Beautiful beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and breathtaking views vie for attention with near-constant traffic gridlock, high levels of noise pollution, and huge concrete monstrosities. Welcome to Malta.
The islands are situated in the heart of the Mediterranean, 90 minutes by boat from Sicily. In centuries past, their location gave them strategic military importance, leading to a slew of conquests by other civilizations.
The Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Knights of St John, French, and, most recently, Britain all ruled Malta at various times, and independence arrived barely 50 years ago.
Maltese culture is heavily influenced by past rulers, but it’s also rich and distinctive. The Maltese people even have their own language: a cross between Arabic grammar, a Latin alphabet, and vocabulary of French, Italian, and English origin.
The unique Maltese identity even extends to the mobile phone market, where two out of the three main carriers are home-grown. Buying a SIM card in Malta is a breeze for travelers, but you might be surprised at the pricing.
Mobile phone costs aren’t as high as they used to be, but they’re still fairly expensive compared to other countries.
Read on to get the lowdown.
There are four mobile phone operators in Malta. Vodafone and Go are the two largest, and have the lion’s share of the mobile phone market between them.
Melita offers the cheapest rates on the islands but should be avoided like the plague. Their customer service and hard-selling tactics are infamous, and have turned them into a company every Malteser loves to hate.
RedTouch Fone is more of a cute quirk rather than an operator to seriously consider. It’s a virtual operator owned by one of the country’s two major political parties.
It’s terribly bad and mainly aimed at the party faithful. In Malta, politics is extremely serious, and attracts faithful followers much like football teams do in, say, England or Italy.
Vodafone is Malta’s market leader, but not by much. It has 99% coverage, fast internet, and unbeatable customer service. It also has a slick, easy-to-use website you can use to top up or find the nearest store.
How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Malta
To get a Vodafone SIM, you’ll need to shell out €10, which doesn’t include call credit.
There’s a Vodafone kiosk right outside the arrivals area at Malta’s only international airport, so you can snag one as soon as you land.
Alternatively, you can get one from one of the many Vodafone outlets all over the country, or from an authorised reseller like most stationery stores
English is one of Malta’s two official languages, so finding someone who can understand your requirements isn’t a problem.
Fun fact: Vodafone Malta’s head office is situated in the red building right outside the airport, which is aptly called SkyParks Business Centre.
Prepaid SIM Costs
Vodafone’s pre-paid SIM cards have a few different package options.
The Vodafone MIX plans are quite straightforward, giving you a certain number of “units” when you top-up with €10, €20, or €30 as below. Each unit can be used as 1MB of data, 1 minute of domestic talk time, or 1 SMS. The more-expensive plans have an additional data allowance as well.
- MIX500: 500 units, €10
- MIX1000: 2GB + 1000 units, €20
- MIX2000: 2GB + 2000 units, €30
You can add 500MB of data to any MIX plan for €2 by texting ‘500’ to 16200.
If you use data more than texts and calls, you’ll get better value from one of the company’s Genius or Genius Expert packages.
The Genius packages provide unlimited calls to other Vodafone numbers, 30c/hour calling to other domestic numbers, and 5c/SMS, plus data as follows:
- 2.5GB, €5.99, 14 days (€10 top-up required)
- 5GB, €10.99, 28 days (€15 top-up required)
- 10GB, €17.99, 28 days (€20 top-up required)
The Genius Expert package includes 10GB of data, unlimited calls to local Vodafone numbers, unlimited local texts, and 100 minutes of calls to other local networks. It’s valid for 28 days and costs €20 .
Speeds are capped at 2Mbps on all Genius and Genius Expert plans, however.
You can top up at one of the various branches around the islands, from an authorised reseller (most stationery stores are,) or online.
If you want to top up online, you’ll need to register for a MyVodafone account on the Vodafone Malta website and pay for your credit using a VISA credit or debit card.
It’s also possible to top up via SMS or through an ATM, but you’ll need a Maltese bank account to do it.
Coverage and Data Speeds
Unless you’re somewhere remote (which is virtually impossible in Malta), coverage black spots are a rarity. Cell signal almost never disappears, and call quality is consistently good.
Vodafone’s LTE network covers 99% of the population, but don’t necessarily expect to see it in rural areas. 3G/HSPA+ is readily available almost anywhere, however, and at an average of around 15Mbps, isn’t too shabby. Of course, you’ll only get these speeds if you’re not on one of the Genius plans that’s limited to 2Mbps.
Malta is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages. Double-check the exact details at time of purchase.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.
Main image via Magdalena Smolnicka