Sliema, whose name means in Maltese “peace”, is today the busiest business and shopping centre of Malta. Nearly without any crossing you can easily reach St. Julian’s, an important tourist centre which used to be a small and cosy fishing village. Numerous restaurants, bars und discotheques attract thousands of tourists every night. For some of the hip restaurants you should rather book ahead, otherwise you won’t get a place. But also in St. Julian’s you never know which bar is top and which is not as it changes very quickly.
On the headland from St. Julian’s to Sliema is a casino located. While having a walk along the coast, which is only occasionally disrupted by hotel chains, you meet picturesque bays with colourful small boats and restaurants with romantic terraces which offer an amazing view over the sea. When arriving in Sliema a 3km long promenade invites to nice walks. Here not only tourists are to be found. In the evenings a lot of natives come to have a chat and enjoy a fresh breeze of the sea.
Malta is very popular among tourists because of the great climate. Temperatures barely fall below 15 °C and only in November and February the chances of rainfall are higher. Spring and autumn are characterised by pleasant temperatures between 20 and 30 °C. Summer is often unbearably hot; it is not uncommon that temperatures rise over 40 °C. Especially then the strength of the solar irradiation should not be underestimated even though mild breezes from the sea make the temperatures more bearable.
Malta has two official languages: Maltese or Malti and English. Also Italian is widely spoken and is used as the second business language. Until 1934 when English became the official language in Malta, Italian used to be the second official language. Therefore it is no wonder that many TV stations in Malta are Italian speaking. Malti is a former Semitic-Arabian language which is today interspersed with English, French and Italian words.
Most of the people (about 98%) in Malta are Catholics. There are more than 350 churches on the island. The service is mostly hold in Maltese but there are also English speaking services. A German service is taking place in St. Barbara’s (Republic Street in Valletta). There is a synagogue in Valletta’s Spur Street, a Greek-Orthodox Church in Merchants Street and a Protestant church called St Andrew’s Scots Church. There is also a mosque in Paola.
Since 1. Jan 2008 Malta’s currency is Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01. The Old Maltese currency was Maltese Lira (LM or MTL) which was called “pounds” in the country itself. 1 Lira was 100 cents. Coins in use were 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 cents and 1 Lira and notes, however, came in denominations of 2, 5, 10 and 20 LM.
Usual is a tip of 10 – 15 % of the total amount. Some of the restaurants explicitly point out that tip is not included in the bill but most of the time tips are expected anyway even if it is not mentioned anywhere. Also Taxi drivers and hotel staff expect tips of 10 – 15%.
The VAT in Malta is 18%. A reduced tax rate of 5% is applicable to hotels and electricity. Medicines, food products, banking and insurance products are not subject to VAT.
In order to call from abroad, dial 00365 for Malta and 21 for Sliema. Phones with telephone cards are very common and cards are available at the airport and many shops. Mobile phones usually have a very good reception. The best time to call abroad is between 9 pm and 6 am because rates are much lower.
There are many internet cafes in Malta. Also hotels often provide an access to the internet. The most common provider is Maltanet (www.maltanet.net) which also many hotels use for their sites.
Fire Brigade: 999
The opening times of offices, shops ect. differ from season to season. Winter time is from 1. October to 14. June and summer time from 15. June to 30 September. As in many other Mediterranean countries shops are closing during the day for a “siesta”.
Shops: Mo – Fr 9 am – 1 pm, 3.30 pm – 7 pm, Sat 9 am – 1 pm and 4 pm – 8 pm
Post Office: Mo – Fr 7.30 am – 12.45 am, Valletta post office: Mo – Sat 8 am – 6.30 pm in winter and 7.30 am – 6 pm
Banks: Winter: Mo – Fr 8.30 am – 12.25 am, Tues and Fr also 2.30 pm – 4 pm, Sat 8.30 am – 12 am; Summer: Mo – Fr 8.30 am – 12.25 am and Fr 2.30 pm – 4 pm, Sat 8 am – 2.30 pm
Pharmacies: Mo – Sat 8 am - 12.30 am and 3.30 pm – 7 pm
1 Jan: New Years Day
10. Feb: Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
19. March: St. Joseph’s Day
31. March: Freedom Day
1.May: Labour Day
7. June: Sette Giugno
29. June: Mnarja – St. Peter and St. Paul
15. August: Ascension Day
8. Sept: Our Ladies of Victory
21. Sept: Independence Day
8. Dec: Festa of the Immaculate Conception
13. Dec: Day of the Republic
25. Dec: Christmas Day
Malta is a very secure country but nevertheless it is advisable to take some precautions. Especially at the beach tourists are often robbed. Don’t leave your belongings unattended. Also big crowds of people are an easy location for pick pockets. Take only as much cash with you as you really need. The safest option is traveller’s cheques since they can be replaced in case of loss. Don’t leave bags or any other belongings in the parked car.