The little country of Malta, a member of the European Union, consists of a series of Mediterranean islands located 90k south of Sicily, Italy. This densely populated country holds an incredible variety of attractions for visitors, from prehistoric temple ruins to art festivals to scuba diving. It’s surrounded by clear waters and is sunny most of the time—hot in summer, mild in winter.
Passports & Visas
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is the place to start.
Contact: Malta consulate.
2017 Connecticut Avenue NW
District of Columbia, 20008
Malta Consulate, United States
PO Box 1104
Duvall, WA, 98019
American Offices in Malta
For consular assistance to U.S. citizens, go to
3rd floor, Development House,
Saint Anne Street
The Consular Section is open for U.S. Citizens’ Services Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00-11:00 a.m.
Malta Tourist Information
Culture and History
Malta has a fascinating culture and a complicated history. Remnants of prehistoric times, reaching back 7,000 years, can be seen in the immense temples and stone carvings. The first known settlers to reach these strategic islands were the Phoenicians, in the 9th century BCE. Later waves of conquerors included the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, and the British.
The patron saint of Malta, St. Paul, was shipwrecked on these shores in 60 C.E., and a number of churches and places are named for him. When Spain ruled in the 16th century, Charles V gave the Knights of St. John control of Malta, in exchange for an annual fee of a single Maltese falcon (the basis for Dashiell Hammett’s famous detective novel, The Maltese Falcon.) Renamed the Knights of Malta, they built fortifications and transformed the country.
In 1964 Malta gained its independence from Britain and in 1974 was declared a Republic of the Commonwealth. Evidence of its many past cultures is strewn over all of Malta, creating an amazing mixture of historical and archeological sites.
Malta currency is the Euro, which replaced the lira in 2008. Banks, ATMs, and exchange bureaus can be found all over the islands; usually the best and least expensive way to get the local currency is by using an ATM. Some hotels, shops and restaurants accept foreign currency, though their rates of exchange are not as competitive as banks, for the most part. Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept major credit cards. Be sure to notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling, so they will know not to put a hold on your debit or credit card when a foreign transaction comes through.
For security’s sake, stow your card numbers and emergency phone numbers, as well as passport, airline tickets, and some cash, in a safe place. Best is a hotel safe.
If you leave Malta, or any country in the EU, with more than 10,000 Euros, the funds must be declared at Customs.
Driving in Malta
To drive in Malta, you must be at least 18 years old and to rent a vehicle, at least 21. If you are from a country that is not in the EU, you will need an International Driver’s License. To get an International Drivers license, contact your local AAA.
Driving is on the left side of the road; passing is allowed only on the right. Traffic is heavy and sometimes chaotic. Main roads are well-kept, but minor roads are often poorly signed and potholed. Speed limits are 25 mph in the city and 40 mph on open roads. There are no freeways or toll roads on Malta. Parking meters on major streets are valid for 1 to 2 hours of parking. Most fuel stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Laws are very strict about driving under the influence of alcohol. Don’t do it.
Malta’s electricity runs on 240V, using 3-pin plugs. U.S. visitors need to bring an adapter, available in electronics stores, luggage shops, and other travel-related stores.
To reach Police, Fire, or Ambulance, phone 112. This is the emergency number throughout the EU.
Polite behavior is expected in Malta and while the people are friendly, direct and very helpful, they don’t go for instant familiarity. In shops, always greet the clerk or shopkeeper before browsing around, as you would if entering a home. The country is 98% Catholic, and respect for religion is important. When entering a church, cover your shoulders and lower your voice. Pay attention to your voice level in restaurants or wherever you are, as talking loudly is not the custom here (nor in most European countries).
From November through March, Malta is on Central European Time (CET), which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). From the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October, it is 2 hours ahead of GMT. The islands are six hours ahead of Eastern Seaboard Time (EST) in winter and seven ahead from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in September
If service in a restaurant is good, tip 15%. Tipping at a bar is not expected, unless a hostess takes your order. For hotels and taxis, tip 10%.
Banks are normally open between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and to 11.30 a.m. on Saturday. Some banks work longer hours, and there can be seasonal changes.
Shops are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A few in the heavily touristed areas remain open midday. Most shops close on Sundays and public holidays. Museum hours vary. They are usually closed on public holidays. Pharmacies keep the usual shopping hours during the week. A list of pharmacies open on Sunday is printed in the Maltese Sunday Times and announced on radio stations.
Crime against tourists is rare but robberies, handbag snatching, pickpocketing and theft from parked cars can occur. Pay attention, especially in crowded places, and keep an eye on your belongings. If you are carrying a bag or camera, sling it across your torso instead of carrying it on a shoulder or in your hand where it can be easily grabbed
Leave your valuable items (passport, jewelry, airline tickets) in a hotel safe. Carry a copy of your passport and a list of your credit/debit card numbers and phone numbers, but keep them separate from the originals. If these items are stolen or lost, it makes replacing them easier.
Malta’s climate is typically Mediterranean, much like southern Italy: hot, dry summers and mild winters with occasional rain. Most of the annual rain (24 inches) falls between October and March. The summer temperature is usually in the mid-80s and humid at night. Sea breezes cool the coastline. The islands are often windy.
Main Sights in Malta
Malta has been called an outdoor museum, because everywhere you turn there’s another historic or artistic site. The prehistoric temples on Malta and Gozo are the world’s oldest standing stone structures, dating back as far as 7,000 years. The major temple complexes are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ancient underground Hypogeum, with chambers for burials and a shrine, is open to a limited number of visitors daily. Tickets should be purchased in advance and can be ordered through Malta Ticket.
Don’t miss the opulent Grand Master’s Palace, with its Gobelin tapestries; St. John’s Co-Cathedral, where Caravaggio’s masterpiece, the Beheading of St. John, hangs; and the National Museum of Archeology. There are many other museums displaying old and modern paintings, artifacts from natural history, war, aviation, and Malta’s noted maritime history. Interesting carvings and art are venerated in more than 300 churches, including the 17th–century Cathedral on Gozo. In the medieval city of Mdina, you can wander streets as they were centuries ago. Entrance to most museums is free to those under 19 or over 65.
For relaxation and outdoor activities, Malta has sunny beaches and clear waters perfect for sailing, diving, wind-surfing, and all water sports. For unusual souvenirs and gifts to bring home, shop for the delicate handmade lace the islands are famous for, along with multi-colored glassware and pottery.
There are open-air markets, one day a week, in most towns and villages, and one daily open-air market at Merchants Street in Valletta. The largest market is in Valletta on Sunday mornings. The local cuisine is Mediterranean-style, featuring fresh produce, pasta, fish and delicious olives. A national specialty is pastizzi, hot pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese, peas, and meat or anchovies.
Getting Around In Malta
Regular flights go daily from many European Union countries, including the UK. Interisland flights are available, as well as scenic floatplane rides. You can even take a helicopter between Malta and Gozo, a 10-15 minute ride from Malta International Airport.
Boats and Ferries
Ferries travel regularly from various cities in Italy to Malta, landing at Valletta. For information, check Ferries on Line . From Malta to Gozo is a 30-minute ferry ride, departing from the island’s northern tip. The ferry operates daily, carrying passengers and autos. There is regular boat service to Comino from Malta and Gozo.
There are no trains on Malta.
Traveling the islands by public bus is a great way to see the countryside, particularly if you appreciate the charm of vintage vehicles. Some of the older ones come from Great Britain. There are numerous bus routes, and fares are cheap. You can purchase 1-, 3-, 5- and 7-day tickets, available from the driver.
Hop on-off bus tours are available and give you a good look at the highlights of Malta.
Malta has several car rental agencies. Usually it’s best and less expensive to reserve a car in advance.
Malta has a reliable taxi service, with several types available. Some are private touring companies, others offer general service. White taxis operate on meters. Rates vary, and you should settle on a price before getting into the taxi.
Tap water is safe to drink in Malta. Dairy products are safe. Modern medical facilities are available in regional clinics and two general hospitals.
If you are carrying medications, keep them in their original containers or have the prescription with you.
Lodging in Malta
Malta offers every type of lodging, including couchsurfing, hostels and agritourism. Hotels range from the Grand Hotel Excelsior, which has 439 rooms, stunning views, and all the amenities, to Asti Guesthouse, a converted 350-year-old monastery with 8 rooms, shared bathroom facilities, and plenty of charm.
Public Holidays in Malta
January 1 – New Year’s Day
February 10 – Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck. Commemorates the shipwreck of St. Paul in Malta, in 60 C.E.
March 19 – Feast of St. Joseph. Celebrated at Rabat.
March 31 – Freedom Day. Ceremony and traditional regatta in Grand Harbour.
April 18 – Good Friday. Pageants and processions with Biblical scenes, characters and statues. Many places of business closed.
May 1 – Worker’s Day. Celebrates with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
June 7 – Sette Guigno. Ceremony at Palace Square, Valletta, commemorating revolt of June 7, 1919.
June 29 – Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Folklore festivities with music, traditional foods, horse races, exhibitions.
August 15 – Feast of the Assumption. Religious ceremonies.
September 8 – Victory Day. Ceremony in Valletta celebrates various victories. Boat race in Grand Harbour.
September 21 – Independence Day. Numerous activities in honor of 1964 Malta independence.
December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Religious ceremonies.
December 13 – Republic Day. Celebrations, including horse races, in honor of Malta becoming a Republic in 1974.
December 25 – Christmas Day. Family parties, Christmas Eve processions, Midnight Mass.
Banks and shops do not open on public and national holidays.
Some shops, especially in tourist areas, will open as usual.
Telephones in Malta
Maltacom provides international telephone, telex, and facsimile service at several locations. Hours vary; some branch offices are open daily between 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Card phones are usually the easiest, least expensive choice for phone calls. You can buy cards at many retail locations and post office branches (look for the Telecard sign).
Useful Country Codes
USA and Canada: 001
Returning to the US
Customs, VAT & Duty-Free
For complete information on Customs policies, see the US Government Customs Website
Written by Marilyn McFarlane for EuropeUpClose.com