Secret Mediterranean Island Offers Low Costs, Great Climate and High Quality of Life

Malta is the smallest country in the European Union (just 122 square miles), but it has long been a vacation spot for sun-starved northern Europeans and a tax haven for the wealthy. Multi-million-dollar yachts fill Malta’s marinas. Yet you’ll find great bang for your buck here. A couple could live well on a budget of $2,000 a month.

Malta is made up of five islands, but only Malta and Gozo have substantial populations (there’s a proposal to link them by bridge). Comino, the third-largest, is home only to a few people. And the islets of Cominotto, off Comino, and Filfla, off the Dingli Cliffs, are uninhabited.

A rich history and mix of cultures is part of day-to-day life in Malta.

The Crusader Knights left their legacy in the outstanding architecture of Valletta, Mdina and other cities—most of it in warm, cream-colored limestone. The British left their language and their driving style (left side of the road). The nearby Italians left their stamp on the food. And a North African influence, too, lends a sense of the exotic.

Although many North Americans may not have heard about Malta, this is set to change.

“These days there is change in the air and a new excitement, especially in Valletta, Malta’s capital,” says editor Glynna Prentice.

The city has been named European Cultural Capital for 2018, and in the run-up to the big year the government is burnishing its baroque public buildings and revamping infrastructure, while Europeans and other expats and investors snap up and renovate Valletta’s historic buildings. New shops are opening, and activities fill the calendar.

“A long-term rental in Valletta normally runs you from €450 up to about €750 a month for a mid-range apartment—that is, about $585 to $975,” says Prentice.

Outside of Valletta, prices for rentals and real estate drop. For example, in the city of Rabat you’ll find all the modern conveniences you’ll need. But it also has traditional neighborhoods along narrow, cobbled lanes, and the occasional baroque church.

“You can find small, traditional houses (“houses of character”) here for sale starting at about $130,000. Rents start at about $585 a month; realistically, expect to pay $780 to $910 for a two-bedroom house. If you prefer apartments, you’ll have more luck in Rabat’s modern outskirts. Sale prices start at about $97,500 and monthly rent at $455,” says Prentice.

The smaller island of Gozo is a classic “get-away-from-it-all” destination. The pace of life here is slower. Even the island’s largest city, Victoria (population about 6,500), is laid back, with elderly locals whiling away the afternoon on shady park benches.

“In Victoria you can rent a one-bedroom, furnished apartment long-term for as little as $325 a month, or a four-bedroom farmhouse near town for $900. Rent in beach towns will run you slightly higher. You can buy apartments in Victoria—even furnished ones—starting at about $130,000,” says Prentice.

The full report on the lifestyle, cost of living and the real estate market in Malta, which appeared in the August edition of International Living magazine, can be read here:
Enjoy a Great Quality of Life in Malta.

See here for a slideshow of images from Malta: In Pictures: The Best of Mediterranean Malta.

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