Great Tips for Travelling to Malta For the First Time!
Lots of people ask “is Malta worth visiting?” and we think the answer is absolutely! From the rocky beaches to exploring the famous capital, Valletta, Malta is an fascinating country that is great for all travel styles.
That said, there are a few things to know about Malta before you visit and knowing these things can make your trip go as smooth as possible.
Eric visited Malta on a trip and explored basically the whole country so we love talking about Malta and have written quite a few Malta travel articles. Let’s travel to Malta!
General Information About Malta
Malta is country made up of a whole bunch of islands (an archipelago) with the three main ones being Malta, Gozo, and Comino. The country has played a HUGE role in shaping (and we’re not exaggerating here) written human history.
There are temples on Malta that are 5000 years old and considered the oldest freestanding structures remaining on earth.
The island has been ruled by basically everyone in the region at one point or another, had real medieval knights, was a British colony, played a significant role in both World Wars, and is now a member of the European Union. So, there is a TON of amazing history to learn about when you visit.
That said, the country is TINY. You can basically drive end to end on the main island in like an hour (without traffic congestion).
Valletta, the capital city, is the smallest European capital by land area, and the whole country is only about 450,000 people total. Other larger centres are Sliema, St Julian’s, Bugibba, and Victoria, the capital of the island of Gozo.
Weather in Malta
If you want the sunshine, Malta is, admittedly, the place to go. Malta averages over 300 sunny days a year – which is among the highest rates in all of Europe.
The best time for weather to visit Malta is June through to August when the temperatures are around 25-27 degrees Celsius. Having said that, this season is super busy so consider travelling in the shoulder season in April or May before the rush of summer.
Eric went there in April and it was still hot enough to swim and sunbathe. Plenty hot. The other shoulder season is September to November BUT these months can see more rain so just a heads up.
You can go in the winter months but it’s cooler and many resorts and attractions are closed down for the season. As a general tip, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated – but we cover more Malta safety tips further down.
Visa Information to Visit Malta
If you are travelling to Malta for tourism, you should think about if your passport requires a travel visa or not to get into the country. Malta is located in the Schengen Zone of Europe.
The Schengen Zone is an area in continental Europe (plus a few other island countries) of 26 countries that allow free movement between them once you’re in any of them.
Most major non-European passports (Canadian, America, Australian, etc) follow the Schengen “visa-free rules” of staying in the Zone for 90 days within a span of 180 total days.
So most short trips to Malta are probably covered if this is you. BUT always check the visa restrictions for your passport with your country’s government/embassy before leaving!
If you need a visa for the Schengen Zone, you will have to apply beforehand. Malta is also in the EU so all Europeans can just show up no problem.
Paying and Tipping In Malta
The currency that is used in Malta is the Euro. You can find cash machines at banks or money exchanges in larger centres and touristy areas. If you do pay in cash, try to have smaller bills – 50 Euro notes or smaller.
The major credit cards are widely accepted as a form of payment (Eric bought aloe gel for a sunburn at a tiny stand and they had a card machine) but have a bit of cash available just in case for purchases made on the beach or in a small market.
If you are eating out or taking a cab, tipping in Malta is at a standard 10% but you can go a bit higher for excellent service.
Plugs/Electronics Used in Malta
As a former British colony, the plugs used in Malta are Type G – or the three prong style used in the UK and NOT in mainland Europe. The voltage used is 230 volts.
That means if you’re coming from North America or other parts of Europe, you will need an adapter for your style of plug. Most electronics you’ll be bringing along can handle a range of voltage from 110 to 240 V and it’ll say on the label.
If your electronic isn’t compatible for a 230-volt plug (most should be, but check) then you’ll need BOTH a converter AND an adapter. Buying a travel adapter that handles different voltages can save you some worry.
You can find an adapter like that here. It even includes USB ports for charging smaller electronics (cameras, phones, etc).
Getting To/Around Malta
Malta has one major airport (Malta International Airport) and that is the main way in and out of the country. You can take the ferry from like Italy but this isn’t common.
As for getting around once you are there using public transportation, you take the bus. There are no trains on Malta so don’t expect to hop on a train between cities. It’s the bus or you are walking!
Public Transportation in Malta
As for the bus around Malta, they are green and you cannot miss them. Our advice is to hang on tight if you are standing. The buses are safe and not always on time (this is “Malta time” which we explain below in the culture section).
They always do come, just be prepared to arrive early to the bus stop cause it might be early – and be prepared to wait longer cause it might be late! This is also season depending and route dependent. In short, the bus is a great option if you aren’t in a hurry.
There’s the official website of Malta Transportation – they offer a variety of passes and show you the routes and timetables.
Ferry Crossing to Gozo
Since Malta and Gozo are two separate islands, you have to take the ferry to Gozo to check it out. We have now written a very detailed guide on taking the ferry from Malta to Gozo (and back) which you should check out if you have questions.
In short, the ferry port is in Cirkewwa – which is at the north end of the main island of Malta. The ferry takes you to Mgarr Harbour in Gozo.
You can check here for the Gozo ferry schedule and ticket prices. It’s pretty easy to figure out once you are there. Eric did that and just hopped on the next ferry!
Private Car/Taxi Hire
There are also private car hires and taxis on Malta which are quite common since there is no other option besides the bus or your own rental car (see below).
There are official white taxis around the island. Just make sure they are using the meter during your trip.
If you are heading anywhere major, there is usually a flat fee – like from the airport to literally any of the major cities/towns. You can learn more about those flat fees here at the Airport Website.
If you are into the idea of a car hire, there are private cars or “black cars”. These cars can be cheaper than taxis and they usually get arranged through a hotel reception or a simple call.
Eric had his hostel arrange a black car pick-up from the airport and it was so simple and cheap for three people. A popular way to arrange these is through eCabs.
Driving in Malta + Renting a Car in Malta
While on the topic of getting around Malta, you can also drive. If you are planning to drive while in Malta, you should know that – like in the UK, Australia, New Zealand – driving is done so on the left.
Again, thank the former British rule for this! Eric found drivers to be a little impatient in the centres but once you got out into the open country it’s fine.
The major roads are well kept but there are tons of little side paths to beaches, view points, etc that are rugged and just stone/dirt roads. Drive them at your own risk.
Renting a car is not uncommon in Malta and you can do that right from the airport. However, the Rule of Thumb for renting a car in Malta is rent one if you are a confident driver and you know the route.
If this is your first time renting a car, DON’T start in Malta. You can compare rental car prices in Malta here, if needed.
Safety in Malta
Generally, Malta is a very safe European country. Of course, all places come with their risks.
Crime rates are pretty low in Malta but petty crime – like pick-pocketing – does happen in touristy areas. Just be sure to watch your belongings when in larger crowds/markets and you should be fine.
If you are near the coastal regions, be careful hiking along the cliff edges. Flip flops won’t do it on loose rocks – you need a good hiking shoe like Lisa has.
If you are swimming, follow the swimming codes for beaches or do what the locals are doing if you are just going in off the rocky shoreline. Currents can be dangerous in the winter and never swim alone.
Speaking of rocky, the rocks to enter the ocean in places can be very slippery and sharp so watch your footing as you enter/exit using the rock ledges. Cliff jumping can be very dangerous since you may not be able to judge the water’s depth.
When it comes to sun safety, always wear sunscreen or stay covered with a hat/umbrella. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the hot days. We always have our water bottles with us in our reliable day pack and they are always full!
Staying hydrated is important – even if you are in the shade. Locals even avoid the sun at mid day since it’s just that hot.
Speaking of water, you can usually drink the tap water in Malta BUT always ask if you are unsure. Most people still just buy bottled water or have a filter system in their home.
Hotels usually have a system in place (bottled or filter) and will let you know the proper course of action. Again, just ask your host if you are unsure.
Speaking English in Malta
If you’re travelling to Malta, you should know that there are two official languages: Maltese and English. English is the second-most spoken language so you shouldn’t have a problem conversing with locals.
You will definitely find English in all touristy areas and larger towns/centres in the country. Members of the older generation might be the ones who are not comfortable speaking English, however.
That said, (fun fact) – Italian WAS an official language so there are people on the island who can converse in Italian, and even French, to a lesser degree.
If you are reading this, though, you are likely an English speaker. Go with that – but don’t be afraid to learn a few basic Maltese words.
Maltese History & Culture
The Maltese people (especially the older generation) are strongly religious. As a whole, the country is a reserved and modest place (with a few exceptions – going out on the town in Paceville..).
Because of the reserved culture, topless sunbathing/swimming is illegal in Malta. So if you do that and are used to that – it’s “tops on” for ladies in Malta.
Along with that, make sure you are respectful when you travel and visit places. If you are visiting religious sites (churches), be sure to be dressed/covered appropriately.
Shoulders covered and closed toes shoes are recommended. Basically don’t visit a church in a tank top and flip flops.
As for Maltese culture, “Malta time” is a thing. Basically, going back to talking about the buses – the country moves at a more relaxed pace.
This laid back atmosphere can be infuriating to “go go go” North Americans so it’s always nice to step out of your bubble and enter into a completely different culture. Just go with the flow and you will be fine.
The food is wonderful with fresh produce available all over the country. Given the location in the Mediterranean, seafood is fresh and abundant. Definitely try the seafood.
You can learn about the historic fishing culture if you head to Marsaxlokk for the famous Sunday Fish Market.
If you’re planning a trip to Malta, have a look at some of our other articles as well:
- Plan Your Perfect Malta Itinerary from 3 to 10 Days
- Things to Do in Malta’s Capital City Valletta
- Places to Visit in Malta
- Sightseeing on Gozo
- Where to Stay in Malta
- Where to Stay on Gozo
- Must-Knows When Taking The Ferry from Malta to Gozo
And there you have it – 10 things you should think about before travelling to Malta! We love Malta – and think that it’s a great country that many people should experience once in their lifetime.
We’re always happy to share our travel knowledge about a place – but Malta is extra cool! We can’t wait to return soon and write all about our experiences again.
As always, Happy Malta Waddling!