Wednesday mornings are a bit noisier than other days in Nadur Village. It’s market day! The baker’s lorry passes through the streets, announcing his presence with a sharp beep, beep, beep. The fish hawker parks and plays “Old Suzanna” on his melodic truck horn. A farmer sets up his vegetable stall and shoppers begin a queue, eager to get the best of his produce. It’s my favorite day of the week and just one of the reasons we chose to retire in Gozo, Malta.
After more than a year of research, conversation, list-making, and soul-searching, Kevin and I decided Malta would be our retirement home. The location, climate, cost of living, and culture seemed perfect for the retirement life we desired.
Our friends and family had questions — the most common being, “Where is Malta?” or “Why Malta?” So we could see that getting it in writing would be the best way to share our reasons for retiring in Gozo, Malta.
We chose a retirement career as travel writers, photographers, and hotel scouts. Because we love to travel and explore new cultures, it just made sense for us. The tiny archipelago of Malta is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Bounded by Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, it is the ideal location for us to quickly and inexpensively see much of the world.
Malta’s Mediterranean climate is influenced by the sea. The sea temperature averages 70 degrees Fahrenheit annually. With a low of 61 and a high of 81, it is possible to swim most of the year.
There are 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. With an annual average temp of 67 degrees, the weather in Malta rarely drops below 55 or above 85. Summers are hot and dry, while winter is cool and wet.
3. Moderate-To-Low Cost Of Living
The cost of living was a significant influence on our decision. While residents of California, we could never have retired. Our Social Security was not nearly enough to support even a modest lifestyle.
On Gozo, we easily live an improved lifestyle on our Social Security alone because of the lower costs of rent, utilities, food, transportation, and entertainment. Here are some examples (€1 is roughly equal to $1.09 USD, but the exchange rate is constantly changing):
- Rent: €700 for a modern three-bedroom, two-bathroom, fully furnished, and air-conditioned seaview flat.
- Utilities: €200 per month includes electricity, water, gas, trash, high-speed internet with Wi-Fi, a house phone (with free international calls), and two cell phones with unlimited calls and data.
- Food: €360 per month for two adults. That’s everything needed for about 75 meals per month at home. Also in that budget are household needs like laundry detergent, personal care products, etc.
- Dining Out: €3.50 for coffee and pastries at a café, €15 for lunch, €25 for dinner; €12 will add a lovely bottle of prosecco, €7 will add a bottle of local red or white wine. With our Malta Discount Card, we get an additional 25–50 percent off at selected eateries.
- Entertainment: €60 annually for two Heritage Malta memberships. That provides unlimited entrances to over 90 museums, archaeological sites, historic baroque auberges and palaces, catacombs, forts, natural landscapes, UNESCO-listed Neolithic temples, monuments, and underwater cultural heritage sites. Also included are entrances to lectures, tours, new exhibit openings, member parties, and more.
- Transportation: €0 for public transit. Approximately €7 for a 3-mile cab ride.
We also attend many free events around the island and in our village, where something always happens in the village square. There are free wine festivals, food festivals, village fests, concerts of many genres, car shows, agriculture exhibits, craft shows, carnivals, and more.
With our Malta Discount Card, we get 25–50 percent off sailing tours, water sports, and land tours. It also includes museums not covered by our Heritage Malta Membership.
Gozo’s quiet, slow-paced lifestyle focuses on family, rest, and faith. Village life centers around the parish church, usually the head of the village square. Family, friends, and neighbors spend time conversing, eating, and playing together.
Shops close at noon, reopening at 4, allowing time for a meal, rest, time with family, and personal business.
Holidays are frequent and enthusiastically celebrated, involving the entire village in festivals, decorations, and fireworks.
5. Diverse Culture
Over the centuries, 12 civilizations have controlled Malta — Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British. Each brought language, food, art, music, religion, myths, and architecture. Traces of all 12 remain in modern Malta, creating the vibrant and exciting culture of the Maltese.
Fresh, clean, inexpensive, locally produced food is ubiquitous. The food in Malta is exceptional, whether in eateries, street markets, small village food stores, or supermarkets.
Malta grows an astonishing amount of fruits and vegetables on a relatively small amount of farmland. Olives, dates, figs, lemons, tomatoes, potatoes, broad beans, arugula, fennel, pumpkins, and melons are grown and used in many dishes.
Seafood caught by local fishermen can be found on every menu, in fish markets, and from fish hawkers driving from village to village selling fresh catch. The clean Mediterranean waters offer Lampuka (Mahi-Mahi), swordfish, seabass, grouper, sea bream, shrimp, king prawns, mussels, clams, oysters, and urchins. All are available most of the year.
7. Expats Are Welcome
Warm and welcoming locals receive immigrants from all over the globe. We have made many Maltese friends that have helped us adapt to life on Gozo. Even strangers will help you with language, directions, or suggestions for a good beach.
8. Dual-Language Country
Maltese and English are the official dual languages of the Maltese Islands. All government business is conducted in English, a leftover from Great Britain’s control. Most people speak English, Maltese, and/or Italian.
Excellent, safe, clean, and efficient public transit is available 24 hours a day on all parts of the islands. Once you have an address here, you can obtain your Tallinja Card. It provides an unlimited and free bus fare. Ferries are used to travel from island to island. The cost is minimal and the cruise is fun.
A car and driving were out of the question. Neither of us wanted the challenge or expense of a right-hand car driving on the left side. Narrow streets meander through villages designed centuries ago when feet, donkeys, and carts were the primary modes of travel. By doing away with two cars, we eliminated car payments, insurance, taxes, license fees, fuel, and maintenance, putting over $10,000 a year back into our cash flow.
The World Health Organization ranked Malta fifth among 200 of the world’s best healthcare systems. Once you acquire residency, you qualify for free state healthcare services. Until then, healthcare insurance for expats is available and very inexpensive. Our comprehensive, no-deductible policy covers Kevin and me for €1,200 annually.
The relative ease of residency — permanent or long-term — is available in several versions. It takes time, paperwork, a stable income, investment, or tax payment. We are Digital Nomads, a residency version for those who can perform their work remotely. Research Identity Malta to learn what is right for you.
- Income earned in Malta is taxed at graduated rates, ranging from 0–35 percent. If you bring money into Malta that has been taxed in the U.S., no taxes are due based on a “no double tax” agreement between the two countries.
- Most food for human consumption is exempt from taxes.
- There is no annual property tax in Malta. Taxes are paid at the purchase and sale of the property.
Why We Chose To Retire On Gozo, Malta
We often sit conversing at a table in the Nadur Village Square, having coffee or wine. Sometimes, friends and neighbors join us; other times, we sit silently, watching the world pass by. But always, one of us will express our gratitude for having found the Isle of Gozo, its enchanting landscape, sumptuous food, enthralling history, and lovely locals. Those things, combined with the world’s best location, a beautiful climate, a reasonable cost of living, world-class healthcare, and ease of residency, are making our retirement dream come true.