For those that have maybe heard of Malta but have absolutely no idea where it is, its a small archipelago that is situated about 50 miles south of Italy’s closest point, Sicily. It is also located very close to North Africa, being only a few hundred miles from both Libya and Tunisia!
The small nation of just 450000 people live mainly between the 2 large islands, the largest called Malta itself and the smaller called Gozo, there is also a slightly smaller island between both called Comino.
The island has been populated ever since 60AD when St. Paul was shipwrecked onto the island, during this time he introduced Christianity to its small population. Over the years figures such as the Arabs, Napoleon and the British have took control over the island until 1964 when Malta became independent but adopted a system similar to the one used in Britain.
Over recent years Malta has become a Republic, joined the EU and Eurozone as well as adopted the Euro as its currency. (Source)
I took a trip to the main island of Malta in March of 2019 after hearing so many good things of the place and wanted to find out for myself what it is really like. I can tell you now that I have been that I was not disappointed in the place and will definitely go back at some point in the future!
5 bits of practical info for when visiting Malta
- If you are thinking of hiring a car in Malta, driving is on the left, such like it is in the UK with the exception that KMH is used here not MPH.
- Malta use the Type G plug socket, which is the same as what we use in the UK, so leave your adapters at home!
- Although Maltese is the official language of Malta, English is also widely used and spoken. Nearly every person can speak English and every sign is in English.
- It is perfectly safe to can drink the tap water in Malta (unless the source explicitly says not to of course!), this applies to both major islands so take a reusable bottle with you!
- You will be surprised just how many shops that you can find in the UK you will also find in Malta. Don’t be surprised to walk down the street and see a Matalans, WHSmith or a Costa Coffee!
Malta is located right at the bottom of the Mediterranean and despite its remoteness it is quite easy to get to by Air, in the peak season there are daily flights going direct to Luqa from Manchester, Gatwick and Belfast!
I travelled slightly out of the main summer season so my flights were a little bit cheaper. Flying with RyanAir from Manchester cost a baseline price of £80 return with hand luggage only. After upgrading my seats so I was front row, my final price was £120 return. Still not bad for 7 hours of round trip flying and the upgrade was well worth it for the legroom!
Upon landing into Luqa International Airport (MLA) the cheapest method of getting to where you are staying is by bus. Depending on the route you are choosing to get to where you are wanting to go on the main island, the bus will cost between €1.50 and €3 and you may potentially have to change busses at the main station in Valletta.
With no train network on the island, the only other alternative is a taxi or an eCab (kind of like Uber) taxis are quite reasonably priced, I opted for a taxi to return to the airport and it was €18 for a private 30 minute journey from St. Julian’s.
Where to stay…
I stayed in St. Julian’s when I visited, which is right next to PaceVille where the main area of nightlife is located on the island. St. Julian’s is about 20 minutes by bus from Valletta or, with the inclusion of a 5 minute ferry, about a 45 minute walk to the capital.
The actual place I stayed in was called Hostel Malti, it’s located on Telghet Birkirkara Street, it’s right at top of a big hill which your a close to passing out after climbing it!
The hostel has a small communal area inside with a kitchen, 2 floors of accommodation and a roof terrace with a hot tub! You were able to catch a great sunset from the top of the roof terrace.
Hostel Malti is a sister Hostel to Marco Polo Hostel that is also located in St. Julians. With Hostel Malti being the more quieter of the 2, and bar-less (at least is was when I was there) so if you are wanting a bit more or a social evening head over to Marco Polo!
The Marco Polo hostel has an even larger roof terrace with a big bar area and pool table. Marco Polo also has a lot of events on, one event I took part in was a 250 strong bar crawl around the bars and clubs of Paceville, it was €12 to do with the hostel and you got included drinks in every bar and got straight into every club.
What to do…
During my trip I visited 4 places on the main island, there is that much to do and see on the main island alone I didn’t even get time to head up to the other islands of Gozo or Comino!
St. Julian’s (or Giljan St. as it is known in Maltese) was my base for the weekend, the accommodation was here and I also eat out every evening here.
There are a good choice of local bars and restaurants along the front, most look out onto the bay, some of the chains familiar to us in the UK like Costa Coffee, Pizza Hut and Wagamama’s can also be found here if you want some home comforts!
There is also an outdoor swimming pool that is built on the side of the harbour front, however it was being prepared for the summer season when I visited, this is down towards the bottom of the bay.
A nice Steak/Pizza place in St. Julian’s is Biancos, I eat here on 2 occasions on my trip and they do an excellently cooked steak as well as a hearty calzone!
ParkTowers Supermarkets are the main chain of supermarkets on the island and there is a large one up the road from Biancos that sells absolutely everything you would want, including a small eat in or take away bakery and sandwich shop.
I made this my daily breakfast stop, you can buy all sorts of handmade wraps and sandwiches here that cost just a couple of Euros!
There are direct busses to and from St. Julians to the airport, these are the TD2 and X2 routes!
As mentioned above, PaceVille is the main nightlife spot on the main island.
You will find bars scattered around the main area and then you will find a large strip of big bars and clubs on Main Street that are open until well into the early hours.
If you are on one of the Marco Polo bar crawls, you will be taken along this area. If not it is well worth a visit a couple of nights of your stay!
If you are staying in St. Julian’s, PaceVille is just a short walk away. You can’t really tell you’ve crossed into it until you see the main strip.
Marsaxlokk is a small fishing village at the bottom end of the main island, every Sunday they have a big market that goes right along the harbour front selling everything from clothes, to homemade honey and sweet stuff, not to forget fish!
There are loads of great sea food restaurants dotted along the harbour front as well as some large open areas to sit down and have a beer at.
A little place to head to whilst in the local area is St. Peter’s, its a naturally formed swimming pool that is possible to walk to and from Marsaxlokk. On a scorching day is can be quite uncomfortable to make the hike up to, but luckily there are busses that can take you to and from for a small cost.
To get to Marsaxlokk from St. Julian’s you need to get to Valetta first, from there you can take either the direct or indirect bus to the little village, the indirect bus is cheaper however takes longer to get there because it has more stops to make.
The capital of Malta! The entire city is built around a fortress wall that sticks out into the sea. There are a lot of port areas surrounding the city and if you arrive into the country on a cruise it is where you will dock up!
The best thing to do in the city is get a lot of walking done, there are some great look out spots around the perimeter of the city that let you take in the sheer size of the fort that was built ultimately to protect the occupants from another siege which had happened originally on the island in 1565. Valetta has a lot of shops inside its walls, some we have in the UK but a lot cheaper than back at home!
It’s also incredible to see the British-ness of Valletta, it’s noticeable throughout Malta, even more so in the capital. From the street names to red phone boxes, you do feel really at home here!
The capital is in a grid formation so you can really get lost whilst there! However it is very up and down so expect to do a bit of street climbing!
The 13 and 13A bus takes you right into Valetta main bus station. However pretty much every bus on the main land network has to get back to Valetta so you won’t have any problem getting there!
Malta is a really interesting place to visit, for such a small country with only 450000 people there is such much to see and do. Whether you want to experience the sight seeing, look into the history of the place whilst enjoying the great nightlife the place has it all!
With its strong links and associations to Britain and the Commonwealth, for somewhere that is well over a 1000 miles away from the UK, you feel so at home!
Have you been to Malta? If you have what did you think? Let me know in the comments below!