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Forums Other Destination advice Malta trip report: flying Air Malta and staying at the Hilton

  • PeteM 775 posts

    I thought I’d share a write-up of our little Malta holiday over Easter just gone as there isn’t a huge amount on Malta on the forum yet:

    Flights

    We flew Air Malta (KM) in business class both ways. The return price, over Easter, was £330pp when BA were charging £400 in economy. The flight times were also much more pleasant than BA, out at 11am and returning at 5pm. I theoretically should get some Miles & More miles for the flights, although they haven’t shown up yet.

    KM operate out of T2 at Heathrow, which was bustling, but both desks that they had open were empty and we were promptly checked-in. Fast track security was a breeze in under 10mins and we were provided vouchers to use the Lufthansa business lounge.

    Instead we opted for the Plaza Premium, which we were told was full as we arrived, but after some persuasion we were let in.

    Boarding was right on time and everyone was onboard for an on-time departure. Some baggage shenanigans ensued, which meant we pushed back some 30mins late, but still arrived broadly on time in Malta.

    KM use the slimline Recaro seats throughout the plane and they aren’t the most comfortable. Leg room was adequate and the middle seat was blocked out (no tray). They only have 7 A320s, some classic and some neos. Both our outbound and return were on the neos, although the outbound was brand new and looked a lot better than the return plane.

    The onboard service was not overly friendly, but efficient and attentive. Menus were handed out (no choices, though), followed by a drinks service and a meal served on one tray. The food was actually very enjoyable, although it is beyond me why airlines continue to serve beef “steak” when it almost always ends up being a bit chewy and dry. No vegetarian choices unless pre-ordered, so worth bearing that in mind. Food was followed by teas and coffees and the crew were pretty good at checking on passengers throughout the flight. Sad to say the Maltese wines served (both red and white) were by far the worst Maltese wines I had all holiday.

    Disembarking in Malta was extremely quick (no jet-bridges), passport control took mere minutes, but then we were stuck waiting for our bags for a good 30-40 mins. Priority bags did arrive first. I suspect all bags get scanned on arrival, hence the delay. There is an arrival lounge accessible with Priority Pass, sadly we only realised this too late. Customs were pretty on the ball, stopping quite a few people, followed by a Covid-certificate-checking extravaganza involving about 30 booths – at least it was quick and efficient. PLFs were checked, vaccination certificates scanned and passports re-checked for good measure.

    The KM lounge (also accessible via PP) on the return was excellent – well stocked, decent food, with huge windows and a terrace. Truly a model to follow for other similar airports. Passport control on the way out was at least 30mins for non-EU passport holders. We were delayed by about 30mins on the return due to air traffic restrictions, but got back into Heathrow broadly on time again.

    Car hire

    We hired an intermediate car from Avis via Holiday Autos. All the hire companies are on the first floor of a new MSCP next to the airport building – all very modern and tidy. Avis had a c10min queue and we were upgraded to a small SUV. This was excellent for touring the island. Return formalities took about 3mins. For £135 for 5 days it felt as excellent value.

    We did a lot of driving around, pretty much every day, and only used about half the tank as the island is actually very small. Refilling only cost about 25 EUR. I didn’t find the driving in Malta particularly bad as some reviews suggest, but it may be because I have very low standards!

    Hotel

    We stayed at the Hilton Malta in St Julian’s, about 20mins drive from the airport.

    We booked two rooms and checked-in separately – one receptionist acknowledged our Hilton Honors gold status and was able to upgrade us by one category, whilst the other one didn’t and we got the entry-level room we had booked. The process was, however, quick and painless in both cases and the free glass of prosecco for everyone was a nice touch.

    The rooms were both perfectly clean and the housekeeping was daily and excellent. One room overlooked the marina and the other one had sea views – they were both of a very good size. We did struggle to get extra bathrobes (it took three calls and a visit to reception to get them) and both the sink and bathtub were blocked in one of the rooms and it took four days to resolve this, despite daily reminders to reception.

    The HVAC in the rooms was a bit on the noisy side, but the rooms had clearly been fairly recently refurbished and were in a good state of repair. The carpets in the hallways, however, desperately need changing. The rooms’ soundproofing was very good.

    The breakfast buffet was extensive, with made-to-order options. It would get busy later in the morning, especially as all the buffet items had to be served to guests by staff in an excellent display of Covid-theatre, apparently dictated by the Maltese authorities.

    It was too cold and windy to use the outdoor pools, but the indoor pool and spa were very pleasant. This required pre-booking because of Covid, but availability was fairly decent especially towards the end of the day.

    Staff were generally pleasant, but most appeared forever rushed. This is a large hotel, so there is no personal service to speak of. We did have drinks at the bar one evening and the waiter there was particularly friendly and attentive.

    The free underground car park was most convenient and overall we found the location of the hotel excellent – it was easy to drive everywhere and there were plenty of local restaurants and bars to enjoy within walking distance. Unlike some other hotels in the area (e.g. the IC or the HIE), the Hilton isn’t directly on the entertainment strip and therefore isn’t noisy – we got mostly excellent sleep.

    I know some people prefer to stay in Valletta itself, but given we wanted to do a lot of exploring, the convenience of a free car park right under the hotel, easy access to the main island road plus all the facilities won us over.

    Activities

    We did a city tour of Valetta as well as Rabat and the M’dina – both worthwhile and inexpensive through Viator. We also went to the Popeye Village, Gozo Island (the citadel in Victoria there is amazing) and various other forts and castles.

    Food

    We loved Hammett’s Macina across the harbour from Valletta and Dinner at Root 81 in Rabat. Storie & Sapori in St Julian’s is as chaotic as if you were in Naples!

    Overall, it was a brilliant trip, except the hurricane-strength winds that battered the island for 4 out of the 6 days we were there. The beach was out of the question, as were any outdoor pools. We were grateful for the Hilton’s indoor pool! I’ve got to say this is why I probably wouldn’t choose to go back – the weather is so unpredictable there that, having seen most of the island, I would probably rather not risk a beach holiday there (except for perhaps July and August, but then it’s way too hot…).

    NorthernLass 8,267 posts

    Thanks – very interesting! I wonder if Air Malta flies from MAN these days, I think they used to. June and September tend to be good bets, great weather but not too hot/busy. If you like ancient history, the temples are a must. Hoping to go back in the next couple of years and see the Hypogeum, will check out the Hilton.

    Aston100 1,457 posts

    Thanks Pete.
    I’m sure I flew with them out of Gatwick just before Coronoa turned up.
    Did you find St Julians a little bit seedy?
    Agree about Gozo and also the unpredictable weather.

    We used the local busses to get around. Was inexpensive and meant both of us got to take in the scenery, but the busses didn’t seem to follow any time table and just turned up when they felt like it!

    Lovely place Malta, but the Maltese could do with smiling a bit more instead of looking miserable all the time.
    <insert joke about how to make a Maltese cross>

    • This reply was modified 54 years, 6 months ago by .
    PeteM 775 posts

    I wonder if Air Malta flies from MAN these days

    Don’t think they do anymore, sadly – just LHR and LGW.

    Did you find St Julians a little bit seedy?

    So a few people asked me that. Honestly, the area around Paceville Plaza and north towards Casino Malta, yes. The bit around the Hilton (Portomaso) and further south is perfectly pleasant.

    We used the local busses to get around. Was inexpensive and meant both of us got to take in the scenery, but the busses didn’t seem to follow any time table and just turned up when they felt like it!

    There are so many bus stops too! But we did see a lot of people waiting who didn’t look too happy!

    John 1,050 posts

    The buses have been very reliable every time I visited in the past 6 years (after a complete route and schedule overhaul) – except on the bottleneck road from St Julian’s to Valetta in the morning which would not be great in a car either

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