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Valletta is one of the early cities in Malta whose construction started in the middle of the 16th century. Until then only the Fort St. Elmo existed at the outmost point of the headland. Valletta is surrounded by big defence walls and bastions and could not be captured until World War II. Since 1571 Valletta is the capital of Malta. Thanks to its close position to the harbour Valletta grew to a business centre and during the day a lot of tourists discover this old and beautiful city. After business hours the city seems deserted and nightlife seems barely existing. Sightseeing tours start at the Central Bus Station around the well of triton outside the city. Valletta can easily be discovered afoot on the old defence facilities which lead around the whole city. From here you have a stunning view. The city consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets and high staircase which are supposed to balance the height differences. Remarkable are the balconies which are enormously eye-catching. They regulate the air circulation und protect the rooms from direct solar radiation.
Apart from the Fort St. Elmo, in which the Museum of War is hosted, the St. John’s Cathedral and the Grand Master’s Palace are worth a visit. Today a lot of old houses need to be renovated. Therefore plans and renovation projects have been started to keep the old building fabric.
Malta is very popular among tourists because of the great climate. Temperatures barely fall below 15 °C and only in November and February the chances of rainfall are higher. Spring and autumn are characterised by pleasant temperatures between 20 and 30 °C. Summer is often unbearably hot; it is not uncommon that temperatures rise over 40 °C. Especially then the strength of the solar irradiation should not be underestimated even though mild breezes from the sea make the temperatures more bearable.
Malta has two official languages: Maltese or Malti and English. Also Italian is widely spoken and is used as the second business language. Until 1934 when English became the official language in Malta, Italian used to be the second official language. Therefore it is no wonder that many TV stations in Malta are Italian speaking. Malti is a former Semitic-Arabian language which is today interspersed with English, French and Italian words.
Most of the people (about 98%) in Malta are Catholics. There are more than 350 churches on the island. The service is mostly hold in Maltese but there are also English speaking services. A German service is taking place in St. Barbara’s (Republic Street in Valletta). There is a synagogue in Valletta’s Spur Street, a Greek-Orthodox Church in Merchants Street and a Protestant church called St Andrew’s Scots Church. There is also a mosque in Paola.
Since 1. Jan 2008 Malta’s currency is Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01. The Old Maltese currency was Maltese Lira (LM or MTL) which was called “pounds” in the country itself. 1 Lira was 100 cents. Coins in use were 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 cents and 1 Lira and notes, however, came in denominations of 2, 5, 10 and 20 LM.
Usual is a tip of 10 – 15 % of the total amount. Some of the restaurants explicitly point out that tip is not included in the bill but most of the time tips are expected anyway even if it is not mentioned anywhere. Also Taxi drivers and hotel staff expect tips of 10 – 15%.
In order to call from abroad, dial 00365 for Malta and 21 for Valletta. Phones with telephone cards are very common and cards are available at the airport and many shops. Mobile phones usually have a very good reception. The best time to call abroad is between 9 pm and 6 am because rates are much lower.
The opening times of offices, shops ect. differ from season to season. Winter time is from 1. October to 14. June and summer time from 15. June to 30 September. As in many other Mediterranean countries shops are closing during the day for a “siesta”.
Shops: Mo – Fr 9 am – 1 pm, 3.30 pm – 7 pm, Sat 9 am – 1 pm and 4 pm – 8 pm
Post Office: Mo – Fr 7.30 am – 12.45 am, Valletta post office: Mo – Sat 8 am – 6.30 pm in winter and 7.30 am – 6 pm
Banks: Winter: Mo – Fr 8.30 am – 12.25 am, Tues and Fr also 2.30 pm – 4 pm, Sat 8.30 am – 12 am; Summer: Mo – Fr 8.30 am – 12.25 am and Fr 2.30 pm – 4 pm, Sat 8 am – 2.30 pm
Pharmacies: Mo – Sat 8 am - 12.30 am and 3.30 pm – 7 pm
1 Jan: New Years Day
10. Feb: Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
19. March: St. Joseph’s Day
31. March: Freedom Day
1.May: Labour Day
7. June: Sette Giugno
29. June: Mnarja – St. Peter and St. Paul
15. August: Ascension Day
8. Sept: Our Ladies of Victory
21. Sept: Independence Day
8. Dec: Festa of the Immaculate Conception
13. Dec: Day of the Republic
25. Dec: Christmas Day
Malta is a very secure country but nevertheless it is advisable to take some precautions. Especially at the beach tourists are often robbed. Don’t leave your belongings unattended. Also big crowds of people are an easy location for pick pockets. Take only as much cash with you as you really need. The safest option is traveller’s cheques since they can be replaced in case of loss. Don’t leave bags or any other belongings in the parked car.
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