The small island nation of Malta, south of Sicily, is increasingly becoming a popular getaway destination for tourists and backpackers especially from Europe. And for a good reason! Because in Malta you will find relaxed island life, lots of sunshine, great coastlines and an interesting culture! This is all you need for a vacation. Conveniently, you can also reach Malta from many European airports with low budget airlines for very cheap.
In the following I would like to give you all the important information and travel tips for backpacking Malta and I will tell you more about the islands and the best places to visit in Malta.
Some highlights of my Malta backpacking adventure can be found in this video:
Malta Backpacking Tips + General Information for visiting Malta
First I want to share some general information about Malta as well as some travel tips for your backpacking journey.
What are the different islands in Malta?
The country of Malta is made up of three islands, all unique and with some great attractions to offer: Malta, Gozo and Comino. While on the main island (Malta) about 400,000 people live and here’s where you also find the capital of the country Valletta and the airport, the neighboring island Gozo has only about 30,000 inhabitants. Comino is between Malta and Gozo and is tiny! Here there is only one hotel open over the summer and officially three people live here! Most tourists visit Comino only as a day trip to see the famous Blue Lagoon.
Do I need a visa for Malta?
As an European citizen, no! Although Malta lies at the southern end of Europe and near Africa, the country is one of the EU nations. Immigration to Malta is therefore easy and no visa is needed. You do not even need a passport, but you can also enter with your national identity card to Malta.
What’s the best way to get to Malta?
Malta is an island – so of course the transport to Malta is limited and you will need a flight. On the main island there is an international airport, which is conveniently served by many cheap airlines directly. Like this, you can reach Malta for only little money in 2-3 flight hours from Europe. For example, from Nuremberg (my departure airport) Ryanair flies to Malta for only 10 €!
How do I get from the airport to the city centre?
With the public bus you can easily and practically get to Valletta for only € 1.50. However, the buses run until a certain time at night, then you have to take a taxi. This will cost from the airport to Sliema about 20 €.
How’s the public transport around Malta?
Public transport works great in Malta and you can easily and cheaply get around on the island when backpacking Malta.
Conveniently, Sliema, Valletta and the “3 Cities” are connected by ferries, which transport you every half hour for only € 1.50 back and forth. If you want to go further into the country and visit for example Mdina and Rabat, you can get there by bus in half an hour from Vallette. You can also get to the departure point for the ferry to Gozo, at the other end of the island, by the bus.
If you want to be more flexible, renting a car and exploring the island is a good idea. On Gozo you will find public buses too. However, the buses drive a bit more sporadically and it could be difficult to explore many different areas of the island in just one day by public bus. But there are two different providers for Hop on Hop off buses on Gozo. For these you pay a fixed fee (15 €) and you can visit the different sights by the sightseeing bus. By the way, Google Maps works very well in Malta and is handy for the route planning with the buses. Note that you might have to stop the bus at the bus stop with your hand by showing you want to jump on – otherwise it can easily happen that you will be left (that’s what happened to me!). Although Malta is such a small island, there is a lot of traffic and often traffic jams, since every Maltese has his/her own car and uses it extensively.
Where do I find good accommodation in Malta?
While Valletta is considered the capital of the country and you will spend a lot of time there, there are very few (and expensive) accommodation options directly there. For sleeping, I recommend the area around Sliema, from where you can take the ferry for just € 1.50 directly to Valletta. Around the Saint Julian’s area there are many large resorts too – but keep in mind that from here you are not as quick and easy in Valletta as from Sliema. If a day trip to Gozo is not enough for you, there are different accommodation options on the island. On the small island of Comino, there is actually only one hotel and the island is mainly visited by day trippers.
I personally stayed at the *Sliema Marina Hotel* and can highly recommend it! Perfect location right at the harbor where the ferry to Valletta departs, good breakfast buffet, nice view from the rooftop!
Further, a hostel with awesome reviews is the *Two Pillowed Boutique Hostel* in Sliema.
Is backpacking Malta expensive? What budget do I need?
Although Malta is not the cheapest travel destination in Europe, you can travel the islands very well on a small budget. For my single room in the very centrally located Sliema Marina Hotel I paid 25 € and most entrance fees should not cost more than 3-5 €. If restaurants are a bit too expensive for you, there are also many food stalls and street snacks where you can eat very cheaply. In general, I would say that backpacking Malta will certainly be a little cheaper than backpacking Germany and I would compare the costs most likely with Italy or Spain.
What language is used in Malta?
Before my trip, I never really thought about the language spoken in Malta. In fact, the people have their own language: Maltese! Maltese is an interesting mix of Arabic, French and Italian elements. In addition to Maltese, however, the second official language is English (Malta was a British colony). Thus, you can communicate with English easily in the country and you won’t face any language barriers.
What’s the typical food in Malta?
Only very few people know much about Maltese food. In fact, the cuisine of Malta is difficult to define. The traditionally most popular and common Maltese meat is actually rabbit. The most famous street snack is Pastizzi (filled puff pastry). Due to the coastal location, there is of course a lot of fish and seafood. And besides that, the Italian influence is clearly noticeable, with pizza and pasta on every corner. You will not starve in Malta!
How’s the nightlife in Malta? Can I go partying?
Of course, Malta has no vibrant nightlife like the major European cities, but you can still party in Malta. Note that the “capital of culture” Valletta is great during the day, but in the evening and at night here is only little going on. Some restaurants and bars can be found in Sliema and St. Julian’s. There is also the Paceville Street, which is considered the center of nightlife in Malta. You will find some clubs here and if you want to party, this is probably the best area.
Is the country a good choice for backpackers?
In general, I would say that Malta is backpacker-friendly. By bus or ferry you can reach every corner of the island conveniently and you can also travel very cheap and on a budget. However, there are no real hostels or a “backpacking culture” in Malta, so maybe you will not get to know other travelers as easily as in other European countries and cities, such as in Prague. However, there is an active Couchsurfing scene in Malta and there are regular meet-ups.
Can I visit Malta on my own?
Malta is safe, very manageable and cheap. This makes the country perfect for solo travelers who want to relax alone in Malta for a few days and explore the islands.
How many days should I spend in Malta?
Of course that’s hard to answer and depends on how relaxed you want to travel and whether your priority is beach vacation or sightseeing. I spent three days backpacking in Malta and actually saw a lot during that time. Roughly, I can tell you that you should plan half a day each for Valletta, Mdina + Rabat and the “3 cities”. These are probably the most important destinations of the main island of Malta. Otherwise, there are also other attractions and cities on the main island, which you can visit by bus.
Gozo is a nice day trip (see below) or you can stay there for several days. Very roughly, I would estimate that most tourists spend 3-5 days in Malta and you can see a lot of the country in the time.
What currency is used in Malta?
Malta has the Euro aus currency. Thus, you do not need to worry about exchange rate and money exchange. Incidentally, you can also pay a lot by credit card, but some small change is still worthwhile (for example for the ferries and buses).
Safety and Health in Malta: Is Malta safe to visit?
Malta is a very safe destination and you do not have to worry about safety at all while backpacking Malta. As in every city and every country in the world, you may want to take care of pickpockets in busy tourist areas, but I do not know of any cases when it comes to that.
What’s the best time to go backpacking in Malta?
Malta is located south of Italy in the Mediterranean and therefore has a lot of sun and blue sky. Due to the proximity of the coast there’s often a cool breeze, which is especially useful in the summer. Then it can get really hot! I visited Malta in December and was able to explore the island in a thin sweater; At night, or as soon as the sun was gone, I needed a jacket. Nevertheless, the weather was a lot more beautiful at mild 16-18 degrees than in Germany! The best travel time are probably the transitional months, therefore spring and autumn. During this time, you will have perfect climate and fewer tourists than in the summer.
I hope my travel tips will be helpful for backpacking Malta! Let’s continue with the best places to see and visit!
Backpacking Malta: Best Places to Visit!
Now I will introduce you to the best sights in Malta that you should not miss on your trip!
Backpacking Valletta, Malta
Malta’s capital Valletta is stunning and has a lot to offer for its visitors. After all, Valletta was elected European Capital of Culture in 2018! Valletta is quite small and well explorable on foot. The streets and alleys are very narrow and I would not recommend you to drive here by car.
What are the best places to visit in Valletta?
In any case, visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens. This beautiful garden offers a great view of the “3 cities” on the other side of the bay. In addition, here you have the view of the “Saluting Battery”, where at noon always a cannon shot sounds. Also worth seeing is the historically significant and magnificent St. John’s Cathedral in Valletta and the adjacent museum. In Valletta, in addition to this famous cathedral, there are many other churches, exhibitions and museums, such as the Our Lady of Victories Church, the National Library of Malta, the Grandmaster’s Palace and the Archaeological Museum. The list is long! On the waterfront (harbor promenade) of Valletta you can stroll along with a variety of restaurants and cafés. For me the most beautiful thing about backpacking Valletta were probably the narrow streets of Valletta’s old town, which I explored for hours. My tip for Valletta would be to take your time and (at least) half a day to explore the little town on foot without much plan. Since Valletta is also quite hilly, many higher spots offer great views and photo opportunities.
Backpacking Mdina and Rabat, Malta
The two small towns Mdina and Rabat together form a city complex and have some great Malta attractions to offer. Especially Mdina is historically significant as a former capital of the country and the small old town can be easily explored by foot. Incidentally, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll also find filming locations here. The two cities have countless churches and historic buildings to offer. Mdina is also surrounded by an impressive city wall. In Rabat I visited the catacombs, which was also a very cool experience. I recommend you to take a bus from Valletta and spend half a day there. Mdina and Rabat can be reached in just over half an hour by bus for only € 1.50.
Visiting the 3 Cities of Malta (Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea)
The term “the 3 cities” is in Malta a generic term for Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea, directly opposite of Valletta. The three cities are generally a little less touristy and the streets are emptier than in Valletta. Therefore, you can also very well see the “real life” in Malta next to the sights and watch the locals in their everyday life. Of course, there are countless churches, palaces and historical monuments to discover in the cities. From Valletta you can easily reach the three cities by ferry and I recommend you take at least half a day to explore Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. Upon arrival, you will get there by ferry in the marina of Vittoriosa, which is already a great sight. During my visit of the three cities, I walked first to the furthest point of Senglea, from where I had a cool view of Valletta and Vittoriosa. Next I walked along the harbor promenade of Vittoriosa to the top of the city, where the famous Fort Saint Angelo is located. Finally, I walk to St. Joseph’s Church before taking the ferry back to Valletta. In general, you can explore the three cities in a few hours during a long walk while backpacking Malta.
Exploring Sliema and Saint Julian’s, Malta
West of Valletta you will find the coastal town of Sliema, which continues into some other cities in Malta, such as Gzira and Saint Julian’s. Especially Sliema is perfect to have a great view of Valletta from the promenade (especially at sunset). In the evenings, take a stroll along the shore west of Sliema, where the coast merges with upscale Saint Julian’s. Here are some nice bars and restaurants as well as larger resorts and hotel complexes. You can also find the party mile Paceville here.
Other things to see on a Malta backpacking trip
If you only have a short trip to Malta, the sights in Valletta, Mdina, Rabat as well as in the three cities will probably keep you busy for a few days – especially if you also have a trip planned to Comino and Gozo (see below). However, if you have more time left, there are many other attractions and places to visit when backpacking Malta. Above all, if you are traveling by rental car, you can explore the island in a few days. Popular attractions in Malta are therefore the colorful fishing village of Marsaxlokk in the south of the island and the beautiful Blue Grotto. You won’t get bored!
Backpacking Comino, Malta
Malta’s third island is tiny and is usually visited as part of a day trip from Malta or Gozo. Especially worth seeing is the famous Blue Lagoon, one of Malta’s most famous sights. Here you can enjoy the beautiful, clear water and go snorkeling. The coast of Comino is also great to see, with steep cliffs, caves and untouched nature. The water is super blue and reminded me a little bit of the blue lagoon in Paphos, Cyprus.
Backpacking Gozo, Malta
While most tourists probably spend most of their time on the main island of Malta, you should also use your Malta backpacking trip for a visit to the neighboring island of Gozo. Gozo is a bit more untouched and less populated than the main island of Malta (with only 30,000 inhabitants) and the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy the great nature and scenery in addition to the famous cities of Malta like Valletta and Mdina. You can visit Gozo in the form of a day trip, or stay there for a bit longer and explore the island extensively.
Here’s how to tell you more about the island of Gozo and my experience in Gozo, Malta!
Backpacking tips for visiting Gozo (Malta)
First of all, I would like to give you some general information and tips about Gozo, Malta!
How do I get from Malta to Gozo?
The island of Gozo is easily accessible from Malta’s main island. You can either book a day trip in an agency or explore Gozo on your own. You have to take the bus to Cirkewwa, where the ferry departs for Gozo. The bus ticket costs you not more than 2 € and on the way you drive through the whole island. For the right bus (depending on your location) I recommend the route feature on google.maps, which works very well in Malta for public transport. Now you can take the next ferry to Gozo, the crossing takes about half an hour. On the way you also have a great view of the small island of Comino (where the famous blue lagoon lies).
How much does the ferry from Malta to Gozo cost?
The ferry will cost you € 4.65 and is valid both for the outward journey and for the return journey.
Transport Gozo: How do I get around on Gozo island?
On Gozo, as on the main island of Malta, there is a good transport network of cheap public buses (€ 1.50). However, these do not travel quite as often and regularly as in Malta and it is a bit tedious and time-consuming to get to certain attractions away from the larger towns and cities (such as the beaches and coastlines of Gozo). Especially if you are short on time, a practical but slightly more expensive alternative is the hop-on hop-off bus on the island of Gozo. There are two different providers and a ticket can be bought directly on board the ferry or at the terminal for € 15. The tourist bus takes you to all important sights and interesting destinations on Gozo and you can either get off (and then continue with the next bus) or stay seated. Although you pay a little more than for the public buses, you are directly taken to the most interesting Gozo attractions. Above all, if you visit Gozo just as a day trip from Malta and you do not have much time, the hop-on hop off bus could be worth it and you save time. Of course, if you have a rental car, this is the best way to explore Gozo!
The best places to visit in Gozo (Malta)
Here I tell you about the best Gozo sights that I explored during my day trip from Malta while backpacking the country!
These temple ruins are some of the most historically important sights in Gozo and Malta and if you are interested in archeology and history you should not miss this place. The ruins are over 5000 years old and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Citadel of Victoria
Victoria is the capital of the island of Gozo and a visit here is definitely worth it. Because here you will find one of the most famous Gozo attractions – the impressive Citadel. The Citadel’s grounds can be explored on foot. The citadel is historically very significant and has been lavishly restored and brought up to date in recent years to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the middle of the citadel you will find the imposing Cathedral of Santa Maria. In addition, you should walk along the city walls, from where you have great views of the surroundings and the landscape of the island of Gozo, as Victoria is located on a hill.
The Old Town of Victoria
In addition to the citadel, Victoria is worth a stroll through the narrow streets of the beautiful old town. Here you will find markets, churches and cathedrals as well as some good restaurants and cafés. For lunch I stopped at the delicious Café Jubilee.
Xwejni salt pans & Xwejni Bay
Salt was extracted here in the past (and still today). The salt pans have been in operation for over 300 years, are located directly on the sea and are interesting to look at. Especially from the coast above along the road you have a cool view of it. The adjoining Xwejni bay is also suitable for diving trips and swimming in the sea.
Ramlay Bay & Calypso Caves
This orange-reddish sandy beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Gozo, where you can relax and enjoy the sun. Incidentally, you have a great view of the beach from the viewpoint at the (currently unfortunately closed) Calypso cave.
San Blas Bay
This bay also has a beautiful, red sandy beach and is perfect for relaxing from your backpacking Malta trip.
Azure Window & Dwejra Bay
The Azure Window in Dwejra Bay was Malta’s great landmark and probably the most famous sight of Gozo. Unfortunately, this rock arch was destroyed by a storm in the spring of 2017. However, a visit to the bay is still worth it and you can see the great rocky coast (and the remnants of the window). On a boat trip from here you can also get directly from a small lake through a hole to the coast for a nice view (it costs 4 €).
Incidentally, Malta now plans to artificially rebuild the Azure Window – I am not really convinced of these plans though.
Basilica St. John Baptist, Xewkija
Towering over Gozo, this impressive basilica can even be spotted from the city walls of the Citadel in Victoria. The church is not that spectacular inside, but the dome is huge and therefore very impressive. For 3 € you can also take the elevator up for a nice view of the island of Gozo.
Magro Food Village, Xewkija
This place is very touristy, but well suited if you are interested in the local specialties and are still looking for souvenirs for home. Here you can taste and buy various delicacies such as local chocolate, olive oil, jam and cheese.
Here begins and ends your trip to Gozo. Because here the ferries from Malta arrive and depart. Especially in the late afternoon I thought the view of the bay with all the blue boats in the water was very nice. So this is the perfect place if you have some time to relax before the ferry leaves.
Conclusion about backpacking around Malta
As you can see, Malta is perfect for a short backpacking adventure in Europe. I would probably recommend 3-5 days for your holiday in Malta, as this gives you enough time to visit both Valletta, Mdina, Rabat and the three cities. In addition, you should also make enough time for a trip to Gozo and Comino. But if you do not just want to explore sights, Malta is perfect to just relax and enjoy the sun as well. A trip is definitely worth it!
Disclosure: While most of my time in Malta was self-funded and organized, my day trip to Gozo was organized by Visit Malta. As always, I write about my own personal experience and opinion.
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