It’s wise to budget for living in Malta, whether for a short holiday or longer-term stay. And you’ll be in good company as it seems that the travel industry itself relishes the word. ‘Budget’ has its connotations, for sure, but it’s less loaded a term nowadays, having replaced ‘economy’ for good. After all, economy rings of hardship while budget just sounds like a wise choice for the savvy traveler.
Sites offering cheap London hotels, in a city we all know as one of the most exorbitant for the day-tripper let alone the visitor needing accommodation, have sprung up to fill demand to stay within a tight ‘budget’. Cheap European flights are now snapped up by travelers ranging from students to the well-heeled seeking a short-break weekend away. Neither group wishes to waste cash on the means of travel, preferring to spend whatever they’ve budgeted for their trip on entertainment and sightseeing once they’ve arrived at destination.
A third group of visitor whom we answer many queries for on Malta Inside Out is the medium-stay traveler; someone who wants to spend around three months here to escape winter back home, or is relocating temporarily for short work contracts or student placements. This medium-stay visitor has a greater need to know what costs on arrival will be.
Budgeting for living in Malta
Our intern at Malta Inside Out, Francesca di Puccio, certainly has a defined budget for her three-month stay on the Islands. We asked her to give a low-down on how she finds prices here for food, entertainment, travel, accommodation and just in general.
This is a brief overview of the kind of ballpark costings (back of that restaurant napkin) that you might need to know before you fly out.
Food – shopping and eating out
The prices for food in Malta are not too high – takeaways like pastizzi are very cheap, as is most snacking at regular, local cafes. Unflashy pizzerie are good value at around €7-9 a pizza take away. Going out for a pizza, for example, will cost generally more than over the sea in Sicily and most of mainland Italy (excluding major cities). Expect to spend around €10-12 for the pizza alone, then you’ve drinks on top. Main course pasta dishes are around that price too. If you want to eat at restaurant, then mains can easily be from Euro 13 upwards, depending on what you go for. Fresh fish (grilled swordfish, calamari, etc) of the day can be €15-18 or more and that can be at some casual seafront restaurants (that know they have a tourist catchment and a view to offer!). While some restaurants do offer set-price lunch menu of the day, don’t expect this to be as prevalent as in France, where it’s common to see €15 getting get you three decent courses with wine and water thrown in.
At the supermarket, the prices are good if you stick to the likes of chains like Lidl, and some larger Maltese-run supermarkets such as Pavi (largest branch Qormi) and Smart (large branch in Birkirkara). The Ta’ Qali Farmers Market is bargain prices all round for some of the islands’ freshest and best produce. In comparison with Italian prices, food is a little bit lower overall if you shop around.
Travel – by bus around Malta
Travel in Malta by bus is a little bit expensive for foreign people because a daily ticket costs €2.60 and it’s valid until 11pm. So, during the night you have to buy a new ticket that costs €2.50. If you take few buses, you can buy a 2-hour ticket but it costs €2.20, so it’s better spend 40 cents more for a daily one. There is still a (disputed at EU level) different rate for non-resident visitors travelling on Arriva from that charged resident locals. The monthly and weekly ticket costs (for people who study and work here) respectively €21 and €12. The absurd thing is that even if you have these pre-paid tickets, you still have to pay the night ticket after 11 pm. See fare types, routes and prices here.
Time Out – entertainment expenditure
Entertainment in Malta is not expensive on the whole. If you are intending to visit several heritage sites, then cash outlay does clock up, but it’s also possible to idle time on beaches (walking in winter, lazing in summer) for practically nothing.
Heritage Malta has several types of Multipass, which are worth getting if you are going to visit several sites, especially as a family. Private heritage organisation Fondajjoni Wirt Artna that runs the saluting battery, Fort Rinella, the War Rooms and other sites of interest, also has membership which stacks up cheaper than individual entrance fees if you’re going to several sites or are family.
Shopping in Malta
This is very good in terms of range (especially for women!) and prices seem to compare favourably with those across continental Europe.
For young people a regular night out can be cheap, especially as (for women) it can be free to enter clubs. Drinks are also not too costly, but the down side is that this means some young people are tempted to over indulge on alcohol. For people who have different interests from clubs, the night life is a little bit more expensive because, for example, theater tickets or entry to other shows can be expensive, and the range of what’s on offer can be limiting. Expect to pay around €25 for tickets at the Manoel Theatre for decent seats to concerts by internationally-known groups. Look around for concerts and gigs in more outlying places, such as band clubs in various towns; here, you’ll find unusual events at quite reasonable prices. Cinema tickets however are cheap, very cheap, compared to cities like London, averaging around €7.00 for adults and €4.00 for children.
Accommodation – brief overview of rental prices
Rental prices differ from area to area. Apartments located in areas closer to the night life are more expensive than the eslewhere, but apartments in regular complexes aren’t too pricey, if you want something basic. The price range for an apartment with three bedrooms are from 500 to 800 euros per month. Two bedroomed tends to be more in demand, and comes in around €400, again, depending on area. We have to consider obviously also the period when you’ll come in Malta: during the summer the prices are higher than winter and it could be more difficult to find an apartment.
If you are looking for a furnished place to rent near the sea in the south of the island (of reasonable standard), you would pay approx €500 plus utilities of about €100 per month for a two-bedroomed flat. In the more touristy areas around Sliema and St Julian’s areas about €1,200 and in the north, Mellieha and St Paul’s Bay about €800. These prices are a broad average and depends on whether you have a penthouse (loose term for top-floor flat with terrace), decent views, some outside space etc. The middle of the island, about 15 minutes away from most shores except for the north will cost you in the vicinity of €350 to €400. Qormi and Birkirkara areas would be in that lower price bracket, but the so-called ‘Three Villages’ (Lija, Attard, Balzan) and neighbouring town of Naxxar and some areas of Mosta, where you’ll find both character houses and modern flats are a bit more; again, depending on your style of living and whether you’re seeking older properties with some character and charm or modern utility flat. Browse online at Malta’s equivalent of eBay, Maltapark, at the property listings for an idea of what you can get and where, even if you use one of the many agencies to find you a place to suit. See also our post on renting in Malta and about what some tenants say.