Many foreigners who are thinking about moving to Malta for reasons other than work tend to seriously consider between Malta and Gozo as the first step. This included us when we first moved to the island in 2014.

As someone who’s lived both in Gozo and Malta, here’s my take on the quality of life in Malta vs Gozo, split into 10 categories.

 

Nature

One of the first things that most people notice when they first go to Gozo is that it’s stunningly beautiful. I’m not implying that Malta isn’t, but few can honestly say that they believe Gozo isn’t much prettier than its ‘big brother’.

With much less (over-)development than in Malta, Gozo has retained a lot of naturally pretty sights, from large fields to hills and ravines. Our flat in Marsalforn had a view to the bay from one end and to a green field from the other – something you can’t find in many places in the world without breaking the bank.

 

People

Someone who’s just arrived in Malta might not easily notice the difference between the Maltese and the Gozitans. They speak the same language, eat the same food and follow the same traditions.

But once you’ve gotten to know some people, it becomes evident that Gozitans are different from the Maltese in many (mostly subtle) ways. Generally speaking, Gozitans tend to be far more “down to earth” than the Maltese. With Gozo being a much smaller place, this is expected.

But you’ll also find most people in Gozo to be more friendly and helpful (not that the Maltese aren’t friendly!) and less “stuck up” (not that the Maltese are a stuck up bunch), who tend to appreciate simple life and traditions over the city lifestyle with modern conveniences.

This can be either good or bad – depending on the kind of person you are.

 

Housing

One of the reasons we initially chose Gozo over Malta is the fact that you simply get far more “bang for your buck” when it comes to renting.

To give you an idea, we were renting a beautiful, brand new 3-bedroom flat with amazing views in Marsalforn for 620 Euros a month (and were told that we’re overpaying!)

In comparison, we paid €900 a month for a flat in Mosta, which was equal to our Gozo flat in many regards but didn’t have the view or a garage. And Mosta isn’t the most expensive area in Malta, either. Go to Sliema or St. Julian’s, and the prices go further up by quite a margin.

There’s also FAR less demand for rental properties in Gozo than in Malta, making good apartments easier to find. In Malta, it’s typical for a reasonably priced flat to sell in a matter of days, so unless you put your deposit down right away, you’re out of luck. In Gozo, it’s much more relaxed.

 

Travel

This is an area where Gozo, unfortunately, can’t compete with Malta, and one of the main reasons why we moved away to the “main island”.

With Malta having only one airport, international travel of any kind requires a trip to Luqa (unless you’re going to Italy on a ferry, that is). Even though Gozo isn’t far and the ferry only takes 25 minutes, this adds up to a significant time. From our home in Marsalforn, it took me a total of around 1.5 – 2 hours to reach the airport by car. Use public transportation and it can be upwards of 3 hours IF all buses are on time.

But to make matters even worse, the above is assuming that everything goes well. The reality is, however, that ferries sometimes (although rarely) don’t go, sometimes they take the long route over Comino (increasing travel time by an hour), and in the summer, you’re in the ferry queue together with hordes of tourists, meaning that you’ll often only get onto the 2nd or even 3rd ferry.

This can be a nightmare when travelling, as unless you want to risk missing your flight, you need to pretty much leave your home at 9 in the morning in order to catch an afternoon flight.

 

Services

Needless to say, Gozo is much smaller than Malta, and this also shows in terms of services. If you’re the kind of person who needs multi-screen cinemas and huge shopping malls in order to survive, then Gozo is probably not for you.

This isn’t to say that there’s a lack of services, though. Personally, I found Gozo to have nearly everything I needed for everyday life. There’s pubs, there’s a cinema, there’s a bowling hall, and there’s several decent grocery shops. It’s just that the selection is much smaller than in Malta.

I did find myself going to Malta every now and again to get more specific things, though.

 

Claustrophobia

For someone who’s affected by claustrophobia, Malta and Gozo are both pretty bad choices. The country is tiny, and sooner than you know, you’ll have seen the majority of things worth seeing and been to the majority of places worth visiting. Many people like it, but others get anxious. As someone who travels a lot, I tend to quite like the “compactness” of both Malta and Gozo, as I know that I can get out often.

Gozo, of course, is even smaller, so if Malta is too small for you then Gozo would probably be absolutely unbearable.

 

Driving

I’ve only got one thing to say: if you’re thinking of moving to Gozo and not getting a car, think again.

With the island being super-small, this was exactly what we had in mind. Fast forward 2 months – there I was, in the queue at a car dealership, getting myself a car.

Unless you’re a fan of planning your day around public transportation schedules, having a car is an absolute must in Gozo. Getting from most places to most other places by bus requires a connection in Victoria, and with many bus routes only going once an hour, “popping into an office 10km from you” can easily turn into a 2+ hour journey.

But to hell with the buses – let’s walk, right? I admire those who do this, but personally, there’s quite a lot of things I’d rather do than spend an hour walking uphill in either 30-degree heat (common occurrence during the summer) or in 10 degrees with wind and rain (common occurrence during the winter).

There’s also no decent taxi service, apart from the white taxis which tend to be available only sporadically and charge a fortune, so you really do need a car when moving to Gozo.

One great thing about Gozo, though, is that driving is far less stressful than it is in Malta, due to fewer traffic jams. In most cases, it takes you 15 minutes at most to get from any place on the island to any other place. The only place where I’ve seen traffic jams is in central Victoria, and even this only tends to happen during peak rush hours.

 

Getting Things Done

Ah, the bureaucracy. Regardless of whether it’s Malta or Gozo, this is one thing that you can’t escape.

Surprisingly, though, I’ve found that most government departments in Gozo tend to be much more efficient than their counterparts in Malta. To a degree, this makes perfect sense. Gozo has a much smaller population, and therefore government departments have a lot less volume to deal with.

A good thing is that there’s an “out-office” of most government departments readily available in Gozo. Only very few things require you to travel to Valletta.

Bear in mind, though, that for a lot of things, the Gozo departments need to send your documents over to Malta and get them back from Malta by post. This can increase processing time for certain things, but overall I’ve still found paperwork to be quicker and more efficient in Gozo vs Malta.

 

Prices

I’ve heard a lot of people claim that Gozo is significantly cheaper than Malta. Personally, I don’t think this is overly accurate, as if you leave out things like accommodation (covered above), you’ll find that mostly everything else costs the same as it does in Malta.

We can’t, of course, compare Marsalforn prices to those in Sliema. But a pint of beer or a loaf of bread in Sannat (Gozo) is likely to set you back the same as it would in, say, Mosta (Malta).

Other prices like bus tickets, petrol and dining out tend to also be similar to what you’d find in smaller towns in Malta.

One thing worth noting is the fact that, living in Gozo, you’ll inevitably end up spending some money on the Gozo ferry tickets. The good news is that once you’ve registered yourself as a Gozo resident, the single round trip passenger fare jumps down from €4.65 to a measly €1.15, and the car+driver fare from €15.70 to €8.15.

 

Jobs 

Gozo’s biggest drawback for those moving to Malta for work is the lack of job opportunities. Whilst lacking exact data or personal experience, it can be safely claimed that over 95% of all employment opportunities exist in Malta.

This isn’t the case for just foreigners, either. Try taking the 7am ferry from Gozo to Malta, and you’ll notice it is full of Gozitans who are on their daily commute to Malta, just to get to their workplace. Lack of job opportunities is a big issue in Gozo, and with very few international companies setting up in Gozo, the odds for an expat to find decent work in Gozo are, unfortunately, very slim.

There are, of course, bars, restaurants and other service establishments where one could source work, but even then it’s largely an exception, rather than rule, as unless you’re looking for a temporary gig for the summer, it’s likely that most places won’t need any outside help.

 

Bottom Line

As you hopefully noticed, Gozo has a lot to offer compared to Malta, but also comes with its (sometimes severe) limitations. Personally, I would prefer living in Gozo over Malta any time of the day, if it wasn’t for the travel issues, but different people are looking for different things, so a one-size-fits-all answer to “where’s better” is quite impossible to come up with.

What are your own Malta vs Gozo thoughts? Let me know in the comments below! I’m also happy to answer any specific questions you may have about living in Malta or Gozo.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I have lived here many years and I think you have got a lot of your facts wrong about Gozo!!

    Lots of my friends DO NOT have a car here as the bus service on the Island is very very good and efficient! THere are also very good taxi services —not talking about White Cabs as they are so expensive!

    As for apartments and houses there is now a huge demand for properties here in Gozo and the prices are now going up sky high and not easy to find a decent one these days!!

    Not too sure when you wrote this BUT it does need checking!!

  2. Thank heavens for Mrs Burgess. The voice of reason! I have been a frequent visitor to both Malta and Gozo for 40years, child and adult, having stayed on both Islands twice so far this year 2017 I barely recognise the author’s description of Gozo! Yes the taxi fares are expensive but there is a perfectly good bus system – the Internet connection is OK and I haven’t experienced mould etc in any properties
    I reside mainly in central London and yes the pace of life is slower in Malta and Gozo but it works and everything gets done! 😁

  3. Gozo is the ideal place if you are self employed online worker (I am working for clients in Italy, France, and various countries as Switzerland …). Why: it is affordable and QUIET !

    I have lived in Malta for 2 1/2 years (Gzira): petards from day to night (Manoel Island), party people and drunkards from the surounding betting companies, tourist facilities, cars, cars, cars (pollution is definitively a serious issue in the area between Msida and St Julians, in Berlin and Montréal city the air is by far better than in Gzira or St Julians) …

    What one might miss (depending on his/her age): clubs, some culture events (Isle of MTV), the whole Valletta progamme.
    But: Gozo offers two operas (often unknown to foreigners), some hippie festivals (sunscape and ohters), two cinemas in Winter (Don Bosco and Citadelcinema), Gozofilmclub and the Gozo Film Festival

    Living in Malta, especially in the area of St Julians or Sliema, is not different from living in any city in the world. The sea in front of these place is not the best place to swim, people are running around and as much stressed as in any other business location.

    And:
    compared to Malta prices are still lower in Gozo (just had a platter for 5 € which I hardly couldn`t finish)

    Regarding work: Gozo is not the place for people who work in Malta, as it can easyly take up to 2 / 3 hours (one way) to arrive in areas around Valletta. Gozo is rather the place for self employed online workers or retired people.

    One last word: before considering to move back to Malta I would rather move to a little town or village in France, Italy (some people moved from Malta mainland to Greece, Spain or Portugal).
    Malta is -unfortunately- slightly turning into a mediterranean Hong Kong – adopting a similiar live style.

  4. Any advice would be appreciated therefore on:

    1. Renting with 4 dogs!
    2. Primary and secondary healthcare on Gozo (or is it requiring a trip to Mater Die to see consultants etc)
    3. Residency requirements on both islands.

    I previously lived in St Paul’s Bay back b4 the EU Accession and understand the jungle of tree slices and hoops required to get residency and was forever astounds at the overall time it took.

    How does one get residency on Gozo and what is required to do so please? Any advice would be appreciated. Also what differences between Gozo and big brother Malta please?

    We are moving to either island 1. For health needs (both being disabled) and 2. To move our global multifaith Community HQ to eitger island as a more central eurozone base for our outreach mission with the boat people to help with their pastoral welfare and our re-education programme in northern continental Africa to end the scourge of female genital mutilation so prevalent there right now.

    Many thanks.

    +Barry

    The Rt Rev Dr Barry Harding-Rathbone
    Global Primate and Moderating Bishop of
    The Community of St John the Divine and St Mary Magdalene (or C.S.J)

  5. Both the article and the comments show that the same thing can be seen in very different ways, as usual. I have been living on Gozo for more than a year now, and have to agree to most of the statements by Janar.
    There are nearly no opportunities for work here in Gozo (except the basic level summer business jobs, in restaurants etc.), you literally need to bring your job with you (= self employed).
    There is a very good public transportation system here, which brings you nearly everywhere, and it costs you not more than 10 EUR per month (Gozo only!), but if you live here, it will get annoying to pass so many hours on a bus (though it is still much better on Gozo than let’s say in Melliha during summertime, with all the tourists overloading the transport system from time to time). If it gets later you will need to take a taxi as the buses don’t run during night. A car is really useful, at least think about getting a scooter, which much better in terms of finding a parking space. (There seems to be a sort of standard price of 1.000 EUR for used scooters around here, no matter in how bad a shape they are, so check).
    There is a significant difference between Malta and Gozo concerning the driving stress (especially when comparing it to Maltese cities). Main rule here on the island: Don’t hurry!
    Big difference between Malta and “cold” countries like GB, Germany, Poland, Denmark etc.: It is not common to find a house well isolated here. Typically inside its cold during winter time, and humid. I first wondered about ads for mould infestation, until I spent the first winter here. You need to heat up the flat or house, dry somehow the air inside (environmental humidity can rise up to 85% during winter), a gas heater may be a cheap way to heat, but it produces a lot of humidity in addition.
    There is still a significant difference in prices for rented flats, especially if you have time to look for the right one. Of course prices are going up, but we are talking about a monthly rent of 300 EUR to 500 EUR, which some old residents my call insanely high, and yet they are much lower than the prices in Valletta, Paola, St. Juliens, Paceville etc.
    Yes, there is the trip to the airport, which I need to do a dozen times per year. And yet: try to reach the airport in one of the major cities around the world, like from London to Gatwick, from central Paris to CDG, I don’t even mention Shanghai. And not everyone in the world lives in a major city near to such an airport. Thus a 2 hour trip to the airport for me is quite acceptable. If you have money of course there is the possibility to take the helicopter service from Gozo to the airport…
    I lived in a rural area before moving to Malta / Gozo, therefore I’m used to traveling by car for even getting some bred for breakfast. Not to mention all the other things, like cinema, shopping mall, doctors visit, and visiting friends. All depends of course of your personal lifestyle. Malta can be compared to any minor city in the world, half of Maltas population of about 420.000 people live in and around Valletta (depending on how you define “around”). This is by fare not comparable to any big city (Paris 2 Mio., London 8 Mio., L.A. up to 13 Mio., Shanghai 23 Mio.). With the exception of some rural areas on Malta you can find more of a “Let’s try to be a big city”-feeling there (yet never achieved goal: try to find the subway which brings you from Valletta or the airport, or to Mosta).
    Personally I decided to live on Gozo because I wanted to get most out of the island feeling, calm, stress free, nice people, known neighborhood.
    Ah and one last thing: In God we trust! Malta is a highly religious country, it’s not just the house names, the people itself are. When I moved to Xaghra I got a list with “emergency numbers”, useful numbers such as pharmacy, postal office, kindergarden etc. And about 30 names and tel numbers of local priests. In case of need.
    Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta states that the religion of Malta is the “Roman Catholic apostolic religion” (paragraph 1), that the authorities of the Catholic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and wrong (paragraph 2) and that religious teaching of the Catholic apostolic faith shall be provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education (paragraph 3). According to a Eurobarometer Poll held in 2005, 95% of Maltese responded that they “believe there is a God”, 3% responded that they “believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 1% responded that they “don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force” which was the lowest percentage of non-believers in all countries surveyed together with Turkey, Romania and Poland. So don’t be surprised when you get to know that there is an archbishop on Malta, AND a bishop just for Gozo. As you shouldn’t be when hearing the church bells ringing at a quarter to five in the morning, for the first service.
    All this may be of some importance if you plan to send your kids to school AND try to teach them morals which differ from the roman catholic view. At least check if this is a crucial point for you.
    Don’t try to learn the maltese language hoping to be able to understand two old Gozitans talking to each other: there are quite some strong dialects here.
    I love to live here, every day. 350 days or so of sunshine. Really friendly people. And I agree with Janar when he states that on Gozo there is available nearly everything you need.
    Again, everything mentioned is always a very personal view of things, only a few of which are undeniable facts, like: Gozitans naturally are the better Maltese! 😉

  6. My oldest son who is rarely easy to please and has visited many countries other than our own (Australia), both delighted and surprised me when he first visited Malta and reported it was easily his favourite location. My own father was Maltese but, like me, my sister and his father, we were all born in Egypt, but with Ciantar as our family name, we all considered ourselves to be primarily Maltese and not Armenian as my mother. Anyway, after receiving my son’s grand report on Malta, it occurred to my entire family to seriously consider leaving Australia (I have nothing against the place) and, not only resettling instead in Malta but also claiming Maltese nationality because of the paternal side of my family. So I sent a letter to the correct government department there and stated what we were hoping we’d be able to do in Malta but received neither cooperation nor encouragement despite my illusion that my surname would immediately open several doors wide for us not to mention the welcome mats I expected. Well, not only was I officially relatively cold-shouldered but also shocked to learn I would be charged quite a large sum of money effectively to buy Maltese citizenship before we’d be allowed in, not as tourists but as permanent residents in Malta. If you can think of a better approach I should have adopted, please let me know and add any additional advice that might serve to help us. Incidentally, I’m a qualified teacher and would love to teach English there.

  7. My experience was much different to George’s. I too am an Australian citizen. I was born in Malta of Maltese parents but emigrated to Australia when I was five. About four years ago I visited the Maltese High Commission in Canberra with my birth certificate and my father’s birth certificate. The staff there were extremely helpful. I had
    to complete some paperwork which was sent off to Malta. Some weeks later I had my citizenship and a Maltese passport. My two daughters, both born in Australia, followed in my footsteps and now have their own Maltese passports. In 2015 I visited Malta July to September. I went to the Government offices in Valletta where I obtained my Maltese ID card which entitles me to reduced prices on many services.

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