What a stranger should know about Malta:
I have been asked what a stranger should know about Malta. When I had written down the most important things, I decided to put it on my blog, though other travellers, who are interested in it, can read it as well. I didn’t really know where to start, so I did it with the traffic, because when you are landing at the airport, you will use it (I can tell you which route you should choose, when I know where you will go):
Malta has left hand traffic. That is important to know for crossing the streets and the roads safely.
The most of the streets and roads are narrow, therefore it is no good idea to bike here. You might rent a scooter, but as the Maltese will tell you: To be on the roads of Malta on two wheels is dangerous. There is only one short bike trail between St. Paul’s and the next city (I think). The pavements – where they exist – are horrible. Therefore they are not good for pram and pushchairs. – Even the Maltese are working on to raise the standard. A better idea is to carry your little child on your back (I have had a polish couple with a two-year old son here and they did it that way, too.) and your baby in front of you in a “sling”. Only the strand promenade between Ta’Xbiex and St. Julian as well as around Bugibba / Qawra has a good standard, though it is good for strollers and wheelchairs. The few cyclists do use that as well, which makes it a little dangerous for a 1- or 2-year-old child.
The best way to go around the island is by bus – shorter distances by walking. The most buses are going to the terminal in Valletta, but the one hundred and two hundred doesn’t. They are going to the country side and you have to change somewhere to use them. The ticket prices are quite low – you can buy a seven-day-ticket for 21 EUR and use it on the whole island of Malta (Gozo included). For the ferry from Malta to Gozo and the return you have to pay 4,50 or similar. You only pay, when you are coming from Gozo to Malta. When you are going from Malta to Gozo there is no possibility to pay – it is for free ;-).
The public traffic company has introduced a new card for the buses – the tallinja card. I think it is a great idea to have, when you are staying for a longer while. Timetables you’ll find on: www.publictransport.com.mt. Try to get a route map at the airport (the counter of the public transport or at the Malta tourist counter – both are close to the meeting point, when you arrive).
Don’t forget to hold out your arm into the street (similar to if you want to hitchhike), when you will go by bus. The bus driver will not stop the bus if you are only waiting at the bus stop, you have to show them, that you really want to go with that one, which is coming!
In the apartment areas I haven’t seen any playground, but there are some at the strand promenade (one is close to me :-)).
There is no need to learn Maltese – as the Maltese’s say. You’ll make it with English. When someone is talking to you in Maltese, just ask ”Sorry” they will switch immediately.
Yes, Malta is a sunny island – but not all the year around. It is very humid on this island – it is tiny, you know and in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. During the summer the temperature feels warmer, during the winter it feels colder. Some people use dun jackets, warm hats and gloves during the winter period (I did it some times, too). If you will stay for six month or more you might have clothes for all weather. From October to April you have to expect rain. For some areas you really need Wellingtons. Also for the other areas they are good to have. Don’t bring your umbrella, use rain clothes instead, because it is always windy on the island, especially during the rainy periods. By the way: Use not only sun-glasses, but also a sun hat during the summer and make your siesta somewhere in the shade.
It is quite easy to find flats/houses to rent for long lets (six month or longer). It usually gives you a better price (lower rent). You have to be here to find a flat/house. There are lots of agents, they advertise a lot of flats at their homepages, but usually the most are not for rent at that moment. You have to visit them in person. There are a few private owners and you can be lucky and get a good one, like me, but you have to be careful to choose. Just google about “long let Malta”, so you will find them.
If you can, don’t rent a flat in the tourist areas like Sliema and St. Julian. The prices are very high there. In the South (around Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk and Zurieq) you can rent a whole house for the price of a studio in Sliema). Also in the North (Bugibba, Melliah and Mgarr) you’ll get much more for your money and usually at a higher standard than in the tourist areas. Msida and Gzira is not so touristic, but a lot of students are living in Msida, because the University of Malta is close. Anyway you can get a flat for lower rent than in Sliema and St. Julian in these areas.
Depending on where you will work/study you have to think about where to live. It is not for the money of the bus ticket, but for the time you need for travel. It takes around two hours by bus from the South to the North – around one hour each to Valletta. You always have to start in good time, because you never know about the traffic – there are often traffic jams (especially in the rush hours). You can hardly live on Gozo, when you are working on Malta, but in Melliah. The ferry takes around 25 min., mostly it is a ferry every 45 min. If you don’t live close to the ferry (on Gozo island), it takes up to 1 ½ hour to go there – depending on which area you are living in. All buses go to Victoria Bay (that is the name of the bus terminal in Victoria (Rabat)) on Gozo. For changing bus at Victoria Bay you often have to wait for 45 min! Be aware that there are cities on Malta, Malta and Gozo, Malta with similar names. There are Mgarr in the North of Malta (really country side – at much it can be on this tiny island) and Mgarr on Gozo (the harbour). You can rent cheaper flats/houses on Gozo, of course.
When you will choose a flat or a house, think about that there are no heating here. You may be lucky and have an old fashion fireplace in the house, but only one. You have to find a way to warm the whole house, because otherwise you will not only feel cold, but get mould. That is anyway a big problem and you have to be careful by renting and look / ask for it. An AC is great for the summer months (the worst heat is in August and September – in Sept. because the higher humidity). If you are lucky you find one which also is a heater. They are great, but quite expensive to use, anyway other heaters are also expensive to use. By the way the cooking is by gas. You buy gas bottles – usually there are trucks with bottles for sale driving around and making noise, when they will stop for selling of their bottles. There are also heaters, where you can use these gas bottles – you can never change a bottle as long as there is gas in it, so you need a bottle each for the cooking and for every heater! My colleagues, who have used this kind of heaters, told me, that it becomes expensive, too. A flat will be less expensive to warm up than a house, of course! By the way: That your clothes not will get dump, you need to have open doors of your wardrobes and open drawers in your chest all the time.
Buy local! There are farmers coming with their small trucks selling their products. Try to buy your vegetables there, because it is local, good quality and cheap. Find a good supermarket near where you live. Buy the things there, what you cannot get at the farmers’ (it’s a lot). Ask for home delivery. It is for free – almost when you buy for 50 €. It is important because the tap water on Malta is not recommended for drinking. I don’t use it for cooking either, but I have to know how much salt I use. Because they have no rivers on the island (only one creek during springtime) they prepare sea water for drinking. It is clean, but still a little salty. Most of the products at the supermarket are imported and have almost the prices like in western Europe, even people earn less here.
You need a good health or travel insurance, depending on what you will do here. Maybe you can have your European health insurance card. If you will work here, you will pay N.I. and you have the treatment of the doctors for free (at the Health Centers and at Mater Dei hospital). You always have to pay for your medicine – that can become expensive. You can go to private doctors here, but always ask for the price before you are meeting one or have a surgery. In private hospitals the costs are worse than in a 5*hotel! They are long waiting times at Mater Dei! You will get an appointment at private doctors very soon – but remember the costs! I have got the feeling, that the doctors here have a very good education and they also use the new methods here – like sonography and more.
Don’t forget the Mosquitos – repellent products, which contains extracts from the DEET plant are good against them. Use them on your body during day time and have special plugs for your apartment (works with electricity and you can buy that in every super market and convenience shop). Even the fan is good against this blood thirsty insects, because they are too small to stand it. If you like swimming, there is an everyday report about jellyfish save bays. The Maltese recommend vinegar against their burn, you also can use repellent.
If you have any question. Do not hesitate to contact me by email: dorotheeinternational ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com
Welcome to Malta!