Wanderlust starting to chip away at you? If you’ve been dreaming of a longer trip to a place where the sun (almost) never stops shining, now is a great time to start planning.
Malta, thrown like a stone into the Mediterranean between Sicily and Libya, evokes visions of ancient buildings, sparkling blue waters, mouth-watering pastries, and toe-topping local festas. All of which is there. But what else should you know before moving to Malta? Here are 10 things to keep in mind.
1. English is fine
Signs, government forms, advertising, and other written daily interactions are in English. So if yours is fine, you’ll be fine – unless you’re planning on staying in Malta the long haul. In that case, the locals will really appreciate your efforts to pick up Maltese; a mix of Siculo-Arabic (an Arabic dialect with its roots in Sicily), with a helping of English, French, and Italian.
2. Sun abounds
With over 300 days of sunshine a year, Malta certainly seduces. However, while living there, keep your wits about you: apply sunblock liberally and wear a wide-brimmed hat. This island nation’s summers are hot and humid, with cold and humid winters to match. Keep in mind your apartment isn’t likely to be insulated or have central heating so the winter chill can really bite at night. Prepare for the cold season with a wind-proof jacket for beach walks and warm clothing for indoors.
Speaking of apartments, development in Malta has given rise to plenty of new housing projects, meaning that finding a place to live shouldn’t be too difficult. While rental prices in Malta are cheaper than in many other European destinations, there are still plenty of neighborhoods – Sliema, St. Julian’s, Gżira, and Msida – that tend to attract expats and therefore heftier prices. Look a little further afield to save pennies and/or time your arrival for winter or fall to avoid the price rental price hikes during the peak tourism season.
4. Public transport
Malta is small and reliant on buses for public transport. The island’s fleet was replaced in recent years and still today has services to get you to get you to all the spots you want to explore – even the teeniest villages. That’s not to say they are regular or super fast. Be prepared to sit back and take in the scenery as your bus meanders along twisting roads and makes multiple stopovers. On the plus side, you can pick up the Tallinja card to take advantage of 0.75c journeys, capped at €26 a month; a major discount in the long run!
Curiously, in Malta there are a lot of cars. So if you’re going to brave the roads, stay focused: it’s a bit of an extreme sport in Malta. Drivers can be reticent to indicate or give way, and traffic jams commonly block the narrow roads between towns. For most nationalities, your foreign driver’s license will be fine for up to a year, and expats from the EU, Switzerland, and Australia can swap over to a Maltese license.
6. Enjoy the buzz
Malta can be an experience for the senses. With some 450,000 people in an area 22 times smaller than Ireland, it has a busy and vibrant energy. Such liveliness brings many wonderful sounds: think church bells, local chatter, stories, vendors, and the like. Relish in it and see if you can pick up a word of local slang here and there.
7. Red tape
Tourism and hospitality are unsurprisingly big industries and entry level jobs are generally plentiful. However, you’ll need a contract to obtain your social security number and residence card, which will in turn assist you to open a bank account. Otherwise, opening an account isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine – make sure to do your research beforehand.
Malta’s free public healthcare system was modeled on the UK’s NHS and working expats can join, once issued with a social security number and residence card. Private healthcare is generally inexpensive as well and will save time queuing at the clinic. Non-EU citizens will need to take our private medical insurance, however, Australians will find that some services are covered through their reciprocal agreement with Malta.
As in most other major European tourist destinations, it is best to be be watchful of your belongings in public and be particularly vigilant during the very late hours if visiting the popular tourist areas. However, this archipelago nation enjoys a very low violent crime rate and enjoys a generally safe and friendly atmosphere.
10. Laid back
Being an island lifestyle, the locals seem to stick to a completely different system of time and are unencumbered by such notions as a “schedule”. While it can initially feel confusing, when moving to Malta, the best advice is to relinquish control, go along for the ride, and adopt the local way.