An essential guide for anyone visiting Malta. A list of important, useful and also curious things to know before travelling to Malta.
So you have decided to visit Malta? Excellent choice! Malta is a beautiful and extremely interesting country, and whether you are travelling on a weekend trip or a full-on vacation there are some things you should know before travelling to Malta.
Why? You ask. Although it’s great to be spontaneous and be surprised by a new country and its customers, some information can save you trouble, time and sometimes even money.
Malta is an absolutely fantastic country to visit. With glorious weather, beautiful beaches of all kinds, infinitive amount of interesting sights and natural wonders, you may just add Malta to your list of favourite destinations in Europe.
Here is a complete list of all the things you should know before travelling to Malta.
Table of Contents
Basic Malta Info:
Location: Europe, a small archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily Italy
Capital city: Valletta
Languages: Maltese, English
Currency: Euro. You can easily exchange currency at the airport or withdraw it at an ATM. Other currencies are not accepted, but you can pay by card in the majority of establishments.
Emergencies: The emergency number is 112, and there are two major hospitals in Malta, one in Malta and one in Gozo;
Electrical outlets: Malta uses type G plugs and operates on a supply voltage of 230 V and 50 Hz. Same as in UK
International calling: The country code is +356
Population: Over 440,000
Essential things to know before travelling to Malta
1. English is widely spoken. It is an official second language and you will have no issue travelling around Malta if you don’t speak any Maltese.
I lived in Malta for 2 years and only learned 5 words of Maltese. Not because I didn’t want to (I love learning new languages and am currently on my third). But because I found Maltese extremely difficult. It is an ancient Semitic language with Siculo-Arabic origins (an Arabic dialect that developed in Sicily and then Malta), and some English, Italian and French words are found in the modern version.
Maltese is the only Semitic language written in Latin script and it is also the only Semitic-origin language officially recognized as a European Union tongue.
2. Malta is a member of the EU and part of the Schengen Zone.
The Schengen Zone is an area of 26 countries in Europe where you can move freely once you’re in one of these countries.
With passports from countries such as Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand, you can stay in the zone without a visa for 90 days within a span of 180 total days.
Always check the visa requirements for your passport with your country’s government/embassy before you leave!
If you need a visa for the Schengen Zone, you must apply for it beforehand. Malta is also in the EU, so all Europeans can enter without problems.
3. Malta was a British colony for 150 years, from 1814 until it declared its independence in 1964. Even after that, Queen Elizabeth II remained the head of state for another 10 years.
You’ll notice that Malta has some things in common with Britain, such as left-hand traffic, electric sockets and even the presence of red phone booths.
You will even find similar high street shops to those you can find in the UK. Malta is also a very popular destination for Brits.
4. Malta is the tenth-smallest country and the fourth most densely populated sovereign country in the world, with Valletta being the smallest capital city in the European Union.
5. Malta is an archipelago consisting of 3 main islands which are inhabited – Malta, Gozo and Comino. You can visit both Gozo and Comino on a day trip, but I recommend spending at least two days on Gozo, and in this article, I will tell you why.
Comino is most famous for its stunning Blue Lagoon but there is much more to this small island and I personally recommend visiting both islands independently rather than on a tour.
But if you are short on time or prefer organised excursions you can book this highly-rated Gozo and Comino adventure.
There are also 18 other uninhabited minor islands being a part of the archipelago.
6. You don’t need to rent a car to travel around Malta. Buses are widely available and travelling by bus is cheap.
Consider buying a Talinja Explore Card especially if you are staying for a week and planning to travel by bus to all the sights.
But if you are looking to hire a car in Malta, you can compare different car rental prices and deals here.
7. But don’t use the white taxis. They are expensive, drivers often dont turn on the meter and even locals give these a miss. It’s smarter to use Bolt or Uber.
8. Malta has a left-hand traffic system. Driving in Malta can be a little challenging due to a number of factors and there few things in this department you should know before travelling to Malta.
Traffic in urban and tourist areas is very heavy, and the local driving style of driving is somewhat challenging. Using indicators for signalling a turn is optional, giving way at roundabouts is routinely ignored, and drunk driving unfortunately happens.
Honking a horn is often a way of communication between drivers, especially on narrow country roads, but also a way of informing you about your driving style, speed or parking behaviour. The Maltese have a saying: ‘We don’t drive on the left, we drive in the shade” That tells you everything you need to know.
As a pedestrian, you should also never assume that local drivers will stop for you at pedestrian crossings. In Malta, I got into the habit of looking twice in both directions before crossing the road. Even at a pedestrian crossing.
Having said that it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been in a car a few times in Malta and we’ve all survived it. Just bring your A-game and dig for that Italian ancestors’ spirit when it comes to driving and you’ll be just fine
9. Tap water is fine but not very pleasant to drink. It goes through a desalination process and remains a little salty. Bottled water is preferred by many locals and tourists and if you decide to buy water, you can get the big 5 litres to save on plastic. These are available in almost every corner shop.
The water filter will work just fine as well. Using tap water for cooking or brushing your teeth is perfectly fine and safe.
10. No topless sunbathing on the beaches or walking into the shops shirtless is allowed. Malta is a conservative country and its people are often very religious. Swimming costumes and trunks are perfectly fine on the beach, but outside the beach, shorts and a shirt are more appropriate.
11. Watch out for the jellyfish. It was in Malta where I got my first ever jellyfish sting. It wasn’t dangerous, but quite unpleasant and some victims report permanent marks and scars. For me, however, it healed pretty well. I immediately applied some vinegar and that might have done the trick. I didn’t try to pee on it, but you’re welcome to do it if you are so inclined. Vinegar though, I believe works pretty well.
Also, I have used this very helpful site I lovingly called ‘jelly map’. It’s updated daily and shows jellyfish-free beaches. Bookmark it and thank me later!
But really, dont stress too much about it. There are no dangerous animals in Malta and this includes the sea.
12. Malta has both sandy and rocky beaches, and you will be surprised to learn that some of the rocky beaches are more beautiful than the sandy ones.
For the best sandy beaches, you may have to travel a bit, but nothing is ever too far in Malta. Most of the beautiful sandy beaches are located in the north. When travelling to Malta, it is important to choose a place to stay wisely.
13. Summer is hot and heat waves are not uncommon. Before travelling to Malta, pack a hat and sunscreen and always carry plenty of water.
If extreme heat is not your thing, consider visiting during the months of April to June and September to October. My least favourite month in Malta was August. The heat and humidity were so unbearable that even a dip in the sea often didnt help. In July, observes slightly less, humidity but Malta is humid all year round.
For this reason, winters feel colder than they are, and in the months between December and March, it can be colder indoors than outdoors. This is typical of many Mediterranean countries. In Spain and Portugal, you will experience the same.
But when the sun is out, even in February, you can get away with short sleeves and a light cardigan. So if you are looking for some winter sun in Europe, Malta is a great choice.
14. If you are travelling to Malta from another EU country, apply for a European Health Card, which will allow you to use local health services. Remember to apply for an EHIC at least 2 weeks before your departure.
Please remember that the European Health Card does not replace travel insurance. You can use it to go to the doctor and visit the emergency room, but you should still consider travel insurance, especially if you are going to be very far from home. For example, when I go on a weekend trip to Budapest, I travel only with my EHIC, because in case of an emergency, I am able to hop on a train or bus and be back in Poland in a few hours.
But this is my choice and you need to weigh the options and the risks you are prepared to take.
However, I never travel without insurance on longer trips and those outside of the EU.
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I personally use and recommend SafetyWing, especially for those nomads, backpackers and long-term travellers among us.
There is no need to specify the destination or the duration of travel. I personally love this feature as I never know how long I’m going to stay in a given country.
From your chosen start date, your insurance automatically extends every 28 days until you pick an end date. Just like a subscription. And you can cancel at any time.
15. Malta is safe to travel to and one of the safest destinations for solo and female travellers. In fact, Malta is one of the safest countries in Europe. The country ranks 18th in the world in terms of safety and is well safer than other European countries on this list such as France (32nd), Belgium (26th) and the UK (29th).
16. Bring good and comfy walking shoes with non-slip soles. There are a lot of slippery cobblestone streets and also quite a few amazing walks that you wouldn’t want to miss because you didn’t bring good shoes. But also, remember to pack flip-flops for the beach.
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17. Book ahead for some of the most essential sights Like Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. This is one of the most popular sights in malta and also in order to protect the centuries-old interior of the sight, entry is limited to 80 people per day. You can get last-minute entry tickets for an additional charge of €15, but they also sell out quickly. Book your tickets here.
18. The three most popular areas to stay in Malta are Sliema, St Julian and Valletta. If you need more detailed information, in this article, I talk about all possibilities and describe all areas you could stay in Malta.
19. For a small country, there is a plethora of things to do and see in Malta. I would say to see it all and have some time to relax as well you should allow at least 5 full days for a stay in Malta but a week would be optimal.
20. Malta can get noisy and busy. It’s very densely populated for its size and if you add the tourists visiting all year round, the urban centres like Sliema or Valletta can feel a little too much. Especially in the summer. Consider visiting in the shoulder season or even in the winter for a more peaceful experience.
Other Useful Things to know Before Travelling to Malta
21. Allow more time for… hmmm everything. This is one of the things you should definitely know before travelling to Malta. Having spent a few years in Spain, it was easier for me to not get annoyed at how slowly everything gets done and how long it can take. Just because there are two people in front of you in the queue at the supermarket doesn’t mean anything. You might still wait 15 minutes. Embrace the slower pace of life and leave early.
22. There are no natural forests, lakes or rivers in Malta. Although Malta is definitely rich in history, beautiful architecture and glorious beaches, it’s not a green paradise.
Most of the country is built up and open spaces in more rural areas can be dry and lack trees. But don’t let that fool you, it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the country. Rather, it’s something that weighs on you once you live here longer and you start yearning for forests and lakes.
Still, if you do your research, you can go out there into the Maltese wilderness and experience gardens, woodlands and artificial lakes that will blow your mind. Places like Buskett, San Anton Gardens or Chadwick Lakes are incredible for hikers and true natural oases. Travel off the beaten track to hidden beaches like Fomm Ir-Rihh or Imgiebah Beach, and hike along the west coast between Dingli Cliffs and Blue Grotto. You will see the beauty of Malta that not all tourists experience.
23. Built around 3600 BC, the Megalithic Temples of Malta are the second oldest structures in the world and 1000 years older than the pyramids of Giza.
They consist of several prehistoric temples spread all over the country. The best known are the Ġgantija temples on Gozo and the Hagar Qim on Malta. Ġgantija is believed to have been built by ancient giants, hence the name. A fascinating place worth visiting when on Gozo. Hagar Qim is a group of monumental megalithic buildings and temples. A fantastic example of some of the best preserved freestanding structures and temples in the world, dating back over 5000 years!
24. The Azure Window in Gozo was Malta’s most famous landmark until it sadly collapsed in a storm in 2017. It was a heartbreaking moment for all Maltese and also for many that will never see this beauty with their own eyes.
But Dwejra Bay is still one of the most beautiful places I have seen and many natural landmarks can be admired like a Fungus rock or Inland Sea and Blue Hole, Malta’s top diving spot.
Also one of the best sunset spots in the whole of Malta! Dont miss it!
25. The soft drink unique to Malta is Kinnie (a bittersweet drink brewed from bitter oranges and wormwood extracts) and the local beer is Cisk.
26. The national pride in the food department is definitely pastizzi. These are small puff pastries filled with ricotta or mashed peas. You can find them in pastizzerias all over the country, but if you’re ever near Mdina or Rabat, you should visit a pastizzi institution – the Crystal Palace Bar in Rabat. This legendary bar is said to serve the best pastizzi in Malta.
27. The national dish is rabbit stew (Stuffat tal-Fenek). The traditional slow-cooked stewed rabbit recipe includes tomatoes, garlic, vegetables and red wine.
28. You will see prickly pears everywhere in Malta, especially during your walks through the countryside. It’s a cactus plant that produces tasty fruits that are enjoyed as such but are also used to make preserves and liqueurs.
At some point in the past, they were used as a barrier to deter intruders, so I wouldn’t recommend picking them with your bare hands. Nowadays, prickly pears are experiencing something of a renaissance, transforming from a poor man’s food to Malta’s signature fruit.
29. If you travel to Malta during the months of May through September, it is highly probable that you will encounter one of its festas. The Maltese Festa is a week-long religious celebration held in honour of the patron saint of each village, and it is celebrated in every village across the island of Malta.
The centre of each village and town in predominantly Roman Catholic Malta is marked by a church, each of which is named after a saint. All Maltese towns and villages celebrate their patron saint in style with week-long activities leading up to feast day, which culminates with a procession, music and fireworks.
What’s more, there is a strong sense of rivalry between the villages, which can lead to fierce competition in terms of organizing decorations and fireworks exhibitions.
30. Malta is a great diving destination! In fact, Malta and Gozo have often been called the number-one diving locations in Europe. Around Malta, divers will find warm and crystal clear waters, hundreds of reefs, caves and sunken ancient wrecks, and Gozo’s Blue Hole is a diving destination in itself.
Malta is a great destination for both experienced divers and beginners, with many dive schools spread across both islands.
31. Unlike many other Mediterranean countries, Malta isn’t observing siesta culture. At least when it comes to high street shopping. Annoyingly, it follows UK shop opening hours, where shops are often open from 10 am to 6 or 7 am. I missed shops being open until 9 or 10 when I lived in Malta, which I got very much used to in Spain.
Fun Facts and Curious Things to Know Before Travelling to Malta
32. The Maltese have a massive love for cars. Malta has the third highest number of cars per 1000 inhabitants and it shows.
33. Malta has 359 churches – almost one for every day of the year.
34. 2 people now live on the island of Comino. The two brothers Salvu and Anglu, together with their aunt and cousin, were the only permanent residents about 7 years ago and at one point there were 17 residents on the island (all belonging to one family). Since Anglu passed away in 2020, there are only 2 residents left on Comino. Salvu was featured in one of Nas Daily YouTube videos.
35. Malta has served as a filming location for many well-known films and TV series. The first season of Game of Thrones, Troy and Gladiator were all filmed in Malta and Gozo. In addition, the set of the Robin Williams musical Popeye has been transformed into a permanent theme park. Malta also served as a backdrop for several James Bond films, including the original Casino Royal and The Spy Who Loved Me.
36. The entire population of Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George V for their bravery during World War II in which Malta was the most bombed country in Europe.
37. The Maltese town of Mosta, is the proud home of Europe’s third-largest unsupported church dome also known for the miraculous event. Remarkably, the dome withstood a bomb that fell on it in the middle of the mass during World War II but failed to detonate and everyone in the church survived.
38. Divorce was illegal in Malta until 2011.
39. A flight to Sicily lasts 35 minutes. Hmm, idea?
Useful Malta Travel Resources and Travel Tips:
Check how to get the ExplorePlus travel card here! It will give you Unlimited Travel for 7 days, 2 free trips on the Valletta Ferry from Sliema or the Three Cities, 2 free trips on the Tallinja Bike and a few sightseeing options.
Take a free walking tour in Valletta! It’s an amazing way to learn the history of the city and Malta as a whole!
Keep some cash on you. Although in bigger cities you will be able to pay by card in the majority of establishments there are still a few smaller, privately owned shops that will only accept cash.
Check out the Malta events calendar here!
All the timetables you will ever need:
Gozo and Comin Ferry from Sliema / Hop On Hop Off
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