There are many similarities between the island countries of Malta and Cyprus – at the first glance, anyway. But the two countries are also very different in many regards.
As someone who’s spent 3 years in Cyprus, and now close to 3 in Malta, I’m looking at the positives and negatives of both places from an expat’s perspective, and hopefully it’ll make the decision easier to those considering whether to move to Malta or to Cyprus.
The two countries are compared in 17 different categories (8 in Round 1), with a winner and a loser (or sometimes, a tie) determined in each.
Let the fight begin!
Malta and Cyprus are both in the Mediterranean, and therefore quite similar in terms of weather.
Cyprus is a notch closer to the equator, though, and also has more land mass, making it a bit warmer than Malta, but not a whole lot.
The one difference between the two countries is in the number of rainy days per year.
Annual rainfall in Malta is nearly double that of Cyprus, and Malta also tends to get a lot windier, especially during the winter.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to one’s personal preference, though. Even though rain and wind can be “nasty”, it also means more greenery and more local fruits and vegetables.
One major plus for Cyprus is in the regard of weather diversity. Being quite mountainous, one can head to the top of the Troodos mountain and even experience thick snow, whilst being able to swim and sunbathe down in Limassol.
Yes, Cyprus is one of few places in the world where you can ski and swim in the sea at the same time of the year! (… but don’t go expecting Alps-style skiing experience :-))
Cost of Living
The daily cost of living tends to be somewhat cheaper in Malta, especially when it comes to “everyday convenience” items and dining out. In Malta, one can still find cafes that fix you a cappuccino for €1. In Cyprus – it’s not uncommon to pay up to €4 for a cup of Nescafe!
Alcohol, especially at bars, is also significantly cheaper in Malta. In Cyprus, it’s not uncommon to pay €8 – €10 for a cocktail at a nightclub – something that would cost you €2.50 – €5 in most establishments in Malta.
But in other areas, Cyprus is considerably cheaper than Malta. Buying a car can be significantly more expensive in Malta, due to the heavy taxation. Similarly, rental accommodation tends to be more expensive in Malta’s “prime areas” when compared to the sought after towns of Cyprus.
In the centre of Limassol (one of the primary seaside towns in Cyprus), one can find a 2 bedroom flat in a decent condition for around €500 a month. This is something that’s hard to beat in Sliema or St. Julian’s.
So, unless you’re partying every weekend or drinking 10 cups of coffee per day, your overall monthly expenses will likely be a bit lower in Cyprus.
Winner: CYPRUS (but not by a big margin)
Both countries have one “primary” party area – Paceville in Malta and Ayia Napa in Cyprus, respectively. These areas are quite similar to each other – in both the good and the bad.
But where Malta excels at is the proximity of the party area to most urban centres. Paceville is a 10-minute drive from Sliema and 30 minutes (without traffic) from nearly everywhere else on the island.
Ayia Napa, on the other hand, is 112km from Limassol, 61km from Larnaca and 178km from Paphos, requiring a long trip for most. The area itself has a permanent population of only 3,000 and little to no establishments other than hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs, so moving there is not an option, either.
There are, of course, several bars and clubs in all major towns of Cyprus, so one doesn’t need to go all the way to Ayia Napa just to have a few cocktails, but overall the party options (that don’t require extensive travelling) are more plentiful in Malta, compared to Cyprus.
To many, moving to a Mediterranean country means spending a lot of time on the beach.
In this regard, Malta and Cyprus differ a lot, with the beaches in Cyprus being generally larger (Cyprus itself is a lot larger than Malta!), and there are many more sandy beaches to be found.
In most of the popular towns in Cyprus*, there’s a long (several kilometres or more) stretch of sandy beach running from the town centre to the outskirts, and those beaches don’t usually get overly crowded. This is something that Malta, unfortunately, can’t compete with, as even though there are beaches nearly everywhere, the ones in key population centres are usually small, and mostly rocky.
Whilst there are nice sandy beaches in Malta as well, most of these are away from the main population centres, making them difficult to reach for expats who lack transportation options, and unviable for a quick dip.
* Nicosia (the capital) is a notable exception. Being inland, there is no sea anywhere near.
Due to Malta and Cyprus both being iGaming and Finance hubs, as well as popular tourist destinations, both have a significant expat community.
Whilst exact and up to date figures are hard to come by, according to some reports there are close to 23,000 foreigners living in Malta, and around 150,000 in Cyprus (if you exclude the 31,000 Greek nationals), of which around 26,000 are from the UK and around 54,000 from other EU countries.
Even though the number of expats is much larger in Cyprus – both in terms of the total number, as well as the percentage of overall population, expats tend to be scattered around the island. And with distances between Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos and Nicosia being significant, one is mostly limited to communicating with people who are based in the same area.
In Malta, on the other hand, everywhere is close, and it’s therefore easy to meet up with nearly any one of the 23,000 without having to travel much. Don’t quote me on this, but from personal experience, probably around 85-90% of young professionals tend to live in the Sliema area.
Cars & Driving
Traffic is often fairly chaotic both in Malta and in Cyprus – both are, after all, Southern European nations with a similar overall temperament and mentality. Being former British colonies, both countries also drive on the left.
That said, Cyprus does have a significantly more advanced road infrastructure, with most roads generally in good condition, and most major towns linked with motorways.
Needless to say, due to Malta’s small size, motorways aren’t really needed here, but the overall poor road condition is something that can be felt every day.
Traffic also tends to get worse during rush hours in Malta, than it does in Cyprus, which probably has to do with both the overall road conditions, and the fact of Malta scoring among the highest in the EU in the number of vehicles per capita.
It would be easy to assume that, both Malta and Cyprus being Mediterranean countries, the overall “looks” of them would be quite similar. But apart from having an abundance of palm trees, one couldn’t be more wrong.
Due to the significantly less rainfall that Cyprus gets, there’s much less greenery there (unless you go up to the mountains, that is). Most of the Cyprus countryside resembles a desert, and with a few exceptions, the predominant colour is brown.
Malta, on the other hand, gets a lot more water, which allows for a far greener “overall feel”, at least during the winter and spring months. But on the flipside, due to the small size of Malta and the extreme overdevelopment, secluded areas where one can actually enjoy nature are few and far between.
As with many things, it comes down to what one prefers, and there’s therefore no clear winner.
Despite both Malta and Cyprus being former British colonies and English being widely spoken in both countries, in Malta English also enjoys the status of an official language, alongside Maltese. In Cyprus, the official languages are Greek and Turkish – the latter rarely used since the division of the country.
For tourists, this makes very little difference, as the overall English proficiency in Cyprus is exceptionally good, and probably at the same level with Malta, but as an expat living in the country, it can often make a world of difference.
The fact that English is an official language in Malta means that nearly all official communication – be it with the government, banks, or any other institution – can always be done in English. And more importantly – the majority of instructions and forms are provided either in English or both English and Maltese.
In Cyprus, it’s common to find forms that are purely in Greek, requiring someone to help translate, and sometimes leading to signing documents that one has no idea what they’re even saying.
In this sense, unless you speak Greek, Malta makes for a much easier life.
Language is also a big topic for foreigners looking for jobs, but we’ll talk about that separately in Part 2.
To Be Continued …
This is it for today, but check back soon for a Part 2 of the Malta vs Cyprus match, where I’ll cover topics like bureaucracy, jobs for expats, public transportation, salaries, tolerance and many others!
UPDATE: Round 2 has now been published! Check it out here!
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Let us know in the comments below whether your experience has been similar to mine, or if you have anything to add!