Travel Essentials Malta - transport, costs, currency & health

Getting there

Most European cities operate direct flights to Malta, with an average journey time of 2-3 hours. There are also high-speed passenger ferries from Sicily and car ferry services from other Italian ports operating several times a week. The fares for both sea and air travel are highest during the main tourist season, June to September. These fall slightly during the shoulder months and you'll get the cheapest prices from December to March, excluding Christmas and New Year when prices predictably jump. Visitors from EU or commonwealth countries need only their national identity cards or a valid passport to travel to Malta. People travelling from countries outside need a full valid passport and a visa, obtainable from a Maltese Embassy or Consulate.

Public transport

The public transport system in Malta is excellent. Buses serve all the major tourist areas on Malta and Gozo and many people find they need nothing else. Hiring a car, motorbike or pushbike is a good idea however, if you want to explore some more remote areas, as taxis can be expensive. The ferry service between Malta and Gozo departs regularly taking about 20 minutes; a less regular service travels to the smaller island of Comino.

Costs

Rapid economic development coupled with its recent joining of the EU mean that Malta isn't cheap. Food bought in supermarkets costs roughly the same as in the UK, and accommodation can be expensive. However hostels mean its still possible to enjoy Malta on a budget. ATMs and all major hotels, restaurants and stores accept major credit cards. Open Monday to Friday 8.30-4pm and half day on Saturday, banks are the best place to change money as they tend to offer a better rate than hotels and foreign notes are as welcome as travellers cheques.

Currency

The Maltese Lira (Lm) is now the island's unit of currency, with 1 Lira divided into 100 cents and this divides again into 10 miles. At the time of writing, there are roughly 4500 Maltese Lira to the American Dollar. As European destinations go, Malta is not cheap and food and accommodation can eat heavily into your budget. Prices have predictably begun to rise further now that Malta has joined the EU and it's likely in a few years, a holiday to Malta will cost you as much as one to France or Italy.

The two leading banks in Malta, Bank of Valletta and Mid Med Bank, have branches in all towns and villages. Banks are only open from 8.30 until 4pm, and close an hour earlier on Saturdays. If you get really stuck, the airport's foreign exchange is open 24 hours a day. Automatic foreign exchange machines are available in the most popular tourist areas of the island and there are a good number of ATMs, which are normally situated near to the entrance of the bank. International credit cards such as American Express, Master Card and Visa are accepted in all major hotels, restaurants and many retail stores.

Health

Travelling to Malta requires no specific vaccinations or inoculation and the tap water is safe to drink. The only real concern during the summer months is the mosquitoes and jellyfish. Mosquitoes are prevalent at twilight and though they don't transmit disease, can be an annoyance. The Mediterranean is prone to blooms of jellyfish and though none are deadly, they can give the unaware swimmer a nasty sting. The island has two main hospitals and plenty of pharmacies. If you're an EU citizen, a EHIC card will cover you for most medical care, otherwise ensure you get health insurance which will cover you for the worst possible scenario.

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