Malta in a nutshell – ancient architecture, cafe culture, alfresco dining, bays, boats and rabbit stew!!! Just a few of Malta’s defining characteristics that keep drawing the tourists in.
It’s parallel to Tunisia and a stones throw away from Italy, warm all year round and an easy winter escape for anyone this side of the Atlantic.
If you’re thinking of a trip to Malta, especially a first trip – these 23 random insights might prove useful or even interesting.
1. Money Money Money
A local shop owner (who used to live in the UK – and now lives in Malta running a business – he owns the place where I got my chicken doughnut) shared that the Maltese government will give married couples 10,000 Euros toward buying their first home (UK take note), and he said the same amount is also offered to couples who adopt a child.
He explained that lots of overseas university students are attracted to Malta because the fees charged are relatively small compared to the UK.
The economy is on the up in Malta – lots of employment opportunities, not to mention new hotels and investments in tourism.
High rise housing seems to be the driving way forward to meet Malta’s growing housing needs.
Random observation: the security guards in HSBC Bank were armed – they’re not taking any chances!
2. The Great Flood
When it rains, it floods.
This seems to be a pretty appropriate mantra where Malta’s concerned.
I touched on this earlier, we got hit with floods in Sliema, so check the weather forecast before you go – you might need to pack your wellies.
I’m not sure if it’s just the rain that’s responsible for this flooding but it definitely plays a part – I think the wind and sea water coming up through the drains might also have something to do with it.
The roads were horrendous, tyres drowning in water and you could probably have gone for a swim in the olympic sized puddles along Sliema’s Strand.
Has anyone else experienced this?
Apparently this is an ongoing issue in Malta, nothing new.
Before visiting Malta I’d done my research – oh yes, so I was very aware of this flooding malarky, floods that sometime stretch all the way up to the entrance of shops and hotels.
My luggage allowance was utterly maxed out ( I wasn’t really up for paying for more) so I didn’t take my wellies like I’d intended to. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as the clips above.
3. Every step you take…..I’ll be watching you
I’m not exaggerating when I say that everywhere you look (particularly in Valletta) there are pictures or statues of Jesus, Mary Magdalene (or another holy saint) staring down or watching over you – like I said before, I reckon Malta is defiantly the Vatican’s little brother.
6. The Hills have Doors
When you go off wandering around the streets of Malta (which you absolutely must do while you’re there, to get a real feel for the place and local living), you’ll notice few things:
- It’s steep and hilly, great for toning the bum and thighs – so pack comfy footwear in addition to the killer heels (if you must)
- There are lots of old buildings with brightly coloured wooden doors – doors are a ‘thing’
- The colour scheme is generally – the sandblasted look with pops of strong vibrant colour on doors and window boxes
Under Construction: Health and Safety
I’ve never been to any destination where the entire country seems to be under construction all at once.
Everywhere I looked there was a building site – often with no safe way of passage for pedestrians on the pavement, dangling cranes or the sound of industrial drills and diggers on the go. Even the hotel I stayed in was under construction and refurbishment.
I think Mdina was the only place I didn’t see any cranes.
Health and safety isn’t really a thing in Malta, not from what I gathered. I laugh as I say this even though its really not funny.
There seems to be no shortage of news stories about construction workers being injured at work – I wasn’t surprised when I read some of these, given some of the things I witnessed while I was there:
- Cranes raising and lowering things with no protective area around them – even when they were on the road or pavement
- People standing beneath pulleys/cranes (pedestrians and construction staff) with no helmets or protective boots
- Exposed construction sites with no barriers or protection to avoid spills or drops on to passers-by on the pavement below.
On the whole, I felt like Maltese people were genuinely quite friendly and curious about you when they see you – an obvious tourist, and they seem keen to engage and say hello once the ice is broken with a smile or a nod. Was this your experience?
Equally, I think there were some who were perhaps a little tired of all the tourists.
It’s widely spoken in Malta and a compulsory subject in school between the age of 5 to 16 years. A local guide told us that this was soon to be extended and made compulsory up to the age of 18 – a serious commitment.
9. Horse Racing with a Difference
While flicking curiously through my hotel room TV channels I discovered one of Malta’s popular races – horse trotting racing. Eyebrow raising stuff!
Malta’s trot racing looks like an evolved kind of go-karting or racing with mini chariots attached to your horse – looks like fun!
The only thing missing was medieval robes and a spear for the racers and jewels/gold to embellish the chariots.
10. That’s the Sound of the Police…
Well actually, I can’t remember what they sounded like because honestly, you hardly ever see a police car, let alone hear a police siren in Malta, and they’re very proud of their low crime rates – though petty crime in St Julians and tourist heavy areas is a little more to be expected.
11. Traffic: No mercy
I’m snoozing in my room with the balcony doors open, the buzz of Sliema traffic in the air, seven floors beneath me.
My blissful lazy moment is rudely interrupted by the sound of a crowd of people below across the road – I drag myself up to have a nosey and it turns out to be a fire drill.
Did I just snooze through a fire in my hotel? I panic for a moment.
Then I realise its a building a few doors down. Relief.
When the crowd finally begin crossing the road back to their building , Sliema traffic is in no way sympathetic or patient with them – anger ensues as soon as the red man appears at the pedestrian crossing, and furious horn honking begins.
Speaking of Sliema traffic – there was a collision earlier, between a woman on a scooter/moped and a car. I heard the bang – she was rubbing her leg, but apart from that she seemed to be OK.
In sure Maltese style, the traffic behind the collision was honking and beeping, unimpressed by the interruption, low on patience and not in the least bit sympathetic.
Glass blown souvenirs are common in Malta, it’s one of Malta’s specialities.
A trip to a glass blowing factory is common on full day organised Malta tours, with the opportunity to purchase glass blown items while you’re there.
13. Beach Vibes
It’s not really a beach destination, though I heard something about a new beaches being created with sand shipped in from the Sahara so maybe things are evolving.
There are some beaches, including Malta’s most well known sandy beach ‘Golden Bay’ in the north, but if the driver behind this trip was beaches and palm trees I wouldn’t have picked Malta.
I think Malta is a destination you choose because you’re curious about the place, the history, sites and culture.
You visit Malta to explore Malta – not to spend two weeks laid out on a beach resort (well you might) – very easy to do in some places, and not to be snuffed at – sometimes that might be all you need so you can re-charge!!
Mellieha has some large all inclusive beach front hotels and I think the St Pauls area had a few as well.
If you’re not curious about Malta and don’t want to go out and explore – then you might be disappointed when you get there, unless there’s something very specific about Malta or the region you’re staying in, that you know will keep you happy during your stay.
14. A Winter Getaway
Malta in winter is like an average summer in the UK. – just a bit breezier. Well maybe that’s a bit harsh, but not too far off the mark on a good day.
It’s generally sunny all year round in Malta, though winter can see a bit more rain than the dryer summer months.
Blowing Hot and Cold
During my two week December stay, the weather was fairly mixed. There were chilly days where coats and hats were required and there were very hot days where the summer dresses got their moment of glory.
Then there was everything else in between.
The week before I arrived, locals said it had been raining non stop – then on the week I arrived, tour sellers were urging everyone to book boat trips while the weather was good.
I remember on some mornings, waking up to the sun burning through the balcony windows onto the bed – as though someone had turned the central heating on full blast. On another day I woke up to a storm brewing.
On other mornings, it would be chilly and breezy – the boats on the marina below rocking away with choppy white waves in the far distance.
If you go for two weeks or more, you’ll probably get some good weather, otherwise it’s a gamble – check the forecast before you book – but then you’ll probably pay more if you’re booking very close to your departure date!
If you travel during the warmer months, you won’t go wrong for sunshine, (bring on the relentless 40 degree celsius heat) but the tourists crowds will probably be thicker with photo-bombers a plenty.
Pros and cons
Deals are generally cheaper during some of the winter.
So if you’re going in the winter – pack for all seasons, including jumpers, scarves, hats and summer clothes – and if you’ve got space, take a pair of wellies just in case you get hit by a flood.
Granted, this may not be easy if you’re flying with a rip off airline that’s tight with luggage allowances – but it might be worth the extra cost if you want to be well equipped and relaxed.
If you travel light and get caught out – don’t worry, there’s plenty of shopping opportunities in Malta, especially in Sliema.
15. Looking ahead
This year, the Minister of Tourism ‘Konrad Mizzi’ emphasised that Malta continues to be the least seasonal tourist destination in the Mediterranean – proudly attracting visitors all year round.
Tourism is continuing to grow due to Malta amping up its marketing strategies, including a stronger online presence and new flight routes – which are set to expand even further. Go Malta!!
Malta is definitely on the up as a holiday destination.
With all the investment in infrastructure, new buildings, hotels and flights to Malta in the pipeline, I reckon it will probably start getting more expensive and even more touristy in years to come so now might be a good time for you to visit.
I’ve noticed a lot more social media content from bloggers and vloggers on Malta trips – some of which inspired my trip.
16. Where should you stay?
Party animals might want to consider Paceville, St Julians, where pubs and clubs are in good supply, but the culture vultures might prefer being bang in the middle of historic Valletta. Sliema offers more of a middle ground with brilliant links.
Sliema gives you quick ferry and bus access to Valletta, views of Valletta, loads of bus routes to pretty much everywhere, it’s the shopping capital of Malta and has a generous supply of places to eat.
If you’re repulsed by all of this and want to be well away from the hustle and bustle, head further North. St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba and Mellieha might be a bit more up your street.
17. Something in the water
From what I gathered, you shouldn’t be drinking the tap water in Malta – well, whether you drink tap water per se is another thing… but there was a warning in the hotel advising against it. You can get plenty of bottled water from local shops.
18. Malta Loves Christmas
Throughout December they go all out, not just with the religious side of things but the whole shebang.
You’ll see nativity scenes in almost every balcony, window box and roundabout (yes roundabouts) clad with dolls and mangers.
Many windows proudly sport large scale (at times mechanical) nativity scenes.
The country is aglow with elaborate Christmas lights, glorious Christmas trees, and fireworks (which traditionally, Maltese families make at home with their own secret firework recipes)!!
Just realised, I didn’t have a Maltese mince pie – do they have them in Malta….I can’t remember seeing any.
19. Last One Standing
Malta is the last EU country to maintain a full ban on abortion.
Although poverty wasn’t visible, it does exist, particularly amongst the young and the elderly.
I didn’t see any rough sleepers or anyone that appeared to be homeless during my two week stay – homelessness certainly wasn’t apparent on the streets.
Interestingly, the government are introducing new measures to cap rent prices, because greedy landlords are getting carried away and leaving tenants unable to pay the rent.
I also read that poverty amongst Maltese students is leading some of them to turn to food banks to survive.
Quite a few years ago my parents went on a holiday to Malta – apart from their skin peeling in the blistering heat, and their complaints about it being too hot, I vaguely remember them telling me about some hassle they went through with people trying to sell them timeshares and having to complain to their hotel manager – threatening to take their story to the papers if they didn’t get their money back.
This is probably what cemented by resistance to anyone trying to sell me anything that sounds like timeshares.
I also heard a few vloggers echo the same thing – warning us tourists to expect to be hassled.
I didn’t encounter any timeshare sellers, but then again, it was low season.
22. A Few Other Things (I haven’t blogged about) that you might want to do in Malta
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations Tour (for all the fans)
- Gozo 4×4 or Segway Tour
- Kayak Gozo and Comino
- Bird Park
- Malta National Aquarium
- Valletta Segway Tour
- Sicily day trip by high speed catamaran
- Malta Food and Wine Tour
- Popeye Village
- Golden Bay Beach (there’s a stop on the Hop On Hop Off bus northern route)
- Watch sunsets ad Dingli cliffs
- Malta carnival – in March
- Malta International Fireworks Festival – April/May
- Various other boat trips
I really don’t ‘get’ why so many people (including a few I know personally) seemed to dislike Malta so much.
“It’s too hot, too windy, too rocky, too dry, there’s nothing to see……” Yet whenever I looked at pictures and footage of the islands, I felt more and more drawn to it’s pretty historic buildings and water front living.
People seem to either love the place or conclude they’re not keen.
With all Malta’s beautiful churches, historic architecture, picturesque fishing villages and relaxing harbours, endless shopping and a walkers paradise – dotted with cafes and restaurants everywhere you go – how could you not find something to like, I know every place has it’s plus and minus points but opinions seem to be very strong about Malta.
Personally, I enjoyed my time there because I was curious. If I wasn’t curious and hadn’t made the effort to explore and find things to do then maybe I might have been on team ‘not keen’.
I wouldn’t rule out another trip to Malta – it’s only a three hour flight from London, and popular for long weekend breaks. It might be nice to go again when its a bit warmer and do some more boat trips, including Comino, Blue Grotto and spend a bit more time on Gozo.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on Malta – however strong!! Please do share below and feel free to include links to your own Malta blog posts 🤗💻x