Malta: A European Island Vacation Without the Sticker Shock

by  Charu Suri | Updated on May 15, 2019
Malta / merc67/iStock

It may be small, but the European island nation of Malta, with its warm climate, rich culture, three World Heritage sites, and beautiful coastline, has a lot to offer travelers. And unlike some European countries, you don't have to spend a lot to enjoy it. Here are some tips for sticking to a budget while visiting Malta. 

Head for the Beach
In the northern part of the island, Paradise Bay is secluded and known for its snorkeling, while the appropriately named Golden Bay is where many tourists head first. There are several hotels in the area, including the Radisson Blu,where nightly rates start at 144 euro (about $161). For a less expensive option, vacation rental sites such as Homeaway feature three-bedroom villas for as little as 62 euro (about $70). 

Explore Valletta
The Maltese capital is so filled with historic Baroque buildings that the whole city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by Francesco Laparelli, the city was intended to be a rectangular grid with an opera house at the city entrance. The Royal Opera House was destroyed during World War II,  but Valletta is far from a city of ruins. Highlights include St. John’s Co-Cathedral (which was the place of worship for the Knights of Malta), the National Museum of Fine Arts, a small stock exchange, and the Auberge de Castille de Leon (the seat of the current prime minister). 

Party at Carnival
The Maltese Carnival, held in February and leading up to Lent, was introduced to the island in 1535 by Grand Master Piero de Ponte, who made it an important part of the Maltese cultural calendar. You can participate in the festivities free of charge -- there are floats, marching bands, masked revelers, and many late-night parties. (Note that some have a cover charge.)

Take public transport
A weekly bus pass in Malta will cost 21 euro (about $24) for adults and 15 euro (about $17) for children, so you can skip the rental car. The bus from Malta also will take you to the ferry terminal where you can catch a boat to the island of Gozo, which is also part of the Maltese islands. Both Malta and Gozo are small enough to explore by public transport and on foot.

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