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The terrain is mostly low with the highest point, Ta’ Dmejrek (near Dingli), being only 253m above sea level. It’s rocky, flat to dissected plains, with a coastline that has many coastal cliffs and numerous bays that provide good harbours.
Although small, Malta has a rich history, with evidence for 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 harbours 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.
21 September 1964 (from UK)
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 centre and tourist destination.
Malta gained European Union membership in May 2004.
Malta’s climate is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and is similar to other Mediterranean climates. Winters are wet and windy. Summers are virtually guaranteed to be dry and hot. The beach season spans about 6 months from the end of April to the end of October.
by far the largest of Malta’s three islands which sees the most visitors by a huge margin
tiny island with a real feel of isolation; most of it is a nature reserve
known for its scenic rolling hills and rich history
- Valletta— the capital, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565. Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site for the massive number of historical buildings found in a tiny space.
- Cottonera(Three Cities) — The name used when referring to the three historic and ancient cities of Birgu (aka Vittoriosa), Isla (aka Senglea) and Bormla (aka Cospicua), three towns conglomerated by 16th century fortifications called the Cottonera lines. This is the area where the Great Siege was fought and won!
- Marsaxlokk— fishing village south of the island. A big market is held every Sunday. Pronunced ‘mar-sah-schlok’.
- Mdina— Malta’s well-preserved quiet old capital (pronounced ‘im-dina’). Called the Silent City, Mdina sits in the center of the main island Malta and offers amazing views across the plans to the coast line.
- Mgarr— A typical rural village, northwest of Malta (pronounced ‘im-jarr’).
- Rabat— hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul’s catacombs and the Domus Romana (previously known as Roman Villa)
- Julian’s— Includes the area North of Valletta and part of St. Julian’s Bay crosses into Sliema. A great place to find tour boats.
- Sliema— shopping area just north of Valletta. Sliema offers a wonderful sea side walking area that is popular to joggers. It is popular for its rock beach that is a great walking place, it is solid rock, not made of rocks.
- Victoria— the capital city of Gozo.
- Hagar Qim and Mnajdra– Two very beautiful stone age temples set on the cliffside of south west Malta. Their majesty is now protected by tents and a 2 storey new building nearby. Built around 3600 BC these structures are older than the pyramids.
- Mellieħa– A locality in Malta surrounded by the largest and some of the most wonderful sandy beaches on the Islands. Two miles from Mellieħa lies thePopeye Village which was built as a filming set for the 1980 film “Popeye”.
- Golden Bay– One of Malta’s most beautiful sandy beaches, on the northwest coast of the island.
- Għajn Tuffieha– “Long Steps Bay”, just behind Golden Bay. Just as beautiful, but less crowded during the high season.
- Blue Grotto– A series of seven caves and inlets on the southern side of Malta famous for deep blue waters and spectacular natural rock formations. The Blue Grotto may be accessed by small traditional boats, skippered by cheerful Maltese guides, which leave from a well-signposted pier just off the main road along the south coast. The boat ride costs €8 per person.
- Clapham Junction– An area of western central Malta (not far from Buskett woods) where deep ruts in the bedrock appear to have been formed in the remote past by wagons or carts. Some of these ruts cross rock-cut Punic tombs, proving that the ruts existed before the tombs. In the vicinity there are large caves which used to be inhabited by troglodytes.
- Saint Thomas Bay– A quaint inlet, 1km beyond Marsaskala, with a sloping, built up area on one side, and barren Munxar white cliffs on the other. There are 2 small sandy beaches ideal for swimming in summer. Beneath Munxar there is now a ‘window’ at the cliff side. Beyond Munxar Point there are amazing, very high, white cliffs, with 2 large and deep caves in them. Many amateur fishermen own boathouses in the vicinity and go fishing whenever the sea is calm.
- Saint Peter’s Pool– A natural inlet located south of Malta, Delimara area. It looks like a natural swimming pool carved into the rocks.
- Mosta Dome– the third largest dome in Europe and the ninth largest dome in the world. On 9 April 1942, a bomb struck the church whilst a religious ceremony was taking place with more than 300 people attending. Luckily the bomb didn’t explode.
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).
Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are.
Malta’s own national carrier, Air Malta, has regular connections to many European, North African and Middle Eastern centres.
Ryanair flies from Liverpool JLA, Manchester, London Luton, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Dublin, Dusseldorf Weeze, 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 Bucharest, Budapest, Gdansk 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 busses (€ 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 may be as much as two hours in bad traffic to St. Julian / Paceville (Bus X2) – Google-maps’ claim of a 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.
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 cheaper to the cost of a boat trip. In the high season, ferry ticket prices can skyrocket to above €100 per person, without a vehicle (summer 2015).
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.
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, 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, 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 prepay 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 an multi-lingual commentary. A free harbour cruise is given with each ticket.
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.
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.
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, Europcar, Hertz, First Car Rental, Mcar Rentals & Leasing and Active Car Renta. Some companies such as Active Car Rental 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.
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.
Regular flights between Valletta Grand Harbour and Mgarr by Harbourair started recently. There is also a planned service to Sicily. The company also offers scenic flights for around 90EUR that take 30min and provide beautiful views of the Maltese islands. Flights start in Valletta’s grand harbour. Check-in and ticket office is at the sea passenger terminal, on the very end of the “Valletta waterfront”, behind the cruise ship terminals.
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). It is the headquarter of such companies as The Sunseeker Experience , Yachthelp  and Navimerian Malta Yacht Charters  and.
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.
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 ofArabic 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. See the Maltese phrasebook for details.
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 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.
- Sample the local delicacies.
- In Summer, the island is perfect for water sports and beach activities.
The island has been described as an open-air museum by some; one is unlikely to run out of things to see during a visit to Malta. Each township has its own unique sights to offer.
- Hikingin the countryside offers a taste of rural Malta, especially if trekking along the coast of Gozo.
- Sailingis a wonderful option, as Malta boasts an impressive array of caves, scenic sunsets, and other views.
- Tennisis a popular activity in Malta and Gozo. Because of the warm weather on the islands you can play tennis all year around. There are several courts and tennis clubs spread out across Malta that are open to seasoned players as well as beginners. There is also opportunity to take part as a spectator as there are professional games being played regularly.
- Valletta Carnival– February/March. Malta Carnival national activities will be held in Valletta and Floriana. Dance and costume competitions will take place in the capital and Floriana followed by defiles which include triumphal floats, bands, grotesque masks and lots of dance. Malta Carnival is an unforgettable experience of fun, colour, art and merriment. The most popular carnival event amongst young adults takes place in Nadur in Gozo.
- Għanafest – Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festivalin June. The Malta Mediterranean Folk Music Festival is a fabulous 3-day event of Mediterranean folk music, including Maltese folksongs (għana), Maltese songwriters and folk ensembles, together with guest folk musicians from neighbouring Mediterranean countries. Għanafest also hosts a series of workshops on traditional instruments and a special programme for children, and is complemented by traditional Maltese food and the marvellous surroundings of the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana.
- Malta Jazz Festival – July. The Malta Jazz Festival has a special place in Malta’s Cultural Calendar, attracting great stars of the international jazz scene to Malta. It has become a hub for the exchange of musical experience – an encounter between musicians of international fame and gifted local artists. The magnificent setting of the historic Ta’ Liesse wharf in Valletta’s Grand Harbour makes the Malta Jazz Festival a uniquely memorable experience.
- Malta Arts Festival – July. The Malta Arts Festival is the highlight of Malta’s Cultural Calendar – a showcase of diverse top quality theatre, music and dance performances, and offers something from almost all artistic forms, including collaborations between Maltese and foreign artists.
The Festival events are held in various venues in and around Valletta, mostly open-air, taking advantage of Malta’s cool summer evenings. The Festival’s joint performances and workshops, together with its specially-commissioned works, enhance local artistic development and provide impetus for cultural innovation.
- Notte Bianca – September/October. Notte Bianca is held annually in Valletta and is a spectacular, night-long celebration of culture and the arts. State palaces, historic buildings and Museums open their doors almost all night, playing host to visual art exhibitions and music, dance and theatre performances. Streets and squares become platforms for open-air activities, and many cafes and restaurants extend their hours and run pavement stalls. All areas of the Capital City, from the Entrance Gate to the far end of the peninsula, are involved and all events are free of charge.
- Isle of MTV Malta Special – June. Held annually at the Fosos square in Floriana, it is the largest open air free concert in Europe. Worldwide acclaimed artists take the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over 50,000 people. 2012 saw the performances of Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida and Will.I.Am.
- The Farsons Great Beer Festival– July/August. An annual festival hosted by the Farsons Brewery (known for the popular Cisk beer and Blue Label Ale). Amongst the vast selection of alcoholic drinks presented, the festival is also a very important event for local musicians and music lovers. This is because during the festival many local bands and a small number of international bands, take the opportunity to perform on the Main Stage or the Rock Stage.
Malta is a great place to dive, with it being possible to dive all year around. The water temperature varies from a cool 14°C in February/March to warm 26°C in August. The visibility of water is generally high, making it a good place to learn diving as well.
The dive sites are located close to shore. Consequently, most dives start there, making everything easier and cheaper. The dive sites include rocky reefs, some wrecks and cave diving (especially interesting is the dive in the Inland Sea in Gozo). There will tend to be more marine life during the warmer months, when you can hope to see tuna, octopus, moray eels, seahorses, fire worms, soft coral along with the usual sea grass and underwater ridges.
Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta offers up numerous amazing surf spots stretching all over the coastline. In the summer air temperatures average at 31˚C and sea temperature is a comfortable 25˚C, creating perfect conditions for spending hours in the clear blue ocean. Check out surf spots Ghallis, Palm Beach and St Thomas, they are all located close to the most popular tourist areas on the north shores of Malta.
Christmas in Malta
Christmas is a largely religious affair on the Maltese islands. This is due to the fact that most Maltese people are Catholics. During the festive season, various Christmas cribs, or Presepji, as they’re called in Maltese, can be seen on display in churches, shopping centres, etc.
The Maltese people have many Christmas customs that are unique to the island. A very popular traditional Christmas dessert is Qaghaq ta’ l-Ghasel. These are light pastry rings filled with honey.
Kayaking and Cycling in Malta
You will be impressed by the beautiful beaches and turquoise sea in Malta.
Climbing in Malta
Malta is a top destination for climbing enthusiast. It is suggested to try climbing with companies. The Dinglie cliffs on the western coast of Malta is a popular place for climbing and gliding. On a nice day one can watch para-gliders from the village of Dingli.
Malta has the euro (€) as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money. These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium,Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia andSpain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vaticanwhich use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 million.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) 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.
Transportation is cheap by European standards. Food costs are very reasonable. Having a Maltese size pizza in a decent restaurant costs around €6.50.
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 specialities is rabbit (fenek), and small savoury pastries known aspastizzi 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 largely 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 broadbeans 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 license in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy’s stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith’s, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and many 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 asMeridiana 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 makes 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.
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. There are some Hostels in both Malta and Gozo. You can also find decent hotel prices in Sliema and St. Julians on the west coast.
Malta has promoted itself successfully as an entirely bi-lingual nation for Maltese and English. It counts for many educational institutes in the rest of the world as a country where English is the first language and they therefore will often even subsidize students to go there to learn it. The vast majority of Maltese citizens speak English to a very high standard.
English language teaching is well established on the Maltese Islands, so schools have a pool of experienced teachers to cater for all ages and levels of English. There are over 40 language schools in Malta and Gozo, offering a range of courses and leisure-time activities.
Malta offers the Institute for Tourism Studies as well. Malta boasts of year-round sunny weather, picturesque scenery, a bustling night life, safe neighborhoods and a competitive education system, all of which make for a perfect studying destination.
For foreigners work is unfortunately often very hard to find, the Maltese are rather insular and figures show that even in the tourist sector they are very reluctant to hire people not from the island. There is a sense that since joining the EU there is more willingness to hire professionals from abroad as the business sector diversifies. Passport holders from the European Union generally do not need a work permit, but might need to register locally for tax, residence, etc. Non-Europeans will have to comply with EU rules, which makes it almost impossible to find a job as Maltese companies will have to prove that they cannot find anyone in Europe to fill the vacancy. The company will have to apply for a work permit. These can not be bought.
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.
Despite prostitution being illegal in Malta, Testaferrata Street in Gżira has operated as a small red light district. Recent construction and re-generation has reduced its notoriety and the development of this area has been intended to increase its attraction to tourists and clean up its image.
Homosexuality has been legal in Malta since 1979. Same-sex civil unions and adoption have been in place since April 2014 and there are legal protections against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The law does not provide for same-sex marriage, and divorce was only legalised in 2011 following a referendum. Same-sex marriages conducted abroad are recognised. While Malta is generally tolerant, overt displays of homosexuality may attract negative gestures particularly outside of the usual tourist areas.
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 .
- 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.
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 a part of your carrier’s roaming plan.
Internet cafés and Wi-Fi zones are quite abundant with connection rates peaking at 30Mb/s.
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