Valletta, Malta Report of what it's like to live there - 07/04/09

Personal Experiences from Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta 07/04/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No - I have lived in Bulgaria, Russia, and Guatemala.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Oct 2007 to present (July 2009).

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government foreign service assignment.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

2-3 hours from Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, London.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Sea-view condos or inland houses with pools. Commute to US Embassy is 15 - 30 minutes. They say that no point on the island is more than 30 minutes away.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most things are available. Malta has a 30% COLA at the moment, and it seems about right.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hard Rock from the U.S. and many good Maltese ones, including Fusion Four in Valletta, Two-and-a-Half Lemons in Birgu, Taste in Sliema, Paparazzi in St Julians, Ta Marija in Mosta (with folk show), and many in Paceville.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch or local mail service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Somewhat available, although over half of embassy employees hire non-Maltese domestic help, so they need to help them with work permits. Average cost is 6 euros per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes -- almost all hotels have them.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards and ATMs are easy to use. Local banks do not charge ATM fees at this time (although of course you will pay your own bank's fees).

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes -- there is a list of about 10 churches with English-language religious services.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

With cable TV at about 30 euros per month you can have a few English-language stations. The Malta Times and the Independent are English-language dailies and cost less than one euro per issue.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Almost none, although in some of the poorer areas of the island, locals don't understand English very well.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tripping over the rough pavement. Climbing onto the old buses. Dealing with the rather frequent breakdowns of elevators and other electrical problems.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains. Buses are safe and affordable (47 euro cents for a basic ride). Taxis are safe but rather expensive.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Unless you have duty-free import privileges, bringing a used vehicle to Malta means paying a hefty tax. People drive cars that run the gamut, but a small car with high clearance is best.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes -- about 30 euros per month depending on the speed. Some companies are selling bundles ranging from 50 - 100 euros depending on the speed of the internet, the number of cable channels on the TV, and the phone service (with or without landline and mobile phone).

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Find out what company your friends use -- most plans have free calling to selected numbers within the same plan.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, for up to 6 months, depending on when the rabies titre test was done

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Fine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, but you need a work permit, and the competition with EU citizens is high.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

During the summer, shorts and casual clothes are typical. Dress code at work is not too formal, but people dress up for evening parties.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

None.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No concerns. Good medical care with a new hospital and well-trained physicians.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Great climate -- a bit windy during the winter and a few months of hot weather, but otherwise, fantastic.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Verdala - the "official" school. QSI - a new one that has attracted some parents due to its individual attention and "success for all" motto. We don't have children, so no personal experience.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Malta has a special-needs program and makes accommodations as necessary as long as the "need" does not overwhelm the school. Non-Maltese families must pay for the extra help required.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Several hundred and growing. If you count British expats who return annually, it is much higher.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Entertaining at both home and in restaurants is common. There are numerous events throughout the year.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes. Families seem to have it best, as the country is very family oriented; however, both couples and singles find that the variety of events makes this a good place to live.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Several gay expats live here and have had generally favorable experiences. Most people are tolerant.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is some racial prejudice against people with dark skin, in part due to the influx of African boat people in recent years. The Catholic religion is predominant, although there are a variety of churches, and you will even see quite a few Muslim women in head scarves.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Walk along the seafront promenades, visit historical sites such as the Hypogeum, go to festas and other local events, Kayak, scuba dive, sailing, travel to Siciliy on the ferry, or to other places within a few hours' flying time.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Glass.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't travel too much.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definitely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen and sunglasses.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sword and the Scimitar, David Ball.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sword and the Scimitar, David Ball.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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