Facts, travel tips and tourist information.
Inhabitants: ca. 400.000
Size: 316 km2 (Malta 235, Gozo 67 and Comino 2,7)
Population density: 1250/km2
Area code: 00356 (if you call Malta)
Currency: Euro. Malta switched from lira to euro January 2008.
Language: Maltese, but almost everybody speaks English.
Map from At Rejse Er At Leve
Malta's airport is in Luqa 9 km southeast of Valletta. There are fixed taxi prices from the airport to various destinations - the prices are posted here: Taxi prices in Malta. You buy a taxi ticket at a counter in arrivals. There are also buses to/from Valletta. In arrivals there is an ATM that accepts the usual plastic cards.
Driving in Malta is left-hand and traffic can be pretty awful - especially during rush hours. Of course it is convenient to have a car if you want to see the countryside, but driving in the cities can be an ordeal.
So why not go by bus? The island is small and distances are short. Buses cover the entire island and are very cheap. In fact Malta's vintage buses are one of the islands greatest contemporary attractions.
You buy the ticket from the driver. The ticket is valid for one bus ride only - if you need to change buses you must buy a new ticket.
There are no railroads in Malta.
The weather in Malta is Mediterranean with hot summers and mild winters. During summer it can be very hot indeed, and unless you are used to high temperatures, spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit. At MaltaWeather.com you can always see the latest weather forecast.
Where to Stay?
Where to stay depends on what you want from your holiday. If you (or your children) want beaches and outdoor activity you should consider Millieha, Marsaxlokk or Marsascala.
Sliema or Valletta are obvious choices if you like cities and want to be close to Valletta's historical treasures and sights. Valletta is also the bus terminal if you want to explore the island by bus.
St. Julians and Paceville are not as close to Valletta, but are the hottest places for night life.
There are many mediocre and worn hotels in Malta, because they used to promote mass tourism. Today Malta targets a more exclusive clientele and new hotels must be five stars standard.
Check the web's booking sites carefully if you are your own travel agent. There are lots of hotels and some bed & breakfasts. Be assured that 3 star hotels have a pretty low standard compared to hotels in most of Europe, but on the other hand they are cheap.
When you have found a place that sounds reasonable you should search for reviews of the place - what have previous guests said about it? You can search at TripAdvisor or simply search for the hotel name + "reviews". If the reviews are bad or mixed then look for something else - unless the things complained about are unimportant to you.
And don't forget that air condition can be a blessing on hot summer days!
Restaurants in Malta
There are excellent restaurants in Malta. The Maltese kitchen is inspired by Italian/Sicilian cooking, and when you look at a map that is no surprise. The national dish is rabbit, and seafood dominates most menus. However Malta has adapted to the many tourists, and there is food and junk food to every taste and purse. In general you get good value for money - at least compared to Northern Europe.
For places we have visited see my travelogue: Malta 2005.
If tips are not included then 10 % (or what you see fit) is appropriate. Notice if there's a small plate with coins at the exit or by the cash register. Remember the maid at the hotel with 1-2 LM per week. Small change (5-20 cent) for other services such as car park attendants, doorkeepers, toilet attendants and where you can expect that tips are an important part of people's income. Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but they will not refuse.
Malta's drinking water is desalinated sea water. It is ok for brushing teeth and a shower. It will not make you ill, but bottled water is recommended unless you like the taste of chlorine.
Except for the sea, natural beauty is not Malta's main attraction. The most important sights are relics from the island's long history.
From the earliest of times there are temples, older than even the pyramids of Egypt. From medieval times the city of Mdina is very well preserved, and then of course the Knights of St. John ruled the island for many years and left many imprints and buildings. Valletta is a sight on its own and houses many more like for instance The Grandmaster's Palace. See the guidebooks for a comprehensive list.
Sports and Activities
Being an island Malta naturally offers water sports such as swimming, diving, sailing, windsurfing and fishing, but you can also go rock climbing, and Malta has one of the oldest golf courses outside Britain.
Banks and Money
The banks' opening hours are a mess, so it is best to presume that they are open till noon only (12:30). There are many ATMs - at least in Sliema and Valletta. Most restaurants and (bigger) shops accept plastic.
Literature and Links
I haven't read any English books about Malta, but there are many web resources, two of which are my own travelogues:
Malta 2005 and Malta 2006 with links to other pages about Malta.
Have a nice trip!
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Updated April 19th 2008