The Maltese archipelago is composed of three small islands of differing sizes. The largest is Malta (316km²), the second largest is Gozo (67km²) and the third and practically uninhabited island is Comino (barely 3.5km²). They all enjoy a native population of just over 400,000.
The tiny size of these islands belies their enormous history which spans over 10,000 years. The first people known to have lived on them are the Phoenicians, who settled in the 9th Century BC. A host of other foreign settlers/invaders/rulers followed, including the Carthaginians, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the Aragonese, the Castilians, the Knights of St John, the French and the British. Malta gained its national independence in 1964.
What makes Malta so very interesting is its typical Mediterranean lifestyle surrounded by archaeological heritage, a history wealthy in excitement, varied architecture and a blend of traditions that create an insight into a unique social framework. Wherever you look, you will see and feel influences that are as diverse as they are unique in their intermingleness. Malta - with its cuisine, musical influences, artistic melange, nightlife, water sports etc. If you are seeking to discover the Mediterranean, it is all here in a nutshell, whichever aspect you want to delve into.
Malta is just two or three hours flight away from almost any European country. Regular daily flights land at the Malta International Airport from major European cities such as London, Rome, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Geneva, Athens, Amsterdam, Madrid and Vienna. Regular flights to other destinations take travellers East towards the Middle East and the Far East, or South to Africa.
Scheduled flights to and from Malta are operated by Air Malta, Air Baltic, Air Berlin, Air France, Alitalia, Easyjet, Egyptair, Emirates, Jat Airways, Jet Time, Libyan Airlines, Lufthansa, Luxair, Monarch, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair, Scandinavian Airlines, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Transavia.Com, Tunisair Express, Turkish Airlines, Vueling Airlines, Wizzair.
A direct connection to the closest mainland is provided via a high-speed catamaran operated by Virtu Ferries, which reaches Malta from Pozzallo (Sicily) in approximately 90 minutes. Alternative sea transport can be availed of via Grimaldi Ferries, and Grandi Navi Veloci from other Mediterranean destinations. Cruise ship companies whose ships travel to Malta include RCCL, Holland America Line, Costa Crociera, P&O Cruises, Aida Cruises and others.
Sea transport is also used to connect the two islands of Malta and Gozo. This ferry service is provided by Gozo Channel Company Ltd with boats ferrying across the islands several times a day. Comino can be reached by privately operated boats' service.
Entry into Malta is only permitted via a border crossing point to those who are in possession of a valid passport or an equivalent recognized travel document. Schengen Member State nationals do not require entry visas and are free to remain in Malta for a stretch of three months. Other country nationals should check travel document requirements with the Maltese Embassies, Consular posts or country representatives in their respective countries – for list of such offices check this link. In the absence of such offices, a written request may be sent to the Commissioner of Police, Police Headquarters, Florian on (+356) 21224001 or by filling in their contact form.
Entry into Malta allows personal belongings and clothing intended for personal use and these are not liable to duty. Prohibited goods include counterfeit watches, clothing, video tapes and software, obscene material, offensive weapons, unlicensed drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and barbiturates. For more information check this link.
Malta is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and follows Central European Time (CET).
The electrical system in Malta runs on 240 volts in single phase at a 50Hz cycle. Sockets are British-style accepting square standard three pin plugs. Visitors from other countries/continents are recommended to bring their own conversion plugs obtainable from hardware, electrical or travel goods suppliers. Most local hotels will provide conversion plugs, when available, at a charge.
It is safe to drink tap water in Malta, although the desalination process used on the island does leave some level of heaviness in the water. Bottled water is preferred by many and recommended for baby and infant beverages.
Malta is predominantly Roman Catholic and has a proliferation of churches in this denomination. However, since the Maltese Constitution guarantees freedom of workshop, other denominations and places of worship are also found including Church of England, Greek Orthodox, Muslim and others.
Health care in Malta is of high quality. The state-owned Mater Dei Hospital is the main hospital on Malta, while the Gozo General Hospital services the smaller island. However there are a number of state-owned local health clinics and other smaller privately run hospitals on the island, as well as specialised hospitals offering palliative care, convalescing treatment and care for the elderly. Specialised clinics include those dedicated to the care of diabetes.
Local pharmacies are very well stocked with the latest medicinals. It is recommended that visitors undergoing specialised treatment / carrying medicines into Malta / planning to purchase medicines on Malta, bring with them a letter of introduction from their personal doctor/specialist.
Banks are usually open to the public from 08.30hrs to 12.30hrs on Mondays to Fridays, and until noon on Saturdays. Most banks have automated teller machines (ATMs), and 24/7 foreign exchange facilities are found at the Malta International Airport. Banks operating in Malta include Bank of Valletta, HSBC, APS Bank, Lombard Bank, Banif Bank, Deutsche Bank (Malta), FIMBank, Volksbank and others.
Normal shop hours stretch form 09.00hrs through to 13.00hrs and then again from 16.00hrs to 19.00hrs. A few shops and malls stay open all day including supermarkets, especially in tourist areas. Some shops do not open on Saturday afternoons, and most shops do not open on Sundays or public and national holidays. Markets are held on rota in different locations of the islands every day. Specialised markets are organised on Sundays including Valletta's large market, car boot sale markets and others.
Shops accept major credit cards, travellers' cheques and Eurocheques. Be prepared to pay in cash at the smaller corner shops and at the markets.
Malta follows EU rules on pet travel and adopts the PETS Scheme. Dogs, cats and ferrets entering Malta from an EU or listed third country must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and have waited an interval of 21 days after being vaccinated against rabies before entering the island with ab official EU Pet Passport. More detailed information, also about other animals, may be obtained here or by emailing on [email protected]
A number of privately run veterinary clinics are found on the island as well as a 24-hour emergency veterinary service.