Bargaining

  • You may bargain for handicrafts at stalls or markets, but shops have fixed prices.
  • You can often angle for lower prices from hotels and car-hire agencies in the low season (October to mid-June), and stays/rentals of a week or more will often get a 10% discount.

Dangers & Annoyances

On the whole Malta is a very safe country, although care should be taken while swimming at remote beaches where there are no other swimmers (rips can be a problem), or while walking along clifftop walking tracks (watch where you step). In Paceville's nightlife district there are occasional reports of fighting, but this usually only happens in the early hours of the morning after too much alcohol has been consumed.

Hunting

If you go walking in the countryside, be aware of the common pastime of shooting and trapping birds – the little stone shacks that pepper the cliff tops are shooters' hides. You will hear the popping of shotguns before you see the shooters. There are usually two hunting seasons, in spring and autumn.

Road Conditions & Driving

Much of the road network in Malta is badly in need of repair, which means that driving is often an uncomfortably bumpy experience. Rules of the road are rarely observed, which adds to the stress of driving in unfamiliar territory, especially during rush-hour conditions around Sliema and St Julian's.

Take special care on roundabouts and always wait to see what other drivers are doing, even if it's your right of way (never assume they will stop for you!). A satnav will also enormously reduce the stress of driving, particularly as signposting can be erratic off the main routes.

Theft

Malta has a low rate of violent crime, and crimes against visitors are a rarity. Incidents involving pickpockets and purse-snatchers are uncommon, but in past years there have been increasing reports of thieves breaking into cars parked in quiet areas including Marfa and Delimara Point. Lock your car and don't leave anything of value in it.

There have been occasional incidents of drunken violence in Paceville late at night; exercise caution in this area.

Currents

Malta and Gozo's waters are not really tidal, and when the weather is calm it's usually completely safe to swim. However, the Maltese often repeat the saying, 'The sea has a soft belly, but a hard head', a warning to be wary of the sea around the islands because of its powerful undercurrents in windy weather. Locals advise never to swim in rough sea.

Major beaches, such as Golden Bay on Malta and Ramla Bay on Gozo have lifeguards patrolling and a flag system operating from June to September; take note of the flags. If there's no flag system operating and if you're in doubt, ask a local about whether it's safe and where to swim.

Discount Cards

If you're planning to visit more than a few of Malta and Gozo's cultural treasures, it's a good idea to purchase a multisite pass from Heritage Malta, which covers 23 Heritage Malta sites plus the Citadel Visitor Centre and the National Malta Aquarium. Admission fees can mount up, considering that a single adult ticket to the Armoury and State Rooms in Valletta costs €10, the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temples cost €10, and most other sites cost €5 or €6.

The pass offers 30 days of admission to most Heritage Malta sights (the Hypogeum is an exception; see www.heritagemalta.org for a full list). An adult/child pass costs €50/25, while a family ticket (two adults and two children) is an even better bargain at €110.

Other discounts:

  • Malta Pass allows admission to more than 40 attractions, plus a harbour cruise and open-bus tour. Buy online.
  • People over 60 years of age are entitled to discounted admission to all government-owned museums.
  • A valid ISIC card (www.isic.org) or European Youth Card (www.eyca.org) will get you discounts.
  • The National Student Travel Service can provide information about where you can get student reductions. Admission to state-run museums is discounted for card-carrying students.

Embassies & Consulates

Full lists of Maltese embassies abroad and foreign embassies in Malta can be found at www.foreignaffairs.gov.mt.

Emergency & Important Numbers

International access code00
Country code356
Directory enquiries1182
Directory enquiries (Go Mobile)1187
Directory enquiries (Vodafone)1189
Emergency112

Entry & Exit Formalities

For virtually all travellers, entering Malta is a very straightforward procedure. In many cases, flights into the country will be from other Schengen countries, further reducing the complexity of the process.

Customs Regulations

No restrictions if you're travelling from another EU country, though you're likely to be questioned if amounts seem excessive. If you're entering Malta from outside the EU, the duty-free allowance per person is 1L of spirits, 4L of wine, and 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Duty will be charged on any gifts over €430 that are intended for local residents.

Passports

Citizens of most EU member states can travel to Malta with their national identity cards. All other travellers must have a full valid passport.

Visas

Malta is in the Schengen area. Also, visas are not required for citizens of EU and EEA countries. Other nationalities should check www.identitymalta.com/schengen.

Further Information

Everyone is required to have a valid passport (or ID card for EU citizens) to enter Malta. EU citizens are entitled to travel freely around the member states of the EU, and settle anywhere within its territory.

Malta is part of the Schengen area. Citizens from some non-EU countries are required to hold a visa when travelling to the Schengen area. Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen states entitles its holder to travel throughout the 25 Schengen states for up to three months within a six-month period. Visas for visits exceeding that period are at the discretion of the Malta authorities. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the US can stay for up to 90 days without a visa; other nationalities can check their visa requirements online at www.identitymalta.com/schengen.

If you wish to stay for more than 90 days, you will have to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit via the Department for Citizenship and Expatriates Affairs (eresidence.mhas@gov.mt). You will need two photographs, a letter regarding your reasons for staying (an English-language course, employment, self-employment etc), a completed application form, evidence of your means of support, and documents showing your health insurance. More information is available at www.identitymalta.com/citizenships-expatriates.

Etiquette

With a strong Roman Catholic heritage, Maltese society remains largely conservative.

  • Clothing Cover shoulders and avoid wearing shorts when visiting churches.
  • Sunbathing Don't go topless at the beach.
  • Eating Avoid eating meat on Friday, traditionally the day Roman Catholics eat fish.
  • Greetings When meeting someone for the first time, a handshake is appropriate.

LGBT Travellers

Homosexual sex was legalised in Malta in 1973. In 2014 the government passed a bill approving same-sex civil unions and gay adoption. Gay marriage was subsequently approved in 2017, and getting married in Malta is an increasingly popular option for gay couples from overseas. Gay marriages contracted abroad are also recognised by the state.

However, Malta is a conservative, very Catholic country and public affection (straight or gay) is generally frowned upon. Still, while Malta is not a very 'out' destination, it is gay-friendly. For more information see www.visitmalta.com/en/gay-friendly-malta and www.gayguidemalta.com.

Malta Gay Rights Movement (www.maltagayrights.org) staged its first Gay Pride march in Valletta in July 2004, and the marches have been held annually ever since. Although the march and surrounding festivities are tiny in comparison to the large gatherings elsewhere in Europe, they're a chance for Malta's LGBT+ community to gather, celebrate diversity and push for an end to discrimination.

Insurance

A travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is always a good idea. Some insurance policies specifically exclude 'dangerous activities', which can include scuba diving. Note that policies don't usually cover dental work, only pain relief. Check the small print before signing up.

You may prefer to have an insurance policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation. Some policies ask you to call (reverse charges) a centre in your home country, where an immediate assessment of your problem is made.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Malta has extensive wi-fi coverage – most towns and even some of the sleepiest villages have a wi-fi hot spot in their main square. Many establishments, including hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants, also offer wi-fi. The wi-fi at most guesthouses, hostels and hotels is usually free. Signals are of varying quality.

If you're visiting from outside Europe, you may need a voltage converter to adjust the current in Europe (240V) to one your electronic device can handle. You do not usually need these for laptop computers and digital-camera battery chargers.

Media

  • TV TVM is the state-run TV channel. Most of the main Italian TV stations, such as RAI-1, RAI-2 and RAI-3 can be received in Malta. Satellite and cable TV are widely available in hotels and bars.
  • Radio More than 20 local radio stations broadcast, mostly in Malti but occasionally in English.
  • The Times of Malta (www.timesofmalta.com) Good mix of local, European and world news; English-language daily newspaper.
  • The Independent (www.independent.com.mt) Coverage of domestic social issues; English-language daily newspaper.
  • Malta Today (www.maltatoday.com.mt) Online source of local and international news.
  • Lovin Malta (www.lovinmalta.com) More informal but a good online source of local news and restaurant and bar openings.

Money

ATMs are widespread. Credit cards are used in larger hotels and upmarket restaurants, but some smaller hotels and restaurants only accept cash.

Currency

Malta abandoned the Maltese lira and adopted the euro (€) on 1 January 2008. To prevent retailers from rounding up prices, the rate of exchange was fixed at Lm1 to €2.33, which is why you'll still sometimes see euro prices in fractions or multiples of 2.33.

The reverse sides of Maltese coins feature a uniquely Maltese design (a Maltese cross, for example), but are legal tender in all countries in the Eurozone.

ATMs

There are plentiful ATMs at Malta International Airport, Valletta's waterfront and in all the main towns in Malta, where you can withdraw euros using a credit or debit card and PIN.

ATM withdrawals may incur a transaction charge of around 2.75% and an ATM charge of around 1.5% to 2% of the amount withdrawn – check with your bank before departing. You may also need to inform your bank before you travel, to avoid your card being blocked.

Cash

Cash can be changed at hotels, banks, exchange bureaux and some tourist shops. There are also 24-hour exchange machines at banks in the main tourist towns, including Valletta, Sliema and Buġibba, where you can feed in foreign banknotes and get euros back.

You'll need to carry cash because some smaller restaurants and hotels don't accept cards.

Credit Cards

Visa, MasterCard and Amex credit cards and charge cards are widely accepted in larger hotels, restaurants and shops, though smaller places only deal in cash. Travel and car-hire agencies accept cards.

Tipping

Hotels Baggage porters should get about €1 per piece of luggage; car-park attendants around €1.

Restaurants In restaurants where no service charge is included, leave 10% for good service.

Bars Not expected but good to leave loose change if paying by cash.

Taxis Drivers don't expect a tip, but it's nice to round up a fare in order to leave a small tip (up to 10%) if warranted.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1€0.63
CanadaC$1€0.64
Japan¥100€0.75
New ZealandNZ$1€0.59
UK£1€1.15
USUS$1€0.81

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Opening Hours

The following are high-season opening hours; hours are sometimes shorter in the low season.

Banks 8.30am–12.30pm Monday to Friday, sometimes to 2pm Friday, 8.30am–noon Saturday

Museums 9am–5pm daily (last entry at 4.30pm)

Pharmacies 9am–1pm and 4–7pm Monday to Saturday, Duty pharmacies that open late and on Sunday or public holidays are listed in local newspapers.

Restaurants noon–3pm and 7–11pm, usually closed Sunday or Monday

Cafes 9am–10pm

Bars 8pm–4am

Shops 9am–1pm and 4–7pm Monday to Saturday

Photography

Memory cards and camera equipment are easily obtained at photographic shops in all the main towns.

For tips on taking the perfect holiday snaps, look out for Lonely Planet's Travel Photography book.

Post

for Malta Post (www.maltapost.com) operates a reliable postal service. Post office branches are found in most towns and villages (in some towns the local newsagent/souvenir shop acts as a branch agent).

Local postage costs €0.26 up to 50g; a 20g letter or postcard sent airmail to the UK or Europe costs €0.59, to the USA €0.91 and to Australia €1.12. Stamps are frequently available from hotels and souvenir shops as well as from post offices.

Public Holidays

Malta observes 14 national public holidays. Few restaurants and sights are open on major holidays (eg Good Friday, Christmas Day, New Year's Day), and buses run to a limited schedule.

New Year's Day 1 January

St Paul's Shipwreck 10 February

St Joseph's Day 19 March

Good Friday March/April

Freedom Day 31 March

Labour Day 1 May

Commemoration of 1919 independence riots 7 June

Feast of Sts Peter and Paul (L-Imnarja festival) 29 June

Feast of the Assumption 15 August

Victory Day 8 September

Independence Day 21 September

Feast of the Immaculate Conception 8 December

Republic Day 13 December

Christmas Day 25 December

Smoking

  • Banned in any enclosed private or public premises open to the public except in designated smoking rooms. People can smoke freely outside.

Taxes & Refunds

VAT (value-added tax) was reintroduced to Malta in 1999, with two rates: accommodation is charged at 5% (and is usually included in the rates quoted) and other items at 18%. Visitors to Malta can reclaim VAT on their purchases provided they are residents outside the EU, and will be taking the goods outside the EU when they depart from Malta.

More Information

Repayment of VAT applies only on single items valued at not less than €55 and bought from a single registered outlet as shown on the receipt, and where the total value of all items is not under €315. If you wish to get a VAT refund, you fill out an application form, available at the custom exit points at the airport or sea port. Previously there was a lengthy wait to receive the refund, but the government took action to address this in 2015, so it may be that you receive your refund before leaving the country.

Food, medicine, education, maritime services, air, sea and public transport are exempt from VAT.

Telephone

Mobile Phones

Malta uses the GSM900 mobile network (not compatible with the USA's and Canada's GSM1900).

More Information

There are 130 mobile phones per 100 population in Malta, so not only are mobiles widespread, but many locals have more than one number. Mobile-phone numbers begin with either 79 or 99. Malta uses the GSM900 mobile phone network, which is compatible with the rest of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but not with the USA and Canada's GSM1900. If you have a GSM phone, check with your service provider about using it in Malta and beware of calls being routed internationally (expensive for a 'local' call).

You may consider buying a Maltese SIM card, which gives you a Maltese mobile number. (Your mobile may be locked to the local network in your home country, so ask your home network for advice before going abroad.) Prepaid vouchers for topping up credit are available at many stores and kiosks throughout Malta.

Phone Codes

The international direct dialling code is 00, followed by the relevant country code and then the number. To call Malta from abroad, dial the international access code, 356 (the country code for Malta) and then the number.

There are no area codes in Malta; all Maltese phone numbers are eight-digit numbers.

Public Phones & Phonecards

Public telephones are widely available, and most are card-operated (there are also coin-operated phones, but these are not as common). You can buy phonecards from Easyline or Hello at many kiosks, post offices and souvenir shops.

Time

Malta is in the same time zone as most of Western Europe: one hour ahead of GMT/UTC on standard time, and two hours ahead from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October (the daylight-saving period).

Toilets

Malta is well equipped with public toilets, often at the entrance to a public garden or near the village square. They are usually clean and in good order. If there is an attendant, it is good manners to leave a tip of a few cents in a dish by the door.

Tourist Information

As well as the useful and comprehensive Malta Tourism site (www.visitmalta.com), there are tourist information offices in Valletta, near the Valletta bus station, Mdina, Buġibba, at Malta International Airport, and in Victoria and at the Ferry Terminal in Mġarr on Gozo. The specialist site www.visitgozo.com is an excellent resource when visiting Malta's second island.

Travel with Children

Sun and sea, boat trips and snorkelling, countryside and caves, forts and castles: there's lots for kids to see and do in Malta and Gozo. Add pedestrianised town centres, friendly locals, lots of laid-back, open-air restaurants, and short distances between places, and you have an ideal family holiday destination.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Valletta

Pedestrianised lanes, piazzas, forts, fountains, boat trips and museums. Look forward to Malta's best ice-cream shops too.

  • Sliema, St Julian's & Paceville

Rocky beaches, one small sandy bay, and child-friendly cafes and restaurants. Waterfront playgrounds are also a feature.

  • Northern Malta

Malta’s best beaches, with lots of water-sports facilities, boat-trip opportunities and the various marine species of the Malta National Aquarium.

  • Southern Malta

Marsaxlokk's fun Sunday market, natural swimming pools, caves and hilltop temples. Perfect for adventurous children.

  • Gozo & Comino

Malta’s neighbours are fun to get to (by boat) and once there you can slow your pace, swim, explore, snorkel, boat and dive.

Malta for Kids

As in most Mediterranean countries, families will receive a warm welcome, and the sunny weather and easygoing lifestyle makes it easy to entertain children without too much effort. There's a good health care system here and most people speak English; a smaller proportion also speak Italian and sometimes French. The Malta Baby & Kids Directory lists lots of useful information, including days out, activities and general advice. You can buy the directory online or register to obtain its listings.

Babysitting

If you're in need of a breather, large hotels will usually offer a babysitting service, or you can enquire at your guesthouse or apartment complex whether they provide babysitting. Otherwise, try Stepping Stones Early Learning Centre (www.steppingstonesmalta.com) on Malta, which offers trustworthy babysitting services.

Dining Out

Children are welcome at most restaurants, though many of the smarter places don't permit very young children. In child-friendly restaurants, high chairs are usually available, there's normally a children's menu, and sometimes changing facilities. Children's menus tend to offer a similar roll call of chicken nuggets, pizza and so on; if you want to provide more variety, ask for a half-portion of an adult dish instead. As in Italy, people won't blink an eye at children staying up late, particularly in summer when many children will have had a siesta in the heat of the afternoon.

Open Spaces

Malta's sandy beaches tend to be the best for younger children, as they have gentle approaches and shallow areas for swimming. The more popular ones have water-sports and boating facilities, which makes them especially good for older children too. The rocky bays that dot the coast are better for older children and adults only, because these natural sea pools do not always have shallow areas for less-confident swimmers.

Although Malta's main roads are busy, the main square of each town is almost always closed to traffic, and village and town promenades are often pedestrianised, which means there's space to run about even in a town centre. Valletta's pedestrianised centre has choreographed fountains, on Pjazza San Gorg.

By the coast, long, wide promenades often have playgrounds (there's one at Sliema and a great one at Qawra as part of the Malta National Aquarium complex) and kiosks for snacks. Marsaskala, in the southeast, has the large, free St Antnin Park, which includes a climbing wall. Mdina has a large playground just outside the city walls, and the city's Ditch Garden is a good place to run around in. There's a small playground next to the ferry stop in Cospicua (Three Cities) and a recommended playground in Paola (close to the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples).

As for parks, some of the best include San Anton Gardens in Attard and the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana, and Valletta has the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Lower Barrakka Gardens and the Hastings Garden. The wooded Buskett Gardens near Dingli on Malta are somewhat wilder and a great place to explore.

On less-busy Gozo there are lots of walking trails, beaches and open areas to run around in, but Dwejra, with its rocky moonscape coast, inland sea and boat trips, is one of the most spectacular areas for kids.

Children's Highlights

Sights & Museums

Beaches & Coves

Outdoor Activities

  • Boat trips Round the islands in a glass-bottomed boat; speed boats to see coves or to Comino and Gozo.
  • Diving Great beginners' diving and centres dotted all over the islands (over 10s only).
  • Horse riding, Golden Bay, Mosta and Gozo All have good horse riding centres.
  • Jeep safaris, Sliema A fun way to explore the islands.
  • Water sports All the major resorts offer sailing, dinghies for hire, pedalos etc.
  • Rock climbing Beginners' climbing or abseiling offered by local organisations.
  • Kayaking Take an organised sea-kayaking trip to explore the coast.

Exhibitions

  • Audiovisual exhibitions Cinematic presentations such as the Malta Experience (Valletta) and the Mdina Experience will entertain kids aged around seven to 12 years.
  • Waxworks Vivid evocations of the past are found at the Sacra Infermeria (medieval medics) in Valletta.
  • Rampila More waxworks can be seen at this Valletta restaurant with its own waxwork Maltese folkloric museum.

Theme Parks

Caves

Child-Friendly Museums

Planning

For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

What to Pack

You'll find everything you need available for sale in Malta, so don't panic about forgetting something: formula, nappies (diapers), wipes, clothes, toys and English-language children's books are all easy to find. Mosquitoes are an issue – pack some child-friendly repellent or there's a chance kids will get badly bitten on their first night.

Accommodation

As Malta and Gozo are such family-centred destinations, there are lots of suitable, reasonably priced options, including self-catering accommodation. The farmhouses for rent on Gozo are ideal; they offer plenty of space and often a pool. Most of the boutique hotels in Valletta only accept older children.

When to Go

If you're travelling in July and August, when the weather is at its hottest, easy access to the sea or a pool is recommended. Plan for an afternoon siesta to avoid the heat of the early afternoon; there's usually a lull in general activity from around 1pm to 4pm, which is the hottest period of the day.

In late spring, early summer and autumn the sea is warm, the weather milder, prices lower and places less crowded. Children will enjoy the colourful parades at Carnival (February) and Easter (March/April), and the living nativity on Gozo at Christmas, but swimming will be chilly in these months; in March/April pack wetsuits and your children may still enjoy a dip.

Feature: Best Restaurants for Families

Follow these recommendations for the best dining experiences with children.

  • Nenu the Artisan Baker, Valletta Arguably Malta's best ftira, and the kids will enjoy seeing the interesting recreation of an old bakery.
  • Is-Suq Tal-Belt, Valletta Plenty of variety with flavours and food outlets means no one is disappointed at this heritage food market.
  • Mint, Sliema Smoothies, wraps, easygoing Kiwi service, and in close proximity to a few good waterfront kids' playgrounds.
  • Munchies, Mellieħa Waterfront dining less than a metre from the sand. Tuck in and then dive in (after letting your food go down).
  • Rew Rew, Mġarr ix-Xini A laid-back location with the opportunity for a swim and snorkel in Rew Rew's perfect bay.
  • Sottozero, Buġibba Innovative flavours at the best ice-cream shop for many a mile.

Accessible Travel

Maltese government policy is to improve access for people with disabilities, but many of Malta's historic places – notably the steep, stepped streets of Valletta – remain difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate for those with restricted mobility. Several sights are accessible, however, including Fort St Elmo & National War Museum, the Grand Master's Palace, the Malta Experience and the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

A good number of the more expensive hotels have wheelchair access and some have rooms specially designed for guests with disabilities. Sliema, with its long promenade, is a good place to be based. The Malta and Gozo bus services have wheelchair-accessible buses.

The Nautic Team on Gozo is equipped for divers with disabilities, offering courses and equipment hire.

The Malta Tourism Authority (www.visitmalta.com) can provide information on hotels and sights that are equipped for wheelchair users.

The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities can provide information on facilities and access for travellers with a disability in Malta.

Lonely Planet has a Travel for All community on Google+, where you can find out and share information about accessible travel, as well as the Thorntree community at www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/travellers-with-disabilities.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Volunteering

Malta is a small country and volunteering opportunities are limited. For short-term travellers to the country, options are mainly with environmental organisations.

Nature Trust Malta (www.naturetrustmalta.org) Tree planting and husbandry, fundraising and manning the Nature Trust stand at events.

Gaia Foundation (www.facebook.com/thegaiafoundationmalta) Opportunities include tree planting of endemic species and information dissemination on beaches during summer.

Weights & Measures

  • Metric system, like elsewhere in Europe. The British legacy persists in the use of pint glasses in some pubs.

Work

Citizens of the European Union are legally entitled to work in Malta, but residents of other countries must obtain a work permit. See www.identitymalta.com for details. Many expats find work in the online gaming and financial services industries, and hospitality employment in bars and restaurants is another popular option.