Friday, 17 May 2013

Honeymoon on a Budget??? My Week in Malta

My new hubby would never have forgiven me if I'd try to go for a budget break for our honeymoon... but I do have some tips for anyone who is considering going to Malta, so buckle up for the adventure, romance and sunshine of this beautiful Mediterranean island.

First of all, may I say this has been an amazing break for us. Malta is beautiful, and at this time of year, it's not unbearably hot. The locals say it isn't summer yet, but I had to take care not to burn.

We stayed in the coastal town of Sliema.

This was recommended as it is quieter than neighbouring capital Valetta and the bustling St Julian's, but still in easy reach of most places. There is a new, modern shopping centre, lots of seafront cafes, and a great place to go swimming in the sea.

We went on lots of trips... to Valetta. Here is the most beautiful cathedral - St John's.

We also drank in The Pub - where Oliver Reed died. To be honest, it was a bit depressing, but I put that down to it being empty, near afternoon closing and Enigma being played in the background.

We visited the beautiful fishing harbour of Marsaxlokk. There is a market here everyday, but there's a really big one on Sundays.

...we bought and ate some of those sweets!

We walked to the prehistoric caves at Ghar Dalam. Here, many animal bones have been found which show how nanism (species of animals evolving into giant or dwarf versions) occurred as a result of the land bridge between Malta, Sicily and Europe disappearing. OH was thrilled at the prospect of tiny elephants!


And we went on a bus tour, stopping at the ancient medieval cities of Mdina and Rabat to explore the catacombs and WWII shelters under St Pauls.

We passed through Mosta - where the rotunda of the church is the 3rd largest unsupported dome in the world.

A bomb fell through the roof in the war, while people were inside praying. It didn't go off, and the congregation thought it was a miracle. After the war, the German bomber returned to the town to apologise and the town forgave him.

From there we went on to visit Golden Bay on the North-West coast - one of the few sandy beaches in Gozo. OH had a go at bodyboarding there. The waves were immense!

For his birthday, OH achieved a life's ambition and swam with dolphins.

It's not something I really agree with, but it made him very happy.

We also went on a booked excursion to a medieval banquet. The food was edible, the wine drinkable, and the 'play' that was put on was just that... as a medieval re-enactor, OH was a bit disappointed by the lame sword choreography. The whole thing was a bit Disneyfied. But the thing as whole was excellent fun, and the performances really good.

At one point they asked for volunteers to be made into knights by the Grand Master. We didn't realise those 'volunteers' had already been picked, but OH put his hand up, and the MC said, "Sorry, Madam, we're only picking men." When she realised her mistake, she was mortified! So, he got to be knighted after all.. as they hurriedly found him something appropriate to wear.
Yep - the one in the middle not wearing a black cloak with a Maltese cross.

We also tried scuba diving - I got as far as the sea and saw the seabed and a fish underwater after our pool session, but found the gear too claustrophobic and could feel panic setting in, so I didn't do much. OH was off though, chasing scorpion fish and all sorts!  (Note - really, don't chase those...)

So, those who expect us not to see the sights, just because it was our honeymoon, sorry to disappoint. Why travel all that way if you're not going to make the most of what a new place has to offer?

So, if you're planning a trip to Malta yourself, here are my tips:

Get Advice

Malta is a popular destination, so speak to friends who have been there already and they will be bound to be able to recommend places to stay and go. We got advice from a former inhabitant about which town and which hotel we might like. As it happened, we were fairly young for the average clientele of our hotel, but the location was perfect, the room was great, the facilities excellent. And the food! As we went half-board, we were glad the food was top notch.

Read up too. Before we went, we got  several guides from the library and read up on the history to decide the sort of thing we wanted to do there. We also bought a Marco Polo guide to take with us, using vouchers we were given as gifts. This was really useful.

Don't Drive

Really, life is too precious!  We saw several near-accidents every day as the driving is a bit cut-throat. Parking is nigh on impossible in some of the small towns too. Just take the bus... they are all run by Arriva, are comfy, air-conditioned and regular and you can get pretty much most places by bus. A week's pass will cost you €12.60, and will get you everywhere.


Heritage Malta run a scheme whereby you can see several of the island's top museums for €20. The pass gets you into The Museum of Archeology, the Armoury and State Rooms in the Grand Master's Palace, Fort St Elmo's War Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts   - all in Valetta. We have heard that some of the more expensive multi-site tickets may not be worth the extra, as some of the museums don't have much to them.

Bear the Weather in Mind

Boat trips won't run on windy days as the sea gets too choppy, so if you do score a free harbour cruise from your bus tour at Sliema Ferries, try to take it as early as you can so you don't miss out. Or you can hang around the harbour and see if anyone passing has a ticket they can't use to spare...
Also, sun hats and sun cream are essential. We both used a children's factor 50 water resistant one from Nivea which cost £3.90 from ASDA. Don't be fooled into thinking you won't tan, or you need a special one for adults.

Grab the Opportunity

 Scuba diving is relatively cheap to try in Malta. For two of us, a taster session was just €60 from Aquarrigo. It just gets expensive if you want to qualify for a deep dive.

 It's free to...

  • Take in the sights at Marsaxlokk and just wander around.
  • Visit the Upper Barracca Gardens in Valetta, and they are beautiful too. Just don't be tempted to go down the lift there. There's nothing at the bottom, and they charge you a euro to get back up. Go just before noon, and you can watch the saluting battery be fired.
  • Swim in the sea. Most of the lidos belong to the hotels, and in high season they may check you are a resident, but then again they may not. But those beautiful lidos are just sea water anyway. There are steps all around the bay in Sliema allowing access to the sea very easily.
  • Go rockpooling. Guaranteed, you've never seen so many varieties of sea creature in the rock pools at home! A sort of mini scuba diving, if you like.
  • Go for a run along the beautiful promenade between St Julien's and Sliema. This is very popular with joggers.
  •  Use the play parks - there's some great play equipment for kids. But if you're a grown up, there are outdoor gyms by the seafront in Sliema, so you can play too!
  • Go panning for salt, along some of Malta's famous salt pans.
  • Go snorkling - we took our own equipment bought from Sports Direct dirt cheap.
Free Money

Yes, free money! When you arrive at the airport, you may be passed a form from the Malta tourism authority. If you fill it in and take it to their office in Valetta at the end of your holiday, they will give you a cheque for €20, which you need to cash there and then. Make sure you do so in the morning, as the banks close their desks in the afternoon.

And, I'm not suggesting you do this, but you could try scamming the scammers, like we did. An hour of our time, a sob story and an Oscar-winning performance on my part, and we got another €20 promised to us by a timeshare salesman, and they got nothing from us whatsoever! These people rely on the romance of Malta, your desire for escape and your lack of quick maths and observation skills. Really, you can offer me a holiday in Australia? But there's no photo of the accommodation...mmmmh
I love Malta - the sun, the history and culture and warmth of the place. I love the food and wine!

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