For a digital nomad or location independent worker looking for somewhere different with a great year round climate and friendly, English speaking locals Malta is an excellent option. But after Googling the subject I found some wrong advice from people that have not actually been to Malta but still written guides about it from Googling the subject?? You cant really advise people on something you have no experience of so this is my is my experience as a digital nomad in Malta (One that is actually in Malta)..
Driving from the airport my first impressions were “oh my god this place is a building site and not a very tidy or organised one at best”. I mean cranes compete for space in the sky, half built abandoned buildings line the side of the road, people leave their rubbish out on the pavement and the coach driver was driving like a feckin lunatic stopping for nothing and nobody.
2 weeks I thought to myself then I’m out of here, 2 weeks enduring this then im going to Greece or back to Ireland to decide my next move. As things turned out it was 3 months later that I actually left Malta and I was looking forward to returning again. Why? because when you look past all the parts that are rough around the edges, get used to the way of life, accept nothing is going to happen fast (Apart from the driving) and get out of the resorts. Malta reveals itself to be a truly beautiful, warm and friendly country. The cost of living and weather are not too shabby either 🙂
Im basing this loosely on the off season as that’s when I have spent time here, mainly because accommodation is so affordable at this time of year. That’s not all the off season has going for it though. Whilst the rest of Europe starts to freeze or get hammered by storms, Malta’s south Mediterranean location not far from north Africa means it misses the worst of it and the winter climate is quite mild in comparison. As I write this its November, its still about 23 degrees C outside and I’m wearing a t-shirt. In fact a quick Google of the worlds best climates reviles Malta as number one. That may be a little bit of an OTT statement but I’m sure you get the gist, winter is mild.
Accommodation is plentiful here and defiantly won’t break the bank. Apparently the low priced hotels are down to the large amount of retired people who choose to spend the winter here, hence they keep the hotels ticking over and open. I stay in hotels as I find it the easiest option with breakfast cooked for me, my room cleaned daily, fresh towels and bedding etc and all for less than the price of renting a room back home in Ireland, C’est la vie.
I am writing this from a 4 star hotel in Sliema where I am paying €16 a night with wifi and breakfast included. In the last hotel I was paying €120 a week for a very nice room with a balcony overlooking the med and the biggest beach on the island, breakfast, evening meal and WiFi all in the price. Take a look at Trivago or hotels combined and search Malta for dates between November and March, you will be surprised!
If hotels are not your thing or if you want a more permanent base then rents are good and airbnb is full of options. Airbnb prices for an apartment start around €20 a day, a 6 month contract (If that’s how you roll) will get you a half decent pad for under €400 a month and I have seen plenty of rooms for around the €250 mark, I was even offered a room for €30 a week but that turned out to be a long story 🙂
Your Euro goes a long way in Malta. Super markets and some shops are maybe as expensive as the main Western European countries but apart from that the cost of living is considerably cheaper. Eating out on a budget is easy if you shop around and the cost of entertainment leaves you quid’s in with some places selling a beer or a coffee for as little as €1.
Entertaining yourself is easy with loads of sights to see and things to keep you busy in the daytime. The cafe options are superb and nightlife is plentiful from the bars and restaurants that line the waterfronts in places like Sliema and Marsaskala to the drunken craziness that is a strip of clubs and bars called Paceville in St Julians.
The public bus service is regular but random, you dont know if the bus that just flew past you because you didnt flag him down is 15 minutes late or 15 minutes early but hey there is plenty of them so you will always get there eventually. Malta is a small island so you can get everywhere quick enough on the buses. A one way ticket valid for 2 hours is €1.50 whilst a week long pass will set you back €21 or you can get a Tallinja card for even cheaper fares.
Malta has one airport (probably the best I have ever spent time in) that is well serviced by many international and budget airlines making getting in and out easy. There is also regular ferries to and from Sicily.
The backbone of any digital nomad and the most frustrating thing to get wrong when you find out the place you booked with WIFI has a really shit connection or is stupidly expensive. It was €2.50 and hour in one hotel I stayed at in Sliema but advertised as a (surcharge) on the booking sites. I figured I could get a takeaway coffee in the hotel cafe which costs €1.50 and ask for a 1 hour WIFI voucher with it, I drank a lot of coffee in that hotel!
Skipping back to my opening paragraph about people writing guides to Malta that have not been here themselves. Internet access is not all as rosy as they have made it out to be, it can be hard work if you are staying in hotels or some short term holiday lets and will nearly always cost you extra. Even 3 and 4g connections can leave you walking round the room looking for the strongest signal or drop randomly for hours on end.
Then there was the time I was using a hotels WIFI provider.. Apart from it working out at about €5 a day all was good. Until one day an antenna was hit by lightning and the provider was fixing it “tomorrow”, after a week of tomorrows and working out of cafes and bars etc tomorrow finally came and I was back online. Like I said, nothing gets done in a hurry.
€20 will get you 6 gigs of contract free 4g with GO mobile and WiFi is available all over ranging from coffee shops and bars to networks that cover most of the island. Wired access is much better, speed test on the connection im using now is reading 75Mbps and 1ms ping.
Where to stay.
You have plenty of options on this subject. Starting with the main towns, Sliema, St Julians and Valletta. Along with a few other towns these places are all joined together as a continuation of each other so it feels more like your in a city here.
Sliema is the most built up part of the island and has a kind of city / cosmopolitan feel to it. Sliema & St Julians are also the main shopping and entertainment areas with shopping centers and plenty of coffee shops, bars clubs and restaurants.
Valletta, Malta’s small capital city is also very cosmopolitan and has all the services you need plus the added bonus of being a Unesco world heritage site with plenty to see as you wonder round its maze of street and steps. A quick ferry ride from here takes you to Birgu and Senglea where the prices go down. The restaurants that line the waterfront in Birgu are a good place to eat and less pricey or busy than Valletta.
In the north you have St Pauls bay. This is the second most built up part of the island and it contains the package holiday destinations of Bugibba and Quara. Here bars serve up English food, English beers, darts and Karaoke to both the expats and the sun burnt before they head down to the aptly named tourist street area to drink the night away. The rent and hotels are cheaper in this part of Malta, its easy to get along with a big expat community and everything you need is on your doorstep. It is a purpose built resort though lacking in sights and interest.
Further north is the more relaxed and picturesque village of Mellieha, the islands best beaches are around this area and in my opinion it’s the most scenic part of Malta.
In the south you have the towns of Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk (Very pretty) and Birzebugga (Not so pretty!), which feel a lot more Maltese than the north and have more of a laid back atmosphere.
Then there is Gozo, Maltas second island, I have only spent a day here exploring the place so cant comment on what it would be like longer term but its certainly different and well worth a vist.
I could go on and write a book and I’m not the first person to write about the subject of Malta as a digital nomad destination but this is my experience of it and if your thinking about choosing Malta for a while then do it, you wont regret it. And off course if anyone has any more advice or comments feel free to write them below 🙂