Malta on a budget – Lonely Planet

Welcome to one of Europe’s best traveler destinations, easily explored by public transport, including buses and ferries, or independently and affordably with a rental car. Most of Malta’s top attractions are free, including the heritage streets of Valletta and the sunny golden sands of the country’s beaches.

Visiting outside of the busy June-August period often combines lower accommodation prices, shorter queues, and some of the warmest and most stable springs and autumns in Europe.

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Take advantage of low-cost airlines

Flying from major UK hubs including London, Manchester and Birmingham, low cost airlines easyJet and Ryanair are an affordable way to reach Malta. Wizz Air is the best option when traveling from Central and Eastern Europe with direct flights from cities such as Budapest, Vienna and Warsaw. The Spanish low-cost company Vueling connects Barcelona to Malta.

Take the ferry from Sicily

If you’re exploring Italy, it’s a simple ferry trip south across the Mediterranean from Sicily to Malta. Connecting Pozzallo on the southeast coast of Sicily to the cruise terminal in the port of Valletta, voyages on Virtu Ferries take just under two hours. Launched in 2021, Ponte Ferries offer a 3.5 hour concurrent service from the port of Augusta, halfway between Catania and Syracuse on the east coast of Sicily. Discounted return fares from Sicily to Malta are offered, and both ships can also accommodate vehicles.

Accommodation prices rise during festival season and the height of summer, but not astronomically © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Visit during shoulder seasons

Malta is particularly busy from June to August with visitors drawn by warm, rainless weather and popular dance music festivals including Isle of MTV, Lost & Found and ABODE on the Rock.

The shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October still offer great weather, warm Mediterranean waters, and good-value accommodation rates outside of summer peaks.

Consider Malta’s cooler months for even better value

Rain and occasional storms affect Malta from November to March, but if you focus on exploring indoor attractions such as the National Archaeological Museum, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum or St. is a good time to visit.

Accommodation prices are lower, queues at attractions will be shorter, and it’s still generally warmer than most other European destinations. The annual February carnival is celebrated with parades, floats and street parties in Malta and its smaller sister island of Gozo.

Save with Heritage Malta

Heritage Malta offers a range of discount options to explore its various sites around Malta and Gozo. Notable attractions include Fort St Angelo in the Three Cities, the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta and the National War Museum in Fort St Elmo. The Heritage Malta Multi-Site Pass offers the best value – adult/reduced/child €30/10/$12.50 ($32/10.50/13). Note that entry to the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is not included with a multi-site pass, and it is recommended to book the hypogeum a few months in advance to avoid having to pay a last-minute booking supplement €15 ($15.80).

The exterior of Parliament in Valletta bathed in sunshine
Buying a Malta Pass is a good way to see a number of attractions or take a guided tour © Pit Stock / Shutterstock

Get a Malta Pass

Valid for one, two or three days (€50/80/100 | $52.70/84/105), a Malta Pass allows admission to over 40 attractions around Malta and Gozo – including the megalithic archaeological site of Ħaġar Qim & Mnajdra – as well as tourist buses and interactive cinema experiences on both islands. Check the website for occasional deep discounts off the regular purchase price of the card. Cards must be purchased online prior to arrival, either for delivery to your home or accommodation in Malta.

Feast on pastizzi and ftira

Served in hole-in-the-wall stalls and bakeries around Malta, the nation’s favorite snack is a packet of puff pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese, peas and herbs. The price of pastizzis rose to €0.50 ($0.52) in April 2022, causing much consternation across the country, but they are still a great value breakfast or mid-afternoon snack. Another budget-friendly way to eat Maltese is to feast on a ftira sandwich, traditional disc-shaped loaves of bread filled with cheese, olives and sun-dried tomato paste.

Buy a few ftira in a bakery and stuff them with local Gozitan cheese. There’s a good selection of cheeses in the deli in the basement supermarket of Valletta’s Is-Suq Tal-Belt, a historic produce market that’s now a food hall with a variety of flavors and cuisines and cheap from all over the world.

Make new travel friends at a hostel

Malta offers excellent hostels and prices outside of the busy June to August period are good value. Expect to pay around €20 ($21) per night for a dorm bed, which is significantly lower than the high season rate of around €30 ($31.60) per night. Stylish and friendly hostels include Inhawi near the nightlife of St Julians and Paceville, and Two Pillows Malta in the historic lanes of Sliema.

Become independent and save money in an Airbnb

Booking Airbnb accommodation is a good option in Malta, with plenty of self-catering apartments available in historic buildings in towns and villages outside of the more expensive Valletta. Look for properties in central neighborhoods such as Floriana, or further afield in areas such as Birkirkara, from where it’s easy to explore Valletta and the rest of the island by bus. Most areas have good supermarkets and street food markets for groceries.

Wide angle image of the beach with a hotel at Golden Bay in Malta
Malta’s extensive bus network will get you to most places on the island © telesniuk / Shutterstock

Explore (almost) anywhere by bus

Malta and Gozo are well served by Malta Public Transport extensive bus network, and although punctuality can drop towards the end of the day, most areas of the islands are accessible and prices are just €2 ($2.10) for a one-way ticket including a window two hour transfer. A Exploration map (adult/child 21/15€ | $22/$15.80) offers unlimited bus travel for seven days. Also available is a multi-user 12 day travel card (€15/$15.80) that can be used simultaneously by couples or families.

Experience magnificent views for the price of a ferry ride

Valletta Ferry Services offer two passenger-only routes, one linking Valletta through Grand Harbor to the Three Cities, and the other through Marsamxett Harbor to the Sliema waterfront esplanade. Tickets cost €1.50/$2.80 ($1.60/3 | return), while a seven-day unlimited pass costs €10 ($10.54). Given the stunning views, both ferry rides are an absolute bargain. Malta Public Transport ExploreFlex The option is a reloadable stored-value card combining discounted bus travel, port trips with Valletta Ferry Services and bike rentals with Tallinja Bike.

Get on a bike

Bikes can be boarded on the harbor ferries and are a great option for independent exploration upon arrival in the Three Cities or around the Sliema seafront. Malta has two app-based bike-sharing schemes. Tallinja Bike has 11 docking stations in Malta and three in Gozo, while next bike is a similar service and also offers e-bikes. Bikes can also be taken on the Gozo Fast Ferry passenger service linking Valletta with the port of Mġarr on Gozo.

Tourists walking through narrow streets with wooden doors and historic houses
Walking is one of the best ways to see Malta’s beautiful heritage streets and it won’t cost you a penny © Radiokukka / Getty Images

Stretch your legs amidst centuries of history

Malta is a walkable destination, and it costs absolutely nothing to explore the honey-coloured heritage streets, squares and alleyways of Valletta, or venture further afield into the walled city of Mdina. Historic and spectacular churches, many adorned with priceless artwork, are free to enter, while the cheapest thrills for active travelers include Malta’s golden beaches and mountain-top walking paths. Gozo cliffs.

Rent a car for more flexibility

Car rental prices in Malta are among the lowest in Europe, and since many of the islands’ roads are narrow and winding, visitors are better off hiring a smaller, cheaper car. Expect rental rates of around €20-25 ($21-26) per day. Note that traffic in Malta can be busy, but driving is easier outside the Valletta/Sliema/St Julians conurbation and on much quieter Gozo.

Daily costs

  • Hostel room: from €20 ($21) for a dorm
  • Basic room for two: from €70 per night ($74)
  • Self-contained apartment (including Airbnb): price per night from €70 ($74) for a private room to around €130 ($137) for the whole.
  • Public transport ticket: bus €2 ($2.10)
  • Coffee: around €2 ($2.10)
  • Sandwich: ftira €5-6 ($5.30-6.30)
  • Dinner for two: around €50 ($53)
  • Beer at the bar: around €4 ($4.20) for local Cisk beer or €6 ($6.30) for Maltese craft beer

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