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Why Don’t More Backpackers Come To Malta?


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Candra Bell



When it comes to backpacking in Europe, popular destinations like France, Italy, and Spain often steal the spotlight. However, nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, there is a hidden gem that remains largely overlooked by backpackers: Malta. This small archipelago, consisting of three main islands – Malta, Gozo, and Comino – offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that is waiting to be explored.


Malta may not be your typical backpacking destination, but it has plenty to offer adventurous travelers seeking to go off the beaten path. From ancient cities rich in architectural wonders to stunning coastlines and crystal-clear waters, Malta has something for everyone.


One of the reasons why more backpackers don’t come to Malta is its relatively lesser-known status compared to other European hotspots. However, this is precisely what makes it an appealing destination for those seeking an authentic and immersive travel experience. By venturing to a destination less frequented by tourists, you have the opportunity to truly connect with the local culture and explore hidden gems that haven’t yet been overrun by crowds.


Another reason for the limited number of backpackers visiting Malta is the misconception that it is a luxury travel destination. While it is true that Malta offers high-end resorts and a thriving luxury tourism industry, it is also possible to explore the islands on a budget. With a bit of planning and research, backpackers can discover affordable accommodation, inexpensive dining options, and free or low-cost activities that showcase the best of the Maltese culture and landscape.


In this article, we will delve into the reasons why more backpackers should consider adding Malta to their travel itinerary. From its unique landscape and cultural immersion opportunities to budget-friendly travel tips and safe transportation options, we will explore the many facets that make Malta an underrated destination for adventurous travelers.


The Charm of Backpacking

Backpacking is more than just a travel style; it’s a way of life. It’s about immersing yourself in the local culture, embracing spontaneity, and creating lifelong memories. Malta, with its charming towns and welcoming locals, offers the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable backpacking experience.


One of the highlights of backpacking in Malta is the freedom and flexibility it provides. Unlike traditional vacation packages, backpacking allows you to tailor your trip to suit your individual preferences and interests. You have the liberty to explore at your own pace, discover hidden gems off the beaten path, and adapt your itinerary according to your whims and fancies.


Malta’s compact size makes it an ideal destination for backpackers. With just a few hours of traveling, you can go from exploring the architectural marvels of Valletta, the capital city, to lounging on the picturesque beaches of Maltese Islands. The convenience and accessibility of the islands make it easy to maximize your time and experience the diverse facets of this stunning destination.


But what truly sets backpacking in Malta apart is the opportunity for cultural immersion. As you wander through the narrow streets of ancient cities like Mdina or explore traditional fishing villages, you can’t help but soak in the rich history and traditions that are embedded in everyday life. Whether it’s savoring local cuisine, attending traditional festivals, or interacting with friendly locals, Malta offers a unique experience that allows you to connect with the authentic heart and soul of the destination.


The charm of backpacking lies in the sense of adventure and exploration it brings. In Malta, you can hike along rugged cliffs, dive into clear blue waters, and discover hidden caves and grottos. From visiting the ancient temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra to exploring the iconic Blue Grotto, every corner of Malta offers a new adventure waiting to be discovered.


Furthermore, backpacking fosters a sense of community among travelers. In Malta, you’ll often find hostels and budget-friendly accommodations that cater specifically to backpackers. These communal spaces provide an opportunity to meet fellow travelers from around the world, share stories and experiences, and even form lifelong friendships. The camaraderie that comes with backpacking enhances the overall experience and adds an extra layer of joy and excitement to your journey.


Overall, the charm of backpacking in Malta lies in its unique blend of freedom, cultural immersion, and adventure. Whether you’re exploring historical sites, indulging in the vibrant nightlife, or simply relaxing on a golden beach, Malta offers a backpacking experience like no other. So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on a journey that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.


Exploring Malta’s Unique Landscape

Though small in size, Malta boasts a diverse and captivating landscape that is sure to delight backpackers seeking adventure in the great outdoors. From dramatic cliffs to stunning coastlines, Malta offers a range of natural wonders waiting to be explored.


One of the highlights of Malta’s landscape is its rugged coastline. The islands are blessed with an abundance of breathtaking cliffs and hidden coves, providing the perfect backdrop for hiking enthusiasts. The Dingli Cliffs, located on the western coast of Malta, offer magnificent panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. As you traverse the cliffside paths, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas and the sound of crashing waves below.


For those who prefer to explore underwater, Malta is a haven for scuba diving and snorkeling. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands are teeming with marine life and offer excellent visibility. The Blue Lagoon in Comino is a popular spot for snorkelers, with its vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish species. Diving enthusiasts can explore the famous Blue Hole in Gozo, where an underwater cave system and an abundance of marine species await.


Inland, Malta’s landscape is dotted with charming countryside and rolling hills. The island of Gozo, in particular, is known for its tranquil landscapes and picturesque villages. Grab your backpack and embark on a hike through the rural trails of Gozo, passing by lush valleys, pastures, and traditional farmhouses. The stunning landscapes provide ample opportunities for nature photography and a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life.


No exploration of Malta’s unique landscape would be complete without visiting its famous natural landmarks. The Azure Window, a massive limestone arch located in Gozo, was a popular attraction for its striking beauty until it collapsed in 2017. However, Gozo still holds fascinating natural wonders like the Inland Sea, a small saltwater lagoon connected to the Mediterranean through a narrow tunnel, and the stunning Ramla Bay, known for its red sandy beach.


Malta’s landscape is also rich in historical and cultural sites that add to its allure. The Megalithic Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a testament to the island’s ancient past and offer a glimpse into prehistoric times. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground cemetery dating back to 4000 BC, is another must-visit site for history enthusiasts.


Exploring Malta’s unique landscape offers backpackers a chance to reconnect with nature and immerse themselves in the island’s natural wonders. Whether you’re hiking along dramatic cliffs, diving into crystal-clear waters, or strolling through picturesque countryside, Malta’s landscape promises adventure and beauty at every turn.


Cultural Immersion in Malta

One of the most rewarding aspects of backpacking in Malta is the opportunity for cultural immersion. The islands boast a rich history and a vibrant local culture that is sure to captivate and inspire travelers.


Malta’s cultural heritage is deeply intertwined with its architectural wonders. The capital city of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a treasure trove of historical landmarks. From St. John’s Co-Cathedral, adorned with intricate Baroque art, to the Grandmaster’s Palace, once home to the Knights of Malta, every step through Valletta is a journey back in time.


Malta is also famous for its unique festas, traditional religious celebrations that take place throughout the year. These festas are a vibrant and captivating display of music, processions, and fireworks, all coming together to honor the island’s patron saints. Joining in the festivities allows backpackers to witness the deep-rooted faith and cultural traditions of the Maltese people.


To truly immerse yourself in Maltese culture, sampling the local cuisine is a must. From the hearty rabbit stew known as “Fenkata” to the mouthwatering pastries called “Pastizzi,” Maltese cuisine reflects the island’s diverse influences. Don’t forget to try the famous “Ġbejna,” a traditional sheep or goat cheese that is a local delicacy.


For history buffs, a visit to the ancient city of Mdina is a must. Known as the “Silent City,” Mdina is a perfectly preserved medieval town with narrow, winding streets and stunning architecture. As you wander through its labyrinthine alleys, you’ll feel transported to another time and marvel at the grandeur of the city’s palaces and churches.


To further engage with Maltese culture, consider learning a few basic phrases in Maltese, the national language. While English is widely spoken on the islands, the locals will appreciate the effort in speaking their native tongue. Interacting with the friendly locals, listening to their stories, and gaining insights into their way of life will enrich your experience and create unforgettable memories.


Furthermore, Malta offers a thriving arts and music scene, with various cultural events and festivals taking place throughout the year. From live concerts to theatrical performances, there’s always something happening to immerse yourself in the creative spirit of the island.


Cultural immersion in Malta goes beyond historical sites and traditional festivities. It’s about connecting with the local people, embracing their customs, and experiencing the everyday nuances of Maltese life. Through food, language, music, and embracing the local way of life, backpackers can truly immerse themselves in the vibrant cultural tapestry of Malta.


Budget-Friendly Travel Tips

Contrary to popular belief, backpacking in Malta doesn’t have to break the bank. With a bit of planning and savvy decision-making, it’s possible to travel on a budget without compromising the quality of your experience. Here are some budget-friendly travel tips to help you make the most of your trip to Malta:

  • Visit during the shoulder seasons: Consider planning your trip to Malta during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. Not only will you avoid the peak tourist crowds, but you’ll also find more affordable flight and accommodation options.
  • Opt for public transportation: Use Malta’s efficient public transportation system, which includes buses and ferries, to get around the islands. The bus network is extensive and reasonably priced, making it a cost-effective way to explore different areas. Plus, taking public transportation allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with other travelers.
  • Choose budget-friendly accommodations: Look for budget-friendly accommodations like hostels or guesthouses, which offer affordable dormitory-style rooms or private rooms at a fraction of the cost of luxury hotels. Alternatively, consider renting an apartment or using online platforms that connect travelers with local homeowners looking to rent out their spaces.
  • Prepare your own meals: While dining out is undoubtedly a part of the travel experience, eating every meal at restaurants can quickly add up. Save money by buying groceries from local supermarkets and preparing some of your meals. Not only will this help you stay within your budget, but it will also give you a chance to try out some Maltese delicacies that can be prepared at home.
  • Take advantage of free activities: Malta offers plenty of free or low-cost activities for backpackers. Explore the stunning coastline on foot, visit ancient temples and historical sites, or simply relax on the beautiful beaches. Take advantage of local markets and street festivals to experience the vibrancy of the island’s culture without spending a fortune.
  • Be flexible with your itinerary: By keeping an open mind and being flexible with your travel plans, you can take advantage of last-minute deals and discounts. Be willing to change your schedule or explore lesser-known areas based on recommendations from locals and other backpackers you meet along the way.

By following these budget-friendly travel tips, you can enjoy all that Malta has to offer without straining your wallet. Remember, the true essence of backpacking is not the number of places you visit or the money you spend, but the experiences and connections you make along the way. So, embrace the adventure, make smart choices, and create memories that will last a lifetime, all while staying within your budget.


The Language Barrier Myth

One common misconception that deters backpackers from visiting Malta is the fear of a language barrier. While Maltese is the official language, you’ll be relieved to know that English is widely spoken and understood throughout the islands. This makes it incredibly convenient and easy to communicate with locals and navigate your way around.


English has been an official language in Malta since 1936, and it plays a significant role in the education system, business world, and daily life. You’ll find that most signs, menus, and public transportation information are available in English, providing a seamless experience for English-speaking travelers.


Not only do locals speak English, but they are also welcoming and friendly, making it easy to strike up conversations and seek assistance when needed. Whether you’re asking for directions, ordering food at a restaurant, or engaging in casual conversations, you’ll find that language is rarely a barrier in Malta.


Furthermore, the prevalence of English among the local population makes it a perfect destination for solo travelers or backpackers who may feel more comfortable in an English-speaking environment. The ability to communicate effectively with locals allows for meaningful interactions and a deeper connection with the destination.


However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to learn a few basic Maltese phrases. Locals appreciate when visitors attempt to speak their language and it can enhance your travel experience. Simple greetings like “bonġu” (hello) or “grazzi” (thank you) can go a long way in showing respect and building rapport with the locals.


Ultimately, the language barrier myth shouldn’t deter you from backpacking in Malta. English is widely spoken, making it easy to communicate and immerse yourself in the local culture. Embrace the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals, learn a few basic Maltese phrases, and enjoy a seamless travel experience.


Safety and Security Considerations

When planning any trip, it’s important to prioritize safety and security, and backpacking in Malta is no exception. Fortunately, Malta is known for its overall safety, making it a welcoming and secure destination for travelers.


The crime rate in Malta is relatively low, and serious incidents targeting tourists are rare. However, it’s always wise to take general precautions and remain vigilant, especially in crowded tourist areas or when dealing with valuables. Keep a close eye on your belongings, be cautious of pickpocketing, and use common sense when interacting with strangers.


Malta also benefits from a well-developed healthcare system. European Union citizens are entitled to free or reduced-cost emergency medical treatment through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Non-EU citizens should ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses.


In terms of natural hazards, Malta is generally safe from major threats like earthquakes, tsunamis, or extreme weather events. However, it’s always a good idea to check local weather forecasts and follow any safety advisories or warnings issued by authorities, particularly during the winter months when storms and heavy rains can occur.


For those planning water-related activities such as swimming, snorkeling, or diving, it’s crucial to adhere to safety guidelines and take necessary precautions. Pay attention to warning flags at beaches, follow lifeguards’ instructions, and be aware of your own swimming abilities. It’s also recommended to choose certified operators and schools for any water sports or diving activities.


In terms of personal safety, it’s advisable to register with your embassy or consulate upon arrival in Malta. This can provide you with essential emergency contact information and keep you updated on any travel advisories or alerts in the region.


When it comes to transportation, Malta has a reliable public transportation system that is generally safe. However, as with any destination, it’s important to exercise caution when using taxis or ride-sharing services. Ensure the vehicle is licensed, negotiate the fare in advance, and use reputable companies.


Note: It’s always a good practice to stay informed by regularly checking travel advisories issued by your home country’s government before traveling.


While no destination is entirely risk-free, by taking necessary precautions, staying informed, and using your common sense, you can have a safe and memorable backpacking experience in Malta.


Transportation and Accessibility

Getting around Malta as a backpacker is convenient and accessible, thanks to its well-developed transportation system. Whether you’re exploring the main island of Malta or venturing to the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino, there are various transportation options to suit every need and budget.


One of the most popular modes of transportation in Malta is the public bus system. The bus network covers a wide range of routes, connecting major towns, tourist attractions, and even more remote areas. The buses are relatively affordable and offer a convenient way to travel around the islands. The main bus terminal in Valletta serves as a hub for various routes, making it easy to plan your journeys and connect to different parts of the islands.


In addition to buses, ferries and water taxis are available for travel between the islands. If you’re heading to Gozo, the regular ferry service operates from the Ċirkewwa Ferry Terminal on the northern tip of Malta. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes and offers scenic views of the surrounding coastline. Once in Gozo, public buses and private taxis are readily available to take you to your desired destinations.


For those who prefer a more independent mode of transportation, renting a car or scooter is a popular choice. Rental agencies are widespread, and driving in Malta is relatively straightforward, with well-maintained roads and clear signage. However, it’s important to note that traffic can be heavy, especially in urban areas, and parking spaces may be limited. So, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with local driving rules and plan your routes accordingly.


Alternatively, cycling is a great option for exploring the islands at a slower pace. Malta has a growing number of dedicated cycling lanes and routes, making it bicycle-friendly. Several rental shops offer bicycles and e-bikes, allowing you to pedal your way through charming villages, scenic coastlines, and off-the-beaten-path destinations.


Accessibility is another key advantage when it comes to transportation in Malta. Whether you have mobility challenges or special accessibility needs, accommodations and public facilities are designed to cater to all travelers. Many buses and ferries are equipped with ramps or lifts for easy access, and major tourist sites and attractions provide accessible facilities and amenities.


Finally, if you prefer to explore on foot, Malta’s compact size makes it feasible to navigate many areas by walking. The narrow streets of historical towns like Valletta and Mdina are best explored on foot, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local ambiance and discover hidden gems along the way.


With a range of transportation options and accessibility considerations, Malta offers backpackers the freedom and convenience to explore the islands at their own pace. From buses and ferries to cars, bicycles, and even walking, there’s a transportation mode to suit every traveler’s preference and ensure a seamless journey through the beautiful Maltese archipelago.


Accommodation Options for Backpackers

When it comes to accommodation for backpackers in Malta, there are various options to suit different budgets and preferences. Whether you’re looking for social and vibrant hostels or affordable guesthouses, Malta offers a range of choices that cater to the needs of backpackers.


Hostels are a popular choice among budget-conscious travelers seeking a social atmosphere. Malta has several well-established hostels, particularly in the bustling areas of St. Julian’s and Sliema, which offer dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities. These hostels often organize social events, group outings, and provide communal spaces where travelers can connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.


For those seeking a bit more privacy and comfort, guesthouses and budget hotels are a great alternative. These types of accommodations offer private or shared rooms at affordable rates, providing a cozy and home-like experience. Guesthouses are usually family-run establishments, allowing you to interact with locals and gain insights into Maltese culture.


Another option for backpackers is renting an apartment or villa. This can be a cost-effective choice, especially for group travelers or those planning a longer stay. Online platforms offer a wide range of rental options, allowing you to find a comfortable and affordable space that suits your needs. Renting an apartment or villa also provides the opportunity to cook your meals, further reducing expenses.


In recent years, the concept of ecotourism and sustainable travel has gained popularity, and Malta has responded with eco-friendly accommodations. These establishments emphasize sustainability and environmental consciousness, and some even offer unique experiences like camping or glamping in nature reserves and rural areas.


As an alternative to traditional accommodation, Couchsurfing is a popular option for adventurous backpackers. Through this online platform, locals open their homes to travelers, providing a free place to stay and an opportunity for cultural exchange. Before choosing this option, it’s essential to review the host’s profile and detailed information and communicate clearly with them to ensure a comfortable and safe experience.


No matter which accommodation option you choose, be sure to research and read reviews from previous guests to ensure quality and reliability. Additionally, consider the location of your accommodation, as proximity to public transportation, attractions, and amenities can greatly enhance your overall experience in Malta.


Overall, Malta offers a wide range of accommodation choices for backpackers, from vibrant hostels to budget-friendly guesthouses and unique eco-friendly options. With careful consideration and planning, you can find the perfect accommodation that suits your budget, preferences, and desire to connect with fellow travelers or immerse yourself in Maltese culture.


Alternative Backpacking Destinations in the Mediterranean

While Malta offers incredible experiences for backpackers, there are several other destinations in the Mediterranean that are worth considering for your backpacking adventure. These alternate destinations provide unique landscapes, rich history, and vibrant cultures that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Here are a few options to consider:


Greece: With its stunning islands, ancient ruins, and delectable cuisine, Greece is a backpacker’s paradise. From the famous island of Santorini to the historical sites of Athens and the party scene of Mykonos, Greece offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all interests.


Croatia: With its crystal-clear Adriatic Sea and charming coastal towns, Croatia has become a favorite backpacker destination. Explore the medieval city walls of Dubrovnik, discover secluded beaches in the stunning Dalmatian Islands, or party the night away in vibrant Split. Croatia offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and history.


Spain: From the lively streets of Barcelona to the sun-soaked beaches of the Canary Islands, Spain has something for every backpacker. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Seville, hike the breathtaking landscapes of the Sierra Nevada, or indulge in the world-famous cuisine of Valencia.


Portugal: Known for its picturesque coastal towns, historic cities, and warm hospitality, Portugal is a hidden gem for backpackers. Experience the beauty of Lisbon, surf the waves of the Algarve, or explore the charming streets of Porto. Portugal offers a laid-back atmosphere and an authentic taste of Mediterranean life.


Turkey: Turkey is a diverse and captivating destination for backpackers. From the bustling streets of Istanbul to the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia, Turkey offers a mix of ancient history, vibrant bazaars, and unique cultural experiences. Don’t miss the chance to relax along the pristine beaches of Antalya or sail along the stunning Turquoise Coast.


Italy: Italy truly has it all – iconic cities, breathtaking coastlines, and a rich culinary heritage. Explore the ancient ruins of Rome, cruise along the beautiful Amalfi Coast, or get lost in the enchanting streets of Venice. Italy offers a multitude of charms and delights that are sure to captivate any backpacker.


Morocco: For a taste of exoticism, Morocco is an intriguing destination. Immerse yourself in the bustling souks of Marrakech, hike the Atlas Mountains, or venture into the vast Sahara Desert. Morocco offers a vibrant blend of Arab, Berber, and European influences, making it a cultural melting pot.


These are just a few examples of the many alternative backpacking destinations in the Mediterranean. Each offers its own unique experiences, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural treasures. Whether you choose Malta or one of these other destinations, be prepared to embark on a journey that will allow you to create memories, meet like-minded travelers, and discover the wonders of the Mediterranean.



Malta may not be the first destination that comes to mind when considering a backpacking adventure in Europe, but it is undoubtedly a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its unique blend of history, culture, stunning landscapes, and welcoming locals, Malta offers a truly immersive and unforgettable experience for backpackers.


From exploring the ancient cities of Valletta and Mdina to diving into crystal-clear waters and hiking along dramatic cliffs, Malta’s diverse landscape provides endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. Cultural immersion is another highlight of backpacking in Malta, with its rich history, traditional festivals, and mouthwatering cuisine.


Contrary to the belief that Malta is a luxury travel destination, backpacking on a budget is entirely feasible. With affordable accommodations, budget-friendly dining options, and an extensive public transportation network, backpackers can experience the best of Malta without breaking the bank.


Furthermore, the misconception of a language barrier in Malta is dispelled by the widespread use of English and the warm hospitality of the locals. Traveling in Malta is safe, with low crime rates and a well-developed healthcare system, ensuring peace of mind for backpackers.


If you’re looking for alternative backpacking destinations in the Mediterranean, there are several exciting options to consider. From Greece and Croatia to Spain and Turkey, each destination offers its own unique charm and experiences that will cater to every backpacker’s preferences.


Ultimately, whether you choose to explore Malta or venture to an alternative destination, backpacking in the Mediterranean promises adventure, cultural immersion, and lifelong memories. So pack your backpack, step off the beaten path, and embark on a journey that will captivate your senses and leave you yearning for more.