If you’re looking for some useful tips for visiting Malta, you’ve come to the right place.
I was born and raised in Malta. At the age of 27, I moved to Edinburgh. There are some things about Malta that I really miss – though there are a few other things I don’t miss at all – and I guess writing blog posts about my country is one way of dealing with homesickness.
While I was still living in Malta, I often came across tourists who were surprised by many things about the island. I also met several people who complained about the same things: it’s too noisy, too dirty and too hot.
To help you prepare yourself for both the good things and the less pleasant things about Malta, I decided to put together a list of my top insider tips, including advice you wouldn’t normally find in mainstream guidebooks.
Without further ado, here are my top travel tips for visiting Malta.
I also recommend reading my post about things you should know about visiting Malta.
1. Visit the island between October and May
Located bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a much sought-after sun and sea destination. But there’s more to the island than its gorgeous beaches and long hot summers. In fact, if you really want to make the most of your stay in Malta, avoid visiting the island in summer.
The best time to visit Malta is from October to May (or early June), when the streets aren’t chockablock with noisy crowds and traffic, and the temperatures are mild. This means you can spend long hours strolling through the streets of old towns without having to seek refuge from the heat and crowds every few minutes. If you’re a beach lover, you can still go for a dip in the sea on a beautiful day in autumn or spring (we get plenty of them) – you might even have the whole beach to yourself!
2. Stay in a traditional Maltese village
For a truly authentic travel experience in Malta, I highly recommend ditching the pricey and tacky hotels in Sliema, St. Julian’s and St. Paul’s Bay for a cosy guesthouse in a non-touristy village. For instance, Lemon Tree Bed & Breakfast in the sleepy town of Zabbar offers a truly immersive experience in the south of Malta. Stay in a traditional townhouse where each room has been uniquely designed by the owners and food is freshly prepared with locally-sourced produce.
Meanwhile, Casa Azzopardi Guesthouse in Rabat, close to the historic city of Mdina, is a great base for anyone who wants to stay in a gorgeous Maltese townhouse and get a glimpse of local life and culture in Maltese villages.
Another great location is the fishing village of Marsaxlokk in the south of Malta. You can stay at a guesthouse close to the seafront and watch local fishermen at work. Quayside is a bed and breakfast housed in a renovated 19th century building located right along the Marsaxlokk seafront. You can buy fresh seafood from the Marsaxlokk fish market on Sunday and cook it at the guesthouse.
Check out my Malta accommodation guide for more ideas.
3. Avoid Paceville like the plague (unless you’re a party animal)
Paceville is often promoted as the perfect place for a great night out, but it’s really not. Picture an overdeveloped and congested area brimming with grubby nightclubs playing deafening music, rowdy groups and intoxicated people – in short, Paceville is a hellhole. If you want to enjoy a bottle of wine in a less chaotic setting, spend the evening bar-hopping through Valletta.
Some of my favourite Valletta wine bars and cafes include:
Trabuxu: This wine bar on Strait Street is housed in a 400-year-old vaulted cellar. It is known for its wide selection of wines and delicious cheeses.
Gugar: This friendly and colourful bar is the perfect place to unwind with a nice drink. This bar also houses a tiny library and art gallery, and serves many vegan snacks.
San Paolo Naufrago: Mingle with locals at this traditional Maltese cafe, which serves a variety of snacks, including wraps and salads. You can chill out on the steps outside or just enjoy the bar’s cosy atmosphere.
4. Spend two full days in Gozo
Gozo may be a third of the size of Malta, but you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s plenty to see and do on the island. Tourists often make the mistake of thinking that they can see all of Gozo in one day. Whilst one day is all you need to see the main sites, I highly recommend spending 2 days exploring Gozo at your own pace.
Get off the beaten path – walk along the Gozo’s rugged coastline, go for a swim at a secluded beach and explore the island’s picturesque hamlets.
If you’re planning a trip to Gozo, check out this list of little-known sites on the island.
5. Pack waterproof clothes
Contrary to popular belief – or to what guidebooks tell you – it does actually rain in Malta. And when it does, it’s biblical. Rain in summer is highly unlikely, but we do get some apocalyptic storms in autumn and winter (normally they only last a day or two).
Another thing – the weather in Malta tends to be unpredictable in winter, so one minute you’re soaking up some sun on the beach and the next you’re dashing for the nearest shelter.
6. Make a note of the bird hunting seasons
This is one of the things that many Maltese people, including myself, are not proud of. Yes, bird hunting is a popular ‘sport’ in Malta and it’s actually legal, despite being a threat to certain bird species. Meanwhile, illegal hunting is a common problem. Every year dozens of protected birds are shot.
If you’re visiting Malta in spring or autumn and planning to go hiking, you must take a few precautions if your trip coincides with the bird hunting season. There have been several cases of unsuspecting hikers being assaulted by hunters for trespassing on privately-owned land (often marked as RTO – restricted to outsiders). Stick to marked hiking trails and well-trodden paths and you’ll be OK.
7. Don’t bother going to the Blue Lagoon in summer
Comino’s Blue Lagoon looks like paradise in photos, but you might up end up being sorely disappointed upon getting there. In summer, when boatloads of tourists descend on the island every hour or so, swimming in the Blue Lagoon feels like being in some overcrowded hotel pool.
Comino is not worth visiting in the peak of summer, unless you’re willing to skip the Blue Lagoon and go for a hike across the island instead (although it might be too hot for that).
8. Explore rural Malta through geocaching
Despite its lack of green areas, Malta is still a great place for hiking. The island has a range of easy to challenging walking trails running along the coast and cutting through the countryside. If you really want to experience Malta beyond the guidebook, I highly recommend getting into geocaching, which is very similar to treasure hunting.
Most of the geocaches in Malta are hidden in places that many locals have never actually been to or heard of. Some of them are very difficult to find and, depending on your level of fitness and how adventurous you are, you might end up scrambling down sinkholes or crawling into caves to find a geocache.
9. Avoid eating out in Sliema and St. Julian’s
Being the island’s main tourist towns, Sliema and St. Julian’s are teeming with expensive restaurants and tourist shops selling overpriced souvenirs and snacks. If you want to save money when eating out in Malta, some great alternatives to Sliema and St. Julian’s include Mosta, Rabat, Mgarr, Birkirkara and St. Paul’s Bay.
Although St. Paul’s Bay is one of the largest towns on the island and a popular tourist base, you’ll find cheaper shops, restaurants and accommodation here than you do in Sliema and St. Julian’s.
Staying in St. Paul’s Bay (or Bugibba/Qawra)? Check out this guide.
10. Be prepared for long traffic jams
Malta has a major traffic problem. There are just too many cars on the island and public transportation is not a popular option among locals. If you’re visiting Malta in summer, expect frequent bus delays, congested roads and overcrowded buses on popular routes.
With the exception of the morning and evening rush hours, the traffic isn’t too bad in winter unless it rains. Malta’s poorly surfaced and badly designed roads are prone to flooding, leading to total chaos every time the island is hit by heavy rain.
TIP: You don’t really need taxis to get around Malta, but if you do find yourself in need of one, do not flag down a white taxi. Besides being notorious for their reckless driving, white taxi drivers are also known to ignore the speedometre and overcharge passengers. Book your ride with a reliable taxi company for more reasonable fares and a safer trip.
11. Visit Mdina in the evening
Mdina is one of the most popular attractions in Malta. This fortified city has a long and colourful past, and its maze-like alleys see hundreds of visitors every day. Throughout the peak tourist season, Mdina is teeming with people. Coaches packed with tourists stop off outside the gates and the streets become clogged with big groups of tourists on guided tours.
I highly recommend visiting Mdina in the evening, when it’s a bit quieter. Moreover, Mdina is simply magical at night and it’s the perfect setting for a romantic date. However, if you want to have dinner there, try to book a table at least a day in advance as some of the restaurants in Mdina are very popular among locals.
12. Be wary of the sea
While Malta has some stunning beaches, the sea can be very unforgiving. Every year, several people die after being swept away by waves or currents. Only swim in designated swimming areas and don’t get too close to the shore when the sea is rough. Also, avoid jumping off cliffs or walking along cliff edges. Malta’s coastline is battered by violent waves in winter, which often cause fissures in the rocks that often lead to parts of the cliffs collapsing.
Worried about jellyfish? The kinds of jellyfish you find in Maltese waters are not dangerous, although their sting can be very painful. They’re normally pinkish so they’re a bit easy to spot. Watch out for sea urchins when swimming in rocky bays – avoid stepping on rocks when you’re in the sea.
Download this app to check which beaches are safe on the day you want to go swimming.
13. Drive carefully
Hiring a car is the best way to get around Malta, mostly because the buses are either very late or packed with people. However, driving in Malta requires stamina. Due to the increasing number of cars on the island, most of the main roads are always busy. Reckless driving is also a problem, so drive carefully and try to avoid arterial roads in the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Driving through the countryside is a far more pleasurable experience, but you will encounter several roads in bad condition (and epic potholes!). Also, many countryside roads are narrow and two-way, so it’s always a good idea to honk your car horn before going around a bend.
14. Head south
With the exception of Marsaxlokk and Hagar Qim Temples, many places in the south of Malta remain well off the tourist radar. Once you’ve visited Valletta and Mdina, take a trip to the Three Cities – Birgu, Isla and Bormla. Situated along the Grand Harbour, these places are packed with history and charm, particularly Birgu.
Spend an afternoon walking through the quiet and historic streets of Birgu, where you also get to see locals going about their daily lives. Visit the Inquisitor’s Palace and the beautiful Sicolo Norman House, enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes in the square, and take in stunning views of the harbour from the promenade.
While you’re in Birgu, head to neighbouring Bormla and pop into Bir Mula, an old house that has been turned into a museum of social history.
Explore Birgu and other beautiful places on these amazing Malta tours.
15. Support local farmers
Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, Malta boasts a wide variety of delicious produce. If you want to try some local fruits and vegetables, head to the Farmers Market in Ta’ Qali. In some towns in Malta, you can even find farmers selling fresh fruit and veg from their trucks. Choose fresh, local produce over the plastic-wrapped foods you find in supermarkets.
For a real taste of Maltese cuisine, eat at one of the restaurants in Mgarr. I highly recommend Farmers Bar, a restaurant run by a farmers co-operative where you can try traditional Maltese dishes prepared with ingredients supplied by local farmers. You can also learn more about local agriculture by visiting Vincent’s Eco Farm, where you can also get to try organic and locally grown products.
• • •
Enjoyed this post? Pin it!
This post contains affiliate links. This means that I may receive a commission on any purchases made through the links in the post at no extra cost to you.