The tiny five-island Mediterranean archipelago of Malta, 100 miles south of Sicily, is an increasingly sought-after retirement destination among U.S. citizens, and expats, who appreciate its English-speaking locals, crystal-clear aquamarine waters, and stunning historic cities.
But now there’s another reason to go: According to the country’s tourism minister, Clayton Bartolo, Malta will reopen to tourists June 1 and pay vaccinated international travelers up to €200 ($240) per person when they stay more than two nights.
*Be sure to check out Alyssa’s solo travel guide to Malta here!
Despite its small size, English-speaking, Mediterranean Malta is a sought-after travel and retirement destination. I
Considering its warm and sunny climate in summer and mild, yet refreshing winters, it’s no wonder people are flocking to this paradise. The streets of Malta are peppered with history, and every building is an architectural landmark carrying a piece of its rich, intricate heritage.
“Even though it’s a small island nation, the lifestyle can vary greatly from the generally quieter island of Gozo to the hustle and bustle in the towns of Sliema, St. Julian’s and the busy center of main island Malta,” says expat Ed Lansink, founder of MaltaUncovered.
“The country is one of the most densely populated in the world, so although the busy center has an urban feel to it, with more of a fast-paced environment, the rural parts are still relatively quiet.
“I really appreciate the balance of a good standard of living with a more laid-back ‘island life’ vibe that Malta offers.”
Exploration in Malta will be a possibility again as soon as June 1, 2021 when, according to the Malta tourism minister, the borders are set to open for visitors from any country—with proof of vaccination.
Malta has decided to admit tourists since it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the European Union. Tourists who stay in four-star hotels will receive about $180, while those who stay in three-star establishments will get $120. And those who visit Gozo, the island next to the main island of Malta, will receive an additional 10%. To take advantage of the incentives, visitors must be traveling independently, rather than through tour packages and groups.
“The local tourism industry has suffered greatly due to the pandemic and the recently introduced incentive for paying international travelers up to €200 ($240) per person if they stay more than two nights is welcomed by many,” says Lansink.
“Early indications show that there’s keen interest to visit Malta this year (and in 2022) from travelers looking to make up for lost travel opportunities, while local authorities have successfully managed to bring down the number of COVID-19 to safe levels in the run up to the summer season.”
If Malta was one the countries near the top of your post-COVID travel plans, here are five more reasons why International Living recommends this small archipelago as a potential destination for anybody ready to move out of the U.S.:
1. You’ll Enjoy Great Weather
Like sun? Because Malta’s got it. Boasting an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, Malta is one of the sunniest countries in Europe—and by some counts, the world. So pleasant is Malta’s climate that tourists flock to the island year-round, knowing that they can comfortably enjoy most outdoor activities at almost any time.
Maltese springs and summers are bright and warm. From late May through to late October, expect daytime temperatures to range from 70 F to 80 F, with highs around 90 F in July and August. Come December it’s time to break out a jacket, as daytime temps drop to the 60s F, where they remain for most of the winter (with some dips into the mid-50s F).
In short, for those who dream of leaving bitterly cold winters and shoveling snow in their past, Malta would be a happy escape.
2. It’s Affordable
You’d think that life on a lovely Mediterranean island would cost a fortune, but it’s not true for Malta. Sure, it’s home to plenty of wealthy, yachting types, and if you want to live a luxurious lifestyle, Malta can certainly provide one. But despite this, the cost of living isn’t high in Malta: Some expats live there for as little as $2,600 per month, or even less.
Thanks to Malta’s excellent—and inexpensive—transportation system, it’s easy to get around the tiny island without a car, particularly if you live on the coast.
3. It’s English-Speaking
Many people mentally cross the idea of a European retirement off their list because they worry about needing to learn another language. In Malta, you don’t have to worry about this. For some 150 years, Malta was ruled by Great Britain. The English language is a significant part of the legacy the British left behind.
English is one of the country’s two official languages, the other being Maltese. All signs and official documents are in English, and most of the people speak English well. Naturally, being in a largely English-speaking environment makes adjusting to life in a new country much easier.
4. There’s a Large Expat Community
The international community here is huge; an interesting mix of retirees, families, business people, and singles attracted by Malta’s affordability and laidback lifestyle.
“Traditionally, there’s been a strong draw from UK-based retirees to settle in Malta (and many still do so happily),” says Lansink. “But the expat community has grown significantly over the past decade or so, mostly from within Europe. In fact, over 21% of the current population are non-Maltese nationals.”
5. You Won’t Get Bored
Malta may be a small country, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on fun things to do. In the warm weather months, there’s plenty of opportunity to swim, snorkel, sail, kayak, and otherwise frolic in the amazing blue waters of the Mediterranean.
History lovers will find their bliss on the island, as Malta has a greater density of historic sites than any other country in the world. You can spend hours exploring the Megalithic stone temples on the island of Gozo (the 2nd largest island in the chain), getting to know every medieval brick in gorgeous 16th century Valletta or Mdina, or peeking inside the island’s hundreds of baroque churches.
Best of all, if you live on the island, you get to enjoy amazing local festivals. Malta hosts dozens of lively, colorful festivals each year, from religious celebrations, to Jazz festivals, to extraordinary annual firework displays, many of which have been in existence for generations. Individual villages also host their own festivals, focusing on their particular specialty, be it strawberries or wine.