Malta may be one of the world’s smallest countries, but its size hasn’t stopped it from having more mind-blowing sites and attractions than you can count on 2 – or quite easily 200 – hands.
From ancient cities, turquoise lagoons, temple ruins, lavish gardens, catacombs, nightlife, Games of Thrones filming locations, and a bunch of water sports, Malta has it all! I initially visited Malta at the start of September 2017, and I spent each of my 5 days exploring as many of the country’s cities and attractions as I could. (Don’t worry, I can be pretty restless, so I love sightseeing and busy itineraries).
While making my way from Point A, Point B, and even Point Z, I started putting together a whole list of tips and tricks that helped me get the most of my brief stay in the country.
And of course, I want you to have the perfect holiday too, so here are 12 things you need to know when planning your trip to Malta!
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1. Malta was once part of the British Empire.
From the early 19th to the mid 20th century, Malta was under British rule.
A statue honouring Winston Churchill in Valletta, Malta. Malta was still governed by Britain during the Second World War (when Churchill became the Prime Minister of the U.K.).
For travelers visiting Malta today, this means:
2. English is one of the country’s official languages.
So if you ever find yourself in a pinch where you need to ask for directions, recommendations, or whatnot, it’s super easy to do so as almost everyone speaks English. Maltese is also an official language, and Italian is still widely spoken.
London Calling… in the Silent City of Mdina.
3. Vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road.
Yup, this is another remnant of British influence on the country.
Note: if you’re not totally comfortable driving on the left hand side, Malta isn’t the place to develop the confidence. I found that many drivers frequently play by their own road rules. (See Tip 8 for more transportation info).
4. Pack those British power plug adapters if you have them.
Like the U.K., Malta also uses the G plug. But don’t fret if you don’t own an adaptor. They’re widely available on the island. I actually bought one from my hostel.
5. Malta’s currency is still the Euro.
Despite all the persisting “British influence” listed above, Malta uses the Euro. The country became a member of the EU all the way back in 2004. As well, ATMs are easy to find around the island.
6. You’re going to have the chance to visit some unreal sites and have some epic experiences.
Fun fact: Malta’s history goes back over 7,000 years. During these millennia, the island was home to Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, and more.
Many of these civilizations left their mark on the country, so you’re going to find plenty of incredible and one-of-a-kind things to see and do. (Not to mention that Malta also has some gorgeous natural sites, such as the Blue Grotto and the Blue Lagoon).
The Main Gate to the medieval city of Mdina.
Gorgeous side streets in Mdina. Serious Game of Thrones vibes here.
Downtown Valletta. Malta’s capital city.
The Blue Lagoon by Comino.
|READ MORE: Planning the Perfect Day Trip to Malta’s Blue Lagoon.|
7. You need more time exploring Malta than you think.
It’s easy to give into the belief that since Malta is a tiny country, you don’t need that much time to visit and travel around the island. I know I’ve just briefly addressed Malta’s rich history and abundance of attractions, but I do feel like I need to bring it up here again. You will totally need more time in Malta than you think.
When planning a trip to Malta, I don’t recommend staying for less than 5 days. I stayed for 5 days, and I only had the chance to visit some of the country’s most popular spots, such as Valetta, the Blue Lagoon, Mdina, Marsaxlokk, Paceville, Rabat, and San Anton Palace/Gardens. In the future, I still hope to visit St. Peter’s Pool, the Dingli Cliffs, the Three Cities, the Popeye Village (yes, I know), and more.
Marsaxlokk, a popular fishing town, can be found on the southeastern side of the island.
The quiet and lush alleyways of Rabat.
Your choice of transportation around Malta can also affect how long you should consider staying on the island. If you plan on using public transportation, see Tip 8 below.
8. You may want to use Hop On Hop Off Buses instead of Malta’s public bus system.
You know those bright red, double-decker tour buses found in almost every major city? I bet you’ve seen one at least once in your life. I bet you didn’t expect me to recommend taking these tourist-targeted buses over public buses in Malta.
If you don’t have access to a car in Malta, the second best way to get around the island is by bus. (Be aware: regardless of which bus you take, public or Hop On Hop Off, getting around by bus takes significantly longer than by car). Yet, when choosing between buses, Hop On Hop Off buses are usually the better option. Why? Well, to start, it’s possible to negotiate pretty low day pass prices with ticket vendors (I paid 15 Euro for 2 day passes). You don’t have to deal with bus transfers in unfamiliar locations while getting from Point A to B, and if you’re hitting up the island’s key sights, Hop on Hop Off buses are still typically faster than public buses.
A viewing platform just by the Blue Grotto with a Hop on Hop Off bus stop less than 200m away.NEW POST: 12 things you need to know before visiting #Malta! Click To Tweet
9. Thirsty? You may want to buy bottled water.
While Malta’s tap water isn’t technically “unsafe” to drink at this point in time, it is made up of seawater that’s had its salt removed. I didn’t try it, but many people really don’t like the taste and they still boil it before consumption.
The water may look gorgeous, but rumour has it that its desalinated taste isn’t so great.
Fortunately, convenience shops and supermarkets, which are found all over the island, sell bottled water. To cut back on waste, I recommend buying a multi-litre jug of water and refilling a smaller reusable water bottle when need be. (And recycle that large jug too!)
10. Don’t skip a visit to some of Malta’s rocky beaches.
Malta has a fair share of both sandy and rocky beaches. While it may be tempting to stick to the sandy ones, the rocky ones, such as St. Peter’s Pool and the Blue Lagoon, are stunning and great for swimming too.
I just had to add in another snap of the incredible Blue Lagoon.
11. Be aware of the country’s business hours.
Shops are open on weekdays, but they may close quite a bit earlier than 9:00 pm. Due the Mediterranean climate, some businesses close during siesta hours too. As well, its’ common for shops to be closed on Sundays – Malta is a Catholic country.
If you’re set on visiting a specific shop, I recommend checking its business hours in advance.
Malta is full of beautiful and impressive churches, such as the Parish Church of St. Paul shown above.
12. Here’s your heads-up about what goes down – erhm… and up – on Feast Days.
Malta celebrates A LOT of Feast Days connected to different saints and holy events. Sometimes, festivities take place across the entire country. Other times, Feast Days are celebrated only in a specific city or village. On one of these days, it’s not uncommon to hear the loud explosion of fireworks in the middle of they day.
Less than two minutes after I walked out of Malta’s airport, these unexpected daytime fireworks begun. Anxious me was just a little startled until someone explained what was going on.
San Anton’s Palace – Also known as an actual Game of Thrones filming location.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve only ever heard people rave about Malta. One of my dad’s best friends from university is Maltese, and I had elementary school friends from Malta too. So when Scandinavian Airlines had a massive end of summer sale last year, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the country. Now, I’m a proud member of the Malta fan club too!
Have you ever been to Malta? Would you like to go? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!