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10 Things to Know Before Visiting Malta

Are you looking for some honest Malta travel advice? In this post, I share some important facts about the island to help you plan a more pleasant trip.

So, here’s what you need to know about visiting Malta.

Marsaxlokk | Malta travel advice
Marsaxlokk. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

1. Summers are hell

My main Malta travel advice: don’t visit in summer! Soaring temperatures, humid nights, overcrowded beaches, rowdy EFL students, chaotic traffic, short tempers – you get the picture.

During the summer months, popular places like Valletta and Mdina are packed with tourists. Additionally, getting around by bus can be very challenging, due to the long queues at bus stops and a shortage of buses.  

The best time to visit Malta is from October to May. Autumn and spring are perfect for trekking around the island, and you can get anywhere without having to queue for the bus or weave your way through large crowds.

Maltese sweets
Maltese sweets. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

2. Don’t expect excellent customer service

While people in Malta are generally helpful and welcoming, I’ve seen numerous bus drivers, restaurant staff and shop owners being uncouth in the presence of tourists.

Tempers flare and people snap in the unbearable summer heat, but at the same time you’ll come across individuals who would go out of their way to help you out.  

Customer service with a smile is a bit of a rare phenomenon in Malta. I could write volumes on my personal experience with this issue, but let’s leave it at that.

Just don’t take it personally if the person serving you avoids eye contact or is too busy chatting to a fellow colleague to bid you a good day.  

Riviera Bay, Malta
Gnejna Bay. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

3. Some of the beaches are overrated

They might look like paradise in pictures, but in summer the beaches are teeming with deckchairs and noisy families. Add a swarm of jellyfish to the mix and you get the perfect portrayal of a terrible day at the beach.  

Malta boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, but they are often ruined by litter and sewage leaks in the summer months.

Don’t despair though – you can still go for a peaceful swim if you’re visiting Malta in summer. Some beaches in Malta and Gozo include Mgiebah Bay in Mellieha, Riviera Bay in Ghajn Tuffieha, Gnejna Beach in Mgarr (Malta), and San Blas Bay in Nadur.  

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Mellieha, Malta. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

4. Malta is not exactly environmentally-friendly

Malta’s environmental matters have always been put on the back burner. Illegal dwellings are scattered across the Maltese countryside, and unsuspecting trespassers risk being assaulted.  

During the bird hunting seasons (autumn and spring), some areas in the countryside are taken over by hunters, who can become aggressive if they suspect passers-by of spying on them (some hunters shoot at protected species).

So when trekking in Malta and Gozo, try to steer clear of men carrying guns (though it goes without saying) and areas marked as RTO (reserved to owner).

Rabbit dish, Mgarr (Malta)
Rabbit. Photo by Daniela Frendo

5. Maltese food is divine

Just like any other Mediterranean country, Malta is blessed with a climate that yields a variety of crops throughout the year. Many local dishes are prepared with fresh seasonal produce.

Must-try dishes include rabbit, octopus stew, tuna steaks, and beef olives. You’ll also want to try popular street foods such as pastizzi (small pastries filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas) and mqaret (deep-fried pastries filled with date paste).

Note that many restaurants in Malta serve big portions. For a traditional meal, head to Mgarr or Rabat.

Spinola Bay, St. Julian's, Malta
Spinola Bay, St. Julian’s. Photo by Daniela Frendo

6. It’s noisy and dirty

Malta is overdeveloped, and new buildings are constantly popping up across the island. If you’re staying in St. Paul’s Bay (including Bugibba and Qawra), Sliema, or St. Julian’s, expect a lot of noise and construction works.

You might also notice that the streets are very dirty, especially in Bugibba and Qawra. Even though rubbish is collected daily, you’ll still find litter on the pavements (and lots of dog poo!).

Inspirational quote on stairs in Riviera Bay. Photo by Daniela Frendo
Inspirational quote on stairs in Riviera Bay. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

7. Almost everyone speaks English

One of the best things about visiting Malta is the lack of language barriers. Malta is a bilingual country, and a large percentage of the population is fluent in English.

You’ll also find that people are very helpful. If you get lost while driving, there’s always someone who’s ready to help – you just need to roll down your window!

Sunset in Bugibba, Malta
Sunset in Bugibba. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

8. Malta is relatively safe

Malta is a very safe country. However, you’ll still need to take some precautions. Pickpocketing is common in crowded places like Valletta. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your belongings while traveling on busy buses.

My main Malta travel advice for women: avoid traveling alone at night. Unfortunately, street harassment is very common, particularly in areas like Paceville/St. Julian’s and Bugibba.

If you’re heading to the beach, watch out for dangerous currents and jellyfish. Also, avoid leaving your bags unattended.

If you’re driving, plan your route and take your time – many drivers in Malta are reckless and short-tempered!

For more Malta travel advice, check out these tips on staying safe on the island.

St. Paul's Bay, Malta.
St. Paul’s Bay, Malta. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

9. There are too many cars on the island

Malta’s roads are super busy. There are over 400,000 vehicles within an area of 316 square kilometres.

Expect long traffic jams at almost any time of day. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and arrive at your destination early.

Parking is also a big problem, especially in Sliema, St. Julian’s, St. Paul’s Bay, and Bugibba. Therefore, you might consider staying at a hotel that has its own car park.

Outdoor market in Victoria, Gozo. Photo by Daniela Frendo.
Outdoor market in Victoria, Gozo. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

10. We’re loud

The Maltese are social creatures. We love a good conversation… and a good argument. Also, we’re loud.

If you’re staying in a traditional Maltese village, you’ll see people having a heated discussion in the street, or just communicating from one balcony to another. Some might even stop the car in the middle of the road to chat with a friend who happens to be walking past.

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2 Responses

    1. Many of your insightful comments bear out my experience having just returned from Bugibba/Qawra Our small group loved the food and the sights and monuments around Valleta, Rabat/Mdina and the Basilica in Mosta. We couldn’t get over the litter, dog mess and the uneven pavements..

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