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malta

Travel guide for Malta

Malta! An island full of history, and buildings that precede even the pyramids of Giza. The island of knights will keep your interest undiminished throughout your visit. Picturesque neighbourhoods, colourful houses, medieval towns and beautiful beaches are some of the elements you will see on this small but unique island. In our guide below you will find all the information you need before your first visit to the island.

General Information

  • You can travel there with your ID if you are European. More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.
  • The current voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50Hz. Socket type G.
  • The national currency of Malta is the Euro (€). In order to be updated on the latest currency changes check: XE Currency Converter.
  • Malta belongs to the countries where free roaming is applicable for Europeans, so you can use your data and mobile calls freely. Students  must be careful not to exceed their student packages.For non-eu citizens check here.
  • The first buildings in Malta precede the pyramids of Egypt by as much as 1000 years.
  • The most prevalent religion is Roman Catholicism.
  • The population of Malta is 493 thousand inhabitants.
  • The official languages are Maltese and English.
  • The capital is Valletta, whilst the largest city is Birkirkara.
  • Driving is on the left side of the road.

Read 7 Reasons to visit the Mediterranean diamond of Europe here.

Budget

As we have said before accommodation is a very subjective matter. Each one of us who might be travelling alone, or with company, has different criteria and budgets when it comes to choosing where to stay. However, the platforms which are now available, and which we cite below, have innumerable options and suggestions for all types of travellers. Since the distances are short we suggest you avoid staying in Valletta or Sliema. The neighbouring towns have a far lower accommodation budget and are only a breath away from those cities. Here is an overview of accommodation in Malta.

Low budget: If you don’t particularly mind where you will spend the night, and only care about excursions and adventures then you can find a place to stay for only 18€ a night for a couple in cheap hostels in Sliema and St. Julian. This will be a bunk bed in a dormitory without special facilities and a shared bathroom. However, all the areas of interest are central without a great distance between them.

Mid budget: The mid budget choices are obviously more. You can find a bed for two in a three star hotel in Sliema, breakfast included, starting at 34€. Respectively, if you want to stay in the center of the capital you can find a private studio with a view of the sea at around 58€ per night.

High budget: The third category includes a dose of luxury. You can find a double room in a four star hotel in Sliema starting from 72€, including breakfast and a view of the sea.  You can also stay in a five star hotel, like the Hilton, with the price exceeding 700€ for a deluxe suite and the corresponding benefits. Finally, because luxury doesn’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg, there are also rooms at the Hilton with prices starting at 190€. Respectively there are other five star hotels in Valletta and St. Justine, starting at 121€. 

All the above research has been made for certain dates of the year, and is always based on a double room. Emphasis has been given to the summer months when most people choose to visit Malta. In the winter the prices range at lower levels.

For offers on hotels and rooms look here.

Traditional Food

The food in Malta is a mixture of Mediterranean, Italian, and Arabic cuisine, as well as a hint of other cultures. Every conqueror that passed through the island at times left their own mark of flavour in the Maltese cuisine. Below we mention certain dishes which you really have to try.

Stuffat tal-fenek: Rabbit stew is considered the national dish of Malta. The rabbit must simmer slowly to the point where the flesh is easily separated from the bones. Next it is mixed with tomato sauce and various other spices and wine. This dish can also be combined with various types of pasta like spaghetti or noodles. 

Torta tal–lampuki: Lampuki is a type of fish which swims in the waters of Malta. You can find this fish in various restaurants. The Maltese prefer it in a pie. They add onions, olives, tomatoes, and even spinach or walnuts.

Pastizzi: As their food is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine, we obviously can’t omit pasta. Pasta and pizzas can be found everywhere in Malta. The most famous recipe is Pastizzi. The name is similar to the Greek “pastitsio”, but this is where the similarity ends. These are small pies filled with peas, chicken or ricotta cheese. They are sold throughout the island and are a very popular street food sold at many stores.

Timpana: One of the most traditional recipes in Malta. This dish is essentially a baked pasta pie with “pennes”. This dish is also made with minced meat, cheese, bolognese sauce and vegetables.  It is known as the ultimate pasta dish.

Aljotta: A quick and light dish for those who want to avoid heavy, spicy foods. This Maltese soup is a perfect choice. It is a fish soup which also gets its flavour from various herbs that simmer with the fish. Garlic and esperoids are also added. The fresh fish in the soup is cut in big chunks so that you can get the full flavour.

Qaghaq tal–ghasel: This is one of the most classical desserts of Malta. It is available all year round, but is eaten more often during Christmas and Carnival time. It is made of dough in the shape of a bun and the filling is with orange or lemon jam and is served with syrup. It is also known as a honey ring.

Hobz biz-zejt: Small and fast. One of the most popular snacks. Bread on which they put grated tomatoes, cheese, tuna, onions and plenty of olive oil. It is very similar to the Cretan Rusk.

Transportation

Malta is a small country without trams, trains or metro. The travel network is much simpler and contains an extensive network of trains and buses.

Bus: The weekly multi route car is a good way of getting around if you are going to stay a while in Malta. The price of the card is 21€ and you simply scan it every time you enter the bus. The simple ticket costs 2€ from July until September and 1.5€ from October until June. Night tickets cost 3€ throughout the year. You can buy these tickets from the driver upon entering the bus.

At each bus stop you can see the time schedules and when the buses arrive.  Their transportation in general is reliable and the bus routes are frequent during the tourist season. We had visited Malta in June and the only disadvantage of the bus system was that in the heavy traffic of the peak season our trip took quite a long time. Thus, in the event that you have booked a tour or another activity you had better catch an early bus.

Upon arrival at the airport you can follow the signs to the main bus terminal and from there take the corresponding bus to your accommodation. Τhe X4 is for Valletta, whereas the X2 is for the St Julian area.

Taxi: Taxis are quite costly in Malta. Transportation from the airport in Valletta costs around 15€. Beware of taxis without taxi meters, which might outsmart you and charge you much more than the right price. It would be better to catch your ride from a taxi station to be sure. In every case, always agree upon the price prior to setting off. Although the Uber app is not used in Malta, there is an alternative app called Bolt. You can call a driver to come pick you up at the desired time and with a fixed price.

Car or Motorbike: If you want to get around the island on your own terms, without depending on a bus schedule or taxis, the best solution is to rent your own vehicle. As far as traffic jams go, you will encounter the same issues with a car as you will with the bus. The swiftest, most economical solution is to hire a motorbike, even though many don’t recommend this option due to lack of road safety, as the local drivers can drive rather carelessly and aggressively.

For car or motorbike rental look here.

Ferry: Ferries are used quite frequently for transportation within the country. Some of the most frequented routes are from Sliema to Valletta and vice versa. They are also used to get to neighbouring islands like Comino and Gozo.

Best things to do in Malta

Sliema

A town in the northeast of Malta. It is full of life, shops, restaurants and cafes. You can also go diving, as it has diving centers. It is directly opposite Valletta and you can go from one town to the other by ferry. It was the town we chose to stay in as it had low accommodation prices and was in close proximity to everything we wanted.

Town of Sliema
Valletta

The capital of Malta and the city which gathers the most tourist interest in the country. Upon arrival in the city you can see the impressive fountain of Triton. Only a breath away is the gate, the passing of which marks your entrance to the old town of Valletta. There you will also see the comparatively more modern building of the Parliament of Malta. You can wander around the old streets, gaze at the distinguished architecture of the old buildings, have something to eat and buy a souvenir. You can even take a tour of the Braka Gardens.

From there you have a panoramic view of the harbour and the three towns opposite it. These gardens used to belong to Italian Knights. You can take photos near the gardens or the canons and enjoy an ice cream. Finally you can visit the large and imposing palace of the grand Master. Originally founded in 1574, it has since been renovated and refurbished quite a few times. It is open to the public from 9am to 5pm.

Valletta the capital of Malta
Gozo

This island is second in size and population in the Maltese archipelago. It is even known from Homer’s Odyssey where Calypso, who had superhuman powers and was besotted with Odysseus, kept him captive for many years on her island, until she finally agreed to let him continue his journey towards Ithaca. One can only visit the island by ferry from Malta. You can go to one of the beaches by bus and enjoy your swim there.The buses are right next to the area where you disembark from the ferry. The souvenirs from Gozzo are cheaper than the rest of Malta, so it would be a good idea to get them from there.

Gozzo beach
Comino

Another small island you can visit by ferry from Malta. There are no cars on the island except those belonging to a few locals. This island does not have any distinguishable buildings. However, it is very well known for the beach Blue Lagoon. A very beautiful place to spend your entire day. The scenery is peaceful, the waters are crystal clear and you can do various water sports. Avoid going there late as it gets very crowded. The morning hours are quieter. There is a canteen from which you can buy anything you need at pretty low prices

Comino island
Gondola Tour

You can take a tour on a Maltese Gondola. Its starting point is from the city of Valletta and you can visit the three towns directly opposite ( Birgu, Senglea and Bormia). We recommend going in the afternoon and taking photos with the sunset as a background, during the golden hour.

Scuba diving

As on every island there is always the opportunity to go diving. You can discover the secrets of the sea depth if you are already a certified diver or you can go through one of the diving training seminars. Two of the diving centers in Malta are considered the best in Europe. More specifically, the Blue Hole in Gozzo and Cirkewwa in Malta. There are also various shipwrecks around the island you can visit.

More information on Scuba diving can be found in our article here.

Mdina

Or else «Silent City» and former capital of Malta. It has maintained its medieval character even up till today, something that you can confirm by taking a walk inside the inner walls of the castle. It is one of the most beautiful towns of the island and is situated right in the center. St Paul is said to have lived here. You can visit the catacombs of the island, the Roman Villa, the church of St.Paul, wander around the picturesque alleys and taste the local delicacies.

The old mdina town in Malta
Popey’s village

The village was originally made for filming purposes and in the end became one of Malta’s main tourist attractions. The village is an open-air museum, which everyone can visit and do various activities. It is especially fun for families so that young children can meet Popeye from close up with his wife Olive. You can also visit the comics museum where you can lounge around with a tea or coffee and take photos of the colourful buildings. During the summer months you can also enjoy the sea and various water games. More information on public opening hours, the prices and the location may be found here.

Popeye;s village in Malta
Marsaxlokk

A traditional fishing village in southeast Malta which is a favourite weekend escapade for the locals. It is  known for its outdoor fish markets. Another thing that makes this fishing village stand out is its small fishing boats. They call them luzzu and they are boats painted in intense colours with eyes.

These eyes are a modern revival of an ancient Phoenician custom (also practised by the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks) and they are referred to as the Eye of Horus or Osiris. It is said that they protect the fishermen whilst they are out fishing in the open seas during tempests. Finally, one of the best beaches on the island is St Peter’s Pool, a sea pool of crystalline water. As we mentioned before this is a favourite with the locals on the weekends so it would be best to visit it on weekdays in order to avoid the crowds.

traditional fishing village
St Julians

A place full of people, shops and intensity. It is famous for its nightlife and at night the shops are crammed with dancing, drinking people.The prices of the drinks are pretty logical, another reason why they are so packed. Beyond the bars, in the wider area there are also a lot of cafes, burger shops and restaurants with local, traditional cuisine. It is definitely worth visiting in the morning in order to avoid the chaos on the streets in the evening hours. Enjoy your walk along the  picturesque pier.

st julian's area
Megalithic Temples

In Gozo and Malta there are some enormous Temples which very few people know about. However, they are really worth visiting. The temples which constitute the complex called Megalithic Temples are: Ġgantija, Haġar Qim, Mnajdra, Ta’ Hagrat, Ta’ Skorba and Tarxien. These temples were built over a span of many years, and the most ancient temple of all was built in 3600 BC! They belong to the world heritage site of UNESCO.

Finds say that various rituals and sacrifices took place in these temples. However, the creation of these temples has undergone a lot of speculation as in those times they did not have metal tools at their disposal. Some of the stones weigh as much as 50 tons!! Legends have it that these temples were created by giants as one’s mind cannot fathom how else it was possible to create these impressive buildings. The complex Ġgantija is on Gozo island and consists of two temples, which are even older than the pyramids of Giza. They are estimated to be around 5500 years old!! The word Ġgantija means giant tower.The complex of Megalithic Monuments Hagar Qim and the complex Mnajdra are situated on top of a hill on the southernmost point of the island of Malta. 

Malta's megalithic monuments

Packing Tips & When to Go

Here are some basic items to keep in mind:

Summer clothes: Both men and women should bring plenty of T-shirts and shorts along. Pack clothes and open shoes that let you breathe and avoid the unpleasant effects of sweat.

Bathing suits: An integral part of summer vacations, especially when visiting an island. Take quite a few as one won’t be enough. Many tourists even walk around the center of the town during the day in their bathing suits.

Hats and sunscreen: Whatever can protect you from the glaring summer rays of the sun. Most of the time you will find yourself being exposed to the sun. Whether this involves lying on a beach, or walking around the central parts of the island. You had better lather the sunscreen on to avoid undesirable burns which might ruin your holiday plans.

A mask and snorkel, and an underwater camera: Bring whatever might be necessary for the exploration of the sea depths. Malta is ideal for various sports, so it would be good to bring along whatever light equipment you will need in order to avoid buying it here.

The climate in Malta is Mediterranean and is characterised by mild winters and pretty hot summers. The best time to go to Malta is from April till June. There won’t be as many tourists as in the summer but you will still get to enjoy the hot weather for swimming and other water activities. In May there is also a fireworks festival and in July a jazz festival. For more favourable prices in tickets and accommodation the best time to go is in winter, although few prefer to visit then as they can’t enjoy the beaches and many other activities which are available only in the summer.

Useful Words

The official languages are Maltese and English. The only certain thing is that you won’t have a problem communicating as everyone speaks English. Below are some basic Maltese words.

YesIvaGood morningBonġu
NoLeGood nightIl-lejl it-tajjeb
HiHelloGoodbyeĊaw/ Sahha
How are you?Kif inti ?Thank youGrazzi
My name isJiena jisimniPleasejekk joghgbok

Useful Sites & Apps

Nowadays, before or during travelling we always have some useful websites and apps which guide us towards the destinations we want according to our budgets. We have chosen certain websites and apps which have helped us a lot, or have been recommended a lot and have high grades. Apart from the really well known ones there are also a lot of lesser known ones which can assist you just as well. We offer you our proposals below:

Booking.com

With a plethora of choices, traveller grades, and a lot of offers for those who have booked many destinations, promo codes for you and your friends, discounts and many other advantages. Start booking to discover all the available options and offers.

Air Bnb

With over one million properties all around the world, and always increasing, ideal for a low budget stay even in expensive areas. Furthermore, because you stay in people’s villas, houses or flats you are made to feel more at home by the host of each destination and the homely surroundings. Find available rooms and offers here.

Hotels.com

Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free. 

Trip Advisor

This is a very well known website for travellers with a lot of information. It is the largest travelling platform in the world where you can view thousands of reviews, opinions and recommendations as to where and how to travel, even for the most demanding traveller. Look, compare and then visit.

Omio.com

Whatever you need is a click away. Find the best offers from the best companies for trains, buses, planes and ships. Travel to Canada, the USA and Europe. We use it often when we are already abroad and want to visit a neighbouring country. Check available routes here.

Kiwi.com

The first website which every traveller always checks with. Direct, fast pricing and comparing of air tickets throughout the world. We love the filter “Towards any destination” which presents to us, in order of pricing, all the flights available to our chosen destination. The best solution for a last minute trip.

GetYourGuide

A site which all adventurous travellers love as well as those who wish to visit museums and concerts. All the available activities and tours around the world gathered in a concise list. Read the reviews from each traveller well before booking your activities in order to avoid any misunderstandings with the organisers of each activity as to the days and times. We have tried it many times in America, Asia and Africa without any problems.

Discover Cars

For car rentals at the lowest prices. Car service in over 150 countries, with many offers and support in over 12 languages and with any special requirements.

Hotel Tonight

Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room.You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the reliability of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.

City Maps 2Go

Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay. Alternatively, as soon as you have looked at the information on a map you can delete it and then download a new one. 

You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.

iVisa.com

More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.

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