Malta travel

The Complete Travel Guide for Malta

January 19, 2020
Girl walks past red telephone box near the Grand Harbour in Valletta

I often write travel guides for the destinations I visit. But writing a complete guide to an entire country seems like a daunting task unless I’ve seen it all. Writing a travel guide for Malta was different. The small country is easy to see within a week.

Matt and I were decided where we could go together on holiday this year, and it was a tough task picking a place with everything we wanted:

  • Somewhere with as much sun as possible/good weather at the end of September
  • Easy to see lots of places in a short period of time
  • Beaches, swimming and somewhere we could feel relaxed
  • Historical sites and lots of city streets to explore
  • Affordable

Malta met all of the above, so we booked a week in the sun, exploring and learning everything we could about this country. I put together a complete travel guide for Malta to help you out with all the need to knows before visiting Malta.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

My travel guide to Malta

Girl sitting on Valletta walls looking across Grand Harbour towards three cities, Malta

Why visit Malta?

Malta is the fifth smallest country in the world at only 95 square miles and only 1/5 the size of Greater London. Located just south of Sicily and North of Libya, this Mediterranean archipelago is made up of three main islands – the main island, Malta, smaller but charming Gozo to the north and tiny Comino (which is home to four residents) in between. We visited all three islands on our trip.

As a result of its location, the weather in Malta is often sunny and warm. It’s surrounded by incredible turquoise seas that are perfect for watersports and swimming.

Swimming spot near Sliema in Malta

Malta is also an incredibly historic place, boasting sites that are older than the pyramids, ancient port towns, and well-preserved ancient cities like Mdina.

A note on beaches in Malta – there not too many large sandy beaches here. The coastline is quite rocky. Most are concentrated on the northern part of the main island and on Gozo. There’s lots of swimming spots, marked by areas roped off by red and yellow buoys and with ladders extending into the sea.

Guide to what to see in Malta

You can check out our one week itinerary here. Here’s some of Malta’s highlights along with guides for Malta’s top spots:

Valletta

The capital of Valletta, famous for its city walls, charming stepped streets, cathedrals, gardens, bars and restaurants. Read my full guide to spending 24 hours in Valletta, Malta.

Mdina

An ancient city that’s been well preserved and full of old world charm that is definitely worth a day trip exploring. Read my guide to Mdina.

posing next to blue door framed by large flowing purple tree in Mdina, Malta
Mdina, Malta

Gozo

Gozo – Malta’s second largest island is popular for day trips . Popular for reddish-gold sand beach Ramla Bay, capital Victoria (aka Rabat) with its medieval citadel, picturesque bays such as Dwejra Bay, Fungus Rock and San Blas, and ancient sites such as Ġgantija Temples. Read my full guide to Gozo.

view of Ramla Bay Beach on Gozo, Malta
Ramla Bay Beach

Comino

Malta’s third island, famous for the Blue Lagoon, a popular swimming spot with clear blue waters and surrounding caves.

Comino

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is a charming fishing village on the south coast of the main island known for its fresh seafood and fish market and colourful traditional fishing boats in the Harbour. Read my guide to Marsaxlokk.

Girl stands by brightly coloured Maltese fishing boat in Marsaxlokk

Sliema

Malta’s more cosmopolitan city, known for its shopping , restaurants and bars. Sliema‘s promenade is worth a wander, stopping off at the many swimming spots and salt pools.

Sliema

Three Cities

Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla) and Bormla (Cospicua) are neighbourhoods across the Grand Harbour in Valletta that have been around since Malta was founded. Slightly off the more beaten tourist tracks, the areas are home to ancient sites, well-preserved architecture, and a more traditional look at Maltese life.

Three Cities Malta Grand Harbour

Ancient sites

Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is one of the most well known on the island. This spot has existed since Neolithic times as an underground burial site. It is one of the only sites of this type in Europe and one of the best preserved. Other famous ancient sites in Malta include the Ħaġar Qim Temples and Ġgantija Temples .

When to visit Malta

Girl in floral dress looks out at St Paul's Bay

Like much of the Mediterranean, summer months in Malta are very hot and crowded. We visited towards the end of September and the temperature remained in the 20’s Celsius both day and night. It wasn’t too hot but I also didn’t need a cardigan in the evening. The sun shined in abundance, interrupted by only a couple hours of cloud the entire week and we had one really windy day.

It was also one of the most blissfully uncrowded trips in Europe I’d ever had. Want to just stand and admire that beautiful view without having people jostle you out of the way? Wasn’t an issue. As the peak season was ended however, we did notice a few places had closed in quieter places. For example, in Xaghra, where we stayed in Gozo, we couldn’t find any cafes open during our stay.

Maltese food

Given its location, Malta’s food shares influences with its Mediterranean neighbours. Italian influences are present, with pasta and pizza featured on almost every menu. As Malta is an island with many sea ports, you can expect fresh seafood in abundance. The Maltese also seem to love cakes and pastries and you’ll find a lot of cafes with pretty, delicious looking desserts, as well as lots of fresh bread.

Girl eating lampuki fish in Marsaxlokk, Malta

Tips for getting around Malta

Malta is an easy country to travel and not just because of its size. Renting cars is common, although as with almost all of our trips, we chose to get around by local transportation. Be aware that whether you drive or take the bus, you’ll likely be affected by Maltese traffic at some point. It’s a tiny island with a lot of cars on it.

Buses in Malta

Most areas of Malta and Gozo are connected by frequent bus services and we used them often. Malta’s buses are modern and air-conditioned. The only drawback is reliability. They are often late and expect the bus not to stop if it is fairly crowded. We also had one issue where a driver just didn’t stop no matter how many times we pressed the signal. We finally got off about four stops down the road, trudging back with our luggage after a full day of SUP boarding.

You can buy tickets on board for €2 for a single journey (good over as many buses as you need in 2 hours). But if you plan on using the bus quite a bit, I recommend getting a travel card. Fellow Londoners might compare these to a Maltese Oyster card, which you tap for each journey. We got a 12-journey card for €15 and used our last journey on the way to the airport. You can also get a card for unlimited journeys in 7 days for €21. We bought our travel card from the kiosk near the bus station in Valletta, or you can grab one from these places.

They run from approximately 5:30 to 23:30 and there are routes from the airport to most destinations.

Couple on a bus in Malta - guide to getting around Malta
On the bus in Malta

Ferry services in Malta

Frequent ferry services run between islands, as well as between some parts of the main island.

The ferry for Gozo leaves around every 45 minutes and takes about 20 minutes, running 24 hours a day. Check out the schedule for the exact times. It leaves from Ċirkewwa on the island of Malta and arrives at Mġarr on Gozo. Both are easily connected by bus services. You can go on with a car or as a foot passenger (which is what we did). I really enjoyed taking the ferry, we stocked up on a couple snacks from the onboard convenience shop and sat on the passenger deck to watch the sunset both there and back. You get your ticket and pay on your way back from Gozo (€4.65 per adult).

Ferry and water taxis also run between:

Comino as seen from the ferry from Malta to Gozo - guide to getting around Malta
Comino as seen from the ferry from Malta to Gozo

Taxis in Malta

Taxis in Malta tend to be expensive and I’ve heard complaints about overcharging so use with caution. We did take a pre-booked cab from the airport to our accommodation near Valletta on the first nights as we arrived at about 2am thanks to the oddly timed flights Matt booked. It cost €20 for the journey.

Budget for visiting Malta

Malta is a fairly affordable country to visit. Our week long trip including flights, accommodations, all food and our activities came to less than £500 per person for a one week trip. Here’s my average costs guide to Malta:

  • Dinner for two + drinks – approximately €30 per meal
  • Beer – €1.50 to €3
  • Flights from London to Malta – €75 – €100 per person
  • Buses – as little as €3 per day
  • Ferry to Gozo (roundtrip, foot passenger) – €4.65 each
  • Accommodation – Airbnbs (5 nights – £221 total for two people) Hotels (2 nights – £132 total for two people), meaning we paid about £176 each.
  • Taxi from airport to accommodation near Valletta- €20
  • Paddleboarding tour of Comino – €45 each
  • Taxi from airport to Il-Hamrun – €20 total

Guide to where to stay in Malta

We stayed in four accommodation in Malta – two hotels and two Airbnbs. These ranged from a B&B/spa not far from the airport, a farmhouse with a pool in Gozo, a studio flat in St. Paul’s Bay and a hotel on the Grand Harbour in Valletta. I recommend checking out both booking.com and Airbnb to find your perfect place.

Valletta is obviously more pricey than other areas and we enjoyed basing ourselves in St. Paul’s Bay our last 4 days. It’s easy to reach Gozo, Valletta, Sliema, and the airport by bus from here and there are plenty of spots for swimming.

Girl reading book by pool at accommodation in Gozo,
Our accommodation in Gozo

Is Malta good for solo travel, family holidays, etc?

I can’t think of any type of warm weather holiday that wouldn’t be suitable for Malta. We travelled as a couple and between its stunning coastline and ancient charm, found it had that romantic atmosphere we were craving.

Malta is also a very safe country to visit and therefore suitable for solo travel. I’d definitely recommend it if you are wanting to go somewhere on your own but are feeling a bit nervous. A low crime rate, prevalence of English and a well-connected bus network will help you feel comfortable. The Maltese are also known as being family centred and children are welcomed rather than tolerated almost everywhere. There’s plenty of things kids will love about Malta. Lastly, Malta ranks highest in Europe on the Rainbow Index and the country is known for being LGBTI+ friendly.

Practical tips for travelling Malta

Language

The local language is Maltese, a unique language with influences from Arabic, Italian, French, English and more. However, English is spoken everywhere. Signs are in both languages. In this respect, for an English person it feels about as foreign as going to Wales. You won’t have trouble with language barriers. Town names can be difficult to get the pronunciation correct.

Currency and entry requirements

Malta is part of the European Union, so entry requirements are the same as any other EU country and it uses the euro. Contactless cards are accepted in most places, but you’ll come across some small shops/cafes that have a minimum spend or are cash only so make sure to carry a small amount of cash.

Don’t forget to pack

  • Plug Adaptor: Malta is in Europe but all the plugs are UK-style. Make sure you have a type G adaptor or a universal plug adaptor if you aren’t from the UK.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses: Malta’s UV index is quite high and it’s easy to get sunburned in the beautiful weather!
  • Snorkel and/or swimshoes: Malta has some incredibly clear waters that are perfect for snorkelling. Its coastline tends to be quite rocky and Ramla Bay is sandy on the shore but rock in the water so I’d recommend swimshoes.
  • Filter bottle for water : The water in Malta is considered safe to drink but doesn’t taste very nice as it’s full of minerals. To save on plastic waste but stay hydrated, pack a filter bottle.

Tours

Malta is easy to explore independently using Malta’s transport. However, if you’re looking for a boat tour or would prefer to visit Comino and Gozo as part of a tour, or would like a tour of Malta’s highlights, you can find some below.

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The complete guide to Malta
  • Reply
    aspoonfulpofvanilla
    January 23, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Malta looks absolutely beautiful and you have included so many helpful tips was is still busy in September or was it quieter being outside peak time?

    • Reply
      offasmallisland
      January 25, 2020 at 9:54 pm

      So we went September 20-28th and it really wasn’t busy. I was actually surprised by how quiet it was! Valletta gets busy on the main streets during the day on weekdays due to cruises stopping but it is dead on Sundays (although some stuff was closed but perfect day to take pictures!) and even with the cruise crowds it was fine! One of the towns in Gozo was so quiet that a few places had closed for the season

  • Reply
    Urban Suburban Girl
    January 27, 2020 at 5:13 am

    That pool is everything! Malta is beautiful! Hope to visit one day 🤓

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