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10 reasons you should visit Malta in 2019

Whether you’re interested in history, sports, food, art, doing business or learning something new, the Maltese Islands should be your next port of call – and this is why.

10 reasons you should visit Malta in 2019
View of Gozo. Photo: Visit Malta

1. Connectivity

If you don’t already know, Malta is quite literally in the centre of the Mediterranean. The islands’ connectivity and accessibility is facilitated through numerous new flight routes across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Since it’s an island, Malta is also easy to reach by boat, and the number of cruise ships entering the magnificent Grand Harbour in Valletta is increasing every year.

2. Ease of communication

Apart from Maltese, English is an official language in Malta, so you won’t have any problem communicating with the locals during your stay. In fact, the vast majority of Maltese nationals are fluent in Maltese and English, which are taught simultaneously at local schools.

3. Mediterranean sun and sea

The Maltese Islands benefit from an average of 300 days of sun every year. This means you can take advantage of the island’s 12 Blue Flag certified beaches all year round. Each of the beaches are internationally guaranteed to have good water quality, accessibility and excellent facilities.

Maltese beaches cater for every type of swimmer. Some beaches and rocky shores are off the beaten track, but worth seeking out for their seclusion. A boat trip to Comino's Blue Lagoon – with its beautiful azure water – is not to be missed. Larger beaches have cafes or snack bars open during the summer season so you can stay well fed and watered during  the day. With Malta's climate, beach life lasts well into October!

Enjoy water sports and activities like windsurfing, jet and water skiing, and para-kiting. Equipment is available to hire from beach cafes or shops nearby.

4. History and culture

Discovering Maltese culture doesn’t require much effort. No two streets are alike and there is always something going on, whether it is a spontaneous community celebration or a pre-planned event.

Culture has been at the forefront, particularly since Malta’s capital city Valletta became European Capital of Culture, recognised by the European Commission, during 2018. Valletta boasts many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is often declared a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

5. A holiday within a holiday (within a holiday)

The Maltese Islands’ archipelago is made up of seven islands; however, only three are inhabited: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta, being the largest of all the islands, is where the Malta International Airport is situated.

For a change in tempo and scenery, hop to Malta’s sister islands of Gozo and Comino.

Travelling between Malta and Gozo is done by means of a fast and efficient ferry service. The Gozo Channel ferry service departs from Malta every 45 minutes (transporting both vehicles and passengers), with the journey taking approximately 25 minutes.

To reach Comino, one must catch a boat from either Marfa in Malta or Mġarr in Gozo. These journeys are very regular too so you can easily hop between islands.

6. The local cuisine

Maltese food is full of flavour and colour, typical of a central Mediterranean Island, influenced by its closeness to Sicily and North Africa, but with a special twist.

Be it a glass of smooth local wine accompanied by a platter of olives, some ġbejniet (local sheep's cheeses), zalzett (coriander flavoured Maltese sausage) with galletti (Maltese water crackers) and some bigilla (broad bean pate) served with Maltese bread and olive oil, there are so many local dishes to try you won’t know where to start. Make sure to try a hot pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries) on a cold day, washed down with coffee or tea.

Summer days at the beach means ħobs biż-żejt, a popular snack made from a thick slice of crusty Maltese bread, rubbed with juicy, red tomatoes and topped with mint, a little onion, sheep's cheese and anchovies, all soaked in delicious green olive oil.

7. Scuba Diving

Diving in Malta. Photo: Guillaume Ruoppolo

All of the three main islands have an abundance of reefs, caves and wrecks that make diving here some of the most interesting in the Mediterranean.

The calmness and clarity of the sea makes for excellent visibility creating the perfect conditions for first time divers and beginners. For the more experienced divers, there are plenty of challenging dives to choose from – including a number of shipwrecks.

Moreover, there are several types of diving courses and activities offered by locally licensed diving schools.

8. Sports and outdoor activities

Aside from diving, horseback riding is a popular activity with locals and visitors alike. Horse racing is one of Malta's prime spectator sports, with races held every Sunday, between October and May.

There are also plenty of sports-related events, such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race, a highly-rated offshore classic race, often mentioned as a ‘must-do’ race among yachting enthusiasts. Those who are into athletics will enjoy the Malta Marathon or the international Super League Triathlon.

Whilst those who would much rather find their zen will enjoy the many idyllic locations for their yoga session.

9. Business Travel

The Maltese Islands are not just a place to meet, but also an ideal location in which to do business. Whatever the size, formality or informality of your corporate event, Malta has the expertise and venues to suit. The Maltese Islands offer a variety of magnificent castles, palazzos and forts as function venues.

State-of-the-art conference hotels or venues are available for any size of event, and include the 16th century Mediterranean Conference Centre, once a hospital of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, and considered the most advanced hospital in Europe at the time.

10. Film Tourism

The Maltese Islands have been home to Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator, U-571, The Count of Monte Cristo, Troy, Munich as well as prestigious dramas and sitcoms such as the BBC's Byron and ITV's Coronation Street. In recent years, Malta has become one of Europe's most popular film and television locations – dubbed “the Mediterranean's mini-Hollywood” by the London Times. Malta has also teamed up with Bollywood and the first blockbuster was shot here last year.

The islands' beautiful, unspoiled coastlines and breathtaking architecture have ‘doubled' for an amazing variety of locations, both on the big and small screen. Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Guy Ritchie and other renowned directors, as well as a host of A-list celebrities such as Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt, Sharon Stone, Madonna and Sean Connery, all experienced Malta's movie-making facilities and its many charms.

This article is sponsored by Visit Malta.

 

TRAVEL

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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