Getting to Malta
Malta’s national airline is Air Malta. Other airlines serving Malta
include Aeroflot, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines,
Easyjet, Ryanair, Swiss,
Emirates, Libyan Arab Airlines, Lufthansa and Transavia,
but this is not a full list. Charter flights
are also offered from many European destinations. Most of Europe is
within 3 hours flying time, northernmost countries up to 4 hours.
Malta’s recently built air terminal offers all the facilities one would
expect in a modern airport – well connected by public transport, duty
free shops, car hire offices, banks and exchange bureaus, and a choice
of catering outlets. Important to note that buses normally do not allow
luggage to be carried.
The only other option to visit Malta is by sea – mainly from Sicily or
Italy, with a high speed passenger and vehicle catamaran service from
Sicily generally proving the most popular. Services operate to the
Sicilian ports of Catania and Pozzallo. Travel time from Pozzallo is
around 90 minutes. Visit
Importation of Restricted or Prohibited Items
Special arrangements to be made beforehand for the importation of
sporting firearms and ammunition. Prohibited items include all forms of
pornographic material, counterfeit items, and illicit substances. To
note that Maltese law takes a harsh stance on the attempted importation
of even small quantities of “soft” drugs such as marijuana, with prison
terms prescribed, and customs employ advanced detection methods.
Therefore the importation of such substances, even for personal use, is
not to be contemplated.
Health and Medical
Visitors do not need to take any special health precautions. Tap water
is also perfectly safe, although bottled water is cheap and better
tasting. All locally produced dairy products are safe for consumption.
Milk is pasteurised and available daily in cartons.
Chemists are found throughout the Islands and are open during normal
shopping hours, generally 9-12 and 4-7pm Mon-Fri and 9-12 Saturdays. On
Sundays, chemists open on a roster, mornings only, which roster is
published in Sunday newspapers. All common medications manufactured by
the major international brands are commonly available, or their
In case one needs to see a doctor, the standard of health care in Malta
is very high, both in the public and private sector.
All well-known brands of milk formulae, nappies, medicines and other
baby products are readily available from chemists and supermarkets
throughout Malta & Gozo.
Car hire is strongly recommended to get around the Maltese
Islands. Malta and Gozo is possibly one of the cheapest places to hire a
car, especially in the low season. Unless you are a regular visitor or
do not expect to do much sightseeing, and ideally are also staying in a
central location, you might find that buses are somewhat limiting.
Buses are quite cheap, but rather slow, and connections generally
mean changing buses at Valletta to go pretty much anywhere, although
some direct services do exist. The peripheries, if served by buses at
all, could have an hourly service which means plenty of waiting time. If
you plan on getting around a lot, buses should only be considered a
viable option if you are staying in Valletta, the Sliema/St Julians
area, and the St Paul’s Bay area – localities which are well served and
have plenty of tourist facilities to hand, thus unnecessary travelling
is avoided. Another thing to watch out for is that in many areas, the
latest bus leaves Valletta as early as 10:30 or 11:00 pm, and catching a
taxi home could cost as much as a day’s car rental charge.
hire a car or motorcycle, your driving licence is required, and
minimum/maximum age limits apply some of which can be satisfied by the
payment of an insurance surcharge.
Driving around Malta and Gozo is not difficult. Apart from a
short period of adjustment until one realises that most Maltese drivers
think that rules are to be bent to accommodate requirements, and there
are no major worries. Just watch out for the speed cameras installed in
a few locations (speed limits are marked in Km not miles!), and careful
where and how you park your car, both as regards to prohibited parking
and to not leaving valuables in an “obvious” tourist hire car (anyone
can tell from the number plate). See note about tipping, when using a
public car park, too. Driving is on the left, UK style, and unless
otherwise indicated speed limits are 50km/h / 30mph (Urban), and 80km/h
/ 50mph (Outside built up areas).
Taxis come in two varieties – White or Black, although the latter
are also sometimes offered in other colours, except white. White taxis
are “proper” taxis, generally with a “proper” non-functional meter, a
“Taxi” sign on the roof and/or doors, and permission to pick up
passengers from the street – although some of them (not all, mind)
interpret “to pick up” as “to rip off”. On a good day they are more
expensive than London black taxis, provided you agree the fare
beforehand. Because of the way they work, often queued up at busy
locations, where they might have waited in turn for hours, the minimum
charge for a short distance is generally disproportionately high. So
always without exception agree on the fare beforehand. “Black” taxis,
officially know as “chauffeur driven” or “garage hire” cars, are the
equivalent of British minicabs, with the difference that only licenced
vehicles are used. These taxis can not be stopped on the street, but
must be booked beforehand by calling up the garage. The charge is more
honest, although the driver, being an employee, would much appreciate a
tip especially if luggage has been handled. “Black” taxis are the
preferred means of getting from the Airport to your hotel.
Bicycles – It is possible to hire a bicycle at low cost to get
around. There are some things to watch out for however – You need to be
fit, as Malta and Gozo especially are quite hilly. You will need to wear
suitable clothing, and to bear in mind that in high summer the
temperature can get uncomfortable for any form of exertion, and
precautions against sunburn need to be taken. Also, drivers tend not to
respect cyclists all that much, so you need to keep your wits about you
and wear a cycling helmet at least. Bicycle hire is really an option for
the fit, regular cyclist, if it is intended to use the bike as a serious
means of transportation and not just for the occasional fun ride.
Getting to Gozo and Comino
A passenger car ferry operates several times daily between
Cirkewwa in Malta and Mgarr Harbour in Gozo. The cost is reasonable.
Crossing time is about 30 minutes. For further information and
timetables, contact the Gozo Channel Company,
An option, is the seaplane service
linking Valletta Grand Harbour with
Mgarr Harbour, Gozo. Visit
Services to Comino
by small ferry boats operate from around mid-March to mid-November,
during the summer months the service is frequent, operating from
Cirkewwa, Malta. A more worthwhile option for the visitor wishing to get
to Comino is booking a day cruise, cruise boats generally depart from
Sliema Ferries. This allows a scenic tour of Malta’s coastline, meals
are normally included, and the cost is also quite reasonable for a day’s
Currency - Making Payments
The Euro (Symbol -
€) is necessary to pay for everyday items. Your currency can be
exchanged for Euro 24/7 upon arrival at the
airport or any bank branch (to note opening hours of banks).
In tourist areas, some foreign currency,
especially the Pound Sterling (£),
may be accepted, especially for
larger purchases. All major credit cards are also accepted, and ATM’s are common.
Language - Communicating
English is very
widely spoken, and is a very active second language. Italian is also
generally well understood, and although not in common use, several
Maltese have learnt French, and to a lesser extent, German or Spanish,
at school or privately. Front office staff at hotels are generally
proficient in a number of languages. Therefore most visitors to Malta
and Gozo will not have any difficulties in making themselves understood.
What to Wear
In summer, especially July
– September, shorts or only the lightest of trousers for the evenings,
and short sleeved shirts/T-shirts for the men, jackets are completely
redundant. Women should wear appropriately lightweight clothing. Dark
colours are also to be avoided during the daytime.
During the shoulder months, the weather varies, and a second layer is
advisable. November through February, bring some warm clothing with you.
Swimming & Sunbathing
The Maltese coastal waters are generally clean and safe for
swimming. Occasional nuisances are jellyfish, which sometimes invade
beaches with an onshore prevailing wind, and on rocky beaches one should
take care not to trample on a sea urchin. The sea temperature goes up to
a very comfortable 25 degrees centigrade in summer.
The one thing to watch
out for and which could very easily cause serious distress in the
short term, possibly worse in the long term, is the sun. Wear high
protection sunscreen at all times, and re-apply regularly. The sun’s
effects are not immediately obvious, indeed one feels no ill-effects or
discomfort at all during exposure, thus one is often tricked into
complacency, but come the evening the extremely painful consequences are
felt. The skin becomes very painful to the touch, it becomes impossible
to sleep on the affected area, or sleep at all, for some 2-3 days. Large
water filled blisters appear, and after a couple of days more, the
blisters split and skin starts peeling in unsightly patches – which is
when the chronic itching sets in. In the best of cases, a good part of
your holiday is made very uncomfortable; in bad cases hospitalisation is
required. What is also little appreciated is just how short an exposure
is necessary to cause sunburn, if unprotected. Between 11am and 2pm,
just 20 minutes of exposure of fair skin will cause redness and burning.
An hour will result in all the consequences outlined above, more will
make matters serious. Since exposure time accumulates, even leaving the
relative safety of your umbrella for a regular short dip can result in
Topless or nude bathing is prohibited.
Food and Eating Out
Practically all tastes in international cuisine are catered for when
dining out – from Italian, through Chinese, and everything else in
between, including of course the ubiquitous fast food chains.
To note that most restaurants and pubs, except those that can offer a
sealed, separate smoking area, are non-smoking.
If your holiday is on a self-catering basis, supermarkets are very well
stocked in all leading brands.
Tipping of service staff
at catering establishments is not normally included in the bill, and is
not obligatory – however a 10 per cent gratuity is normal. Generally
speaking, the only other occasions where tipping is expected, is with
service staff at hotels, such as porters, etc, and “free” public car
parks. Here, one often finds a self-appointed parking attendant who may
or may not offer any assistance at all, but generally still expects a
gratuity. To note that there is no obligation to tip these attendants,
even less is there a minimum or fixed charge, contrary to what they may
tell you in their common attempts to take advantage of unsuspecting
tourists. However, in order to keep the peace, a tip of
50 cents is very
reasonable and is more than what most Maltese would offer.
Weaving, pottery, blown glass, copper or brass objects are all popular
with tourists. Malta is famous for its gold and silver filigree work,
as well as for its handmade lace. There is a craft centre at Ta’ Qali
in Malta and another at Ta’ Dbiegi in Gozo. To avoid imported “Malta”
souvenirs, look out for the Malta Crafts Council logo to assure yourself
of a genuine item. Good buys are gold and silver jewellery.
Museum Opening Hours
Commercial centres and
shops are usually open between 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. and between 4.00
p.m. and 7 p.m., but a few shops, particularly supermarkets, are open
all day. In tourist areas, many shops remain open till 10.00 p.m. Shops
are normally closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.
State museums generally have the following opening hours. We advise you
to check before visiting any particular museum to confirm. Museums are
normally closed on Public Holidays.
October - 15th June
Mondays - Saturdays : 08.15 - 17.00
Sundays : 08.15 - 16.15
16th June to 30th September
Mondays - Sundays : 07.45 - 14.00
The electrical supply is 220 volts, 50 hertz. The UK style three-pin
plug system is used.
Malta is on Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of GMT in
winter and 2 hours ahead between the last Sunday in March and the last
Sunday in October. Malta is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST)
in winter and 7 hours ahead between the last Sunday in March and the
last Sunday in October.
Most hotels, and some apartments offer a television service with at
least one international news channel, some offer channels in languages
other than English.
Local newspapers are published in English and Maltese, and foreign
newspapers, both in English and other languages (commonly Italian,
German, French) are to be found at the better newsagents, particularly
those in larger towns and tourist areas.