Malta (/ˈmɔːltə/ (listen) MAWL-tə, UK also /ˈmɒltə/ MOL-tə, Maltese: [ˈmɐltɐ], Italian: [ˈmalta]), officially known as the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta’ Malta [rɛˈpʊbːlɪkɐ tɐ ˈmɐltɐ]) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 515,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world’s tenth smallest country in area and fourth most densely populated sovereign country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.61 km2 (0.24 sq mi).
Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British, amongst others. Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country’s ancient culture.
Malta became a British colony in 1813, serving as a way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. It was besieged by the Axis powers during World War II and was an important Allied base for operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean. The British parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen. The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; it became part of the eurozone monetary union in 2008.
Malta has had Christians since the time of Early Christianity, though was predominantly Muslim while under Arab rule, at which time Christians were tolerated. Muslim rule ended with the Norman invasion of Malta by Roger I in 1091. Today, Catholicism is the state religion, but the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of conscience and religious worship.
Malta is a tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta has two official languages spoken fluently by nearly the whole population, Maltese and English. Italian is also widely spoken.
Knowing English is enough to get by, but having knowledge of Maltese and Italian can give you a real advantage while exploring our Islands!
The Maltese Language
Malta’s pride and joy lies in its distinctive language having drawn its influences from its many rulers over the years.
It’s a curiously powerful source of pride for many Maltese. The fact that this tiny island nation of only 400,000 inhabitants has had its own unique language for generations, notwithstanding the many strong linguistic influences around it, is a testament to its cultural resilience. Upon Malta’s joining the European Union, Maltese was made an official language of the European Union, further ensuring its longevity for generations to come.
To the uninitiated, Maltese sounds similar to Arabic. This is because it shares Arabic’s roots as a Semitic language – in fact, it’s the only Semitic language that’s an official European Union language. However, unlike Arabic, Maltese is written in Latin script and read from left to right. It also includes a large number of words borrowed from Italian and English.
As one would expect from the national language, Maltese is omnipresent, spoken by the vast majority of the Maltese. It’s also used in schools, broadcasting and print journalism, politics and the courts of law.
Geography & Time Zone
Malta is in the Central European Time Zone and uses Central European Standard Time (CET) which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT 1). Like all European states Malta reverts to Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time and local time is shifted forward by 1 hour. As a result, during Summer Time, Malta is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT 2). At the end of the Summer months time in Malta is shifted back by 1 hour to Central European Time (CET) or (GMT 1).
Weather & Climate
Malta’s weather is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean climate; meaning warm, dry summers and mild wet winters. The average temperature during the year is a pleasant 18°C, with January averaging a slightly lower temperature of 12°C, and the peaking to an average of 30°C in July and August.
During the long Summer days, the warm temperatures are often accompanied by a mild sea breeze. The nights are warm as well, with temperatures always ranging between 20°C and 30°C.
Autumn temperatures are quite pleasing. When the hot summer weather begins to subside in late October and November, temperatures drop to the mid-20s making autumn a delightful time to visit the island if you do not mind the occasional rainfall.
Winter waltzes in slowly and mildly, making Malta the ideal destination to escape the chilly and blizzard conditions of Europe. The temperature in December usually stays just under 20°C whilst January and February are the coolest months of the year. With temperatures rarely falling beneath 10°C and winter days getting an average of 5 to 6 hours of sunshine per day, Malta’s weather one of the most enjoyable in Europe.
Spring is the ideal time to visit the islands if you want to avoid the summer heat or the winter rainfall. Offering the best of both worlds, spring sees low rainfall and very comfortable temperatures.
Offering warm summer months and some of the mildest winter temperatures in Europe, the Maltese Islands provide the ideal year-round getaway with reliable and steady weather forecasts. If you’re looking for somewhere with the right weather conditions, Malta gives you the right reason to pack your bags and look forward to soaking up the warm sun.
Annual rainfall is low, averaging 568mm a year. Bathing in the sea is quite possible well into the ‘winter’ months, and the peak beach season can last until mid- to late October.
Current weather conditions and 5-day forecast provided by the Met Office at the Malta International Airport.
Currency & Banks
All you need to know about money and related services including currency exchange, banks and Malta’s currency. You can also find out how to reward the good service you receive with our guide to tipping in the Maltese Islands.
Exchange bureaux at Malta International Airport are open 24 hours a day. International bankcards are accepted and foreign currency is easily exchanged. Banks, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and exchange bureaux can be found all over the Islands. The majority of hotels, larger shops and restaurants also accept payment in the main international currencies. Conversion charges may be applied where outlets opt to accept payment in currencies other than the euro.
Banks in the Maltese Islands
Find a bank in the Maltese Islands that will exchange your foreign currency and provide cash point services so that you can withdraw money.
There are various banks in Malta to choose from. The main high street banks include Bank of Valletta, HSBC, APS, Lombard and BNF Bank. For the full list of banks, please click here.
Banks are normally open until early afternoon from Monday to Friday, and until midday on Saturday. Some banks/branches work longer hours. Summer and winter opening hours may differ.
Malta’s currency is the Euro (€/EUR).
The euro coin series comprises eight different denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, €1 and €2. The euro coins have a common side and a national side.
The national side indicates the issuing country
In line with EU legislation on controls of cash entering or leaving the Community, any person entering or leaving Malta carrying cash or other monetary value of which is equal to or in excess of €10,000 or equivalent is obliged to fill in the appropriate declaration form available from the Customs.
It is customary to leave 10% of the bill as a tip when eating out, though not obligatory.
It is polite to round up your taxi fare to the nearest Euro.
Do I need a visa to Visit Malta?
To find out whether you need a visa to visit the Maltese Islands, and how to apply, refer to the Identity Malta Website, or check with your local Maltese Embassy or other diplomatic representatives prior to your travels.
The rules change regularly, so you should check that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip.
Information on visitor visas and how to apply for one can be found on the Identity Malta website.
Do I need a Visa to Visit Malta from the EU/ EEA / EFTA?
Visa-free travel to and from EU, EEA and EFTA countries is in place, provided that the stay is less than 90 days.
Public Holidays in Malta
Public holidays are spread throughout the year and mark religious, historical and special events.
Many of Malta’s shops, attractions and businesses stay open throughout the public holidays. Make sure to check opening times before visiting on these days, as some only open for reduced hours, and others might not open at all.
Public transport may also be affected, with reduced services. Plan your journey in advance on the Malta Public Transport Website.
Public Holiday Dates
- New Year’s Day – 1st January
- Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck – 10th February
- Feast of St. Joseph – 19th March
- Freedom Day – 31st March
- Good Friday – March / April (date changes)
- Labour Day – 1st May
- Sette Giugno – 7th June
- Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (L-Imnarja) – 29th June
- Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady (Santa Marija) – 15th August
- Feast of Our Lady of Victories – 8th September
- Independence Day – 21st September
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception – 8th December
- Republic Day – 13th December
- Christmas Day – 25th December