The Maltese archipelago is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, with the largest inhabited island, Malta, lying 93km (58 miles) south of Sicily and 290km (180 miles) from North Africa. Gozo and Comino are the only other inhabited islands. The landscape of all three is characterized by low hills with terraced fields. Malta has no mountains or rivers. Its coastline is indented with harbors, bays, creeks, sandy beaches and rocky coves. Gozo is connected to Malta by ferry and is more thickly vegetated, with many flat-topped hills and craggy cliffs. Comino, the smallest island, is connected to Malta and Gozo by ferry and is very sparsely populated.
The usual European courtesies are expected, but the visitor should also bear in mind the tremendous importance of Roman Catholicism; if visiting a church, for instance, modest dress covering the shoulders and legs will be expected. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in some public buildings, including cinemas.
10 to 15 per cent is expected in hotels and restaurants when not included in the bill. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10 per cent of the fare.
Malta’s national airline is Air Malta (KM) (website: www.airmalta.com). Other airlines serving Malta include Aeroflot, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Libyan Arab Airlines, Lufthansa and Transavia.
Approximate flight times
From Luqa to London is three hours.
Malta International (MLA) (Luqa) (website: www.maltairport.com), Luqa, 5km (3 miles) south of Valletta (travel time – 15 minutes). Buses depart regularly to and from Valletta City Gate. There is a full taxi service to all parts of Malta, with fares regulated by meter. Airport facilities include incoming and outgoing duty-free shops, car hire, bank, bureau de change, left luggage and restaurant/bar.
The main ports are Valletta, Marsaxlokk and Mgarr/Gozo. Services operate to the Sicilian ports of Catania and Pozzallo. These routes are served by high-speed hydrofoils and catamarans (travel time – one hour 30 minutes) and car ferries (travel time – three hours). There are also sailings to Italy (to Reggio Calabria, Genoa and Salerno).
The following items may be imported into Malta without incurring customs duty from non-EU countries:
200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1l of spirits and 1l of wine; 60ml of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette; gifts to a value not exceeding Lm50.
The following items may be imported into Malta without incurring customs duty from EU countries:
800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos (cigars not weighing more than 4g each), 200 cigars, 1kg of tobacco; 10l of spirits, 20l of fortified wine, 90l of wine (including a maximum 60l of sparkling wine), 10l of beer; gifts to a value not exceeding Lm50.
It is advisable to declare any larger or unusual items of electrical equipment brought into the island (such as video cameras, portable televisions or video recorders), as this will prevent duty being levied on these items when leaving the country. Those under 17 cannot bring in alcohol or tobacco.
Firearms and ammunition; counterfeit goods; unlicensed drugs; obscene literature and other media; animals and birds (dead or alive); transmitting aparatus; plants and meat products (without import license).
Abolition of duty free goods within the EU
On June 30 1999, the sale of duty free alcohol and tobacco at airports and at sea was abolished in all of the original 15 EU member states. Of the 10 new member states that joined the EU on May 1 2004, these rules already apply to Cyprus and Malta. There are transitional rules in place for visitors returning to one of the original 15 EU countries from one of the other new EU countries. But for the original 15, plus Cyprus and Malta, there are now no limits imposed on importing tobacco and alcohol products from one EU country to another (with the exceptions of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, where limits are imposed). Travelers should note that they may be required to prove at customs that the goods purchased are for personal use only.
There is a helicopter service operating all year round between Malta and Gozo. A quick alternative to the ferry service, it takes only 10 to 15 minutes.
A passenger car ferry operates several times daily between Cirkewwa in Malta and Mgarr in Gozo. Crossing time is about 30 minutes. Services to Comino operate from mid-March to mid-November. For further information, contact the Gozo Channel Company, Hay Wharf, Sa Maison, Malta (tel: 2124 3964-6; fax: 2124 8007; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.gozochannel.com).
Driving is on the left. Speed limit is 80kph (50mph) on highways and 50kph (30mph) in residential areas. Bus: Good local services operate from Valletta and Victoria (Gozo) to all towns. Taxi: Identifiable by their all-white livery. Although taxis are under meter charge at government-controlled prices, it is best to agree prices before departure. Car hire: A number of car hire firms offer self-drive cars. Both Avis and Hertz have desks at the airport. Rates on Malta are among the cheapest in Europe. Documentation: Valid international driving license required.