Preparation is everything they say, so let me help you get prepared with some travel tips and advice for your trip to Malta.
Travel tips and advice – the basics
There are two larger government hospitals, one in Malta and Gozo and several local health centres and clinics across different localities. These are funded by social security and provide service free of charge to locals.
Family doctors are usually available at private clinics and/or clinic hours at larger local pharmacies in the mornings and do home visits in the afternoons. For a normal consultation, they usually charge between €10 and €20 (depending on whether at private clinic or home visit).
The standard of health care in Malta is considered to be of high quality, although the health system here has its problems with overcrowding and expensive medication for particular conditions.
Emergency contact numbers and clinics
- Emergency number: 112 (EU standard)
- Government hospitals: Mater Dei (Birkirkara, Malta – main hospital) and Gozo General Hospital (Victoria)
- Local government clinics and health centres can be found in various localities. For popular locations.
- For small health issues, local family doctors (general practitioners) are your first stop. Doctors’ clinics fall under private health care, GPs working at government clinics fall under publicly funded health care.
- A list of medical professionals and consultants is available here.
- Private hospitals and clinics: http://www.stjameshospital.com (Sliema, Burmarrad, Zabbar).
- Pharmacies are easy to find in Malta and Gozo and are usually open between 08:30h – 12:30h and 16:00h – 19:00h from Monday to Friday and mornings only on Saturdays. You can find a directory of pharmacies here. A selection of pharmacies is open on Sundays and public holidays by a roster, which can be viewed here.
- The pharmacy at the arrivals terminal of the airport opens until 10pm and during the late evening and night medicines can be bought, though the Mater Dei hospital pharmacy (referred to as “the hatch”).
Cost of health care
- EU residents staying in Malta temporarily are eligible for free treatment in local government hospitals, health centres and clinics with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You’ll need to apply for this card in your home country and it’s recommended to carry it with you at all times.
Safety and security
- Malta is much safer than most countries in Europe (even at night). Be aware of petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing in busier tourist areas. In Paceville, Malta’s main nightlife area, fights and drunk brawls are not uncommon. Just don’t get involved and you’ll be fine.
- There’s is no real threat of terrorism at time of writing (April 2016)
Read more here: Is Malta safe to travel to for tourists?
- The local currency used is the Euro and you can find currency exchange at local banks (machines and at the teller) and bureau de change in major tourist areas as well as the airport.
- Credit cards like VISA, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted, as well as debit bank cards carrying the Cirrus logo.
- It’s common to tip at restaurants: 10% Is more or less the standard. Cover charges are rare to come across.
- Cash payments with notes of €100 and higher values are uncommon and sometimes not accepted. Get €50 notes and smaller if you decide to buy Euro currency at home.
Food and drink
- Both supermarkets and mini-markets (smaller grocery shops) can be found easily around village centres mostly and prices don’t vary much, even in popular tourist areas.
- The best (and freshest) fruit and vegetables are sold by hawkers. You’ll find a few scattered around in village centres and their supermarkets at fixed spots with their trucks. On Tuesdays and Saturdays (mornings) you can find a bunch of them gathered at the farmers’ market at Ta` Qali. Beware of hawkers that go around the more touristic villages (Bugibba, Qawra, Sliema and St. Julian’s). Some are known to overcharge tourists, unfortunately.
- Although in the past it was advised not to drink tap water, it is safe to drink nowadays and more often a matter of taste than health. Nevertheless, most Maltese buy bottled water or have their own reverse osmosis systems at home to purify tap water. Some hotels will have their own reservoirs and will advise against drinking tap water, so keep an eye on that and ask in case of doubt.
- Tips on where to find daily food and drink and their prices
- Tips on what Maltese food to try and best places to get a taste
- Top 50 restaurants in Malta
- The electrical supply is 230 volts (~10%) at 50 Hertz.
- Plugs used are UK standard – Type G, three pin. Adapters are easy to find at local stationery shops and supermarkets.
Being a small island, it’s not too difficult to find your away and Google Maps is pretty reliable and up to date. Local street names often exist in English and Maltese versions, which can be confusing. On Google Maps, it’s the original Maltese street names that are used. You’ll come across the word Triq often, which simply translates to ‘street’in English.
Connectivity and the internet
More on this topic here: Internet service providers, Wi-fi and mobile telephony in Malta
- Three major mobile phone network operators are available in Malta: Vodafone, Go and Melita
- Vodafone and Go offer the best coverage around the islands and also offer fast 4G internet connectivity on the go. Melita is usually the cheapest option, however, and coverage is generally good still.
- Rough guideline on costs – local calls €0.15-0.25/min, €0.05 per SMS, €0.10 per MB data. You can get lower rates by getting a prepaid bundle.
- Although roaming charges within the EU are rapidly becoming cheaper, it might be worth buying a local SIM card, especially for those looking to stay connected during their holiday. Most providers charge €10 for a new SIM card and you can buy top up cards, top up online with a credit card or through local ATMs (also with credit card).
- Wi-fi is widely available in hotels and restaurants/bars, as well as public spaces and security is generally good with few reported cases of hacking.
- Public Wi-fi hotspots can be found on this map:
Malta holiday travel tips
If you’re still researching your holiday options and looking to get some advice on a holiday in Malta, have a look at these articles:
- Tips to help you decide where to stay
- Tips of some of the best hotels in Malta
- How to get cheap flights to Malta and which airlines operate routes to and from the country
- How to hire a car in Malta (and tips on driving in Malta)
- Although the weather in Malta is generally sunny and dry, it can rain heavily, especially between September and November. That means that in some of the lower-lying localities streets may be flooded quite severely. If it rains heavily and you need to drive, ask around to get advice which areas to avoid, depending on your destination.
- Remember to use sun lotion in summer. Locals are advised to avoid the sun altogether between 11am and 4pm for health reasons.
Swimming and sunbathing
- Malta and Gozo have a number of beautiful beaches to offer. The largest will be the busiest in July/August, however, so it’s worth being curious and exploring a few beaches and bays “off the beaten path”. Have a look at my list of best beaches in Malta and don’t be shy to ask a local for tips!
- Swim where the Maltese do and avoid swimming alone
- Although the weather during the winter months can be inviting, do not swim far out. Underwater currents can be treacherous. Ghajn Tuffieha bay, on the West coast of Malta, is known for its treacherous undertows in winter
- Entry-points around rocky bathing areas can be slippery, so tread carefully. If you see moss (green/brown) surfaces at entry points, know what to expect.
- Topless (sun)bathing is illegal in Malta. There are a few spots were local naturalists choose to bathe illegally, although they’re usually difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to access. The most well-known spot known locally as an unofficial nudist beach is a small bay between Ghajn Tuffieha and Gnejna. I wouldn’t recommend attempting to get there in any case.
- Looking to impress friends by jumping off a high cliff into the sea? Think twice. Serious injuries and even deaths are not uncommon with daredevils underestimating the risk they take.
- Look after your skin and drink lots of water in summer. Maltese summers are hot and dry and you can get sunburnt and dehydrated easily.
Out and about in the countryside
- If you decide to go for a walk – the RTO signs mean Restricted to Outsiders. Often these signs (sometimes spray painted) are put up by hunters who do not own the land but want to practise their hobby in peace. If you can, avoid these areas, otherwise just play dumb if you encounter anyone.
- Also, if you do go off the beaten path do mind your footing. It’s common sense, but Malta has some pretty high cliffs and deep cracks in its rocky landscape. Incidents are rare, though worth being vigilant.
- If you decide to visit one of Malta’s beautiful churches, make sure you’ve dressed appropriately as a sign of respect. Shorts and t-shirts are fine for men, but women are expected to wear at least a short-sleeved top (rather than a sleeveless singlet). Also, please be quiet inside churches.
- Gentlemen – resist the urge of walking around bare-chested away from bathing areas. It’s considered just as rude in Malta just as it would be back home!
- Although Paceville (part of St. Julian’s) is the most popular area for nightlife, during the summer months open air clubs are highly recommended to visit.
- Access to nightclubs is either free or cheap and drinks are reasonably priced: A beer will cost you something like €1.50 while mixers (liquor) are usually around €2.50 to €3 per drink.
- Taxi rides are easy to get in Malta. There are several taxi stands around the island, although sometimes it’s easier to call a service. Distances are short so it’s pretty easy to arrange for a taxi pickup. I don’t use taxis frequently so it’s hard for me to gauge whether taxis are cheap or expensive in Malta. To give you an idea, a ride from the airport to most of the tourist areas in Malta usually costs around €20. I usually use eCabs for things like airport transfers. Very reliable and efficient.
- Travelling by bus is pretty easy and relatively cheap. A 2-hour ticket gets you pretty much anywhere in Malta (and Gozo) and costs €1.50 during the winter months and €2 in summer. You can also get multi-day passes and a chip card charged with credit for cheaper fares if you plan to use public transport as your mode of transport.
- Public transport in Gozo isn’t great – not very punctual or efficient. You’re definitely better off renting a car or scooter. Or a mountain bike if you’re more adventurous (and in good shape)!
- Driving in Malta is often described as chaotic and I’d agree with that. Nevertheless, Malta knows one of the lowest road accident rates in Europe. My general guideline for deciding whether or not to hire a car in Malta is this: If you’re a confident driver, you should be fine if you study your route beforehand (or use a GPS) and anticipate other drivers misbehaving. I know that advice sounds a little crooked, but it works.
- Thinking of hiring a scooter or bike in Malta? Be careful if you choose to drive to busier places. Some of the roads around the busier places aren’t meant to be shared with smaller vehicles (and the few bike lanes around aren’t very good). Road surfaces, although vastly improved in recent years, can be slippery in places as well. If you’re looking to get around the quieter parts of Malta or Gozo in general, it’ll be much safer.
- If you’re planning to drive in Malta, get familiar with the rules to avoid fines. Traffic wardens (green uniforms, a smug look on face) are keen to issue fines to drivers of hired cars, which are easy to spot from the license plate. Knowing that the driver may not be around long enough to contest it, you can be an easy victim. The best preparation is to read up on the Malta highway code and take note of any advice issued by the car hire company. Most common fines (apart from speed cameras) are given for parking illegally, entering a one-way street, handling a mobile phone while driving and for running a red light. I’ve never heard of speeding fines, never been checked for a driving license or insurance, or been asked to take a breathalyser test in 12+ years of driving in Malta.
Read more: Tips and info on public transport and getting around in Malta.
Also check out: 36 Top Facts about Malta
Send me your tips!
Do you have any Malta tips or facts to share? Leave a comment below!