Otherwise known as the jewel of the Mediterranean, Malta is an island located off the Italian coast. Immerse yourself in a lifestyle that is full of colour and traditional customs, all of which have been influenced by an array of occupying cultures throughout the ages. The Maltese Archipelago would be best described as an open-air museum with over 7,000 years of history set against the backdrop of the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Malta Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Located in the central Mediterranean Sea, Malta comprises three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino!
- Malta’s history dates back 6,000 years and its culture is influenced by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Knights of St John of Jerusalem, French and the British.
- Following more than 160 years of British rule, Malta officially gained its independence in 1964.
- Today’s government is a republic with a president as head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government.
- Malta’s famous Knights of St John were established in 1085 as a community of monks that were responsible for looking after the sick at the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem. The Knights of St John later became a military order, defending crusader territory in the Holy Lands.
- The capital of Malta, Valletta, or officially Il-Belt Valletta, is located on Malta’s north east coast and was built after the Great Siege of Malta by the Ottoman Turks in 1565. Ottoman attacks took place between 1551 and 1644 with the most famous being the Great Siege of Malta that occurred in 1565. This bloody incident saw 30,000 Turks defeated by 600 knights and 6,000 soldiers (including volunteers!).
- A second siege occurred during the Second World War, when the German and Italian forces subjected the Maltese people to bombings in an attempt to starve the island into submission.
- To the north of Malta is Marsamxett Harbour, to the east the Mediterranean Sea and to the south the magnificent Grand Harbour.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Malta do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
Australian High Commission in Malta:
Ta’ Xbiex Terrace
Ta’ Xbiex, XBX 1034
Ph. +356 2133 8201
Fax. +356 2134 4059
The official currency of Malta is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.
The recommended currency to take to Malta is the Euro. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Euro’s with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Valletta is approximately €3.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €10.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €25.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €5.
Many of Malta’s restaurants have a strong French and Italian influence while others are more traditionally Maltese. True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and is mostly fish or vegetable based, the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason. Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted), dried, or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Valletta offers a good choice of eateries as well as lovely al fresco restaurants in the squares around the city itself. The Maltese are famous for their bread. Dense, crunchy and delicious, the Maltese hobza (loaf of bread) will have you coming back for more. A popular snack among locals and visitors alike are the pastizzi. These are puff-pastry pockets filled with mashed peas or ricotta. Patata l-Forn or baked potatoes, is one of the local favourites and consists mainly of pork chops and potatoes. Rabbit is another Maltese specialty. It is usually served fried or cooked in a casserole. The traditional Maltese Rabbit Stew is one of the most popular dishes in Maltese cuisine. They also love their desserts!
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Malta’s climate is influenced by the Mediterranean Sea and is similar to other Mediterranean climates. Winters are wet and windy while summers are virtually guaranteed to be dry and hot.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Walking is probably the best way to experience the sights and sounds of both Malta and the island of Gozo. Valletta is a particularly wonderful city to walk around and most attractions are within walking distance of the old town centre.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Malta…
You’ll find many souvenir shops selling a variety of items ranging from silverware, jewellery, stunning locally blown glass items, handmade lace and pottery. The two main shopping districts in Valletta are along Republic and Merchant Streets; in Sliema along Tower Road, Bisazza Street and the Strand; and along Victoria (Rabat) in Gozo. Check out Valletta’s back streets for jewellery and all over Malta and Gozo for lace, especially at the towns and village markets. Bargaining is not common practice in Malta.
Maltese people are well known for their hospitality and their customs are characterised by politeness. Attempts by foreigners to return friendly gestures and to try to speak a few words of Maltese are much appreciated.
Don’t enter conversations about politics lightly.
Plan bathroom breaks around visits to restaurants and hotels. Public restroom facilities, especially outside of the larger towns, are less than pristine (and you have to pay for them as well).
Check the arithmetic on restaurant and hotel bills – mistakes often occur.
Take the time to learn at least a few words in Maltese, it will be greatly appreciated!
Celebrations & Public Holidays
As you would imagine from a country with such a rich culture and heritage, Malta has many festivals and celebrations that happen throughout the year. These include a variety of religious festivals and cultural events such as the Malta Fireworks Festival, the Jazz Festival, Notte Bianca and the Malta International Arts Festival. Gozo also has its own festival called Mediterranea.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck (February 10th)
- Feast of St Joseph (March 19th)
- Freedom Day (March 31st)
- Easter Friday
- Labour Day (May 1st)
- Sette Giugno (June 7th)
- Feast of St Peter & St Paul (June 29th)
- Feast of the Assumption (August 15th)
- Feast of Our Lady of Victories (September 8th)
- Independence Day (September 21st)
- Republic Day (December 13th)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Founded in 1566, Valletta bears all the hallmarks of a fortified city, yet within the walls its elegant urban character unveils an architectural opulence steeped in history. Valletta is built atop Mount Sceberras and is surrounded by harbours on three sides. It offers magnificent views of its formidable fortifications from strategic points, possibly the best medieval fortifications in the world, and still almost entirely intact. Intriguing narrow streets, churches, palaces, museums, restaurants and baroque buildings abound, and you will be delighted at the countless surprising sights you’ll discover while casually walking around in Valletta. The sumptuous palaces, and particularly the church of St John, are renowned for its wealth of artistic treasures.
Gozo, a tiny island north-west of Malta, is a twenty-five minute journey by ferry. The island’s charm is revealed in picturesque landscapes, pastoral villages, and cosy churches. Its idyllic scenery and peacefulness are a source of inspiration to many visitors. Gozo has a character entirely of its own and is considered greener and prettier than the island of Malta. Gozo is also home to the Temples of Ggantija, thought to be one of the oldest freestanding religious structures in the world.
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