Malta Tourist Information and Tips
Distinctly Maltese cuisine is hard to find but does exist. The food eaten draws its influences from Italian cuisine. Most restaurants in resort areas like Sliema cater largely to British tourists, offering pub grub like meat and three veg or bangers and mash, and you have to go a little out of the way to find 'real' Maltese food. One of the island's specialities is rabbit ( fenek ), and small savoury pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous.
The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata , a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves. The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried (with or without gravy). Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L'Ingliz in Mgarr.
True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and rather fish and vegetable based -- the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta' l-armla (widow's soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock. Then there's arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broadbeans and herbs called bigilla , and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork,coriander seeds and parsley, wrapped in stomach lining) or gbejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats'or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered). Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious. It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted despite appearances), dried or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent. Towards the end of summer one can have one's fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce. One must also try to have a bite of hobz biz-zejt , which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira , and served drenched in oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called gardiniera ).
A typical soft drink that originated in Malta is Kinnie , a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter oranges and slightly reminiscent of Martini.
The local beer is called Cisk (pronounced "Chisk") and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto ("milk stout") and Shandy (a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-UP). Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as '1565' brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. Since late 2006 another beer produced by a different company was released in the market called "Caqnu". A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under license in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy's stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith's, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and many more.
Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and Gellewza , although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines. Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle. There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Siggiewi area. Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.
The main Maltese night life district is Paceville (pronounced "pach-a-vil"), just north of St. Julian's. Young Maltese (as young as high school-age) come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends (also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions). Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks and lack of cover charges makes Paceville well worth a visit. The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight, when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew. Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends.
Interestingly it does not rain much on Malta and almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer.
Christmas in Malta
Christmas is a largely religious affair on the Maltese islands. This is due to the fact that most Maltese people are Catholics. During the festive season, various Christmas cribs, or Presepji, as they're called in Maltese, can be seen on display in churches, shopping centres, etc.
The Maltese people have many Christmas customs that are unique to the island. A very popular traditional Christmas dessert is Qaghaq ta' l-Ghasel. These are light pastry rings filled with honey.
Malta has promoted itself successfully as an entirely bi-lingual nation for Maltese and English. It counts for many educational institutes in the rest of the world as a country where English is the first language and they therefore will often even subsidise students to go there to learn it. Admittedly their command of the language is on average better than in other European countries.
For foreigners work is unfortunately often very hard to find, the Maltese are rather insular and figures show that even in the tourist sector they are very reluctant to hire people not from the island. There is a sense that since joining the EU there is more willingness to hire professionals from abroad as the business sector diversifies.
Malta is generally safe, in fact it's considered as one of the safest in the world with little in the way of violent crime or political disturbances.
Malta is generally safe compared to its European counterparts. However, with growing illegal immigration in detention camps located in the south of the Island, locals are beginning to feel a sense of uncertainty in regards to their safety in these areas.
Regarding nightlife, the Island is very safe as long as you do not walk alone. Due to Malta being a major Mediterranean port, sailors with shore leave tend to become quite rowdy after long voyages, as well as with the advent of low cost air travel coming to Malta has brought an influx of teens from across Europe enjoying short cheap weekend breaks in the sun.
The main health risk in Malta is the fierce sun in the summer, which can scorch unsuspecting tourists. Apply sunblock liberally.
For ambulance, fire or police dial 112. The main hospitals are Mater Dei Telephone: (+356) 2545 0000 and Gozo General Hospital in Gozo, tel. 2156 1600. For a complete list of government hospital services visit.
- Malta is a strictly Roman Catholic country and carousing by tourists, while tolerated to some extent, is not looked on very favorably, especially outside of St. Julian's and Paceville.
- The native language is Maltese , and many would take offence if told that their language is Arabic or an Arabic dialect .
- Dress respectfully when visiting churches. As a guide, remove any hats and sunglasses and make sure your knees and shoulders are covered. Some churches, especially those on popular package tours, provide shawls and/or skirts for any inappropriately-dressed visitors.
- Source: Wikitravel.org