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Where to Live, for Expats in Malta

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2013

Finding the right place to live in Malta depends on many factors. There are practical considerations such as purchase and rental prices, the cost of living and availability of local amenities. Then there are emotional criteria, such as the desirability of a place – whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or an active social life. With Malta being so small, some people prefer to live on Gozo and commute to Malta to work, so where you work is not a major factor in deciding where to live.

One thing that will be good wherever you are in Malta is the climate. With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, Malta has recently been voted (equal top with Zimbabwe) to have the best climate in the world. If you also want easy access to the beach to enjoy the sun, you might prefer to live in a coastal town, but pretty much anywhere on either island will do as all areas all close to the sea.

The Maltese islands can be divided into three regions as far as places to live are concerned. First of these is the Harbour Area, also known as Greater Valletta. This is effectively a single urban area, centred around the Grand Harbour, one of the world’s finest natural harbours.

Abutting the Grand Harbour is Valletta, Malta’s capital. The population of Valletta has declined in recent years and it is now quite quiet, especially at night. This may be because, as the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is an obligation to preserve its character. On the other hand, the city is quite bohemian and is the most important cultural centre in the country. This is reflected in the fact that Valletta has been named European Capital of Culture for 2018. Though few expats live here, numbers are increasing.

For an active social life, you may be better off living somewhere else in the Greater Valletta area. The most popular areas with tourists and expats are Sliema, St Julian’s and Paceville, north-west of Valletta. These towns are particularly popular with younger expats, as most of the busiest bars and nightclubs are to be found here, particularly in Pacevile. While these towns are also the most expensive for accommodation, they are also the best introduction to life in Malta.

Elsewhere on Malta Island, cheaper accommodation can be found in the south-western part of the Harbour area, in towns such as Birkirkara, Ħamrun and Msida. The latter is also where the University of Malta is based, and therefore has a lively student scene.

The northern towns of Mellieħa, St Paul’s Bay and Buġibba (pronounced ‘boojibber’) are also very popular with expats. Buġibba is centre for nightlife, while Mellieħa and St Paul’s Bay are quieter towns that are popular with retired people. Property in these towns is cheaper than in the Harbour area.

Gozo is considerably cheaper than most areas of Malta. The most popular places on Gozo are Victoria, the capital, Marsalforn and Xlendi (pronounced ‘shlendy’.) Gozo also has a slower, more rural pace of life than the Big Island and is popular with retired people. The island has all the amenities you would normally need. The road network on Gozo has recently been improved to a high standard and there are regular ferries to Malta. Property on the island is much cheaper than that on Malta.

 

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