Ancient Malta is almost Great Britain in the Mediterranean Sea: here English and soccer are equally revered. Language schools and study tours, beach holidays and excursions, eco-tourism, weather, photos and prices – all about Malta from Tourism Tonnies.
Malta is a beautiful island state at the crossroads of civilizations: for many thousands of years trade roads crossed here from west to east, from Europe to Africa. Who hasn’t set foot on this soil: both the mythical Odysseus and the real Napoleon and Nelson have been here. And now in their footsteps are sent by modern treasure hunters – cultural, architectural, beach and culinary.
Every era has left its mark on Malta: unusual sights – from ancient megaliths to medieval temples and fortresses – still retain echoes of bygone times. You must come to me in order to unravel the mysteries of the ancient streets, to catch international notes in the classic dishes, to enjoy recreation on the rocky and sandy beaches, hidden in the secluded bays of the Mediterranean Sea. And in addition – to restore health in the modern Thalasso centers and learn English in popular language schools. It is no coincidence that Malta’s landscapes were chosen as the backdrop for the filming of the iconic Game of Thrones.
- 1 Malta’s Resorts and Regions
- 2 A Brief History
- 3 Climate
- 4 Customs and Visa
- 5 Transport
- 6 Public transport in cities
- 7 Communications
- 8 Hotels in Malta
- 9 Money
- 10 Safety
- 11 Malta’s Beaches
- 12 Diving
- 13 Treatment
- 14 Education in Malta
- 15 Ecotourism
- 16 Working tourism
- 17 Malta in winter
- 18 Restaurants and Cuisine
- 19 Attractions and Entertainments in Malta
- 20 Four things to do in Malta
- 21 Events and Holidays
Malta’s Resorts and Regions
The capital of Malta is the port city of Valletta: a former fortress founded in the sixteenth century by the Knights of the Order of St John who defended the local soil from the onslaught of the Turks. Fortunately, a lot of the landmarks that have grown here since those years are perfectly preserved. That’s why UNESCO has inscribed an entire city on its Global Heritage List, whose historic buildings have been recognized as some of the densest in the world.
You can spend days wandering between quaint squares, temples and palaces, and checking out the colourful restaurants and souvenir shops along Republic Street.
After exploring the capital, it’s time to visit a number of resorts. One of the most popular is St. Julians, which lies in the north-east. A lively town that has sprouted from a small fishing village, the island breathes deep both day and night: as long as the sun shines, holidaymakers bask on the beaches (St. George’s Bay and rocky St. Andrews are the best), explore the architecture and buy souvenirs, and when the sun goes down, revel in the clubs and casinos of Paceville.
The most respectable Maltese resort is Sliema, where not only foreigners, but also locals are eager to make a vacation. There are luxury hotels and restaurants, recognizable language schools and fashionable shopping malls. Bujibba, Aura and St. Pauls Bay are known for their handy antiquities and bathing areas like megalithic temples and Roman villas. Mellieha and Marsascala are perfect for a secluded holiday, and the walled town of Mdina is perfect for hiking. And the main natural beauties are hidden in the nearby islands: Gozo with its valleys and hills and Comino with a permanent population of 4 (!) lucky.
A Brief History
Tiny Malta has a uniquely complicated history. The first settlers from Sicily arrived here in Neolithic times. Later, they were replaced by aggressive tribes from the Bronze Age and later by the Phoenicians, who gave the island its name, meaning ‘safe haven’. Before 1530, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Spaniards and Arabs were here, one by one, to shape the Maltese appearance, customs and culture. Finally, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, aka the world-famous Order of Malta, became the possessor of the beautiful lands.
In a series of conquerors of Malta was marked except Napoleon: he stayed here only 6 days, but managed to abolish slavery, loot the church and establish a liberal legal system. Johns tried to preserve the remnants of power, electing Grand Master of the Order of Malta of the Russian Emperor Paul I, but soon the British landed on the island and turned it into their own colony. Long-suffering Malta bid farewell to independence: de jure colonization lasted until 1964, de facto – until 1979, and now Freedom Day in honor of the withdrawal of British armies – one of the main holidays in the country.
Any roadside stone can be part of a medieval castle, if not a megalithic temple, and the deeper you dive into the local history, the more you agree with Carroll’s Alice: “it gets more and more miraculous”.
And finally, a legend: long ago, the archipelago was home to the giant goddess Sanssouna, whose majestic beauty easily drove mere mortals crazy. Perhaps even today Malta is enchanted by her former mistress, leaving no one indifferent.
The climate is Mediterranean, with hot, sunny summers and mild winters. The average summer temperature is +26 … +28 °C, the water temperature ranges from +21 °C in June to +24 … +26 °C in July and August. In May, the bathing may be cool (+19 ° C), but in September and October is the real velvet season.
The annual precipitation is 530-570 mm, mostly during winter, but even now the weather is sunny and clear. Humidity is high for most of the year. There are no rivers and mountains in Malta. Latest: weather forecast for Malta’s main resorts in the coming days.
Any roadside stone in Malta can be part of a medieval castle, if not a megalithic temple.
Customs and Visa
Malta is a member state of the Schengen Agreement, and to visit it Russian and CIS citizens will require a visa and insurance.
Exports and imports of foreign currency is not limited. When entering from non-EU countries amounts greater than 10,000 EUR must necessarily be declared. Individuals over 18 years of age may bring with them 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 1 liter of spirits (over 22°) and 2 liters of wine, and perfume – up to personal needs. Prices on the page are for October 2018.
Shells, firearms and explosives, narcotics (drug-containing drugs – only with special permission) and pornographic materials will not be allowed through customs. It is prohibited to bring to the island plants, land, animals and wild birds, food made of milk and meat (as well as canned food, chocolate, sausages, etc.). Firearms, pornography and ammunition and historical artifacts, jewelry and antiques are prohibited.
Tax Free allows you to refund about 15% of the price of goods purchased in Malta. To do this you must comply with a couple of rules: at least make a purchase for a minimum of 55 EUR (the price must include VAT), keep all receipts and not use things until departure.
Tax free in Malta is issued only if the total value of purchased items exceeds 315 EUR.
Arriving in advance at the airport, you have to write an application for a VAT refund at the Vat Refund desk at the exit of the departure area. The amount due will not be issued immediately: the cheque will be sent to the address specified by the applicant within three months (in practice, from time to time you have to wait for the whole year). It is possible to cash the check in Russian banks no later than six months from the date of receipt.
The most ergonomic way to get around Malta is by bus: it used to be owned by the British company Arriva, but nowadays the reins have been given to the national carrier Malta Public Transport (official website in English). Virtually all routes lie through Valletta, and to get to your destination, sometimes you have to do a solid detour.
Expresses to the airport are marked with the letter X, flights through the capital – numbers from 1 to 99, bypassing its buses – from 200 to 300, night routes – letter N, transport of the island of Gozo – numbers from 300.
The salons are equipped with comfortable seats, air conditioning and electronic displays. Tickets are sold at the drivers, the price per trip is 1.50 EUR in winter, 2 EUR in summer and 3 EUR for night flights. Tourists have special passes: Explore for 21 EUR (15 EUR for children) with unlimited travel for 7 days and ExplorePlus for 39 EUR with guided tours and audio guides.
Another popular form of public transport in Malta are ferries that connect the islands of the archipelago and major cities. A trip from Valletta to Sliema will cost 2 EUR, to Gozo – 5 EUR, to Comino – 6-8 EUR. It is possible to see all the beauties of Malta in one day by a double-decker sightseeing bus at a price of 20 EUR.
Public transport in cities
The main means of transport in cities and towns are the same buses, which stop on demand anywhere in the city. There are a couple of minibuses in Valletta on route 133 – the streets are so narrow that a large vehicle simply can’t get through. Surroundings around Mdina nice to explore the tourist train Melita Train, tickets – 4,50 EUR. The most romantic way to see the sights is by horse-drawn carriages “karrotsina” which take you around for 30-50 EUR.
You can find a cab in a special parking, catch on the street or order in advance online, by phone or at a kiosk Taxi Booth. Get in at an average of 3,50 EUR, for the first 8 km you pay 1,40 EUR per each trip and 1 EUR afterwards. Shuttle from the airport to the capital costs about 20 EUR.
The largest mobile operators are Go Mobile, Vodafone Malta and Melita. SIM-cards are sold in brand offices open at the airport and tourist areas in Malta and Gozo. Packages cost 15-25 EUR and include free calls to local numbers and 50-500 MB of Internet traffic. You can top up your balance with the help of special cards sold in newsstands and some stores. Vodafone costs 1.9 EUR for calls to Russia, Go Mobile costs 0.79 EUR per 60 seconds.
Another popular means of communication – street payphones located everywhere. They are divided into a couple of types: coin phones, card phones and vending machines with IP-telephony. Telecard phones accept Telecard and EasyLine cards 5-50 EUR, while IP-telephones accept ICM and Prima Tel cards 3-10 EUR. You can buy them at newspaper and souvenir stalls, stores, hotels, post offices, and gas stations. Russian calls cost 0,79-1 EUR per 60 seconds, the best rates are in the evenings and at weekends.
Free Wi-Fi is available in many hotels, eateries and restaurants (to get access to the network in public catering, you will need to order something). In the main streets are open internet cafes, offering a connection for 4-5 EUR per hour.
Hotels in Malta
Hotels in Malta are quite a lot, but they must be chosen carefully: the level of service dramatically differs from hotel to hotel. Obviously, the most privileges – have guests posh “five”, in “three” service is not complicated, but good options will be found among the “budget”. Some hotels have private beaches, from the supply common dinners and continental breakfasts on the menu (the set “all inclusive” is only available in a few hotels).
Voltage in Maltese mains is 230 V, rooms are often equipped with three-pole English plugs type G. It is possible to take the adapter on bail at the reception.
During the winter period in most hotels make cosmetic repairs, so that the number of rooms, which are cheap to stay decreases at times. But from November to the end of March housing prices fall, respectively, it is possible to luxuriate in a suite for fully adequate money. A bed in a hostel Sliema costs 25-60 EUR per night in summer, a double room in three-bedroom Valletta – from 42-70 EUR. Most of the “five” are concentrated in St. Julians. Prices start from 180 EUR per night.
The financial unit of the country is the euro (EUR). Euro 1 equals 100 eurocents. The current rate is 1 EUR = 87.34 RUB.
Currency in Malta is exchanged in banks, hotels and exchange offices opened on the tourist streets, in huge shopping malls, seaports and airport. During the first period in October to mid-June, bank branches work from 8:30 to 12:30 (Monday to Friday), on Saturdays and during the summer period open and close half an hour earlier. Sunday is a day off, the branches at the airport and the street exchange machines are open all day and night.
The accepted norm of tips in Maltese catering is 5-10% of the check (in some places they are included in the bill at once). In gratitude porters are given 0.50-1 EUR per suitcase, cab drivers – no more than 10% of the fare.
The least attractive exchange rate is in hotels, especially in the place, as well as in banks, for operations are charged working group. In the street exchange offices it may be absent, so it is better to clarify the details with a cashier. Plastic Cards may be used at all big restaurants, hotels and stores (in public transport – only cash), ATMs are installed everywhere.
Malta – a country of quiet: the level of crime is low, it is safe to walk on the streets. It goes without saying that no one is safe from pick-pocketing: large sums of money, valuables and documents are better left in hotel safes. Sometimes there are thefts, so it is wise to park your car in crowded places.
Street crimes are often committed by African migrants, but sometimes the threat comes from the tourists themselves, losing their head from the alcoholic euphoria in the hip district of Paceville.
Tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations are recommended before traveling. There are poisonous scorpions on the island: the European, Maltese and yellow Mediterranean. In tourist areas, they are very rare, but in rural areas, it’s better to watch out for rocky crevices and rocks. If a scorpion bites a careless tourist, you should immediately contact the nearest medical center: an allergic reaction can be severe.
Poisonous jellyfish swim near the coast, but kept in large piles at the surface, so they are easy to spot. If you get stung it is enough to wash your skin with sea water, scrape off the venom and treat the affected area with sunburn cream or foam.
Speaking of sunscreens: they are indispensable in 40-degree summer heat, as well as sunglasses and hats. On stony beaches rubber slippers are required, and swimming is better guarded by lifeguards: Do not mess with the waves and local currents.
Malta does not have wide open beaches, but there are small and comfortable, lost in the beautiful bays. Coverage is sandy, stony and pebbly, and entry is free almost everywhere.
Sandy beaches at any time are crowded, with a gentle descent into the water and amenities: umbrellas and paid deckchairs (10-15 EUR per set), showers, restrooms, rent sports equipment. Stony and pebbly areas are more secluded, clean, mostly “wild”.
The most popular vacation spots are in Sliema, St. Julians, Mellieha, Bujibba, Aura, and St. Pauls Bay. The first two resorts are the most fashionable, with coastal stores, entertainment and restaurants to suit all tastes. St. George Bay near Paceville is crowded both day and night; St. Thomas Bay in Marsascale is much quieter.
Golden Bay is Blue Flag awarded, Ain Tuffikha is surrounded by sheer mountains, and Paradise Bay offers spectacular views of Gozo and Comino.
By the way, it’s the neighboring islands where you can enjoy seclusion: the secluded beaches of St. Blas, Bayar Bay and Schlendy Bay are famous for their serene atmosphere and clear waters.
Diving in Malta is the third most popular activity after beach relaxation and sightseeing trips. Diving here is possible all year round: in summer the water gets as warm as +23 … +25 °C, in winter the temperature stays at the level of +14 °C with confidence. The coastal waters are clear (visibility reaches 30-50 m) and at the depths the eye can see a variety of amazing landscapes and sea inhabitants: from arches and tunnels to caves and grottoes.
You can dive without an instructor only if you have a special application, a valid registration certificate and a dive logbook. In the absence of those – you are very welcome to local schools, offering a dive for 35-50 EUR or take a whole course from 280 EUR to 465 EUR.
The most popular dive sites are Marfa Point, Delimara Point, Kavra Point, Anchor Bay and Ghar Lapsea. There are moray eels, groupers, parrot fish, mullet, flounder, stingrays, and in addition, octopuses, crabs, squid, starfish, and seahorses. Corals of all colors of the rainbow, many of which are endemic, serve as a backdrop for this splendor.
Off the coast of Gozo, the caves and reefs of Schlendy, Inland Sea Lagoon and the Fungus Mountains are famous. Off the coast of Comino, the St. Mary’s Caves and Cominotto Reef beckon divers. Wrecks are also at rest in Maltese waters, the most famous of which are the French liner Carnac and the British submarine X7.
Nature is the greatest healer in Malta: iodine-rich air, mild climate, and sea. Opportunities of official medicine are also at a high level: clinics are facilitated with cutting-edge equipment, multilevel trained doctors use treatment and effective diagnostic methods.
Much more often go to Malta, in order to relieve stress, rejuvenate and lose weight. This assists in thalassotherapy, procedures which are based on the use of organic and mineral substances. Healing wrappings, masks, and hydro massage stimulate metabolic processes, increase muscular tonus, and smooth out the skin. Combined with peeling, lymphatic drainage, and other methods the result is spectacular.
The best thalasso-centres are open at the hotels: Kempinski San Lawrenz in Gozo, Corinthia Palace in Attarda and Corinthia San Gorg in St. Julians. The price for beauty rituals is EUR 59-200.
Maltese clinics cope not only with aesthetic, but also with significant medical problems. The largest institutions working with overseas patients are St. James Polyclinic in Sliema and St. Phillip’s in St. Venus.
The main indications are diseases of the heart, respiratory and endocrine systems, musculoskeletal system and metabolism. The genius dentists, plastic surgeons and ophthalmologists help to forget about the ailments for a long time.
Education in Malta
Maltese people are educated according to the English educational system. The first step towards knowledge is elementary school, which is entered at the age of 5 or 6. There are private, national and Catholic institutions, taught in English.
Education in national schools is free, in private schools to be trained is not cheap (10000-23000 EUR per year), but you can enter not only a local but also a foreign child who passed the language test. Catholic institutions exist on funds and parental donations provided by the church, and there are few foreigners there.
At the end of high school, children have the choice of taking an applied profession in college or going to university. Fortunately, it is possible to do this without entrance exams, a good certificate is enough. Maltese institutions gladly accept foreign applicants, tuition is paid (8000-35 000 EUR per year). Priority occupations are economics, business, humanities, medicine, diplomacy, art, and engineering.
Language schools in Malta are very popular with strangers. There are areas for students of all ages: kids, children, students and seniors can in the shortest time to pull up their own British. Along with this educational rates by 30-40% lower than in other countries: for example, a two-week program with lessons, textbooks and accommodation will cost from 460 EUR.
Now ecotourism in Malta has noticeably gathered momentum. Especially in winter (from October to April), at a time when the day temperature is kept at a comfortable +18 ° C. Local base for ecotourism – a lot of beautiful villages, rugged coastline, hillocks, plains, chapels and ancient megalithic monuments, seen virtually all over the island of Gozo and Malta.
Gozo in winter strikes an unusual seclusion: in that place it is possible to wander for hours along the coastline without meeting anyone.
Many options for day hikes are offered by local eco-communities and guides as well as by tourists themselves, equipped with a detailed map and comfortable shoes. Here are just a few: Zurri Village – Babu Plain – Light Blue Grotto – Hajar Im and Mnajdra megalithic temples; Ar Lapsi Coast and Sijivvi Village; Buskett Forest and Rabat; Imtahleb Coast; Mosta Town – Asel Plain – Speranza Chapel; Mellieha Village – Bird Sanctuary and Adira Beach.
Malta has an excellent reputation in the field of conference tourism with the number of conference visitors doubling in the last 5 years. The majority of business tourists come from Italy, Britain and Germany, and in Russia the idea of holding a business meeting in a hot and sunny Malta now lures more and more companies.
Malta in winter
It’s time to push the boundaries of consciousness and take a fresh look at the Maltese archipelago’s mysterious islands and ancient islands, which many had mistakenly considered a summer destination. So, Malta in winter offers a lot: thoughtful English language learning without the crowds of noisy students nearby, plenty of attractions and museums in the open air, coupled with comfortable temperatures, spas noticeably lowered their own prices in the off-season. And also – amazing opportunities for such a popular nowadays eco-tourism.
Restaurants and Cuisine
Malta’s uncomplicated and hearty cuisine combines the traditions of Italian, Greek, Moorish and Spanish gastronomy. Fruits and seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood and fish, olive oil and cereals are the main ingredients of the dishes. Stewed and baked dishes dominate the menu: in the past peasants cooked their food on stone hearths, saving wood and building a slow fire.
For the first course, we recommend a rich “alotta” soup with various fragrant spices and fish varieties, or a thick “widow’s soup” of local vegetables seasoned with sheep’s cheese and eggs. The most entertaining vegetarian snacks are marinated vegetables “bigilla”, goat cheese salad and vegetable stew “caponata”, reminiscent of French ratatouille. For main course you can enjoy Dorada “lampuca” and tender Hare Maltese-style roasted and stewed in red wine. The most exotic is stuffed octopus “arnit mimli” and snail stew “babbush”.
Of the street food, the Maltese sandwiches are worth a try: slices of soft bread “hobza” with lettuce and tomato paste of vegetables, other ingredients and tuna. For dessert, pastizzi puff pastries filled with fruit, nuts, honey and ricotta and cannoli with airy cheese in a crispy tube.
Of the drinks worthy of note are the kinny soda made from nasty oranges and wild herbs, fine local wine, champagne, and Farsons black beer.
Classic Maltese dishes are best ordered in small homemade taverns serving treats in earthenware dishes. There are countless fish restaurants along the coast serving the freshest seafood. In Valletta, you’ll find high-end establishments with impeccable service and a sophisticated menu. A snack in a fast-food or pizzeria will cost you 4-6 EUR, a lunch in a cafe – from 15-25 EUR, a dinner with alcohol in a restaurant – from 40-50 EUR per person.
Attractions and Entertainments in Malta
Malta breathes almost a breath of history: the number of its attractions would be the envy of any great European country. While Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Spaniards and other overseas aliens have ruled the land here in turns, Malta is peppered with temples, palaces and forts which have gradually developed into a unique multicultural mosaic.
The most recognizable architectural creations are in Valletta: most impressive is the 16th century Palace of the Grand Master: large, stone, with a striking facade laden with sculptures and columns and an opulent interior. Its contemporary is St. John’s Cathedral with 13 baroque interiors and chapels. Among the religious buildings the churches of Our Lady of Victory and St. Catherine of Alexandria are also noteworthy.
The most gruesome but must-see exhibition in Malta is the Museum of Torture in Mdina: the naturalistic quality of the local exhibits takes your breath away.
The oldest buildings on the island are the famous megalithic temples: religious buildings made of huge boulders. On Gozo, there are complexes dating back to 3600 B.C., dolmens and other catacombs not much younger. In Sliema, remarkable are the ornate villas of different eras, in St. Julian’s – the palaces of the Maltese nobles, now converted into entertainment facilities. In Birgu there is Fort Sant’Angelo: an impregnable fortress, the construction of which was started by the ancient Romans. Mdina is an open-air museum, with its medieval fortifications, cathedrals and palaces now awe-inspiring.
Malta’s most famous natural attraction is the Ghar Dalam Cave, with its spectacular stone vaults and unique archaeological museum. Bones of animals from the last ice age and human traces, abandoned more than seven millennia ago, have been found here. The best place to return to modernity is the Paceville neighborhood adjacent to St. Julian’s, with dozens of bustling bars, clubs and casinos.
Four things to do in Malta
- See The Malta Experience, a catchy show based on the island’s culture and historical facts, at the Mediterranean Conference Center in Valletta.
- See the largest temple in Malta and the fourth largest in Europe in the city of Mosta.
- Capture breathtaking views from the huge cliffs at the southern end of the Dingli Cliffs coastline.
- Take a boat trip to Light Blue Grotto, a network of rock caves where the water is a fantastic deep light blue.
Tickets for the museums
Get tickets in advance or to check the price you can on the website of Tourism Malta.
Price of single tickets for entry: Gozo (museums and citadel, Dzhgantiya temples, the ancient colony, the mill Ta’Kola) is approximately 5 EUR, in Valletta – 6-20 EUR (plus if you want 10 EUR for audio guide), Rabat – Mdina – 5-6 EUR. Most advantageous and convenient for guided tours around the country is considered Heritage Multipass, which includes visits to all sites of Malta and Gozo, and costs 50 EUR.
Events and Holidays
The most spectacular holidays in Malta are festivals in honor of patron saints, staged almost in every village. Houses are decorated with garlands and flowers, masked characters walk the streets, bands play everywhere, and fireworks explode in the sky. The most joyous are at February’s carnival, which has its own history since the 16th century, and March’s St. Joseph’s “festival” and the Il Bandu festival with classical processions from Mdina to Rabat.
In July and August, there is an annual beer festival in Ta’ Ali, reminiscent of the legendary Oktoberfest in terms of atmosphere and scope.
February 10 – the Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul: according to legend, the ship of the apostle sunk off the Maltese coast, but miraculously rescued Paul spent a couple of months on the island, converting the locals to Christianity. March 31 – Freedom Day with army parades commemorating the final withdrawal of the British armies in 1979. September 8 – Madonna Victory Day with a colorful regatta and street festivities on daisa boats. December 13 – Republic Day with official celebrations in Valletta. And December 25 – Catholic Christmas: church works, biblical theatrical productions and, of course, insulated house parties with gifts.