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Travel Info


Quick Facts
CapitalValletta
Governmentrepublic
CurrencyMaltese lira (MTL)
Areatotal: 316 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 316 sq km
Population400,000 (2004)
LanguageMaltese (official), English (official)
ReligionRoman Catholic 98%
Country Calling Code356
Internet TLD.mt
Time ZoneUTC +1

Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea that lies south of the island of Sicily, Italy. The country is an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, G?awdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited.

Regions

By inhabited island:

  • Malta (This page)
  • Gozo (G?awdex)
  • Comino (Kemmuna)

Cities

  • Bug.ibba
  • Marsaxlokk
  • Mdina — Malta's well-preserved quiet old capital
  • Mellie?a — Malta's biggest beach
  • Rabat
  • Sliema — beach package tourist central just off Valletta
  • Valletta — the capital, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565.

Other destinations

Throughout the coast of malta you will find many natural caves. You may have to use a boat to reach some of the caves, and if you have trouble finding some of these caves, then the locals would be more then happy to give you directions.

Understand

History

The Order of St. John, also known as the Hospitallers, took over sovereign control of Malta in 1530 and by 1533 the Order had built a hospital at Birgu to care for the sick. In 1565, the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, mounted a great siege of Malta with a fleet of 180 ships and a landing force of 30,000 men. However the Order, with only 8,000 defenders, drove the Turks off after a hard siege of several months. After the siege, the Order founded the city of Valetta, defending it with a massive stone sea wall, which even withstood heavy bombing during the second world war. By 1575 the Order had built a large hospital known as the Grand Hospital or Sacred Infirmary in order to continue its primary mission of caring for the sick.

In 1798, the French, under Napoleon, took the island on 12 June 1798, without resistance, when the Grand Master capitulated after deciding the island could not be defended against the opposing naval force. French rule lasted a little over 2 years and they surrendered to the British Royal Navy, under Admiral Nelson's command, in September 1800.

Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars.

The island was awarded the George Cross for its heroic resistance during the Second World War. An image of the cross is displayed on the flag. The colors on the flag are, red and white, being colors related to the Order of St. John.

Independence 
21 September 1964 (from UK)
National holiday 
Independence Day, 21 September (1964)

Malta remained in the Commonwealth of Nations when it became independent from Great Britain in 1964.

A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has become a freight transshipment point, financial center, and tourist destination.

Malta gained EU membership in May 2004.

Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration.

Climate

Mediterranean with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.

Terrain

Mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains, with a coastline that has many coastal cliffs and numerous bays that provide good harbors.

Highest point 
Ta'Dmejrek 253 m (near Dingli)

Get in

By plane

Malta possesses its own national carrier, Air Malta (http://www.airmalta.com/), with regular connections to European, North African and Middle Eastern centres.

The islands possess one international airport, Malta International (http://www.maltairport.com/), located at Luqa.

By boat

There are frequent fast ferries to the Sicilian port of Catania, Italy. The trip takes around 4 hours, and can get a little bumpy (or cancelled) if it's windy.

Get around

By helicopter

Scheduled helicopter rides are a surprisingly affordable way of getting from Malta to Gozo: regular rates are Lm25 return, Lm16 one way, and there's even a Lm20 one-day return fare available.

By bus

One of Malta's joys (at least in small doses) is the wonderfully antiquated public bus system, consisting of 1950s-era exports from England usually kitted up with more chintz than a Christmas tree plus icons of every saint in the Bible and then some. Fares are very cheap and even the longest ride across the island costs less than a pound; the only catch is that almost all buses radiate out from Valletta, so you may have to detour back to the capital to reach your next destination. Be sure to have change to avoid irritation or even being denied the ride, and be sure not to get short-changed as this seems to be a habit of the drivers.

By taxi

Malta's taxis are a ravenous lot and fares are quite expensive. There are black taxis, which have to be called in advance, and white taxis, which can pick you up off the street. Both have meters that are uniformly ignored, figure on Lm 5 for short hops and not much more than Lm 10 for a trip across the island. Also note that plenty of black taxis break the rule when nobody's looking, and this is the cheapest way to hitch a cab ride.

By ferry

There is regular ferry service between C.irkewwa on Malta and Mg.arr on Gozo, and irregular services to Comino.

Talk

The official languages are Maltese and English. Italian is widely understood and spoken, especially by the younger generation. You can get around just fine with English alone, but even a few words of Maltese will be much appreciated.

Maltese is not the easiest language in the world to pick up though: a Semitic language related to Arabic, it's written with the Latin alphabet and replete with phrases like Jekk jog?g.bok ("Please") and M'hemmx mn'hiex ("You're welcome") that, at least in writing, seem straight out of a Star Trek episode.

Some pronunciation hints: the common letter combination is a direct descendant of the Arabic ayin and is silent most of the time, except: when it is the last letter at the end of a word, or the letter immediately before a silent h, in which case the g? takes on a hard h sound. H (h) is silent, and ? (?) is hard. G.(g.) is soft, and g (G) is hard. Likewise z. and z, whilst c. and j are always soft. X is pronounced "sh", and the ie group has a prolonged ee sound.

In brief:

? = Hat

G. = Lodge

G = Goat

Z. = Its

Z = Zeno

C. = Cherry

J = Yellow

X = Shogun


G?H (Tag?ha) = Hers (literally)

-G? (Qlug?) = Hound (actually means Sail)


IE (Jiena) = Mean (actually, I)

Buy

The Maltese currency is the Maltese lira (LM, MTL), also referred to as the pound, which is divided into 100 cents. One of the strongest currencies in the world — as of January 2005, a single Maltese pound is over 2.3 euros — it takes a while to get used what seem like deceptively low prices.

Costs

Malta is fairly good value by European standards but quite pricy compared to North Africa. Touristy restaurants and shops can be very expensive, and imported good and produce is also pricy. You can survive on a budget of less than €30 a day by staying in youth hostels and self-catering, but should double this for comfort.

Eat

There is little in the way of a distinctly Maltese cuisine: the food eaten draws its influences from Italy, northern Africa and (alas) England. Most restaurants in resort areas like Sliema cater largely to English tourists, offering pub grub like meat and three veg or bangers and mash, and you have to go a little out of the way to find 'real' Maltese food. One of the island's specialities is rabbit (fenek), and small savoury pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.

True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and rather fish and vegetable based -- the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla (widow's soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock. Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broadbeans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced meat wrapped in stomach lining) or g.bejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats' milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered). Towards the end of summer one can have her or his fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce (see here for the peculiar method of catching this fish: http://www.june29th.com/lampuki.htm). One must also try to have a bite of ?obz. biz.-z.ejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened (ftira, from the Arabic root for flat), and served drenched in oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called g.ardiniera).

Want a quick snack? If you don't mind an extra inch around the wasteline, or an extra pimple on your face, try Twistees -- a snack made from baked, salted, twisted cheese fingers. They taste divine, but you'll have a hell of a time digging remnants out from between your teeth.

Drink

The national drink is Kinnie, a fizzy drink made from bitter oranges that tastes better than it sounds.

Sleep

  • LOOZA Homestay in San Gwann. e-mail: info@maltabudget.com From Lm 35 or � 90 per person per week twin share. Private rooms with adjacent bathroom. Suitable for students, accademics, visiting parents or holiday makers on a budget. A short walk from the University of Malta and close to many English language schools and the towns of Sliema and St. Julians. http://www.maltabudget.com

Learn

Malta has promoted itself succesfully as an entirely bi-lingual nation for Maltese & English, which however by the same reckoning would make many north European countries count as the same. It counts for many educational institutes in the rest of the world as a country where English is the first language and they therefore will often even subsidise students to go there to learn it. Admittedly their command of the language is on average better than in other south European countries, but if one wants to learn English with the advantage of being in a truly English speaking society then Malta is not an ideal choice. The Maltese may often posture with speaking some English in a way which other Mediterranean countries would find hard to understand, but that is not the same as being in e.g. Britain or Australia would be for immersing yourself in the language. For more information on Malta's English language schools check the official website of the Malta Tourism Authority.

Work

For foreigners work is unfortunately very hard indeed to find, the Maltese are rather insular (no pun intended) and figures show that even in the tourist sector they are very reluctant to hire people not from the Island.

Stay safe

Malta is, generally, quite a safe country with little in the way of violent crime or political disturbances. Petty theft does occur, so keep an eye on your belongings, especially at the beach.

Stay healthy

The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists in less than 30 minutes. Apply sunblock liberally.

The second main health risk is driving habits, which combine the worst of Italian driving with narrow, twisty roads and fairly poor road maintenance.

Respect

Malta is a strictly Catholic country and carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favorably. Dress respectfully when visiting churches and keep your top on at the beach.

Contact

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External links

  • Visit Malta (http://www.visitmalta.com/) - official website of the Malta Tourism Authority
  • Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.foreign.gov.mt/) - official government website
  • The Megalithic Temples of Malta (http://web.infinito.it/utenti/m/malta_mega_temples/index.html/) - extensive website on Malta's unique megalithic temples including rotateable 360 degree views inside several temples(requires Quicktime).