts were:
“So, the Maltese are Italians!; No, wait…North African.”
The natives are Maltese…with their own language and rich culture and history.
English is the second official language spoken (after Maltese) and widely spoken by practically everyone! In fact, there are many English schools on the island. And students come from all over the world… to learn English.
Maltas’ Vitamin D Overload
Coming from the UK, an increase in Vitamin D is reason enough for why Malta is a great place to live. Sitting slap bang in the middle of East and West, Malta is the warmest country in Europe and enjoys a Mediterranean climate.
Compared with London, (which receives 1630 hours of sunshine a year), Malta receives 3000 hours.
You can read more about Maltas’ seasons here.
To summarise, summer is a hot and steamy affair rising well into the 30’s and lasting between June and late September.
Day temperatures, during (the short) winter range between 10-17°C. Though, not conditions for swimming, the island seemingly enjoys a “second Spring”. During this season, the island is carpeted in a thick, lush and fertile green.
And…best enjoyed walking.
Maltas’ Alluring Beaches
there are the paradisiac beaches…
Golden sandy beaches naturally formed swimming pools and coral diving spots. Then there are pebbly and otherworldly looking rocky ones too. At the height of summer, bath-water seas are dotted all around the islands.
Brilliant turquoise, azure, cyan blue…it’s hard to list all the alluring and hypnotic shades of blue.
Throw in palm trees, the laid-back vibe, the delightfully long hot summers, and you have what could only be described as a multi-sensory oasis.
Malta’s dazzling beaches are amongst the best in Europe for being crystal clear. Other than swimming, you can enjoy activities from diving, snorkelling, sailing and kayaking.
Maltas’ Diverse Neighbourhoods
Despite its small size, you will find bright, charming, towns and villages living in Malta. Choose from quaint narrow streets of Mellieha in the north to award-winning, umbrella-lined ones of Zabbar in the South.
Each locality is diverse in its character and has its distinct and personal brand. Central hubs, such as St Julians and Sliema are the busiest towns on the island.
Whereas places such as Rabat and Gudja tend to be sleepier and more tranquil by comparison.
Maltas’ Capital City Valletta, is one of the most historical places in the world!
Valletta, Maltas’ capital city, is where I go when I’m missing the global flavoursome pot that is London or need an instant hit of busy and bustling streets.
Fun fact for you: Valletta or “Il-Belt,” in Maltese and literally translates to “city,”
‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world,’
Once upon a time, Valletta, the result of a perfect plan by Order of St John, was solely known as a hub for museums.
Built between The Masamxett and The Grand Harbours, the capital city measures 0.55 sq. km.
Valletta is now an eclectic mix of multiculturalism and baroque architecture. A melting pot of fused influences. A buzzy place where you find lively bars, markets, and restaurants for every culinary taste.
Another fun fact, for you: Valletta has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1980. Described as ‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world,’
Walking along the rollercoaster streets of Valletta, it’s easy to feel lost. Although, Unlike Oxford Street, Valletta can be easily walked in 20 minutes. And it’s near on impossible to become lost.
A Startling Number of Like-Minded Adventure-Seekers.
Expat life can be overwhelming, if not damned hard. Tasks, like a trip to the grocery store or opening a new bank account can be a daunting.
anxiety inducing experience. Never underestimate the power of a cup of tea (or coffee) and a chat. Or… a glass of wine and a good moan, when you’re feeling blue or lonely.
Thankfully, Malta has a large and thriving expat community. According to Eurostat’s figures, over 67,000 non-Maltese people are living in Malta. 38,563 of the expats who live in Malta are from other EU member states, while 28,582 are from non-EU member states.
Lovin Malta has suggested this number may now have reached 100,000.
And it’s thought that, Malta’s booming economy (at least it was pre ‘Rona), low unemployment rate, and low tax (for businesses) is why living in Malta is so attractive.
If you’re ever at a lost for other humans to experience life with, the friendly and welcoming expat community run social clubs such as The Ramblers Association, Horse Riding, Book Clubs etc.
But more than activities, they offer support and – a voice. When the government made some quick fire decisions (in the wake of COVID-19), expats living in Malta spoke up to ensure they were too included. (Yes, Vouchergate”)
Large groups of expats tend to live in the busiest areas (which has driven up rent prices) such as Sliema, and St Julians. Expats also live in the coastal towns of St Pauls, Buggiba and Mellieha.
A Slew of Ways to Spend Your Time in Malta
Being surrounded by a dazzling coastline, its hardly surprising Malta is synonymous with beaches. But, it’s important to note: Malta is more than 50 shades of (crystal) blues. So…you will not be at a loss for things to do. Here are just a few things to do in your spare time. (Many activities are free or inexpensive).
Maltas’ Culture and History
Living in Malta gives you a chance to become completely immersed in its culture and history. Did you know Malta was the setting for pirates and knights? The Order of St John reigned here for over 250 years but, Arabs, Phoenicians, Romans, and French have all ruled here at some point or other. Remnants of these mixed influences can be found all over the island.
Guess where you will find the most historical sites in the world? That’s right! So, your weekends could be filled with exploring Roman ruins, Megalithic Temples, World war shelters, heritage sites, shipwrecks, and medieval buildings.
Did I mention there are over 350 churches in Malta? Almost one for each day of the year. Each decisively different from the others and intricately built. It’s difficult to have a favourite as such, but St John’s Cathedral (Valletta) and St Pauls’ Church ( Mdina) are probably the grandest churches on the island.
(With everything on display, they could pass as museums too). Both must be seen.
Malta’s Parties, Festas & Festivals
What makes Malta a great place to live is: the real sense of community. This can be felt in the village-wide “festas.” Feasts or festas are centred on Catholicism to celebrate the patron saint of the main village church.
Though a religious event, festas are celebrated with the same party spirit like any other occasion in the Catholic calendar.
Each village takes great pride in this annual event (planned throughout the year), deriving a sense of belonging. Coming from a big city … it’s a beautiful thing to be surrounded by.
Friendly competition amongst the villages does exist, and each competes to deliver the best band marches or fireworks displays.
At its core is community, and village feasts bring the whole community together. Everyone, young and old is involved, and they are a great way to integrate into the local culture.
Birgu Light Festival
Malta is home to Birgufest – an annual light festival held in Birgu.
Birgu is a small village in the South of Malta and forms one-third of a region collectively known as “The Three Cities,”
The region is one of Maltas oldest and most historical “cities”. During one evening of the festival, the ancient streets of Birgu are lit solely by candles.
Music and Cultural Festivals
If you enjoy music, art, theatre and literature then Malta is the place for you. Apart from the vibrant clubbing scene you’ll find in Pacevile, St Julians (and open well beyond my bedtime) you’ll also live music and other events. Music festivals such as Earth Garden, Isle of MTV, Creamfields, Lost and Found, and Glitch are all hosted on the island.
If you prefer something more cultural, Notte Bianca, is celebrated annually in October. During this festival, the doors to state palaces and museums are left wide open to the public. Valletta is lit up, and festival-goers can expect the best in performance arts, visual arts, and literary events. (Great local event and one not to be missed).
For more things to do check out: Top 10 Things To Do In Mellieha
Unveiling Malta’s Raw Beauty
Hiking in Malta is one of the best ways to see the raw beauty of the islands. And, it’s free! Maltas’ sister islands, Gozo and Comino, are perfect for a day hiking. Walking sets you on route to get up close and personal, to prehistoric sites, abandoned palaces, incredible untouched rustic scenery, and picturesque spots.
Safety in Malta
Although there have been some high profile violent crime, Malta remains one of the safest countries in Europe, for both travellers and locals alike. According to police statistics there were 5,192 reports of crime in the first half of 2020. Compared with 6442 reports for the same period the year before and 6984 in 2018.
Like anywhere, you will find one or two rotten apples and hate crimes committed as a result.
But, for the most part, people can walk around safely irrespective of religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
My advice is: (like anywhere you go) you should always exercise caution and just be mindful of your surroundings.
The majority of crimes committed in Malta is petty i.e. pickpockets, beach theft, muggings. There have also been isolated incidents of violence (nightclub-related) and an uptick in road traffic accidents.
Malta is Well Connected by Flight
Malta is a hub for international destinations and is well connected by flight to other countries. You can be in London within three hours and… family and friends can easily make the trip too. Other than the UK, budget airlines operate from Malta International Airport, to destinations all over Europe (and beyond) several times a week.
Ease Of Getting Around Malta (and Gozo)
There has been much-divided opinion over the reliability of the buses in Malta.
But, for the fact that there are over 80 bus routes taking you all over the island
Monday to Friday from 5.30am to 11 at night. And…costing from 0.75 EUR a journey, I had to include transport and specifically buses as a plus.
Granted, the buses are not very big. So, during busy periods, maximum capacity is reached on some routes shortly after leaving the departing station/stop.
Fine, if you’re boarding the bus at the start of the journey and/or are not in a great hurry.
not-so-great, if you’re trying to catch the bus in the middle of it’s route. Considering most people live close to where they work, it’s easy to see why many have opined the public transport system is unreliable in Malta.
Generally, you can find more than one bus route serving a particular town or village, so alternative buses/routes will stop nearby. Popular destinations such as Valletta, Sliema, Mellieha, and St Julians have several bus routes taking you there. By downloading the Talinja app you can check in real-time when the next bus is due.
On weekends, there are eight operating night routes and each journey costs 3.00 EUR.
Alternative Cheaper Bus Tickets
A single ticket (valid two hours) purchased on the bus costs 2 EUR from July to September and 1.50 EUR from October to June.
A block of 12 tickets costs 15 EUR. This option can be used by more than one person. However, each person will need to scan the ticket. Once used… it is valid for two hours.
Seven-Day explorer tickets cost 21 EUR for adults and 15 for children. This ticket is valid for seven days of unlimited use, day and night. (in both Malta and Gozo)
Explore plus Card costs 39 EUR and is valid for seven days of unlimited use day and night. (in both Malta and Gozo). This option also includes two ferry trips with Valletta Ferry Service, a days travel with Citysightseeing Malta or a trip to Comino.
Planning on using buses in Malta regularly? The best option is a Tallinja card. You will need to register for one either online or in-person at Valletta Bus Station. Your ID details will be required along with your address and a one-off 10 EUR registration fee. A single fare costs 0.75 EUR and 2.50 EUR on a night bus.
Boat rides on this gorgeous sun-blessed island offer a great alternative to getting around. As well as commuting to and from work, some ferries and boat services can be used for leisure. There are a few operational routes taking you to Comino and Gozo. And a few destinations around Malta. Read on to discover routes, timetable and prices.
Valletta Ferry Services run between Marsamxett Harbour (Valletta) and Sliema.
They also run a service from Valletta Harbour to The Three Cities and a single costs 2 EUR per person.
A visit to Maltas’ sister island Gozo can be reached by ferry. Gozo Channel operates a car ferry from Cirkewwa, Malta to Mgarr Harbour in Gozo. Ferries run from 0.00 to 23.15. Prices start from 4.65 EUR for a foot passenger to 15.70 EUR for a car and passenger fare. Click here for a full price list.
Lastly and but by no means least…what makes Malta a great place to live…is its people. Generally, Maltese natives are characterised by their warmness and hospitality. Friendly people who stop and ask if you need help, if you look lost.
At the heart of everything is family, along with values tied with the church. “Love your neighbour (even if they’re noisy),” is the overarching theme and is as clear to see, as two ladies conversing on their doorsteps, broom in hand.
The strong emphasis on community and family goes hand in hand with the overall safety on the island.
But, if you think US politics or Brexit was a topic that can bring down relations, you’ve seen nothing yet! I’ve seen sweet old ladies transform into shouty political pundits from throwaway comments made on policies.
Politics is almost like a second religion. Like a football team, support in some cases is assigned at birth. It therefore won’t come as no surprise to learn the Maltese have one of the highest voter turnouts in the world. So, if ever out “localizing” with the Maltese…politics is a topic best avoided.
There you have it! 10 reasons why Malta is a great place to live. Of course, living in Malta, I may be a teeny weeny bit biased! Everywhere has its good points and it’s bad. And in the end, its happiness and (quality of living) that counts.
I hope you find your happy, wherever you choose to live.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please ask away in the comments.