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Malta is part of a small chain of islands, an archipelago in the centre of the Mediterranean located between Sicily and the North African coastline. Otherwise known as the Republic of Malta, is one of the planets smallest yet most densely populated land masses.
Rich in history, Malta has been inhabited since as far back as 5900 BC. Its location made it a vital strategic base for a number of ancient civilisations who invaded and left a small part of their culture on the island. A large number of tourists travel to the country every year and are enriched by the beautiful scenery and architecture. From the Byzantium’s to the Carthaginians, you can clearly see the small parts of themselves that previously all-powerful empires have left behind.
Malta is blessed with a Mediterranean climate. The majority of the year is overseen by warm sunshine and this typically lasts for around 12 hours a day, dropping to around 5 or 6 hours in the winter. It’s just one of the reasons why Malta is so popular with tourists, the hot weather combined with cool in-island sea breezes that can cut through right to the centre of the island gives the feel of paradise.
Even the winter is reasonably comfortable, despite the increase of rain and the winter wind becoming somewhat sharper, the overall climate of Malta continues to remain somewhat warm. Its location forms a natural buffer between the country and some of the other natural disasters that plague countries with similar climates. The country is at very low risk of being forced to endure a tropical storm or strong hurricane, the only real downside to Maltese weather is the humidity.
While the cool ocean breeze can help to ease some of the heat in the summer, the hot ocean air can create a heavy dampness. While this is only really prominent in the summer, it does provide the perfect excuse to take advantage of the gorgeous sea side spots for swimming and water sports.
The average year long temperature in Malta is around 18-19 °C and average rainfall is very low with just 568mm typically falling per year. For those seeking to get the hottest months, the summer is definitely the best time to visit, specifically between the months of June and August when temperatures rocket to upwards of 30 °C.
The culture of Malta is made up of thousands of years of history. The result is a number of holidays and events hosted in the country, these festivals and traditions are spectacular and run throughout the year. Each of these is the result of different occupying peoples and neighbouring countries adding different parts of their own cultures.
The modern-day culture of Malta can best be described as containing a significant amount of Latin European and British elements. This can mainly be given to the fact that religion has played a major part in forming the modern society that can be seen in Malta today. In the biblical book of Acts, the first recorded written reference is made to Malta by Paul the Apostle.
The Church in Malta was founded by the roman citizen Paul in 60 A.D. following a shipwreck that left him and his crew stuck on the islands. This has now expanded to the current number of 365 churches that spread across the country. A number of these are in caves or underground catacombs from when Maltese Christians needed to hide from Roman persecution.
This was then adapted during the following years as the Spanish and other occupiers brought with them a heavy catholic influence. As a result, 98% of the population are Roman Catholics and a huge majority of the festivals revolve around these traditions, giving them a large amount in common with their northern Italian neighbours.
The religious foundation is part of the reason why the national identity of the Maltese population is so proud of the cultural contributions made by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, The Knights and the British, while not much credit is given to the northern Africans who helped to form the countries language.
Malta was finally given its independence in 1964 and joined the 1974 British Commonwealth.
Thanks to its huge cultural diversity, Malta is the only European language that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Berber and Hausa. A large amount of the languages dialect and linguistics can be strongly linked to the forms of Arabic spoken in Tunisia and Libya.
However, the majority of the country speak English as a second language and some have a good understanding of Italian.
There are loads of different options for getting around Malta. The country is obviously very small, so navigating it is relatively simple. There is a public bus service that covers pretty much everywhere that you would either want or need to go to, this form of public transport is very cheap and efficient.
Walking is a pretty straight forward way of getting around. Many districts have everything you need within a short journey and the pleasant weather means it’s very rarely a difficult or uncomfortable journey.
Just like the majority of other countries around the world, Malta offers the option to rent a car. A daily rate can vary between £10-£20 but almost all international and national divers’ licenses are accepted. Some companies even offer the additional option of renting scooters, motorcycles and pedal bikes, just be aware that there isn’t a huge supply of cycle paths available.
Drivers and taxi users should also be aware that due to its small size and high population, the roads can become pretty crowded. Chaotic is probably an understatement but, on the upside, Malta has one of the lowest incident rates in Europe. You should also be aware there are a number of rules and regulations in Malta that can lead to landing a fine, so make sure you aware of all the driving requirements before renting or buying a car.
There are also water taxis and a regular ferry service that allows passengers to take trips between the different islands. A trip to neighbouring island Gozo takes about 20 minutes.
The general healthcare of Malta is on a pretty similar to the rest of Europe and is considered to be of a reasonably high standard. There are two major government hospitals in the cluster of islands, one in Malta and the other in Gozo. The Malta hospital is located in Msida, a town that is located in the north-centre part of Malta, previously it was St. Lukes in Gwardamanġia hill but was replaced in 2007.
The replacement hospital, the Mater Dei general hospital opened on June 29 and has an impressive 825 beds and 25 operating theatres.
There are also a small collection of local health clinics and centres scattered across the country, these are all funded by social security.
There are also family doctors available on request. They can normally be found in private clinics or larger pharmacies in the mornings, with home visits in the afternoon. While prices vary, and expats are advised to get health insurance before traveling, a typical visit without complications will only cost between £10-£25.
The official currency of Malta is the Euro. This was introduced in 2008 and was brought in to replace the previous monetary form of exchange, the Maltese Lira (Lm). The Maltese, however, do maintain some currency specifics that help to separate their currency from the rest of Europe.
Their 1,2 and 5 cent coins all feature an iconic Maltese landmark, the entrance to the Tarxien Temples. The Maltese 10, 20 and 50 cent coins all show the countries coat of arms and, finally, the 1- and 2-euro coins proudly display the Maltese cross a symbol introduced to the country by the ancient Knights of Malta.
Euros are available at a number of ATM’s that cover the country. Failing this there are a number of currency exchanges and bureau de change companies in Malta that will happily swap your currency for the local one.
For those looking to open a bank account, there are a number of options for expats wishing to get started in Malta. For some, using a home account is the best and easiest option. Others operate from an offshore account whereas some people find it more convenient to open a Maltese account. Opening an account in Malta means you can pay household bills, receive your salary in the local currency and have more financial freedom in the country.
While it is fairly straight forward for expats to get the process started you should still be aware that services and rates vary between each provider. Expats should keep an open mind when considering the following:
Just like in the UK, Maltese school years run from September to June annually. However, due to the numerous festivals students in Malta get more holidays then those in similar education systems across Europe. They do however get given more homework than the typical school system, with some student receiving as much as 2 hours additional extra-curricula work to complete.
School starts at the age of 4 and ends at 16. Single-gender schools are very popular in Malta with the majority of going to school with the same sex, this is partly because of the religious beliefs of the country, but also due to an education initiative that aims to cater to teach and target each gender specifically. This system does have proven advantages but for those who are unsure, mixed schools are available.
Public schools provide 60% of the country’s children with a state-funded education but parents still have the choice to send their children to private schools, these can be secular or church schools. However, this doesn’t affect the curriculum hugely and regardless of what you type of Maltese educational establishment, you choose the different stages of learning are pretty much the same.
Just like the UK and other countries throughout Europe, Malta attend Kindergarten at the ages 3 and 4. Then at 5, they move up to their first year of primary school until the age of 10. At the ages, 11-16 students will go to a secondary school and once the first 2 years of their time there is completed they get to make personal choices on what they would like to learn. Finally, students attend college or high school for 2 years and complete A levels that can then, in turn, allow them to seek further education at University from the age of 18.
Maltese culinary is certainly one of the real places you can see first-hand the multiple different people types that have resided in the country through its history. There is a real mix and delight in the different dishes available, from the traditional Maltese dishes to the excitingly diverse extensive Mediterranean cooking that is available from various places around the country. Malta is definitely a food lovers paradise.
The thing that makes Malta so special is that a number of different restaurants and food houses all specialise in their own style of food. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a country and slowly realising that everywhere serves practically the same meal just in a different way. That is definitely not the case in Malta.
Being an island, Malta is, of course, a very sea-food orientated place. Take a trip to the fish market though and you’ll see that there is a huge range of different sea food delicacies available. Many of these are delicious and aren’t available elsewhere. If you are only here for a short time, you should certainly take the opportunity to try as many as possible.
When the fish market is booming there will be an abundance of different sea food meals available around the country. One of the most common is Torta tal-Lampuki. This meal consists of a silver and gold fluorescent fish that can be caught in between Malta and Gozo. Named the Lampuki its unlikely you will be able to come to Malta without hearing about this fish at some point. The most popular way to serve this fish is in a pie, combined with a mixture of vegetables such as spinach and olives. The recipe can vary from person to person but still tastes just as delicious.
While Malta is also home to a number of amazing deserts, a number of these have come across from Europe. An example of this is the ever popular Christmas log that is eaten throughout France, Germany and Belgium. However, when they aren’t consuming rich deserts, you can nibble on some Kwareżimal. This Maltese dish was first introduced as an alternative to eating sweets. Many Maltese eat this when they are fasting meat. Don’t let this fool you though, this oblong biscuit is filled with almonds, honey and spices that make it irresistible.
The favourite drink of Malta is a non-alcoholic beverage named Kinnie that resembles an orange flavoured Dr Pepper. Be warned though, it’s considered un-polite to order an imported soft drink or larger when out and about. While this won’t land you in serious trouble the Maltese are very proud of their own drinks such as Cisk larger that won the title for ‘World’s Best Lager by Beers of the World Magazine’.
As a general statement, Malta is a very safe place to visit. Crime is low and there are no known terrorists or large organised crime groups active in the country. Expats and tourists can rest easy knowing that there are very few prevalent dangers active in the country that pose a serious threat.
Just as is the case with many countries that receive large volumes of tourists and visitors, Malta is home to a small number of low-level crimes such as pick pocketing. Those new to the country should also be wary of road accidents and the occasional incidents of nightlife violence.
While the sea surrounding Malta is also reliably safe, there are still a number of precautions that you should take to avoid danger. While expats are still new to the Island a good tip is to stay near locals at all times, swim where they swim, there are a number of underwater currents that can catch you off guard.
Jellyfish and Great white sharks do inhabit the water coastlines surrounding Malta serious injuries from either creature is rare. Jellyfish stings aren’t uncommon but are very rarely dangerous to your health, it is always a good idea to get stings checked though. Shark attacks are extremely rare and according to a number of sources, there have only been a grand total of 3 shark attacks in Maltese waters over the last 150 years.
There is a reason why the tiny island of Malta attracts so many tourists every year. There is a huge amount of different activities for visitors to take part in and a large variety of different sites to see. The natural heritage and ancient cultural traditions of the country can be found in few other countries.
The capital of Malta is a sight worth seeing, founded back in 1566 Valletta is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities. Described by some as a giant open aired museum, Valletta is packed with buildings and streets filled with historical significance.
Valletta is also home to two natural harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Both of these are fantastic places to visit and experience some of Malta’s fishing culture first hand.
Gozo is one of the other islands that make up the archipelago. With just a 20-minute ferry journey across the water from Malta, Gozo is a place of unmissable tranquillity. The countryside here is covered in greenery and is slightly more rural than its sister island Malta. Perfect for those seeking adventure, hiking or peaceful exploration.
There are hundreds of different natural landscapes and sites worth visiting but, out of all of them Blue Grotto is definitely amongst the top three. This unique area exhibits a number of caves, these caves can be reached by boat and provide visitors with some of the most breath-taking views that can be found around the world.
The national aquarium of Malta replicates a number of different underwater locations that can be found around the country, including the Blue Grotto and the Grand Harbour. The aquarium is home to a number of different species with visitors able to see a variety of sharks, ray fish and coral reef life.
Paul the Apostles shipwreck plays a huge part in Maltese history and tradition. These catacombs which are named after him are possibly one of the best places in Malta to see the countries history in one place.
These catacombs not only played a huge role in hiding Christians from persecution back in the times of Roman rule but also served a purpose continuously all the way up to World War 2. Almost resembling an underground village, these long winding tunnels contain a number of crypts all with their own characteristics and rock carvings.
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