Malta, MT

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Welcome to Malta

Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast, is a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of St. John, French and British. It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to 3600 B.C.E.

Information & Facts

Activities

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 (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).

Visitors from outside the EU, including Americans, must fill out a landing card, available on board some arriving flights (sometimes) or in the entrance hall of the airport from the small box between the customs agents.

For more information, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/malta

Climate

Malta's climate is typical of the Mediterranean and is strongly influenced by the sea. The Maltese Islands have a pleasantly sunny climate with a daily average of around 12 hours sunshine in summer going down to 5 to 6 hours in mid-winter. Summers are hot, dry and very sunny. Day-time temperatures in summer are often mitigated by cooling sea breezes. 

Spring and autumn are cooler, except when the occasional Scirocco wind from Africa brings unseasonally high temperatures and humidity. 

Winters are mild, with the occasional short cold spells brought about by the north and north-easterly winds from central Europe.

Annual rainfall is low, averaging 568mm a year. Bathing in the sea is quite possible well into the ‘winter' months, and the peak beach season can last until late October. 

Eating Out

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.

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 in 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 signalling 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.

As of July 2015, a 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, although tickets for buses on Malta are not valid in Gozo and vice-versa.

Tourists visiting Malta should apply for a tal-linja bus card online around 3 weeks before visiting Malta to be able to benefit from cheaper bus fares.

Hop-on-Hop-off Bus

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 an multi-lingual commentary. A free harbour cruise is given with each ticket.

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.

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 our own transfer service. Our rates are lower than white taxis but the service must be prebooked.

By 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.

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.

By ferry

There is the regular ferry service between Ċirkewwa on Malta and Mġarr on Gozo, it goes every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. A return ticket cost €4.65 (Standard passenger fare). There are also irregular services to Comino.

By charter boat

The boat charter industry has grown considerably in Malta over the last few years. Malta's favourable tax regime for commercial yachting and its central location in the middle of the Mediterranean sea has meant that large, famous charter yachts - such as the Maltese Falcon - and a whole range of small and midsized yachts are now available for day and week charters. The Grand Harbour Marina has become the principal centre for bare boating (self-hire yacht chartering).

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 gives you the opportunity to witness beautiful sunsets and breath taking views.

Kids Attractions

The electrical supply is 230 volts /- 10%.

The frequency of the supply is 50 hertz. 

The three-pin rectangular plug system is used, as in Britain. 

Adapters are very easy to find.

Language

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.

Like Arabic, Amharic, and Hebrew, Maltese is a Semitic language, though it is written in the Latin alphabet and has borrowed a substantial amount of vocabulary from the Romance languages (particularly Italian). The closest living relative of Maltese is the dialect of Arabic spoken in North Africa, which is known as Maghrebi Arabic or Darija (spoken in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria). Since Maltese has a distant relationships to Hebrew and Amharic, if you speak any of these three languages, you'll recognise some similarities. It also has substantial English elements in it, particularly for modern words. Knowing a few phrases in Maltese may be useful.

Money

Malta has the euro (€) as its sole currency along with other countries that use this common European money. One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Major currencies other than the Euro are not acceptable as an over the counter currency. In the past, they were widely accepted and changed on the fly at restaurants and bars. So if you have dollars or pounds, it's best to change them at the plethora of exchange bureaus or banks across the island prior to going out.

Negatives

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. In Paceville there is a small level of alcohol-fuelled violence in the evenings. This is a holiday destination and rowdiness in bars and nightclubs is to be expected, as is the case in most European cities. There is generally a low police presence.

For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo

Night Life

While a bit reserved, Maltese people are friendly, generous, and helpful in nature. Malta is a predominantly Roman Catholic country where faith is an important part of society. Carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favourably, especially outside of St. Julian's and Paceville. Some shops may be closed on Sundays. However increasingly discussions of sexuality, contraception and other issues are less taboo than they were twenty years ago.

Maltese people tend to speak more loudly than the mainlanders, so they may sound like they are shouting at you even if the volume is normal.

Dress respectfully when visiting churches and other important heritage sites. As a guide, remove any hats and sunglasses and make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. Some churches, especially those on popular package tours, provide shawls and/or skirts for any inappropriately-dressed visitors. You may be refused entry to a church if there is a service going on that has already started so make sure you arrive promptly if you wish to see them. If you must leave during a service, do so discreetly. Avoid loud or intrusive behaviour in such places.

Maltese tend to take politics seriously and they are always interested to talk about ways to improve democracy and good governorship. Many towns have Nationalist and Labour Party buildings which operate as bars and social clubs.

It is considered rude to shorten a Maltese name. If someone introduces themselves as Joseph or Mariella, don't call them Joe and Mary.

Smoking is banned indoors in bars and restaurants, although many have roof terraces or outside areas covered by a canopy where it is readily acceptable: it may be difficult to tell where the 'indoor' element of the building ends and the 'outdoor' begins. In general, ashtrays will be placed where smoking is allowed.

Sightseeing

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. Various celebrities purchase homes in Gozo, 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 harbour 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 urbanisation, 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 feast. 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 rivaleries 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.

Time

Malta has three mobile phone networks available: Vodafone,  Go Mobile, and Melita Mobile. Due to international agreements with providers across the globe, Vodafone, GO and Melita are sure to be apart of your carriers roaming plan.

Internet cafés and Wi-Fi zones are quite abundant with connection rates peaking at 30Mb/s.

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