How to do Malta on a budget

By Juliet Rix

10 September 2018 | Updated 1 May 20246 min read

Aerial view of Valletta city in Malta

Miniature Malta packs a lot in for its size. From its culture-packed capital to fascinating prehistoric sites, its stunning beaches to its hiking trails, you could spend a week hopping across its three main islands and still not see it all.

Once best known for mass market sun and sea, Malta is cashing in on its amazing wealth of history and impressive citadels to draw a crowd beyond the fly-and-floppers. It’s fast going upmarket, with luxury historic boutique hotels and superior B&Bs joining the modern five-star chains at the upper end of the pricing scale.

Yes, Malta can be expensive, but you can still do it on a budget. In fact, you can probably do it better, hipper, tastier and more conveniently than ever before.

Cheap places to stay in Malta

How about a comfortable bed in a clean room with free wi-fi, a kitchen with retractable roof for al fresco cooking, a sun terrace and a swimming pool – all for €22 a night (€41.40 in peak season) including breakfast? Oh, and this is all in an upmarket area less than five minutes’ walk from the clear blue Mediterranean, as well as bars, restaurants and regular buses.

Welcome to Malta’s ‘boutique hostel’ scene, in this case the Inhawi Boutique Hostel just off Balluta Bay in St Julian’s. The €22/41.50 is for a bed in a dorm of 12 but it costs only a few euros more for a twin room. There are other similar hostels including Hostel Malti, Marco Polo Hostel and Two Pillows Boutique Hostel, but if you’re looking for more of a hotel feel, try Hotel Juliani, where doubles start from €80.

Gozo has some good-value options too, particularly in B&Bs and self-catering. Check out Murella Living in the seaside resort of Marsalforn (doubles from €65), or if you want to embrace local Gozitan life and can afford to pay a little more, book a room in one of the Quaint Boutique Hotels. There are three centrally located properties in Sannat (double from €63 in low season), Nadur (€63) and Xewkija (€71).

The George Urban Boutique

  • St Julian's, Malta
  • 6 August 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Heathrow

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

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Where to eat in Malta on a budget

Malta is home to delicious Mediterranean cuisine and the cheapest way to try it is to picnic. Combine typical ġbejniet – little round cheeses (fresh, like ricotta, or dried) – with huge succulent local tomatoes, olives and hobz malti, crusty ciabatta-like Maltese bread.

Alternatively, follow Maltese tradition and pick up a couple of pastizzi – cheap and filling pasties full of cheese or peas – or a tasty slice of pizza. Whatever you have you could round it all off with a delectable gelato.

Malta’s Band Clubs can be a source of great value food – and a very Maltese experience. Home to the parish wind band (each parish has one), they usually have a TV (showing football), snooker, a bar and inexpensive grub.

Restaurants are pricier, though cheaper than UK equivalents, and portions are generally a lot larger. You may find a starter is enough or you can share a main. Some restaurateurs have cottoned on to this so check for cover charges before settling down.

Free and cheap things to do in Malta

Malta has some 300 days a year of sunshine and there is no charge for beaches. Sun and sea are completely free.

It is free also to explore Malta’s UNESCO World Heritage citadel cities: the tiny, fortified capital, Valletta, built by the Knights of St John and surrounded on three sides by azure Mediterranean Sea; Malta’s first capital, Mdina, with its maze of medieval streets flanked by noble palazzi; and the Gozo Citadel, where you can walk right round the bastion walls enjoying panoramic views over the entire island.

Learn more about the fortifications at The Fortress Builder, Valletta’s free Fortifications Information Centre, and drop into any interesting-looking churches. Many house significant art, architecture and legendary relics, and all but the cathedrals are free.

Take in a perfect panorama of the Grand Harbour from Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens (no charge) before descending in the Barrakka Lift (€1/85p return trip) to cross the Grand Harbour by ferry or water taxi – a cheap sightseeing trip in itself. Disembark at Vittoriosa (Birgu) to wander the narrow, honeyed limestone alleys of this medieval town, the Knights’ first base in Malta.

Even the ticketed sights are mostly inexpensive, particularly those managed by Heritage Malta. For no more than €10 (£8.54) apiece you can explore the second oldest stone buildings in the world, unusual Roman-Byzantine catacombs and Malta’s oldest fortress. Meet the 5,000-year-old ‘Fat Ladies of Malta’ at National Museum of Archaeology, or step inside Fort St Elmo to visit the National War Museum with excellent displays on Malta’s history from the Great Siege of 1565 to the nation’s key role in WWII.

Bayview Hotel & Apartments

  • Sliema, Malta
  • 14 July 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Gatwick

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How to get around Malta on a budget

Getting around Malta on a budget is easy as public transport is cheap and fairly efficient. For a couple of euros, you can get almost anywhere by bus – including to the airport and the Gozo Ferry. Most routes on the main island run reasonably frequently. Gozo timetables are sparser but even here they run at least once an hour.

Ferries are cheap and useful too, sailing from Valletta to the Three Cities across the Grand Harbour and on the other side of the narrow capital, across Marsamxett Harbour to Sliema. From Cirkewwa in the north of the island, the regular half-hour ferry to Gozo costs €4.65 for foot passengers.

If you’d prefer to drive, car hire in Malta is fairly affordable and it’s possible to find prices from a little as €5 a day.

When is the cheapest time to go to Malta?

Typically, Malta is at its most expensive during Easter and the school holidays between July and August. You’ll find a good compromise between price and weather in late May, June, September and early October when the kids are back at school and the weather is still warm and sunny.

Winter months are likely to have the best prices, but the weather will be around 15C. Still, if you’re just after Malta’s history and culture, this can be a good time to get a bargain.

Insider tips

  • To see the cathedrals for free, go to mass. You obviously can’t wander around with your camera to the same extent but what you lose in photos you gain in atmosphere and music.
  • Malta has quite a few free festivals and events from autumn’s Notte Bianca when all Valletta’s museums and historic sights (and many not normally open to the public) throw their doors open until midnight, to Isle of MTV, Europe’s largest free outdoor pop festival held every summer.
  • Larger hotels in Malta price by occupancy, so prices can vary enormously. Go out of season or book far in advance and you may find great deals at chain four- and five-star hotels.

The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta

  • St Julian's, Malta
  • 11 December 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Manchester

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

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