Malta may only be a small island nation, but if you look carefully you will note that Malta wears big boots. There’s a lot more to discover about Malta, but these facts will give you a good head start!
- Geographic size: Just 121 square miles, 316 km². Main island Malta stretches roughly 17 miles or 27 km across and the total shoreline of Malta, Gozo and Comino tallies up to a little over 168 miles or 271 km
- Population size: Over 425,384
- Population Density: 1,346 per km² (8th most densely populated country/territory in the world, 4th in Europe)
- Official languages: Maltese and English
- Currency: The Euro, since 1 January 2008. Previously: the Maltese Lira
- Electricity: 230 Volts, 50Hz. Plug type G (3-pin plugs, UK)
- Weather: Average temperatures: 23º C (daytime, annual). Lowest average temperature: 12º C (January daily average). Highest average temperature: 27º C (August daily average). Average hours of sunshine per day (annually): 8.4.
- Capital City: Valletta
- Annual tourist arrivals: > 1.6 million
- Religion: Roman Catholic (over 90% of the population)
- Number of churches: 365 (!)
- Malta and the EU: Malta joined the EU on the 1st of May, 2004
- Where to get cash
The single currency in circulation in Malta is the Euro.
Several banks (HSBC, BOV, APS and Banif being the major ones) are located in the various localities and several ATMs are situated around commercial and tourist areas.
Cards accepted are generally those connected to international networks Cirrus and Maestro and popularly used credit cards such as VISA, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted (by banks and retail establishments alike).
This is where you can find ATMs of:
Looking to exchange currency? Most banks accept exchange and offer automatic currency exchange machines in popular tourist areas. You will also find companies like Fexserv that offer currency exchange at good rates. Local shops in tourist areas that accept foreign currency are logically going to give you less favourable rates.
- Telephony and internet connectivity
The country code is +356 and outgoing code is 00, followed by the country code of the international number you wish to dial.
The three major mobile phone network operators are Vodafone, Go and Melita. Coverage for Vodafone and Go on data is generally better, with Vodafone having a slight edge. All three offer pre-paid phone and internet data plans and SIM cards can be purchased from local stationeries (small local shops for writing and office materials) as well. For the best coverage of those planning to travel across the Maltese islands, Vodafone and Go are your best bets, despite the slightly cheaper rates from Melita.
- Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi
Internet connectivity is widely available, either through mobile network data plans or through hotel/restaurant/cafe Wi-Fi or public Wi-Fi hotspots.
This map pinpoints trusted public Wi-Fi locations offered by a government agency (Malta Communications Authority):
- Drinking tap water is safe
Tap water is safe for drinking in most areas, though bottled water is preferred by most locals – an issue of taste rather than health mostly.
- Shopping hours may vary
Most shops are open all day, from 9am until 7pm, while shops in smaller villages tend to close between 1 and 4pm. Shops are generally closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Your safest bet is to ask around in the locality of your stay.
- Traffic and driving may be different to what you’re used to.
Malta is one of the few countries in the world where people drive on the left-hand side of the road, inherited from the British rule of Malta.
- The Maltese are known to be friendly and helpful
Most Maltese are friendly and helpful by nature and are usually more than happy to help you with whatever you need. So the best tip to give you is: If you’re unsure of anything, just ASK!
- There’s a ferry that can take you from Malta to Gozo (and vice versa)
Although debates are ongoing over whether a permanent tunnel or bridge should connect Malta to its smaller sister island Gozo, currently it’s the ferry you’ll need to catch to get there. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Gozo is still relatively quiet and rural and a permanent connection may change the island for the worse. You can catch the ferry from Ċirkewwa (northern-most tip of Malta) to arrive at Mġarr, Gozo. It’s a 20-minute trip that goes past Comino straight across the channel between the larger of the two Maltese islands.