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Report 2012: Five Days in Malta

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

Trip Description: We spent five days on Malta in May 2012 hitting the main spots after a week on Gozo.

Destinations: Countries - Other Countries

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 24: Background Information and Impressions

photo by MAW

Malta is very built up. This is the view of Fort Manoel and Sliema from our hotel room.

I won a week's free holiday with Headwater in Gozo. It seemed a shame not to take chance to see something of Malta at the same time. We arranged to add on an extra four nights staying in the Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta. This was arranged after Gozo, which in retrospect was a mistake. After Gozo, Malta felt very built up and busy.

Flying into Malta made us realize just how built up the east coast is. Malta is a popular holiday destination and there is a lot of new development. Many cruise ships call into Malta, particularly Valletta, disgorging several hundred visitors into already narrow and busy streets.

This report covers our time in Malta. I have written a separate trip report for Gozo.

The Phoenicia Hotel was built in the 1930s and has a decided retro feel to it. Behind are pleasant gardens with a swimming pool. These are overlooked by the main restaurant where breakfast is served. There was a good selection of fruits, cereals, cold meat, cheese and breads on the cold buffet. The separate hot buffet had a choice of bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans, tomatoes and eggs cooked to order.

A brasserie serves evening meals as well as the restaurant, however the menu was expensive and not to our taste. Instead we patronized the Wembley Stores on Triq ir-Repubblika a short walk from the hotel. They have a selection of excellent bread rolls, cold counter with cold meat and cheese and downstairs have a good selection of wine including locally produced Maltese wine.

We had a pleasant room on the fourth floor with views across the city walls and Sliema, with a very comfortable bed and generous bath robes.

It proved to be a good choice of base. It is actually in Floriana, just outside the main City Gate into Valletta and a few minutes' walk from the centre. It is next to the bus station. There is a taxi rank outside the door and horse drawn tourist carts wait under the shade of the trees.

We planned to use the buses on Malta. The bus service is now run by Arriva Malta with a fleet of low level buses. The old buses beloved of male anoraks of a certain age have been pensioned off. There are new route numbers and timetables so information in guide books may be out of date.

This was a sensible decision as driving in the built up areas along the east and north coasts would be no fun. Traffic is heavy, there are parked cars along both sides of the road leaving little space for moving traffic and there is little or no advance signing.

A daily ticket costs 2.60. Buses start running between 5-6am and the last bus is usually 11-11.30pm. The buses are frequent and run at the same times each hour. There is an excellent Sunday service. Bus stops clearly indicate the service number and route. There is a timetable displayed although times on this may bear no relationship to those given by the information desk at Valletta bus station. There is a 10 or 15 minute services between main towns. However, at busy times, time keeping can be a problem and at 5pm in the evening we waited 40 minutes at Rabat for a bus to Valletta. Then four arrived in quick succession.

With only five days we had to be selective in what we could achieve and we would only be able to hit the high spots. We decided on a day for Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and Tarxien temples, a day for Hagar Qim and Mnajdra and a day round Mdina and Rabat. The rest of the time would be spent in Valletta and Floriana.

We bought a monthly pass which gives free access to all Heritage Malta Sites (apart from the Hypogeum, which has to be booked and paid for separately). At 30 or 22 for senior citizens, it is excellent value if you are intending to visit several of their sites. We used it on both Gozo and Malta. As well as the convenience of only paying once, it saved us over 15 in admission fees.

Overall we enjoyed our stay. We were disappointed by Valletta. Many areas off the main street are beginning to get very run down and neglected. There was major reconstruction work going on round the main gateway and fortifications and it was always busy.

The west coast is less well developed and much nicer. We would have liked to have spent more time exploring this, but would really need a car to do this. There is open countryside with good scenery and some agriculture. Settlements are a lot smaller with less modern development. Mdina, the old capital, with Rabat next to it are much more attractive than Valletta. Doing the trip again, I think we would look for a base around here and concentrate on the west side of the island.

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