The history of Malta is a long and colourful one dating back to the dawn of civilisation.
The Maltese Islands went through a golden Neolithic period, the remains of which are the mysterious temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility. Later on, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines, all left their traces on the Islands.
In 60 A.D. St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. The Arabs conquered the islands in 870 A.D. and left an important mark on the language of the Maltese. Until 1530 Malta was an extension of Sicily: The Normans, the Aragonese and other conquerors who ruled over Sicily also governed the Maltese Islands. It was Charles V who bequeathed Malta to the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem who ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798. The Knights took Malta through a new golden age, making it a key player in the cultural scene of 17th and 18th century Europe. The artistic and cultural lives of the Maltese Islands were injected with the presence of artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray who were commissioned by the Knights to embellish churches, palaces and auberges.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte took over Malta from the Knights on his way to Egypt. The French presence on the islands was short lived, as the English, who were requested by the Maltese to help them against the French, blockaded the islands in 1800.
British rule in Malta lasted until 1964 when Malta became independent. The Maltese adapted the British system of administration, education and legislation.
Modern Malta became a Republic in 1974 and joined the European Union in May 2004.
In Malta and Gozo, driving is on the left. There are speed limits of 80 km/h on the open road and 50 km/h in built-up areas, unless otherwise indicated on relevant road signs.
If you intend to rent a car or drive in Malta, it is advisable to take out comprehensive insurance. National or international driving licences are accepted.
For more information please see the Malta Highway Code.
The electrical supply is 230 volts /- 10%.
The frequency of the supply is 50 hertz.
The three-pin rectangular plug system is used, as in Britain.
Adapters are very easy to find.
The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English.
Maltese, a language of Semitic origin written in the Latin script, is the national language of Malta. Over the centuries, it has incorporated many words derived from English, Italian and French.
Italian is also widely spoken.
Malti - The Maltese Language
The Maltese language is a source of fascination to both visitors and linguists. The Maltese speak a unique language, Malti, the only Semitic language written in Latin characters.
Through the ages, many foreign words, particularly English and Italian, have become part of the language. English, which is also an official language, is widely and fluently spoken and is the language of international business.
What is surprising is that the islanders managed to retain a unique language in face of so many others brought by various powers over the centuries. Maltese was largely only a spoken language until the latter half of the 19th century when its grammatical rules were defined and written down.
The earliest written evidence of Maltese is a ballad by Pietro Caxaro, (d.1485). The Knights attempted to script it as well. The survival of the language is perhaps testament to the resilience of the Maltese to remain a distinct people and culture. Malti is thought to derive from the language of the ancient Phoenicians who arrived in Malta in 750 B.C.
The influence of the Arabs who made the Islands home from the 9th to 13th centuries is clear in the Maltese language whose roots are closely akin to Arabic. Place names and numbers are the most obvious examples of Arabic influence on the language.
For non-native speakers trying to learn Malti, the most awkward sound is similar to the Arabic q - an almost silent, but difficult to master, glottal stop. If you are interested in learning Maltese, several language schools on the islands run courses in Maltese for non-native speakers.
Passaports & Visas
For information about Visa applications please visit the website of the Maltese Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Regulations regarding the importation of pets into the Maltese Islands fall under the responsibility of the Veterinary Regulation Directorate within the Agriculture & Fisheries Regulation Department of the Ministry for Resources & Rural Affairs. Information can be obtained directly from the Directorate as shown below:
Phone: 356 21650393
Fax: 356 21650273
Malta and Gozo have 14 annual Public Holidays. With the exception of Good Friday, whose date varies from year to year, every other public holiday is celebrated on a fixed day of the year.
The dates are the following:
1st January - New Year's Day
10th February - Feast of St. Paul's Shipwreck
19th March - Feast of St. Joseph
31st March - Freedom Day
March / April (date changes) - Good Friday
1st May - Labour Day
7th June - Sette Giugno
29th June - Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (L-Imnarja)
15th August - Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady (Santa Marija)
8th September - Feast of Our Lady of Victories
21st September - Independence Day
8th December - Feast of the Immaculate Conception
13th December - Republic Day
25th December - Christmas Day
For more information, go to Annual Festivals & Traditions or consult our Events Calendar.
During your stay in Malta, you may be approached by individuals who offer you freebies for attending a presentation. These may be selling timeshare or a similar product.
For practical tips on what to look out for, read the leaflet Common Sense Guide To Buying Time Share published by the European Consumer Centre (Malta).
Tap water is safe to drink throughout the Maltese Islands. Local and imported bottled mineral water is available from shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars.