Author Topic: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report  (Read 930 times)

Offline yuguy

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Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« on: June 15, 2017, 12:39:19 PM »
While I’ve never finished a trip report, I sincerely hope to finish this one as from what I can tell there’s very limited information on Malta on the forums – so I hope to finish and give back!
Why Malta

This is the most common question my wife and I were asked while there from locals and tourists alike. Friends back at home asked the same. So here’s some of the reasoning:
-   Zika free
-   Beaches
-   1 kosher restaurant (Chabad)
-   And sightseeing if you wish
-   A little less popular than the common places
-   GAME OF THRONES!!

How we got there: Miles & Points (Feel free to skip)

There are no direct flights from the US to Malta. All routings require you to connect via Europe. There are lots of options, but because it’s a high leisure market there aren’t the best connecting times from US inbound flights.

Something we toyed with was flying to a European gateway to Malta, then continue on but the options we ultimately found were good enough.
140,000 United Miles for 2 passengers in Business on Lufthansa – JFK – FRA – MLA.

Connection time in Frankfurt was just shy of 4 hours. But because it was early morning when we arrived the lounges were pretty empty and we were able to snag a spot in one of those day rooms and get 2 hours of solid sleep.

There’s tons of reviews and pictures out on LH’s A380 business class flights, but here’s my two cents: I was not impressed at all with the product. I guess that’s what happens when you cram 80 or so business class seats on a plane…

The most exciting thing about the flight was that the German Foreign Minister was on our flight so him and his team got the entire First-Class section.

For our return we flew Turkish business from MLA via Istanbul to JFK: 115,000 (57,500 each) Aeroplan miles transferred from Membership Rewards.

It was the 6:10 from Istanbul so we didn’t need to get up at the G-d forsaken hour of 4am to head to the airport.

The cabin was very empty, which gave us some personalized service. I also think that their food is pretty solid.

Where we stayed: The Westin Dragonara

There are no truly luxury chain properties (yet) in Malta. There are of course boutique properties but those don’t take points.

After speaking with someone at the Chabad who has been to Malta numerous times, he mentioned that the Hilton and Westin are the two nicest properties in Malta.

There is also a nice looking Intercontinental which I had originally booked… I ended up cancelling it in favor of the Westin – and I’m glad I did! Why?
Well both the Westin and Hilton are situated in St. Julian’s pay – a upscale and quite neighborhood in Malta. Right outside that is Paceville – where the Intercontinental is. That is the center of town (think Ben Yehuda street) and is very loud all nights of the week.

Besides, the Intercontinental has a pool, but isn’t located near the shore like both the Westin and Hilton are.

Ultimately, we spent around 55,000 SPG for 5 nights (fifth night free) for the Junior Suite. Base rooms were not available at the time of booking but did open up a few days before. I believe they’re about 9,000 – 12,000 a night, depending (someone feel free to CMIIW).

It’s a massive property with tons of space by all three of the pools.

Looking out from the hotel pool, here's how clear the water is...


Shabbas at the hotel:

The staff was extremely accommodating and walked up the stairs with us to help open the rooms. The rooms also have sensors for lighting and A/C. I spoke with the Chief Engineer before shabbas (Peter) and he was more than happy to turn that off so it wouldn’t be affected by us entering and leaving the room.

The A/C is not digital so it’s a bit harder to adjust yourself to manual.

If you do stay at this property, do not stay by the Bay Suites as there is automatic lighting in the walkway which cannot be turned off.

They also provided us with a microwave and really massive fridge where we could store our food.

Getting around:

Malta is a very small country, but it has a surprisingly robust public transportation system. The buses can take you all over Malta and its sister island, Gozo.
However (and this is a big point for myself and I’m sure many): once you get farther from the main cities, they don’t come as often, say every 1o – 15 minutes). You could potentially be waiting 30 minutes to an hour. So, that being said, I wouldn’t really recommend it in the more remote places of the islands.

A lot of people rent cars there, but they do drive on the right.

Traffic isn’t horrible, but most highways are one or two lanes (and not always in the best condition) so it can get a bit slow at peak times.

Taxis are a good and relatively affordable of getting around. The white taxis are regulated by the government and are reliable. As always, be sure to agree on price before getting in. They also are cash only.

If you’re booking tours, many will offer to arrange transportation for you (for a cost).

There is no Uber or Lyft but there is an app and company called eCabs which functions similarly. Biggest caveat? You cannot cancel your ride from the app. For city locations, you can cancel 30 minutes before schedule pickup; for more remote and ferry harbors or the airport you can cancel 1 hour before. If you do it less than those times you’ll be charged 10 euro.

Day 1, 2, and 3: Arrival and Shabbas

We arrived on a Thursday morning around 11:30 AM.

The airport isn’t massive, but gets crowded with lots of Europeans. There is an official taxi stand before you leave the airport which you prepay.

The line can be long (or was when we were there). If you’re looking to save time, I’d recommend prebooking through your hotel (assuming the cost isn’t too high).

We checked in around 1:00 and our room wasn’t ready until 1:30 and then we went straight to the pool.

We spent most of our day there, exploring the hotel and then went to dinner around 6:00 PM. The Chabad is a short 15 – 20 minute walk.

As an aside, if you’re looking to avoid large (and loud) tourist groups from everyone’s favorite country avoid going there at 8:00 PM. (They close at 10:00PM). The food was solid and prices were fair.

It wasn’t anything that exciting, but it saves from schlepping pomegranate.

Friday morning we headed out early from the hotel to visit the main city and capital, Valetta.

There are two ways to get there:
1)   Take a cab/bus on the main roads to the city
2)   Take a cab/bus to the ferry which then takes you Valetta.

We opted for number 2. The ferry runs every 30 minutes or so and is only about 5 minutes long. It costs 2.80 euro for a roundtrip (per person). The city it departs from is Sliema.

As you ride towards Valetta you pass Fort Ricasoli where Ned Stark from Game of Thrones was killed (RIP).

After arriving at Valetta we walked to the main city gate to start from the beginning.

There’s lots to do in the city including sightseeing, tours, museums, etc. So it really depends on what you’re into (history, art, toy museum, postal museum, war and guns, etc.).

We mainly walked around without the guide book so we could explore on our own.

Famous balconies of Malta


More balconies...

If you want to get a view of Valetta from the outside (the invader’s point of view), it’s recommend to take the ferry to the other side (The Three Cities).

View of The Three Cities


You can also take a boat ride around the city to see the walls.

We tend to be quick when we do these types of sights – walk through, admire and get our pictures. You could definitely spend the whole day there but as always it depends on what kind of tourist you are.

The Jews Sally Port - a cafe named after the sally port which no historical reference to Jews (H/T to DDFB for the snapchat overlay  ;D)


After a few hours, we took the ferry back and went back to the hotel… to the pool! (If you can’t tell, we love the pool).

For Friday night, we went to the Chabad. They call davening for 7:00pm but can start anytime between 7:00 and 8:00 Pm, depending on when they get a minyan.

Dinner was very nice – according to my wife, it was the most edible of all Chabad Shabbas dinners. The rabbi and his wife were very friendly and were willing to answer lots of questions about Jewish life in Malta.

For Shabbas day, they meet at the Le Meridian down the road and walk to the synagogue which they share with the local Jewish community. After that, they had back to the restaurant for lunch.

We spent the rest of the day at the pool to get ready for our day trip on Sunday… up next: Private Tour of Gozo and The Blue Lagoon.


Offline Redbull3

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 02:22:44 PM »
Love it! Keep it coming!

Offline yuguy

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2017, 02:40:37 PM »
Love it! Keep it coming!

Thank you!!

Offline Yaalili

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 03:53:24 PM »
Great start on the TR, not a lot of Malta info here.

Offline Emkay

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 04:00:10 PM »
Great start on the TR, not a lot of Malta info here.
Surprising considering one of the greatest Rebbes to ever exist lives there.
 http://admorofmalta.org/about-admor/

Offline yuguy

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2017, 04:01:32 PM »
Great start on the TR, not a lot of Malta info here.

Thank you - hoping to help with that! If there were direct flights i think more people would go.

Offline yuguy

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2017, 04:01:52 PM »
Surprising considering one of the greatest Rebbes to ever exist lives there.
 http://admorofmalta.org/about-admor/

I'm so upset I missed him! He was too busy for us.

Offline TimT

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2017, 08:21:22 AM »

Offline ethana

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2018, 11:01:39 AM »
How can I get in touch with the rabbi?

Offline TimT

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2018, 11:15:00 AM »

Offline ethana

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2018, 11:29:08 AM »
whhops. I actually meant the chabad rabbi...

Offline TimT

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2018, 11:47:44 AM »
whhops. I actually meant the chabad rabbi...
:D

Offline Yammer

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Re: Malta, Comino and Gozo - Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2018, 01:10:01 PM »
Surprising considering one of the greatest Rebbes to ever exist lives there.
 http://admorofmalta.org/about-admor/
I heard that he no longer lives there
whhops. I actually meant the chabad rabbi...
PM