Malta, key information about the small island state
Malta is for many travellers a discovery. A former English colony, located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it hides geological, archaeological and historical treasures. Come and discover the small island state of Malta and discover the surprises hidden up its sleeve.
The main information about the island of Malta
Schengen Area: Member since 21/12/2007
Large cities: St Paul’s Bay, Birkirkara, Mosta
Area: 315.4 km²
PIB (2021) : 14.53 M.€
Minimum wage: €182.83 (per week of 40 hours)
Average salary: 1,635 € (per month)
President of Malta: George Vella (Labour Party)
Prime Minister: Robert Abela
IDH: 0.895 (Very high)
Telephone code: + 356
Malta is a small island state in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. A strategic position between East and West, it was coveted and the object of many conquerors.
The island state of Malta has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004 and is the smallest member in terms of size and population. With 516 100 inhabitants in an area of 315 km², Malta is both the smallest country in the European Union and the most populous Member State after Luxembourg and Cyprus. The Republic of Malta is also a member of the Schengen area and has decided to adopt the euro as its currency.
The geographical features of Malta
An archipelago of 8 islands
As a country, Malta is an archipelago of 8 islands. The main island is also known as Malta, which can be confusing for travellers. The eight islands that make up the country are: Malta, Gozo (Għawdex), Comino (Kemmuna), l’isla Manoel (Il-Gżira Manoel), Cominotto (Kemmunett), isla de Saint-Paul (Il-Gżejjer ta’ San Pawl) and the islets of Filfla and Filfoletta Rock.
Within the archipelago, only four islands are inhabited (Malta, Gozo, Comino and Manoel).
Area and characteristics of the islands of Malta
Malta, the main island
The largest of the 8 islands is called Malta. It is 27 km long at its longest and 14.5 km wide at its widest. The main island is where most of the country’s economic activity is concentrated and where the fortified capital, Valletta, is located.
Gozo is the second largest island in the archipelago. The locals call it the “10-minute island”, as it is possible to reach any point on the island of Gozo in just a few minutes. Gozo is 14 kilometres long at its longest point and 7 kilometres wide at its widest point.
Gozo is a more authentic, more traditional island, but also with more greenery. In stark contrast to the chaos and hyper-urbanisation of the main island, it attracts travellers seeking tranquillity.
Comino and Cominotto
Comino and Cominotto are twin islands surrounding Malta’s famous and very touristic Blue Lagoon. The island of Cominotto is uninhabited and is only 200m long. It can be reached by boat or even swimming from Comino.
Comino is 2.6 kilometres at its longest point and 2.2 kilometres at its widest point. The island, which has a nature reserve, is almost uninhabited, but surprisingly enough, Comino has a hotel, the Comino Hotel.
Manoel is an island located in Marsamxett harbour which separates Valletta from Sliema. The island is home to Fort Manoel and is connected to the town of Gzira by a spit of land, making it a peninsula as it is directly connected to the main island.
The two islands of Saint-Paul
The islands of Saint-Paul actually form two islets connected by an isthmus. You can see the imposing statue of St. Paul, erected in 1845, which refers to the shipwreck of the apostle Saint-Paul in Malta.
A deserted island, out of time, that can only be visited by mooring a boat. There are no houses on the island, just some ruins and a small solar station.
The Rocky Islands of Fifla and Filfoletta
Fifla et Filfoletta are two uninhabited rocky islands located at the southern tip of Malta.
Fifla extends to just under 700 metres, but rises to a height of almost 60 metres above sea level, making it an ideal breeding ground for many species of seabirds, which is why the island is protected and closed to the public.
The neighbouring island of Fifoletta, on the other hand, is more like a large rock a few dozen metres away and of little interest.
Tourism is Malta’s main value-generating activity. Every year, around 2.5 million tourists visit the archipelago and contribute directly to almost 30% of Malta’s GDP. The impact of tourism on Malta’s economy is one of the highest in Europe.
Malta enjoys the attractions of Mediterranean coastal sites (sea, sun, seabed, etc.) as well as exceptional architectural sites (fortified towns, cathedrals, inns, etc.) thanks to the impact of the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
The island is also famous for its megalithic temples and prehistoric sites, its limestone cliffs and a variety of geological curiosities (caves, streams, lagoons…).
The airport of Malta
There is only one airport in Malta. Contrary to popular belief, it is not in the capital (Valletta). It is located in the centre of the island in the town of Luqa.
Travellers wishing to reach the island of Gozo should go to the port of Cirkewwa to catch the ferry to Gozo.
Travelling to Malta is very easy, several airlines such as the Maltese company Air Malta connect the main capitals of Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as several low cost airlines such as Vueling or Ryanair.
English courses in Malta
English language courses are another important element of the tourism sector in Malta. Every year, the island welcomes more than 80,000 students of all ages and nationalities who wish to study English in Malta.
Demographics, politics and economics in Malta
The population of Malta
Malta’s population is 516 100 inhabitants in 2021, a population that has been growing steadily over the last 20 years. With an area of only 316 km², Malta has a population density of 1636 inhabitants per km². Malta is therefore the smallest country in the European Union in terms of surface area, but also the most densely populated in Europe.
The archipelago of Malta is also a major tourist destination. The islands of Malta welcome several million travellers every year. The island is structurally densely populated, even overcrowded during the summer season. During the months of July and August there is about one inhabitant for every tourist on the island.
Contrary to popular belief, Valletta is not the most populous city on the island. In 2021, the three most populated towns in Malta, excluding the influx of tourists, are St Paul’s Bay (29,097 inhabitants), Birkirkara (21,676 inhabitants) and Mosta (20,988 inhabitants). The capital, Valletta, has only 5,730 permanent residents.
The economy of Malta
Malta has a dynamic economy, but remains highly dependent on its European partners. The island is literally a rock with few natural resources except limestone.
There are no water sources on the island and the dry, arid climate limits agricultural yields. Agricultural activity is reduced and imports of essential raw materials are limited. Malta covers 80% of its food needs through imports, mainly from Italy and Germany.
The island is also heavily dependent on Italy for its electricity and water needs. The country produces 100% of its electricity using fossil-fuelled thermal power plants, despite obvious solar and wind potential.
Despite these geological constraints, Malta has a dynamic and prosperous service-oriented economy that accounts for 84% of its GDP. GDP is the smallest of the EU countries.
Malta’s GDP has increased fivefold in the space of 30 years, driven by steady growth since the archipelago’s entry into the single market.
The financial sector represents an important part of Malta’s activity, with almost 75 billion of financial assets under management on the island. The advantageous tax policy for expatriate companies also attracts foreign investors and large companies (banks, insurance companies, etc.). Malta is sometimes described as a tax haven thanks to tax rates that can be as low as 5% on foreign branches . In addition, the island is used in many tax optimisation schemes.
The tourism sector, one of the most important financial drivers of the island, alone accounts for almost 30% of Malta’s GDP. Heavily hit by the Coronavirus epidemic (COVID 19), the affected sector expects a recovery in the future.
Finally, the archipelago has managed to establish itself as a European centre for the online gaming industry (sports betting, virtual casinos, poker, etc.). The iGaming sector accounts for almost 13.2% of Malta’s GDP and seems to be growing .
The Politics in Malta
The Republic of Malta now has a democratic system with a president, Malta has officially been a republic since 1974 and remains a member of the Commonwealth.
Maltese people have a strong political culture that is expressed both at the ballot box and on the streets. Today the island is divided between the two historic parties, the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party. Interestingly, in recent years a third party has tended to emerge, the Democratic Alternative (AD), a party that puts environmental concerns at the centre of the island’s issues.
Today, the Labour Party is leading the country. George Vella is now the President of Malta since his election on 4 April 2019. The reins of the country are in the hands of Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Frequently asked questions about Malta (FAQ)
What language(s) is/are spoken in Malta?
In the archipelago of Malta there are two official languages, English and Maltese. Maltese is officially the national language, but English, inherited from the British printing press, is still the most widely used language on the island. English is both the language of business and the language of administrative procedures.
What is the capital of Malta?
The capital of Malta is Valletta. Valletta is a fortified city with its high walls erected in the 16th century. Valletta is the administrative center of the island, but it is a small town, and contrary to popular belief Malta’s International Airport is not located in its capital, but in the town of Luqa.
How many people live in Malta?
Malta has experienced strong population growth in recent years. Currently, there are about 516,100 official inhabitants. The island of Malta is a very touristy destination, with millions of travelers visiting each year, so the actual population present on the island is much higher than the official count of permanent residents.
Where is Malta located?
The State of Malta is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, 50 km south of Sicily (Italy), 200 km east of Tunisia and 400 km north of Libya. Due to its location, Malta has long been a strategic island in the Mediterranean.
What documents do I need to travel to Malta?
The country of Malta is a member of the European Union (accession on May 1, 2004) and of the Schengen area (implementation on December 21, 2007). It is therefore possible to travel to Malta with an identity card or a residence card issued by any of the member countries. Some inhabitants of Latin American countries, as well as nationals of Japan or South Korea, are also exempt from short-stay visa requirements (90 days) and can therefore travel with a simple passport. Residents of other countries must apply for a tourist visa at the Maltese embassy in their home country or, if there is no Maltese embassy, at the French or Italian embassy.
Where is the Malta airport?
Contrary to popular belief, Malta International Airport is not located in the capital of Malta (Valletta). Malta’s only international airport is located in the center of the island, in the town of Luqa, about 20 minutes by cab from Valletta, Sliema or St. Julian’s.
What are the inhabitants of Malta called?
Many people wonder how do you call the people of Malta? The answer is simple, the inhabitants of Malta are called: the Maltese.