Malta Travel Guide
Dubbed ‘the open air museum of the Mediterranean’, Malta is a compelling country, bursting with interesting historical sights. The small country is comprised of three islands: Malta Island, the largest and most visited of the three; Gozo, famous for its gentle hills and tranquil atmosphere; and Comino, a small and isolated island with excellent water sport opportunities.
The allure of a holiday in Malta is tangible and varied. Within Valletta, visitors can see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mdina, where the ruins of the ancient capital city of Malta can be explored; while on Gozo Island, the Ggantija Temples, massive megalithic structures that pre-date Stonehenge, are a must-see. Malta is also a fantastic beach holiday destination, featuring a varied and pleasant selection of beaches and a generally laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, peppered throughout the year with vibrant festivals and other cultural celebrations. The best beaches in Malta are Golden Bay and Mellieha Bay in the north of Malta Island, or on Gozo, where Odysseus is said to have delayed his homecoming by lazing on the red sands of Ramla Bay. The Blue Lagoon, located on the coast of Comino Island, boasts some of the clearest, most turquoise water in the Mediterranean and is a huge hit on the international diving and snorkelling circuit, while the Azure Window (on Gozo Island) is a deservedly famous natural rock formation that picturesquely frames the Mediterranean Sea.
Best time to visit Malta
Malta has a typically Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cooler, wet winters. The best time to visit Malta is between April and October; the high temperatures in July and August are soothed somewhat by sea breezes. Read more on Malta Climate and Weather.
What to see in Malta
-The ruins of Mdina are situated on a rocky outcrop about nine miles (15km) west of Valletta, and home to the Baroque Cathedral of St Paul.
–The Ggantija Temples, on Gozo Island, are impressive pre-Phoenician structures with an ancient and mysterious history.
–The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, believed to be a Neolithic burial chamber constructed about 5,000 years ago.
-The Caravaggio Paintings in the St John’s Co-Cathedral have captured the imagination of travellers for many years, and the cathedral itself has an interesting history. Read more about Malta Attractions.
What to do in Malta
-Watch The Malta Experience, an audio-visual show in Valletta that provides a fantastic overview of 7,000 years of Maltese history.
-Head to one of Malta’s glittering beaches, and enjoy the tranquil seaside atmosphere while sampling some local seafood.
-For snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, a trip to the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island is an absolute must.
-Take a walking tour of the Three Cities, an urban conglomerate located on promontories opposite Valletta, where the Baroque-style stone buildings glow a deep honey colour in the setting sun.
Getting to Malta
Cheap flights to Malta International are easy to find from a variety of British and American destinations. Direct flights to Malta are available from major British airports, with the flight taking about three hours. Passengers flying from the United States may have to book a connecting flight. Note that Malta is a Schengen member state, and so some passengers might require a visa to visit the country. Get more information on Malta Airports.
The Sword and the Scimitar by David Ball, The Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi, and Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Gladiator (2000), Troy (2004), and Alexander (2004).
Fenkata, a feast of rabbit meat marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves.
Cisk, the national beer, and local varieties of wine such as Marsovin and Delicata.
What to buy
Maltese glass products (go for an ‘art-glass’ item), Maltese lace items (such as parasols) and filigreed silver jewellery.
What to pack
If travelling to Malta between April and October (and especially in July and August), prepare yourself for dry heat and lots of sun – pack sunscreen and after-sun lotion, as well as a hat and lightweight clothes. Bear in mind that many of Malta’s best sights require some exploring, and so comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended.
What’s on in Malta
The Malta Carnival (February) brings riotous celebrations to the capital of Valletta each spring. The Malta Fireworks Festival (April), held at the Grand Harbour in Valletta, is an exciting and popular visual feast that culminates in a ‘History of Malta’ laser show set to rousing music. More information on Events in Malta.
Did you know?
-Malta was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as ‘Melita’, which means the ‘island of honey’.
-In the past, there used to be a bridge connecting Malta with the island of Sicily.
-The University of Malta is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean, having been founded in 1592.
A final word
A country with a rich history and interesting cultural sights, uniquely blessed with great beaches and outstanding natural scenery, Malta is a top-class Mediterranean vacation destination that is sure to appeal to visitors from all walks of life.
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between April and October)
240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin square plugs are used.
English and Maltese are the official languages; Italian is also spoken
There are no health risks associated with travel to Malta, and water and food is generally safe for consumption. Travellers coming from recognised infected areas require a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Malta. A reciprocal health agreement exists between the United Kingdom and Malta and as a result British citizens receive emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Maltese nationals on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Visitors should, however, take out adequate medical and travel insurance in case medical evacuation or further treatment is required. Medication should be available in Malta but those requiring specific prescription medication should take it with them, in the original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medicine is and why it is needed.
A gratuity of about 10 percent is expected in hotels and restaurants if a service charge is not included in the bill. Most services are tipped about five to 10 percent (including taxi drivers).
Malta is considered very safe for tourists. Crime is rare, though theft from parked cars and handbag snatching can occur. Local driving can be challenging so exercise caution on the roads.
The wearing of skimpy clothing away from the beaches should be avoided, and dress should be conservative when visiting churches.
Business in Malta tends to be conducted as elsewhere in Europe; formally and politely. Punctuality is important; dress should be formal with suit and tie the norm, unless weather is hot when one can forgo the jacket. Handshakes and the exchanging of business cards takes place on greeting. English is widely spoken in business and so a translator is unnecessary. Business hours can vary but are usually 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Some businesses open for a half-day on Saturdays.
The country code for Malta is +356, and the outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are not required. Local and international telephone calls can be made from hotel rooms, and most hotels also offer fax and internet access. Maltacom telecommunications offices also provide these services in the main towns, and coin and card operated telephone boxes can be found all over Malta. The islands are covered by comprehensive GSM 900 and 1800 mobile phone networks as well as nationwide 3G coverage. Internet cafes can be found in all the main towns and tourist resorts.
Travellers arriving in Malta from non-EU countries do not need to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 100 cigarillos or 250g of tobacco; 4 litres of wine and 2 litres of spirits. Travellers may carry personal items of non-commercial nature worth up to €430 when travelling by air or sea.
Entry requirements for Americans
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for UK nationals
British citizens and those with passports endorsed ‘British Subject’ (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and ‘British Overseas Territories Citizen’ issued by Gibraltar need to have passports valid for duration of stay. British passports with any other endorsement must be valid for three months beyond period of intended stay.
A visa is not required for passports endorsed ‘British Citizen’ or ‘British Subject’ (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authories, and endorsed ‘Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom’. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days, for holders of British passports with any other endorsement.
Entry requirements for Canada
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for Australians
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
*Entry requirements for South Africans
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. A visa is required.
Entry requirements for New Zealanders
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. No visa is required, for stays of up to 90 days.
Entry requirements for Irish nationals
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Malta. No visa is required.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, non-EEA passengers to Malta must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. For visitors who are visa-exempt, extensions of stay are possible, by reporting to the Police Headquarters in Malta, no later than one week prior to the expiration of the period of visa exemption. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.