The Maltese Islands are located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, about 90km south of Sicily and 300km off North Africa. Their total area is 246 square kilometres and the total number of inhabitants is around 400,000 of which about 8% live on the island of Gozo.
The climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers, warm and sporadically wet autumns, and short, cool winters with adequate rainfall. The average temperature in November is 20C during the day and around 14C at night.
Malta's currency is the Maltese Lira (Lm) which is divided into 100 cents. The exchange rate is currently approximately 2.30 Euros to the Maltese Lira.
The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. Most Maltese speak English, and Italian is also widely spoken.
Banks are usually open from 08:30 to 12:30 hrs, Monday to Friday, and till 12:30 hrs on Saturdays. Foreign exchange facilities are also available round the clock at Malta International Airport and at a number of automated teller machines situated in the major commercial and touristic areas. They are also available at most banks, and at foreign exchange bureaus.
Shops are usually open between 0900 and 1900 hrs, with a lunch break between 13:00 hrs and 16:00 hrs. In commercial areas frequented by tourists, however, most shops remain open until approximately 22:00 hrs. Shops are not open on Sundays and public holidays. Major credit cards, travellers cheques and eurocheques are accepted at most leading shops and restaurants.
There is a wide variety of restaurants in Sliema, Bugibba, St Julians, Valletta and other tourist areas, ranging from fast food outlets to modestly-priced and more expensive restaurants. Food in Malta is often influenced by Italian cuisine, but there are quite a few restaurants which serve oriental food.
Malta's public transport system offers a cheap and efficient way of touring the Island. The main bus terminus is at Valletta from where buses operate to all parts of Malta, although there are also direct, point to point, services. The cost of a bus route ranges from 11 cents to 16 cents. The longest bus journey takes about fifty minutes; the average ride is between 20 and 30 minutes.
Photos courtesy of Malta Tourism Authority