Cost of Living in Malta: Sample Monthly Budget for 2023
The sunny and historic Mediterranean islands of Malta have become a rising Euro star for those looking for affordability compared to the increasing cost of living in North America today.
Expats from New York, Saul and Gail Klarke, have found the cost of living in Malta to be significantly more affordable than life back in New York City. “I would say grocery bills are fairly similar. Restaurant meals are definitely less. And our two-bedroom apartment in Sliema with a beautiful terrace overlooking the harbor—this would cost easily three times as much in New York.”
Although the islands are small, there are many housing options to be found. And just like anywhere, prices will vary considering factors such as location, views, amenities, square meters, and overall quality of the build-out.
Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the EU, with 1256 inhabitants per square kilometer (3000 per square mile). Factoring in such density, the top options in most of the popular cities like Valletta, Sliema, St. Julian’s, and St. Paul’s will be apartment (condominium) buildings—many with sea views.
For example, a furnished two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the lovely beach town of Mellieħa, northern Malta—within walkable distance to the beach and shops—will cost approximately $700 a month. If you’re looking at a two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse with sea views in a popular place like Sliema, your rent will more likely be in the $2000+ range. However, most rental apartments will fall into the $1000 to $1500/mo. price.
Malta is currently (and has been for the last decade) experiencing a housing boom. Many of the traditional properties are being gutted and built up to new, modern standards; yet keeping the original historical façade. That means a wide range of buying opportunities as new properties are constantly being placed on the market. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of cranes across the skyline, as well as the noise of construction, and dust during the day.
If you’re interested in buying, you can find brand-new apartments/condos around Malta and its sister island of Gozo, for as little as $199,000. Up your budget to $250,000 to $300,000, and you could find yourself in a place that would most likely cost upwards of $1 million in places like Los Angeles, Miami, or Vancouver.
You’ll see a lot of properties geared towards expats in this price range to cater to the residency requirements. If you’re buying to qualify for residency, you’ll need to purchase a home valued at $300,000 in Gozo or the south of Malta, or $350,000+ elsewhere in the country. Note: you can also qualify for residency with a long-term lease agreement, so you don’t have to buy.
New builds come with windows, doors, flooring, and sometimes finished bathrooms. You may see the words “highly finished” in the marketing, but the North American version of “finished” means something different in Malta and much of the EU. You will need to install the entire kitchen and all appliances, air conditioning units, lighting, etc., which needs to be factored into your budget. Gordon Camilleri, a project manager with Larmax Properties works with contractors from Sicily, “they can do the finish including the kitchen, appliances, and furniture, for as little as $25,000. They can also do soft furnishings and lighting for an extra charge.” This amount also goes towards your home price for residency.
For previously owned homes and condos, the kitchen appliances, lighting, and sometimes the furniture convey. But not always. So, you will want to be clear on your purchase agreement contract about what goes with the property and to take inventory before and after closing.
As Malta is a limestone rock island with limited farmland, most of the food is imported. Surprisingly, that doesn’t equate to higher costs, necessarily. Since the country is part of the EU, it’s a free trade zone, sans tariffs. And there’s no need to fly in products like many other islands, since ferries arrive daily from Italy transporting goods from all around the European continent.
There are several large grocery chains, such as Wellbee’s, Lidl, and Marks and Spencer Food. Food costs for locally produced EU products are similar to most of the Mediterranean countries. For example, a 12-pack of eggs runs about $3.60, a liter of milk is approximately $1, and a large fresh baked baguette is only 50 cents. Non-EU products (such as coffee) will be more expensive.
If you shop at the small markets, you can really save money. There are mobile produce trucks and affordable fish markets around the country. The famous Marsaxlokk fish market offers fresh fish caught in the morning—mix and match six kilograms (13 pounds) for just $30.
Going out to eat is also more affordable than in North America (if you avoid the tourist areas, otherwise you will experience similar prices). You can find a local Maltese lunch for $12 including a hearty meal and a Cisk (local beer pronounced “Chisk”). There are five major wine producers in Malta—they are clean-crafted and inexpensive. Although you may not have heard of any, they can hold their own with neighboring grape-producing countries. You can find bottles for as little as $4 to $12.
Unlike the rest of Europe, Malta does not have a train system. However, they do have a public bus in both Malta and Gozo—Malta Public Transport. Buses are safe, travel nearly everywhere, and are somewhat efficient—although often don’t run on schedule (patience!). Fares are $2 during the day and $3 are night. You can also buy Tallinja commuter cards, either physical cards or through the app. For example, $21 for unlimited travel for seven days or 12 single-day journeys for $15.
There’s also ferries (Malta to Gozo, Valletta to Sliema, Valletta to Sicily) and several water taxis from the Grand Harbour in Valletta. Prices will vary depending on the journey, but if you’re over 60, there are discounts for the bus and ferries. And if you are 70 or older, you can qualify for a program that allows you to ride the bus for free.
Car, scooter, and motorcycle rentals can be found at Luqa International Airport, as well as in popular tourist areas. You’ll find all the typical brand names such as Budget, Avis, Hertz, Europcar, and local discount car brokers. Rates start from as little as $16 per day and your home driver’s license is all you need to be legal. Note that Malta drives on the left.
Bolt and eCabs are the two main app-based ride-sharing companies. Uber, in 2022 added itself to the competitive mix in Malta. Since the island is so small, a trip across the entire country costs $25, and across town is $3—making it a popular alternative to owning a car. They all also have food delivery services too.
If you want to purchase a car, all of them are imported because Malta doesn’t have an assembly plant on the islands any longer. Cars typically come from the UK (right-hand steering wheel). Toyotas are the most popular brand. For example, on the low end, you can purchase a new Yaris hybrid starting at approximately $21,000. A new RAV4 hybrid will cost around $46,000.
Used car prices vary widely depending on typical factors such as year, mileage, and condition. On the market currently, you can find a 2009 Hyundai i20 hatchback for just $5500 (103,000 kms) or a 2012 Mercedes Benz E250 for under $18,000 (68,000 kms).
Registration for a car in Malta costs about $72 and insurance is also required. The price varies, but the average cost will be approximately $1600 annually.
Electricity at the current price is about $0.144 kWh. Homes typically do not have central heating or air because Malta does not rely on natural gas. They are built with split A/C-heat units in each room or area, cutting down on usage when not using that particular room. Comparatively to much of the EU, utilities are less expensive.
Without natural rivers or lakes, tap water is desalinated in Malta. Many people buy bottled water because they do not like the taste, but it’s considered safe to drink.
Cell phone plans are quite inexpensive, starting at $10 to $20/month for talk/text/data. The network works off 4G and the most popular carriers include Epic (formerly Vodafone), GO, and Melita. There are also satellite TV and cable options such as Melita and GO. Packaged together with internet and cell phone will save you Euros.
Most moderate-sized homes budget somewhere between $80 to $150 monthly for utilities.
Healthcare is significantly cheaper in Malta compared to the U.S. Malta, like most countries, operates under two healthcare systems—public (NHS – National Health Service) and private. The publicly funded system in Malta dates back to 1372, when the first Maltese hospital was functioning. Malta spends 10% of its GDP on healthcare, which is significantly higher than the international average of 6%. The World Health Organization ranks Malta’s healthcare system 11th in the world (2021 Statista). They are up to EU standards, but are cheaper than neighbors like France and Germany, for example.
There are 20 medical centers in just 122 square miles, so anywhere you are in Malta, you will have medical services close by. If you are an EU national, you can use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at public hospitals and clinics. However, third-country nationals will need to purchase health insurance per the Maltese residency guidelines. You can purchase complete coverage insurance for as little as $2500 annually for two people in their 60s, for example. Then you can use either public or private, but you will pay partially out of pocket (depending on your deductible).
The private medical sector is growing increasingly since many expats have private healthcare coverage. Anyone can use private medical care for a fee, and avoid experiencing wait times for non-emergency procedures typical of the public system. Many of the doctors in the private sector also work for the public system.
Some pricing examples in the private sector:
- Physician visit at a pharmacy: $25
- House call: $40 to $50
- Ultrasound: $200
- MRI starting at: $250
- Dental check-up/scaling: $50
- Standard filling: $60
- Root canal: $300 to $350
Sample Monthly Budget for Living in Malta
Budgets will vary widely depending on your lifestyle and domicile. Use this example as a lower-cost-of-living guide for Malta:
|Rent (furnished, two-bedroom apartment/home)||$1,000|
|Household help (weekly maid)||$140|
|Healthcare (for two people)||$350|
As with anywhere, you will have miscellaneous expenses for things like entertainment. The good news is that the weather is so lovely in Malta most of the year, and many outdoor activities do not cost anything. Malta is surrounded by water and boasts many beaches—from golden sand to white, as well as limestone swimming holes. Great for swimming and enjoying the azure Mediterranean waters. There are also easy and challenging hikes across cliffs, natural limestone outcroppings, and caves—once you get away from the populated inner harbor area.
You can join organizations and meet fellow expats for minimum fees. Malta’s capital Valletta has more restaurants per square kilometer than any other European capital, so there’s good reason to sample cuisine from around the world with a bit of that discretionary income.
If you are a golfer, or would like to take it up as a new hobby, the Royal Malta Golf (and tennis) Club has associate memberships starting at just $160/month. This is a tiny fraction of the cost of joining a private golf club in North America and the UK.
There are many reasons why these captivating Mediterranean Islands deserve a second look – especially when attempting to keep down your cost of living. Be sure to subscribe to International Living for continued coverage of Malta and other countries in Europe and around the world.
- Note the financial figures used are a 1:1 USD to Euro estimate. Due to currency fluctuations, prices may vary.