I’m so excited to finally kick off all my Malta content – I got back right before holiday craziness so thought it’d be best to hold off until the New Year to start sharing my stories and tips from this amazing place, but I’ve honestly never gotten more requests for content (and to share it ASAP!) as I have for this beautiful little country. It makes me so happy that it sounds like so many of you became enamoured through my snaps and IG stories with Malta, because I can’t stress enough that I went in with zero expectations and left with a new fave place.
So as I do with all my other destinations (think Spain, Greece, Italy, etc), I love to kick off my destination series with a general What You Need to Know guide so that you’ve got all the basics in your back pocket and a quick resource guide for when you (hopefully) go! So without further ado…
WHEN TO GO
Want to know the reason I picked Malta out? It was because I had booked an insanely cheap flight to Dublin for November knowing I’d see one of my best friends Amanda and our other pals but since they’ve all got insanely busy jobs (and I’ve been to Ireland so many times), I thought it’d be best to just do a quick weekend there either at the start or the end of the trip. I was dead set on going to Hallstatt and exploring other parts of Austria but a quick weather search showed that we’d only be down to about an hour of daylight come November.
Bless Google – I set a super general search from Dublin to Europe and started just scouring the map. After about 20 minutes of searching, I finally found a great little flight down to this tiny pin prick between Italy and Africa. Malta? Would be super random but could be cool (little did I know how desperately I’d fall for it!). I’d honestly hardly even heard anything of it which was terrible (especially now that I know how incredible it is). A quick Google weather search showed we’d actually have pretty ample daylight, it was still really warm during the day (just got a bit chilly at night) and compared to the dumping of rain we’d have in Vancouver (or Dublin, London, etc for that matter), would be the break of sunshine I desperately can always use around this time of year. Alicia had booked a similar flight to Dublin so I asked her if she’d want to join me for a quick week in Malta and she said yes!
Long story short, November while a bit on the chillier side (i.e. we needed sweaters in the shade or at night) was an amazing time to go. The crowds have entirely dissipated, the ocean is still super warm and as you can see in the snaps, we were still in our dresses comfortably during the day (you just need to pack a sweater or jacket for shade or wind!). I would say late September to early November would be ideal times to go, or early spring (late March to early May). From what the locals told me, it gets super hot in the summer (and insanely busy, this is a hot spot destination for Ireland and the UK) and I think it’d be a bit disappointing to go in the winter when you’re not seeing the island in its sunny, warm splendour. Main takeaway: shoulder seasons!
HOW TO GET THERE
This one’s important! Since most of you reading are from North America and we took a bit of a random way getting there, I did some research to see what would’ve been a more direct route. Your best bet is finding a good flight into Rome or Athens and then flying from there into Malta – London’s a slightly shorter flight coming from Vancouver or lots of other North American destinations (and there are tons of flights from there, probably the aftereffects of Malta having been part of the British Empire!) but the trouble is that you have a longer flight coming in from London.
Either way, coming from North America you’re going to be almost certainly connecting so my advice would be to aim as close to Malta as possible – for us here in Vancouver, there are tons of great deals going into Rome or Athens on the regular and it’s really inexpensive to fly to Malta from either, so that’d be my main recommendation!
WHERE TO STAY
It took me a couple days of research to figure out the best place to stay, in part because each area is so beautiful! I settled on Sliema because it seemed the most central and was the most metropolitan – it’s a beautiful city but very walkable! For getting to and from the airport, accessing the ferries, being near lots of dining options and more, it was amazing. I was really, really happy to have Sliema as our home base for the week, though if you’re drawn to Valletta, that would’ve been my other pick too. Either are great options! Valletta is actually the capital city and has more of a grand feel (and is closer to the Three Cities – Valletta sits between Sliema and the Three Cities, which consist of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua and are so beautiful).
One thing I would’ve done if I had been there for a bit longer (and particularly if I was there in warmer weather) would have been to maybe spend a few nights in the southeast region of the island – I’ll be sharing so much more about what to see specifically in that area soon, but it was just such a special part of the island and I’m a big swimmer and ocean person so could definitely have seen myself wanting to take a few days after serious sightseeing to just go for swims, rent a boat and go for ocean dips, tan, etc. Definitely a slower area!
Finally, our Airbnb! Once I’d settled on Sliema, it took me only a few minutes to find Stanley’s unreal spot in the city. I had to double check the rate a few times because once I’d put in our total dates, we were somehow only paying around $230 each for the whole week. My first experience with the amazing affordability of Malta – for such an amazing, airy and modern space (with two big beds and every amenity you could possibly need), we moved quick to lock it down and Stanley was amazing the whole trip.
WHAT TO BRING
If you go during one of the shoulder seasons that I recommended, pack all the usual things you would for a sunny trip (see my Spain packing list here if you need any recos, though I’ll be pulling together one for Malta soon too!) but keep in mind a few things: you’re very likely to be swimming a ton (it is an island with some of the most incredible beaches, lagoons and turquoise blue water you’ll ever see!) and if you’re there on either end of the shoulder season (fall vs spring) that’s closer to winter, you’ll want some warmer things too. Think a few sweaters, one lightweight jacket and a few pairs of jeans and close-toed shoes to wear at night. Towards the end of the trip, I had a strategy where I’d throw some leggings, ballet flats, scarf and a sweater into my bag, and as soon as the sun dipped down, I’d throw these on under my dress then whip it off!
Other than that, as always bring sensible shoes because you’ll absolutely be walking a ton, a sun hat because you will be soaking in tons of sun (and sunscreen – I got a ton of colour there!) and several memory cards because this is one of the most photogenic spots ever! On a more practical note, it’s a very modern country and credit cards and the like are accepted almost everywhere, but pack some euros (300 to start should be enough!), an International Driver’s Permit if you plan on renting a car (more on that in a second) and while Malta is part of Europe, they actually have UK outlets so to be safe, I’d pack a multi-outlet adapter so that even if you’re stopping off in Europe en route, you can safely plug in all your electronics! Again, especially in Sliema, you can easily pick up any of these if you forget about it (there’s actually one of the most stunning malls there called The Point).
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
The biggest thing is that they drive on the left side of the road, a remnant of British rule. I’m not a bad driver (I wouldn’t say I’m the best driver either, which is why I usually just stick to short trips or biking to get around!) but I do get nervous on longer drives, even here in Vancouver. I was pretty petrified about driving on the left side and Alicia was similarly scared by the prospect of getting us around (especially after seeing a ton of “SPEED KILLS” signs and reading about Maltese driving in forums). Another thing to keep in mind is that most cars are standard as well – I drive standard but again, hardly really even drive back home so we were really trying to psych ourselves up for our car rental but pretty much living in total fear. If I’d been with Matt (who is the most fearless driver getting us around Greece, Italy, Spain and so many other locations) then maybe we could’ve rented a car, but we were literally shaking in our boots.
Serendipitously, we got to talking with this lovely guy who ran a hop-on, hop-off bus booth – we’d been looking at hiring a driver to take us all around the island which fortunately wouldn’t have been as expensive as it would in other destinations, but it was just going to be another thing to coordinate. After chatting with our new pal (and his sweet little daughter!) we quickly realized this was our best option. Malta is a very small island so to get from one end to another is a short drive, maybe an hour or so max. This hop-on, hop-off option would give us the chance to see a lot of the island without the worry of driving (and with wifi on board, we were able to actually upload our snaps and the like to IG while driving!) and it also covered Gozo – FYI, Malta is actually composed of three main islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino)! We went with this option and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It isn’t something I’d ordinarily recommend doing elsewhere but a really good hack for getting around the island! Plus, fun to learn history through the headphones! Actually learnt a lot, and there’s a ton to learn about Malta in general because its history is so cool (more on that in future posts!).
People speak English really, really well here – in fact, historically, English schools were set up here when the country was transitioning from Italian to English so most everyone speaks perfect English. In other words, people would actually send their kids to Malta to learn English! This aspect alone can be really appealing to those who really struggle with languages! I personally love learning new languages but it still is pretty convenient to be able to really easily communicate with just about everyone.
Finally, safety! I felt insanely safe the whole time in Malta. As far as travelling alone as a woman or with another lady pal, it’s definitely one of the most safe places I’ve ever been. Very little to no panhandling or begging anywhere, if you have any personal bubble issues you’ll feel more than happy here.
All in all, Malta was honestly one of my fave places of all time. It really has it all: history, the most amazing, friendly people, incredible views, unreal food and a really cool mix of beach and history, countryside and city centers, modern ease and insane history. I also love that it would be as amazing as a friend trip as it would a romantic honeymoon destination, and also being smaller and really safe, a great option for a family to
I can’t wait to share more of this beautiful place soon – in the meantime, make sure you pin the image below so that you can easily access this resource for your trip to Malta or so that you can put it in our dream board!