Travel Tips for Malta and Gozo

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Malta is having a moment, there’s no doubt about it. Lonely Planet named it as one of the top countries to visit and its capital, Valletta, was the European Capital of Culture for 2018. But what travel tips for Malta do you need to know?

The Mediterranean islands in the Maltese archipelago (Malta, Gozo and Comino) have a lot going for them: a pleasantly warm climate virtually all year round – there are more than 300 days of sunshine a year, a treasure trove of cultural riches and a stunning coastline.

We spent our summer on the island of Gozo this year and fell in love with its laid-back vibe and breathtakingly beautiful landscape. With more people than ever likely to visit in the new year, we’ve put together a guide of travel tips for Malta and Gozo together with tips to save you money while you’re there.

History

The Maltese archipelago, positioned between the Italian island of Sicily and the coast of North Africa, has been much sought after for its strategically important location for centuries. You can find signs of its history all over the islands. The earliest settlers left megalithic temples and the eyes painted on the prows of the luzzus, the Maltese fishing boats, are a tradition left over from the Phoenicians.

The islands were conquered by the Romans, the Arabs and the Spanish too. The crusading Knights of St John made Malta their base from the 16th to the 18th centuries, leaving Baroque churches, forts and palaces. The French, under Napoleon, invaded the islands in 1798 but Malta became part of the British Empire in 1800 until independence in 1964. The British left more red telephone boxes than I’ve ever seen in England. Even our Queen loves Malta. It’s the only place outside of the UK that the Queen has ever called home – she and the Duke of Edinburgh lived in Valletta for two years when the Duke was based there with the Royal Navy in the early years of their marriage.

Malta makes a great cultural break. There is so much to see in the capital of Valletta and you can explore the beautiful preserved cities of Rabat and Mdina as well as Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, the 5,000-year-old underground necropolis.

The megalithic temples at Ggantija on Gozo are older than the Pyramids of Egypt. The gigantic stones have been around for over 5,600 years and are the oldest freestanding structure in the world.

Traditional fishing boats

The best place to see luzzu, the traditional fishing boats, is at Marsaxlokk in Malta. The brightly coloured boats are double ended so they’re pointed at both ends and are painted with the Eyes of Osiris which are believed to protect them from danger. The pretty harbour at Marsaxlokk is filled with these boats.

You can ride in a luzzu at Dwejra on Gozo. Fishermen take people on short trips from the Inland Sea, the cliff-bound lagoon into the open sea through a tunnel in the rocks.

For more information about visiting Marsaxlokk, take a look at 4 Reasons Not to Miss Marsaxlokk in Malta.

The religion

travel tips for malta and gozo, Ta Pinu basilica,Most people who live in the Maltese archipelago are Roman Catholics. You will see beautiful baroque churches all over the islands – even in the smallest villages. According to legend, St Peter baptised some locals at St Peter’s Pool on the southern coast of Malta and the impressive Basilica of Ta’ Pinu on Gozo was built in the 1920s on the site of a chapel where a local woman believed that the Virgin Mary spoke to her.  It’s an important centre of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics and numerous miracles have been associated with the church.

One of the important travel tips for Malta to remember is that when visiting the churches and cathedrals, women should cover up bare shoulders (scarves will be supplied in most churches) and both men and women should avoid short shorts.

The language

Maltese is the national language and it’s a fascinating mix of Arabic, Italian and English influences. English is still an official language in Malta though so it is widely spoken.

Getting Around

The local buses are very efficient and air-conditioned. Most trips cost €2 per person.

If you want to see more of the islands your best bet is to hire a car. It’s relatively cheap compared to other countries in Europe and will give you a lot more freedom and flexibility. Many of the local buses only run once an hour and they don’t go to the smaller bays.

An important travel tip for Malta is to be very careful only to park in designated parking areas and to keep to speed restrictions. The traffic police in both Gozo and Malta are very vigilant – especially so when it comes to hire cars

Eating Out

Maltese cuisine has a variety of influences from the various occupiers of the islands. It’s an exotic mix of Italian and Arabic with a dash of British and French cuisine. You’ll find hearty soups, pastas and rabbit stew. Fresh seafood is everywhere – and delicious. Don’t miss the chance to try the local lampuki fish when it’s in season from the end of August until November. Also popular are pastizzi, Malta’s favourite snack, little pastry parcels stuffed with ricotta cheese.

In high season, especially in the summer months, a good travel tip for Malta is to make sure you reserve ahead in most restaurants if you want to be certain of getting a table. In popular seaside resorts like Marsalforn or Xlendi on Gozo you should call ahead to guarantee a table beside the sea. You don’t need to book days in advance – a couple of hours earlier is enough.

Restaurants were more expensive than we’d expected and a lot pricier than tavernas on the Greek islands. Starters were usually €7.50 to €10 and main courses cost around €11 to €25. Fresh fish was often over €20. We found food to be slightly cheaper on Malta than on Gozo.

Portion sizes of pasta and risotto are enormous and the same dish can usually be ordered as a starter or a main course. Even if you’ve got a big appetite, a starter size is usually plenty and costs a lot less than the main course.

Be prepared to wait a long time for your food to arrive. Waiters are usually quick to take your order, bring drinks and complimentary starters like tomato bruschetta, bread and dips but your food order is likely to take longer to arrive especially if you arrive at the restaurant after 8.30pm.

The Malta Discount Card is well worth getting – it will give you 25 to 50 per cent off your food bill in selected restaurants.

The Blue Lagoon

One of the most famous sights in the Maltese islands is the Blue Lagoon off the island of Comino. Only a handful of people live on the island but it’s one of Malta’s most popular sights because of the  strikingly turquoise coloured stretch of water in a sheltered cove.

You can take boat trips across to Comino from both Gozo and Malta. One of the best is the three-hour trip organised by Barbarossa. The wooden yacht stops off at various coves around Comino for swimming and snorkelling. In the peak summer season the Blue Lagoon is incredibly crowded. A useful travel tip for Malta and Gozo is to go the Crystal Lagoon instead – we much preferred the more peaceful Crystal Lagoon, where we had the intense blue waters almost to ourselves and the added fun of caves to swim in.

Game of Thrones

travel tips for malta and gozoStill beautiful – even without the Azure Window

Much of the first season of the TV series, Game of Thrones was filmed on Malta. The walled medieval city of Mdina was the setting for King’s Landing as were the cobbled backstreets of Valletta. The 17th-century Fort Ricasoli was used as the Red Keep.

The famous limestone arch known as the Azure Window at Dwejra on Gozo collapsed into the sea a couple of years ago. It was used as the backdrop for Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding to Khal Drogo in episode one.

Don’t miss out on Gozo

Gozo is greener, quieter and more laidback than Malta. It’s only seven miles long and is less visited than the bigger island.

Lots of people visit Gozo on day trips – they’re taken on a bus around the island’s main sights on a whistle-stop tour. But do that, and you risk missing out on Gozo’s enchantment altogether – and all the special places too far off the main road to discover easily as part of a tour group.

In the summer months, one of our best travel tips for Malta is to stay on Gozo and visit Malta for day trips. It’s an easy 30-minute boat trip between the islands on a ferry. There’s a lot to see on Malta but it’s a lot busier and more built up than its sister island, particularly in the summer. It was good to see the sights on a day trip but we were always relieved to return to the quieter pace of Gozo.

For more ideas and inspiration on visiting Gozo take a look at The Enchanting Island of Gozo and The 17 Must-See Sights of Gozo.

Festivals

Every village in Malta and Gozo celebrates the feast day of its patron saint with street decorations, parades and lots of fireworks. If you come in August you’ll find a festival going on most days. The biggest is the Festa of Santa Maria in Victoria which takes place for three days around August 15th, with horse races through the streets, brass bands, parades and firework displays.

The Carnival in February is particularly lively and there are also spectacular festivals over Easter as well as a Fireworks Festival in April.

How to avoid the crowds

travel tips for malta and gozo, what to see and do in Gozo Even at the height of the tourist season in August you can find quieter, more laidback beaches and coves if you go off the beaten track, especially on Gozo.

It’s not too difficult to find those places that feel more like a secret discovery than a tourist trap. Like Dahlet Qorrot, a small cove with crystal clear waters and a tiny beach, surrounded by boathouses that have been cut into the rocks. Add brightly coloured doors and you’ve got one of the most picturesque swimming spots ever. Or Wied il Ghasri, a narrow inlet with steep cliffs rising up on either side. It’s even an adventure getting to this special place – you have to climb down the staircase chiselled into the rock.

A good travel tip for Malta and Gozo is to be aware that the more well known beaches like Ramla Bay and San Blas can get very crowded in the summer and you’ll need to get there early. There are only a small number of sunbeds at the smaller San Blas so arrive early to be sure of a spot. It will cost you about €5 to hire a sun bed plus another €5 for a beach umbrella.

Avoid accidents

travel tips for malta and gozoWear sensible shoes when exploring rocky, uneven areas like Dwejra. Don’t wear your flimsiest flip-flops like I did and end up having to borrow your husband’s far more sensible sandals so that you can walk out onto the rocks to take photos. It’s also a good idea to wear sturdier shoes when getting to some of the smaller bays where there are lots of rocks to clamber over and uneven flooring.

Save money by having picnics

Save money by taking a picnic lunch to the beach. This was one of our favourite travel tips for Malta and Gozo while we were staying there. Several of the small bakers and greengrocers have a deli area in the back where they can make up your choice of sandwich from their selection of cheeses, hams and salamis. Ask them for the delicious tomato paste instead of butter to make it even tastier. Four filled rolls cost us only €5 from the deli in San Lawrenz village square, only a few miles from the coastline at Dwejra.

Do you have any good travel tips for Malta and Gozo?

Travel tips for Malta and Gozo to read before you go. Tips on saving money, what not to miss, best beaches, hidden gems and how to get around. #maltatips #traveltipsformalta #gozo #maltavacation #thingstodoinmalta #thingstodoingozo #familytravelmalta #maltaandgozo #maltaguide

 

 

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38 Comments

  1. 14th December 2017 / 2:28 am

    I think itโ€™s better to stay on Gozo as well, I thought it was so beautiful, much less developed than Malta. We travelled to Malta in April and did quite a lot of walking, itโ€™s wasnt warm enough for swimming. Some great tips in your post. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd January 2018 / 7:49 pm

      I absolutely agree, Nicole. I thought Gozo was utterly charming and much preferred it to Malta. I’d love to do some walking on both islands but not in the heat of summer!

  2. 14th December 2017 / 8:34 am

    That’s awesome Valletta was name a European Capital of Culture for 2018! I’m sure there will be/are lots of cultural heritage events taking place now, like in Plovdiv! Still dying to go and even more so since learning more about the history and that even the Queen loves it! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd January 2018 / 7:53 pm

      It’s great news isn’t it? I’m sure it’ll bring lots of cultural tourists to the islands over the coming year. It’s positively bursting with cultural heritage and interesting history.

  3. 14th December 2017 / 10:33 am

    It’s always been a dream of mine to swim in waters like these, but for some reason I keep scheduling trips to colder northern climates… maybe it’s because I like a bit of hustle and bustle, and many places with great swimming are more relaxing? Malta and Gozo sound like the right mix of history, exploration AND relaxation! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd January 2018 / 7:52 pm

      Swimming in water THIS blue and THIS warm was an incredible experience – especially for someone so used to the freezing cold seas around the UK! I think I gravitate towards warmer places because you can never rely on a hot summer in England and I do crave a bit of sunshine. You’re definitely right about Malta and Gozo being a good mix of exploration and relaxation – there really was plenty to do but we had lots of relaxing days as well – which I loved.

  4. 14th December 2017 / 12:10 pm

    Great & informative post Clare! I’m saving it for later reference. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd January 2018 / 7:50 pm

      Thanks so much, Urska. That’s great to hear!

  5. 14th December 2017 / 2:40 pm

    I’ve read so much about Malta during the past four weeks and everything sounds and looks so awesome! Love all your tipps and especially your pictures! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 9:40 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa. Honestly, Malta and Gozo are wonderful destinations. Well worth trying!

  6. 14th December 2017 / 5:04 pm

    Malta does look like the perfect island for a summer break! That sea is just so blue!! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 9:40 am

      That blue is just amazing, isn’t it? It’s such a tonic to see a see that colour – especially at this time of year in the UK!

  7. 14th December 2017 / 5:05 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! Especially about staying longer on Gozo, we stayed for a week and it was just divine, a lot more quiet than Malta!
    #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 9:41 am

      We really loved our time on Gozo, Esther, and I think I’d always choose to stay there rather than on Malta. I do think Malta would make a great cultural break outside of the summer though.

  8. 14th December 2017 / 7:15 pm

    That explains an email I got from my aunty in Malta the other day. She was saying something about lots of bands playing in Valletta this past weekend to celebrate Cultural Cities and I didn’t quite understand what she meant. It’s so cool that Valletta is the 2018 pick!

    I love Malta, but I’ve been there so many times that I haven’t really been inclined to go anymore…and then I saw your photos. Your Ta’ Pinu picture is just as I remember it from when I was a kid ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess churches and their surroundings don’t really change though. #FarawayFiles

    • 28th December 2017 / 6:19 pm

      There’s always more to discover, even for those like myself who have been going there again and again. 2018 is the time to be here.

      • Clare Thomson
        Author
        4th January 2018 / 10:46 am

        It will be such an exciting time to be on the islands.

        • 4th January 2018 / 11:35 am

          Next time you’re here, perhaps you can stay at and feature our place – indulgence divine.com

          • Clare Thomson
            Author
            4th January 2018 / 3:16 pm

            Perhaps we will. I shall definitely take a look.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 9:42 am

      They do LOVE their celebrations in Malta! It doesn’t surprise me that they got the bands out to celebrate the Cultural City. I imagine there will be loads of celebrations and extra festivals this year. Thanks so much for your lovely comments. You’re so lucky to have family there and have visited often.

  9. 14th December 2017 / 9:38 pm

    I loved our trip to Malta this year-the scenery, the history and the food were all top notch, especially the lampuki. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 9:43 am

      The lampuki was so delicious, wasn’t it? Especially when you eat it sitting beside a pretty harbour in the sunshine.

  10. 15th December 2017 / 3:20 am

    In 2015, we spent the summer in Europe, and for our last week on the beach had to choose between Agios Prokopios on Naxos (our favourite) or Malta. We went with the first to guarantee a good ending, but it looks like we wouldn’t have gone wrong with Malta either. I’m definitely adding it to the top of our Europe travel list now. It looks incredible! and I love the mix of cultural influences there. I think we’d follow your tip for staying on the quieter Gozo too… #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:07 am

      We just loved Malta – and Gozo in particular, Shelley. I’d definitely recommend it. There is a wonderful mix of cultural influences and the landscape is just stunning.

  11. 16th December 2017 / 2:20 am

    Malta and Gozo sound like wonderful destinations. I hope their ‘moment’ doesn’t make them too popular and crowded.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:08 am

      I hope so too, Lyn. I’m sure that you just have to be careful when you visit. We always found it a lot less crowded on Gozo – even at the height of the tourist season in August.

  12. 16th December 2017 / 3:53 am

    After reading your post, I was curious and checked how the flight costs from Malaysia to Valetta, haha! Don’t think I will be making a trip to Europe in 2018 for I did the Portugal trip a few months ago. Perhaps 2019 and hopefully by then Malta won’t be too crazy with tourists like Portugal ๐Ÿ™‚ That said, Malta is such a beautiful place and I remember reading your old posts about your experiences there. Hope to get there soon! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:09 am

      Good to know you’re getting some itchy feet, Kat! Malta really is beautiful – I’d definitely recommend it. That said, I’d love to explore more of the quieter side of Portugal too.

  13. 17th December 2017 / 3:57 pm

    This is somewhere I couldn’t visit without a bit of research like this post, because I don’t like crowded beaches at all. I like the idea of finding the quiet ones. Beautiful photos! #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:44 am

      Me neither, Janet. I do hate crowds. I think it’s my mission to find those lesser known gems around the world. Thanks so much for your comment about the photos.

  14. 18th December 2017 / 4:13 am

    I just know I’d love it there, Clare. Indeed Malta has been on my list for the past few years, but I think you make a great case for why to stay in Gozo. I’m definitely taking note. I remember then the piece of land fell into the water in Malta, and thinking how crazy that was…must have been completely surreal for the people there. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:45 am

      I’m sure you would, Corey. We did think Gozo was a real find this year, just like your wonderful Mallorca posts. The arch fell into the sea during a heavy storm. I think the locals knew it was always going to happen one day just not quite as soon as this.

  15. Sue rollings
    18th December 2017 / 2:59 pm

    Another great article

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      4th January 2018 / 10:46 am

      Thank you so much, Sue.

  16. 28th November 2019 / 10:33 pm

    The Maltese cathedrals and churches still blow me away every time. I guess it sounds lame but the fact that they’re still so deeply religious gives me hope for the world, even if Malta is only a small country, and their religious structures which are still so well maintained to this day are a testament to that.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      12th December 2019 / 8:40 pm

      I was blown away by the cathedrals too, especially the big one in Valletta and the beautiful T’a Pinu on Gozo.

  17. 4th January 2023 / 11:13 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article, thanks for sharing. I visited Malta a couple years back and I regret not spending more time on Gozo I only went for a day trip). I also found the waters around Malta had a lot of jellyfish, it might’ve been to do with the time of the year I was there (July).

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      24th January 2023 / 12:32 pm

      Thanks Billy. We absolutely loved Gozo – it made a quieter base than Malta and we were still able to take day trips to visit the various sites of the bigger island.

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