What Is There In Malta?
Having landed on this little rock just over one year ago, I can tell you that I love it here. Hopefully, I can convince you just how nice Malta is too…
As with any place in the world, there are some positives and some negatives. I firmly believe that the negatives are few and the positives many, but we’ll explore them more below.
Finding somewhere to live
Wherever you may land, you’ll need to find a home. In that regard at least, Malta has space. I read in the main newspaper some time ago that Malta has around 74,000 unfinished or unoccupied properties. Amazing for such a small place. Some parts of the island are like a building site, and others are palatial. One thing is for sure, there is a property in Malta to suit almost every taste and most budgets. These range from the very low cost – there are studios and apartments from around 200 euros per month in some parts of the island – to the very lavish locations where 3,000 euros per month isn’t enough.
One of these very upmarket locations is called Tigne Point and is the home of Malta’s largest shopping complex, a small sports centre and is almost certainly the best location for an apartment in Sliema (information here). The views of Valletta are spectacular by day and night and, one imagines, it must be a little like living in a postcard.
Like any property market, there are many places to both rent and buy. It will come as no surprise that many of the picture perfect locations come with pretty spectacular price tags. I’d recommend finding a place to rent in Malta before deciding to buy. As with any location, there can be wide differences between areas. Malta is generally very safe and quiet, but in some places it can be impossible to park a car and this is the kind of information that would be useful before spending a few hundred thousand euros on a fancy apartment.
There are many real estate firms that meet the needs of the public and compete fiercely for the best locations. The largest agencies are REMAX, Frank Salt and Dhalia. However, there are some very successful and well established boutique agencies that offer a more personalised service.
There is also a robust market for short-term property lets (information here), mainly to tourists. The real estate agents do a healthy amount of business in this arena, largely for people that feel a need to stay in the sun for a little longer and extend their stay by a few extra weeks. With prices starting from around 20 euros per night, it can be an affordable way to soak up a few extra rays of sun or see a little more of the islands.
In places Malta can be quite rural and Gozo can be very rural. It isn’t exactly a secret that the basic infrastructure in Malta took some time and effort to develop. Despite the small size, there are still some things that are missing. One area that your author has been told can be a little patchy is power. There are some areas in which the rural energy requirements of the locals aren’t brilliantly met. This will hopefully be resolved in the coming years.
Being so small, it is actually difficult to not see the see on a regular basis. In some places, it takes a real effort to avoid it! As such, Malta and it’s history are very connected to the sea and it’s role as a trading port. These days, the sea is more about relaxation and enjoyment for most people.
The smallest inhabited island in the Republic of Malta is called Comino. The island is famous with tourists for the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon is mostly surrounded by rocks and so is relatively shielded from strong currents (though not always). A relatively shallow sandy bottom reflects light back up from the bottom giving the water an almost transparent nature with a wonderful azure hue. It is breathtaking, but alas, generally, this wonderful experience will need to be shared with a good number of tourists. It is very popular.
There is also a good trade in sailing days and courses as well. As might be imagined, Malta attracts sailors with it’s history and proximity to the sea. It is possible to rent (or charter as they say) a yacht from half a day (at the low end) to more than two weeks if you will be visiting for longer. There are lots of available yachts (since most are simply moored Monday to Friday – costing them money – while their owners work to pay for them) but there seem to be less charter firms (such as this one). That isn’t to say there are none, simply that they seem to be less obvious to the eye.
For those of us not brave enough to go diving (and there are lots of highly regarded locations off Malta), the easiest way to get close to nature might be at the at Medierraneo. This place is amazing and I enjoyed my visit there. It doesn’t seem to be on the tourist trail but it is well worth the effort to go.
The Maltese are famous for their fishing boats. These multicoloured vessels are apparently almost impossible to sink because of their design. When you get close to one, it is worth taking a look at the eyes at the front. These enable God to watch over the fishermen. Malta is a very conservative Catholic country.
The sea has been good for business, of course. In the current era, Malta is host to one of the largest shipping registries in the world. For years, vessels from around the world have been able to call Malta their home while they sail the seas. Understandably, this is particularly prevalent in the commercial shipping world. It is also worth remembering that such a small country has very real limits on what can be grown and manufactured on home soil. Therefore, there is a strong import/export sector, bringing in everything that the population and tourists require for day to day life. Companies, such as this shipping agency have been able to grow and prosper over decades of trading.
The success of the registry has prompted the country to try and copy it in another field. There is now a small – but growing – aviation registry for planes from around the world. The combination of low taxes (there is no VAT on registration) and EU access makes the country appealing. There are a number of associated services that are also available such as an AOC Malta. These certificates and licences enable the aviation industry to function smoothly and for Maltese businesses and legal firms to keep the fees coming into the country.
Another area of the economy that is doing well is that of the digital world. The combination of low taxes for corporations and a very strong internet connection has brought online gaming firms, starups like this Premier League fantasy football game and hedge funds to the country in significant numbers. While these types of firms are not natural employers of the Maltese (many companies need language skills representing most of the EU – and like many of us, most Maltese do not speak Finnish, Danish or Dutch…) they have brought a considerable amount of wealth to the country. The many jobs that are created are taxed here, the staff rent property, eat out and on and on in Malta.
These areas of business are very competitive which means that the firms try to develop their skills and technology in-house, reducing the need for support services and extra companies. Therefore, there is a very clear line between the gaming sector and the Maltese online support firms. This is a gap that may not be bridged, leaving the Maltese businesses behind while the gaming firms power forwards with their development and skill base.
Needless to say, a small sunny island with great sailing has a well developed tourism sector. There are many hotels and restaurants that rely solely on foreign visitors to bring in their income.
For example, the Sliema ferries area is one that is jam packed with locals and tourists alike for most of the year. One of the main hotels in the area, has a wonderful view of Manoel Island, Valletta’s bastions and Sliema creek. It is easy to see why tourists would like to visit an area like this.