Know Before You Go - Malta
Malta is a hidden gem in Europe. In fact, many people don’t even know it’s a part of the European Union. Located in the Mediterranean Sea about 50 miles south of Italy, Malta consists of just 3 main islands. Here you will find out what you need to know if planning your visit to this spectacular country.
As noted above, Malta consists of three main islands: mainland Malta, Gozo and Camino (which is largely uninhabited). Home to over 450,000 residents, Malta is one the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The mainland is home to the capital of Valletta as well as several other major cities including Silema, St. Julian and Mdina. It is home to several spectacular cathedrals including St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta as well as the historic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra which predate the Pyramids of Egypt an Stonehenge. For a little more peace and solitude, consider a trip to the island of Gozo, covered largely by farms and small villages as it’s been for centuries. The island of Camino is home to the Blue Lagoon, a popular snorkel destination. Anywhere you go, you’ll have an amazing time.
Getting to and around Malta
Malta is a popular vacation spot for many European countries thanks in part to its warm, Mediterranean weather. As such, just about every many hub in Europe offers non-stop flights to mainland Malta. Once on Malta, one can either rent a car for their stay or take advantage of their timely bus network. Routes and timetables can be found on their website here.
Getting to Gozo from the mainland can only be made by water, preferable by ferry although I suppose one could get some exercise and swim for it. There is one ferry line, the Gozo Channel Line founded in 1979, that makes the 45 minute trip every hour and half. Current fares for a car and driver are about 15 euros or 5 euros to walk on. Currently there is not a public airport on Gozo
Being the southernmost country in Europe with an average temperature of 73 fahrenheit, Malta is a popular holiday spot for many European travelers. The three main islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, enjoy mild winters with hot and dry summers.January and February are the coldest months and can be prone to being a little windy. Much of the rest of the year offers pristine weather for travel. And being a picturesque Mediterranean getaway, you can be sure there are no shortages of beautiful beaches, bays and harbors to spend your time enjoying.
Food and tipping
Maltese cuisine is the result of a long relationship between the Islanders and the many civilisations who occupied the Maltese Islands over the centuries. This marriage of tastes has given Malta an eclectic mix of Mediterranean cooking. Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. Look out for Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beef olives), Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille), and widow's soup, which includes a small round of Gbejniet (sheep or goat's cheese). For dessert, we had some of the best gelato we’ve tasted in Silema. Tipping is customary in Malta and a gratuity of between 5% and 10%, whenever good service has been provided is reasonable. However if a service charge has already been included in the bill, a tip is not necessary.
The only currency used in the Maltese islands is the Euro, which was adopted on 1 January 2008 after the country joined the European Union. Many restaurants and stores accept credit cards as well. Make sure to check with your credit card to let the know you’ll be traveling abroad. We recommend avoid the money transfer shops at the airport and withdraw cash at the numerous ATMs around town. Exchange rates are generally better in our experience.
Holidays and closures
Major holidays include: New Year's Day, the week leading up to Easter, Freedom Day (March 31), Workers Day (May 1), Assumption of the Virgin (August 15), Independence Day (September 21), Republic Day (December 13),and Christmas Eve/Day. Expect major closures during these days. Many museums, cathedrals and attractions may be on altered times or closed. Family owned shops and restaurants may be closed as well. Be sure to look for any holidays (often to celebrate the patron saint) for any cities you will be visiting.
What to pack
Passports are required to enter Malta but you will not need a Visa if traveling from the US. In Malta the power sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Be sure to bring a few adapters for your trip. When visiting the mainland, particular Valletta, plan to do a lot of walking while you’re there. Be sure to pack good walking shoes to keep you moving. We’d also advise on bringing sunscreen as Malta is one of the sunniest countries in Europe. And of course, with all that beauty around you, be sure to have your favorite camera with a few extra batteries. Most cathedrals and museums do not allow tripods inside.
Maltese is the national language of Malta and a co-official language of the country alongside English. Most tourists areas that we visited had locals that spoke very good English and we had no trouble communicating with them. Maltese is not like many European languages where one can easily get by after reading a few sayings.
We hope you have a terrific time in Spain. Already been? Share your tips below in the comments section. Happy travels!