The Maltese Islands, which consist of Malta (the largest of the Islands), Gozo, Comino and two other small uninhabited islands, are strategically situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Malta is 93 kilometres from Sicily and 288 kilometres from North Africa due South. A series of low hills with terraced fields on the slopes characterize the Islands. The coastline of Malta is well indented with natural deep harbours, bays, creeks, sandy beaches and rocky coves. The island possess a wealth of history and culture which surpass its diminutive size. Excavations indicated the existence of an advanced culture dating from 4000 BC. Due to its strategic position and excellent natural harbours, Malta has always attracted the attention of maritime powers. The harbours provided a sheltered base for naval fleets, whilst the island itself, situated at the cross-roads of the Mediterranean, enabled its colonizing power to exercise control over shipping in this vast and turbulent sea. Control over Malta was a prerequisite to dominion over the Mediterranean and for this reason all the various powers that, at one time or other, held sway over the Mediterranean at that same time exercised control over Malta. The long list of Malta’s colonizers, The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Norman’s, Castilians, Knights of St. John, the French and finally, the British, is indicative to the important role Malta played in the moulding of European and Mediterranean history. The Maltese love festivities and through their religious culture one can witness colourful celebrations throughout the seasons. Their Characteristic joviality springs mainly from the agreeable, sunny, warm Mediterranean climate. Malta became a member of the European Union on 1st May 2004.
Malta’s climate is strongly influenced by the sea and has a typical Mediterranean flavour. Winters are mild with rare occurrences of cold weather brought by north and north-east winds from Central Europe. Summers are hot, dry and very sunny. Day-Time temperature in Summer are often cooling by sea breezes, but in spring and autumn, a very hot wind from Africa occasionally brings unpleasant high temperatures. This is scirocco, which also affects Greece and Italy; in Malta the air is usually rather drier because of the short sea track from the African coasts. Annual rainfall in the Maltese Islands is low – averaging 578mm a year – and the length of the dry season in summer is longer than in Southern Italy. The Islands have a very sunny climate with a daily average of five to six hours of sunshine in mid-Winter and more than 12 hours a day in Summer.
The Malta International Airport is only 10 kms from Valletta, went into commercial services on February 1992, replacing Luqa International. With the commissioning of the new terminal, Malta’s Airport was renamed Malta International Airport (IATA airport code is MLA, ICAO code LMML). Facilities at MIA (land side) include – Airline ticketing office, baby care rooms, bank, three cafeterias, car hire offices, chapel, drugstore, information counter, florist, international telephone/fax/telex service, news agent, post office, restaurant, tourist information counter and a viewing gallery. Facilities of MIA (air side) include – Baby care facilities, bar/cafeteria, duty free shops – arrivals and departure halls, restaurant, two VIP/executive lounges, the Europa Lounge is operated by AirMalta, whilst La Valletta Executive Lounge is run by the Terminal Operating Company – Malta International Airport Ltd. The National carrier of Malta is AirMalta. Currently has a fleet of 13 aircraft.
The Gozo Channel Company operates a Ro-Ro Services from Cirkewwa and San Maison in Malta to Mgarr, Gozo. A regular helicopter service from Malta International Airport to Xewkija in Gozo. Several companies operate services that link Malta with mainland Italy, Sicily and Tunisia. Available are Ro-Ro and high speed catamaran frequencies.
The Maltese Islands offer varied accommodation in Hotels, Holiday Complexes, Tourist Villages, Guest Houses and in Self-catering villages and apartments. These are classified – by the Hotels and Catering Establishments Board (HCEB) – according to internationally accepted standards, and are obliged to exhibit their certificate confirming their designated classification.
There are several sandy beaches, especially on the North of Malta; the best are Mellieha Bay, Golden Sands, Ghajn Tuffieha and Paradise Bay. In the South, the best sandy beach is Pretty Bay in Birzebbugia. In Gozo Ramla Bay stands out for its beautiful red sand. Rock bathing is possible at almost all other beach sites. The sea temperature averages 22.80 in summer.
These are found throughout the Island and are open during normal shopping hours. On Sundays chemists open by rotation from 0900 to 1200hrs; check Sunday Newspapers.
CURRENCY – Euro (€)
Is on the conducted on the left side of the road. There is a speed limit of 80 Kilometers per hour (kph) 50 miles per hour (mph) on highways, and 50 kph (30 miles) in urban areas Third party insurance is advisable. International and national driving licenses are acceptable.
The electoral supply is 240 volts, single phase, 50 cycles. The 13 amp, three-pin rectangular sockets are used in Malta.
The Government is Independent, constitutional Republic. The President is the Head of State though his role is essential ceremonial as executive power lies with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Sixty five members sit in the House of Representative, Malta’s parliament, housed in the Grand Master’s Palace.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE
Travellers do not require normally certificate of vaccination or inoculation to enter the Maltese Islands. However. Smallpox and cholera vaccination certificates are required if arriving from an infected area. Yellow fever immunization is needed for travellers arriving within six days of leaving an infected area. There is one general hospital in Malta – Mater Dei in Msida and one in Gozo – Craig Hospital in Victoria. There are also Government Health Clinics in several towns and villages.