We start this blog a bit extraordinary, by recommending you a summer destination almost in the heart of winter. We have found some nice offers that we'd like to share with you at the end of this post. But let's start because the place has a lot to say...
Malta is a small, island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy. Malta is an archipelago, but only the three largest islands of Malta, Gozo (Għawdex) and Kemmuna (Comino) are inhabited.
Though small, Malta has a rich history, with evidence of habitation going back to the Neolithic era (4th millennium BC). The country has some of the world's most ancient standing buildings (the Neolithic temples), and its strategic location and good harbors in the middle of the Mediterranean have attracted Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Crusaders, the French and finally the British, with the colonial period lasting until 1964.
The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights Hospitallers and Knights of Malta, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530, and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu (one of the Three Cities) to care for the sick. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. In response, the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Ottoman Turks away after a hard siege of several months. After this siege, the Order founded the city of Valletta on a peninsula and fortified it with massive stone walls, which even withstood heavy bombing during the Second World War. By 1575 the Order had built a new large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue with its primary mission of caring for the sick.
In 1798, the French under Napoleon took the island on 12 June, without resistance, when the Grand Master of the Order capitulated after deciding that the island could not be defended against the opposing French naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years, until they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars.
The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag.
- Independence 21 September 1964 (from the UK)
- National holidays Freedom Day, 31 March (1979); Sette Giugno, 7 June (1919); Feast of Our Lady of Victories, 8 September (1565); Independence Day, 21 September (1964); Republic Day, 13 December (1974).
Malta remained in the Commonwealth of Nations when it became independent from Great Britain in 1964. It is still a member.
A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has become a freight trans-shipment point, financial center, and tourist destination.
Malta gained European Union membership in May 2004.
Malta is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (traveling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (traveling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
Flights and transfers
Malta's own national carrier, Air Malta, has regular connections to many European, North African and Middle Eastern centers.
Ryanair flies from Liverpool JLA, Manchester, London Luton, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Dublin, Dusseldorf Weeze, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden, Madrid, Marseille, Turin, Trapani, Bristol, Pisa, Kaunas, Krakow, Stockholm (Skavsta), Malmö, Gothenburg, Seville, Valencia, Venice (Treviso), Milan (Bergamo), Wroclaw,Poznan, Girona, Athens, Birmingham, Bari and Billund (Denmark).
Easyjet flies from Liverpool JLA, Belfast, Newcastle, Rome, Milan Malpensa and London Gatwick. However several of these routes do not fly during late fall/winter.
Wizzair flies from Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Gdansk, Skopje, and Sofia
Jet2 flies from East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle to Malta.
Thomas Cook flies from London Gatwick and Manchester.
Malta's International Airport is located between Luqa and Gudja.
Several public buses (€ 1.5) will take you from the airport. Note that the actual travel time is around an hour for Valetta (bus 71, 72, 73, and others), and maybe as much as two hours in bad traffic to St. Julian / Paceville (Bus X2) - Google-maps' claim of 17 minutes travel time in 2016 is erroneous. Slightly quicker Bus X1, which also continues to the ferry in Cirkewwa, also holds at Pembroke Park one km from Paceville.
Alternatively, there are very cheap private transfers available. Warning: Do not use the white airport taxis in front / nearby the terminal. They are very expensive compared to private transfers. Uber is not available in Malta.
24 hours a day, pre-paid ticketed TAXI can be purchased at fixed rates from a booth in the airport Welcomers Hall.
Reach by ferry
There are ferries to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, Italy (90 minutes). At present, only Virtu Ferries make the crossing. There are no sailings on some days, so do check their website for the schedule. The ferries also take vehicles. However, discount airlines like Ryanair can be more convenient and the prices of their flights are often comparable or lower than those of the crossing by boat. In the high season, ferry ticket prices can skyrocket to above €100 per person, without a vehicle (summer 2015).
Getting around by bus
As it lacks a passenger rail network, Malta has an effective island-wide bus network. Weekly tickets are available and useful for getting around, with prices being low by EU standards. Malta Public Transport maintains an online Journey Planner which provides information and route maps. In most cases, buses will not run past 23:00.
Buses are generally regular between the main places of interest, but may not run precisely according to schedule. The island's main bus station is located outside of the city walls of Valletta and will provide links to all points on the island. Be aware that traffic can often get heavy during the day, causing delays.
Many of Malta's buses are equipped with digital plans and automated announcements signaling stops. In some circumstances, these may not be operating. Tickets can be bought on board from the driver.
Bus stops generally contain information on timetables and routes. It is necessary to wave or otherwise indicate for a bus to pull over at a bus stop if you wish to board, and the 'stop' button on board will indicate that you wish to depart.
Until 2011, Malta typically used many 1950s-era British buses, often with the driver's cab decorated, commonly with religious imagery. These have been replaced by a modern fleet.
As of July 2015, two-hour ticket costs €1.50 during winter, €2 during summer and €3 for night services from the driver. Prepay cards are available at bus terminals, post offices or online. Weekly tickets on Malta Island are priced at €21 for adults and €15 for children, or 12 single day journeys can be prepaid for €15.
People staying in Malta for longer periods may be better applying for a Tallinja card online before visiting Malta. This is a prepaid card similar to an Oyster or Octopus card but is tied to a single user (with photo ID) and caps your monthly bus fares (night buses excluded) at €26.
This is simply one of the ways to see everything that Malta has to offer. Seeing Malta from an open topper bus is a great way to appreciate this magnificent island. The open top bus tour of Malta starts from the Sliema Ferries and from Valletta. One can 'Hop on and Hop off' at his or her leisure at conveniently located stops along the route. In Malta, there are a number of hop-on-hop-off providers which offer a practical tour service linking all the most popular places of interest on the island and more. Each tour includes a multi-lingual commentary. A free harbor cruise is given with each ticket.
Getting around by bike
Renting a bike in Malta is not a very common and popular practice but it doesn't cost much and offers enough flexibility to explore. Bicycle rental shops are present all over the island but it is always better to book them from beforehand via their websites so as not to be disappointed.
Cycling is an original and fun way of discovering Malta and Gozo, known for their very small size. It is a good idea to cycle on the West of Malta, in the areas of Dingli Cliffs and Fomm ir-Rih as they are far from congested cities and offer a pleasant view.
It should be known however that most roads in Malta are dangerous for cyclists; most Maltese motorists are not friendly towards cyclists and there are no bicycle lanes. It is best to stick to country roads making sure to rent mountain bikes as country roads can get bumpy and uncomfortable for city bikes. In summer, do not go cycling 11:00-16:00 as the heat is unbearable.
Getting around by taxi
Malta's white taxis are the ones that can legally pick you up off the street. They have meters that are uniformly ignored, figure on €15 for short hops and not much more than €35 for a trip across the island. There are now Government approved fares for taxis from the airport ranging from €10-30.
For cheaper airport transfers and local taxis try using one of the local "Black cab" taxi firms such as Easy PrivateTaxi, Active Cabs Taxi by Sean Taxi Service, Peppin Transport (Cheaper Online Prices), Malta Airport Cabs  or Malta Taxi Online. Their rates are normally lower than white taxis but their services must be prebooked (at least fifteen minutes' notice). The approx. cost of a transfer from Malta Airport to Valletta is €15-18 for a sedan and €17-25 for a minibus.
If you would like a taxi tour, it is a good idea to book it in advance with an agreed price and arrange to be picked up from your hotel or apartment. The tours are best kept short, around 3 to 4 hours should do it. In a car, you will be able to cover Mdina, Rabat, Mosta, Valletta and the Blue Grotto. However, some people say that when visiting historical sights it is best to also hire a licensed tourist guide (who will wear their license while on tour) and accuse taxi drivers of often giving inaccurate information.
Getting around by foot
Valletta is relatively small and very safe for walking - as are both Mdina and Birgu, other old cities of Malta. A bus tour or car hire is more recommended for Gozo though. Trekking and Cycling are an excellent way to discover the beautiful scenery around the cliffs and Mediterranean beaches. The last options give you the opportunity to witness beautiful sunsets and breathtaking views.
Rent a car
Renting a car in Malta is a fine way to see the country since it's cheap and driving conditions have improved greatly in the last ten years. Having your own car allows you to make a lot more of your trip and discover the many hidden charms these small islands have to offer.
It is always best to pre-book your car rental online as this works out cheaper than booking when you arrive. Malta has very low rates for car rental -- pre-booked car rental for a week costs about as much as a taxi to and from the airport. Any driver and additional drivers must take with them their driving licenses in order to be covered for by the insurances provided by the local car rental supplier.
Popular leading car hire companies in Malta include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, and First Car Rental. These companies also offer car hire at Malta International airport.
There is GPS coverage of the island by popular brands, however, do check with your rental company as to whether they make this available to you or not. Popular opinion states that the GPS mapping of Malta isn't altogether that accurate, where certain routes planned on the GPS, will send you up one-way streets without warning, best to use common sense in conjunction with this technology. Also, the Maltese can be a very friendly bunch of people when giving directions are concerned. Unlike most of Europe, traffic in Malta drives on the left.
The official languages are Maltese (a Semitic language closely related to Maghrebi Arabic) and English. Italian is widely understood and spoken, and many modern words in Maltese are borrowed from Italian. Some people have basic French, but few people can speak fluent French in Malta. By law, all official documents in Malta are in Maltese and English and many radio stations broadcast in both languages.
The vast majority of Maltese citizens speak English fluently, although this less true among the older generation. The majority of people in Malta will, however, speak Maltese in the home and Maltese placenames may be difficult to pronounce. People are however very willing to help. Maltese people often speak with a slightly different intonation which may sound louder than usual to other English speakers. Churches often hold separate Maltese and English services, and information on times for each will be posted at the entrance. Multilingual electronic guides are available at a number of attractions.
What to see
The ancient capital of Mdina, also known as the Silent City, rests at a high point in the heart of the island. Surrounded by the scenic town of Rabat, this fortress is one of Malta's finest jewels, boasting architecture, history and a quality cup of coffee with a splendid view. Mdina gets very peaceful and romantic in the evenings when the day-trippers leave.
Valletta is similar in that it boasts a rich history, only being the modern capital, it is very much alive and much more modern, serving as both a shopping area during the day and offering an array of museums and cultural sites. Of particular note is St John's Co-Cathedral, built by one of the earlier Grandmasters of the Knights Hospitaller. It contains the various chapels of the Knights' langues, with Caravaggio paintings, tapestries and various relics of immense value to the Maltese heritage. The very floors of the Cathedral are the tombs of the most famous knights of the Order of St John, and a crypt, though off-limits to tourists, hosts the bodies of some of the most illustrious of Grandmasters, including the city's founder, Jean de Valette.
Must see attractions include the Unesco World Heritage sites such as the Hypogeum and the megalithic temples that can be admired on both Gozo and Malta and are the oldest in the world!
In Gozo, a rural atmosphere is predominant. Billy Connolly purchased a home in Gozo several years ago, owing to the island's quiet and relaxing nature. Visitors will be interested in taking a look at the impressive geographical feature of the Inland Sea, carved out by the Mediterranean. One is also obliged to visit the Citadel, Gozo's version of Mdina. Gozo is situated 5km north west of Malta and can be reached by a 25-minute crossing from Cirkewwa, the harbor of Malta.
For a look into more traditional Maltese life, the seldom seen south of Malta is a possible option for visitation. Townships like Ghaxaq often escape public notice, but some of the island's finest churches lie in the south. The many churches of Malta are testaments to the style and design of their times. Many towns in the north were stripped of their culture due to rapid urbanization, but this has been felt less in the south of Malta.
If you visit Malta in summer, be sure you visit one of the town/village feasts. Every town or village has at least one feast dedicated to a saint. The feast usually lasts for one week (in most cases from Monday to Sunday), with its peak being usually on Saturday. During this week, the village or town will be decorated with several ornaments and work of arts such as statues, lights, and paintings on tapestry. In most cases, the feast would also be furnished with fireworks, both air, and ground (which are quite spectacular and rather unique to Malta). Every feast has its own characteristics and rivalries between certain village feasts are quite well-known. Some of the most famous feasts are those of Our Lady of the Lily in Mqabba (third Sunday of June), Saint Philip in Zebbug (second Sunday of June), Mount Carmel in Zurrieq (Sunday before the last of July), Saint Mary of Imqabba, Qrendi (on the 15th of August), Saint Catherine in Zurrieq (first Sunday of September) and the Nativity of Our Lady in Mellieha and Naxxar (on the 8th of September). Organized tours to village feasts for tourists are available as well.
During the month of April, a fireworks contest occurs in the Valletta/Floriana area, where different fireworks factories compete with each other exhibiting their finest works both ground fireworks and air fireworks. It is spectacular and above all its free to attend to.
Quite a few wine festivals are organized during summer, two of which are organized in Valletta and one in Qormi. It is a great experience to taste several Maltese wines at very cheap prices. (In the Qormi festival (September) and Delicata wine festival (August), you buy a 12 euro cup, and you can drink as much as you like; in the Marsovine wine festival (July), you buy a cup and 14 tokens for €10). A beer festival (Jul-Aug) is also organized in Ta' Qali.
Finally, Malta's megalithic temples are the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, and one should not forget to take walks in the countryside. The most popular tourist destinations of Sliema and St. Julians probably have the least to offer as regards a taste of Malta, though they continue to be the most frequented. They are the most modern of locations, with most old buildings having been knocked down due to the monstrous construction industry fueling the economy. Malta's main nightlife area can be found here, especially in Paceville.
Many restaurants in tourist areas provide standard western food, particularly with British influences. Maltese cuisine is in many cases similar to Italian, and restaurants catering to this may be slightly more difficult to find. One of the island's specialties is the rabbit (fenek), and small savory pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.
Service in many Maltese restaurants is at a fairly leisurely pace, which may seem frustrating to some visitors. Try to use it as an opportunity to relax.
The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata, a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves. The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried (with or without gravy). Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L'Ingliz in Mgarr.
True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and large fish and vegetable-based -- the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla (widow's soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock. Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broad beans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork, coriander seeds, garlic, and parsley, wrapped in a hog casing) or ġbejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats' or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered).
Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted despite appearances), dried, or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun-dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent. Towards the end of summer, one can have one's fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce.
Another popular dish to try is ħobż biż-żejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira, and served drenched in olive oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives, tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called ġardiniera).
A typical soft drink that originated in Malta is Kinnie, a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter oranges (called "Chinotto orange") and slightly reminiscent of Martini.
The local beer is called Cisk (pronounced "Chisk") and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto ("milk stout"), and Shandy (a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-UP). Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as '1565' brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. Since late 2006 another beer produced by a different company was released in the market called "Caqnu". A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under licenses in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy's stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith's, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and much more.
Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and Ġellewza, although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines. Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle. Both wineries have also premium wines which have won various international medals There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Siġġiewi area. Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.
The main Maltese night life district is Paceville (pronounced "pach-a-vil"), just north of St. Julian's. Young Maltese (as young as high school-age) come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends (also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions). Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks, and lack of cover charges make Paceville well worth a visit. The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew. Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends.
Interestingly it does not rain much on Malta and almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer.
Sample the local delicacies - gbejna, pastizzi, bigilla, hobz biz-zejt, timpana, oven-baked rice and macaroni, snail, rabbit, gozitan ftira (pizza), maltese ricotta, maltese sausage, twistees etc.
Try the sweets - imqaret, helwa tat-Tork, prinjolata, figolli (frosted almond cake), qaq tal ghasel, kannoli, qubbajd etc.
Drink Kinnie, Cisk (local beer), local wines - marsovin, delicata, meridiana, Ta Mena.
Where to sleep
Malta as mainly a summer destination, it has numerous hotels almost for all appetites and wallets. Here we would like to provide you with some:
The Buġibba, Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay area is a good option for a regular holiday: You get a good selection of hotels and other accommodation, a variety of restaurants and bars/pubs and a few places to swim (although mostly rocky). The area is well connected with several bus routes to the most popular places around. The downsides: Touristy and busy in summer, not practical if you’re renting a car (unless parking facilities are included with accommodation)
St. Julian’s and Paceville are good for dining and nightlife, with a decent choice of hotels although the only beach nearby (St. George’s Bay) isn’t the cleanest/nicest place to swim. Head over to nearby Sliema for swimming (rocky bathing areas and lidos with pools). The downside? Paceville is pretty noisy and busy (also thanks to a few big construction projects ongoing), particularly in summer and it’s not a great place to explore Malta from (or to stay at if you’re renting a car).
Sliema is a more modern place, with good hotels, dining options and bars/pubs around. Rocky beaches and lidos with pools are good for swimming and there are easy ways to get to Valletta and Comino/Gozo oversea. The downsides: Sliema is one of the busiest places in Malta with heavy traffic congestion and notoriously difficult to find a parking spot in. It’s not easy to reach the best sandy beaches from either.
If you’re looking to explore Malta and swimming/beaches are less important, consider staying at Malta’s capital city, Valletta. Drenched in culture and history, great restaurants and wine bars, good quality accommodation and well connected with other parts of Malta through public transport.
Another good option for exploring the country is Mellieħa, where you’re far closer to the best sandy beaches, you’ll be staying in a genuine Maltese village, it’s easy to reach other parts of the island and it’s pretty peaceful there. The downside? For some might be too quiet. There are great restaurants around, as well as a few bars, but there isn’t much to do in terms of nightlife.
In case you are looking for something more low-budget, you may try Couchsurfing on couchsurfing.com or Airbnb in order to sleep at local houses. A great community exists in Malta that is able to host you.
The crime rate in Malta is generally considered to be low. Tourists should, however, take normal precautions, guarding against pickpocketing in busy areas and some overcharging scams.
The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists. Apply sunblock liberally.
For ambulance, fire or police dial 112. The main hospitals are Mater Dei +356 2545 0000 and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo, +356 2156 1600. For a complete list of government hospital services visit
In case you read this article and you found it fascinating, you may proceed and have a small break during December.
Last but not least, every good trip starts with the nice mood and of course the right preparation. Make sure that you have managed to get all your documents if you come to Malta from outside the European Union, and also get the best accessories and gadgets, in order to make your trip a smart, comfortable but mostly a safe experience!
Visit tripatricks.com for more gadgets and accessories, and participate in the big Sale 20% off in all electronic and pet travel products (in case that you are traveling with your buddy).
Now that you know it all, go and get it!