Malta at a Glance
Health and Safety in Malta
If you are about to set out for expatriate life in Malta, there are not many health or safety risks to worry about. Property crimes such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, or theft from parked cars are the most frequent incidents, and violence is rather rare. However, there has been the occasional robbery, sometimes at knifepoint, and some of the popular nightlife spots in Sliema, St Julian’s, or Paceville can get rowdy. Nonetheless, living in Malta is mostly safe.
If you should have the bad luck to become a victim of crime, don’t hesitate to call the local police. The general emergency number is 112. In cases of violent crime, such as sexual assault, or if you are accused of criminal behavior yourself, it’s recommended to get in touch with your embassy or consulate. They can help you to get legal advice and other support.
Vaccinations and Common Health Risks
Before you leave for Malta, pay a visit to your family doctor to get your booster shots for standard immunizations (MMR, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus), and maybe add a vaccination for hepatitis A and B. There are no dangerous diseases in Malta, so some common-sense tips should suffice.
First and foremost, the local tap water isn’t recommended for drinking, so you have to shill out some money for bottled water on a regular basis. Especially in the hot summer months, it’s important to stay hydrated.
You should also take care to avoid the heat and to protect yourself against sunburn or heatstroke. Ozone levels can sometimes be high, so don’t engage in any strenuous activity outside on such days. Expats with rheumatic and respiratory diseases complain about the damp weather in winter.
Short-term visitors to Malta have free access to the local healthcare system for unforeseen treatment as long as they have a European Health Insurance Card. This is an easy way for EU nationals to get healthcare coverage for their travels within the European Union.
Anyone who enters Malta on a Schengen Visa usually has to show proof of health insurance coverage during the application process. Nationals of countries that have a visa waiver agreement for short-term trips to Malta should also make sure to get travel insurance for emergency care.
If you have a paid job in Malta, are officially self-employed or own a small business, you have to pay income-based contributions to the national insurance system. This includes government-sponsored healthcare, and you thereby gain automatic access to public healthcare.
Due to the nation’s past as a British colony, the Maltese healthcare system is closely modeled after the NHS, but it has a better reputation than its UK equivalent. Foreign residents with public healthcare coverage usually go first to a general practitioner or a primary care center. Specialists and hospitals provide them with secondary and tertiary care for more complicated interventions.
Private Health Insurance
Overseas residents who have not come to Malta for gainful employment are generally required to take out private health insurance to obtain a visa and residence permit. For example, this applies to international students or to anyone applying for the Permanent Residence Scheme.
Unemployed dependents (i.e. spouse, children) of expat employees are the main exception: If their family member is covered by public health insurance, the coverage extends to them as well. Of course, even nationals and foreign residents covered by public healthcare can buy private insurance plans to supplement government healthcare and avoid out-of-pocket payments for costs that aren’t borne or reimbursed by the public healthcare scheme.
Medical Service Providers
Quality standards of medical care in Malta are good to excellent, and as long as you understand English, you needn’t fear the language barrier. Many doctors speak Italian as well, and you may succeed in finding some physicians with other foreign language skills. According to a 2006 survey, some 17% of Malta’s inhabitants have a working knowledge of French, and there are, for instance, a few German-language doctors as well.