Environment: The Maltese Islands are situated in the Mediterranean Sea, about 100 km from Sicily and 290 km from North Africa. They consist of Malta (390 sq km) Gozo (65 sq km) and Comino (2.5 sq km). They are one of the oldest civilisations in the Mediterranean dating back to circa 5000 years B.C. The population is around 385,000 and is homogeneous with its own identity and language. The official languages are Maltese and English with most of the people also fluent in Italian.

Malta's topography is characterised by a series of low hills and slopes towards the Northeast and low lying land to the Southeast. The Islands have a typically temperate climate offering warm, dry summers and mild winters. Malta enjoys some 300 days of sunshine and the average rainfall is about 590mm. Temperatures range between 14°C in winter and 32°C in summer.

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Portomaso: Ever since its inception on the drawing board, Portomaso aimed to be one of the most prestigious addresses in the Mediterranean... And it has succeeded in its goal, becoming not only a top-class development of high standards, but also a home away from home. Other destinations may also offer a warm climate, but nothing beats the warmth of the Maltese culture and lifestyle.

Currency: Malta's currency is decimal and the unit is the Euro (€) which is divided into 100 cents. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency visitors may bring into the Islands, provided it is declared upon arrival.

Shopping: Shops are usually open between 0900 and 1900 hrs. However, in commercial areas frequented by tourists, most shops remain open until approximately 10.00 pm. Shops are not open on Sundays and Public Holidays. There are open-air markets, one day a week, in most towns and villages. The largest is the Valletta market on Sunday mornings. Major Credit Cards, Travellers Cheques and Eurocheques are accepted at most leading shops and restaurants.

People: Ethnically, the Maltese people are quite an extraordinary mixture. Throughout the Islands long history, the many races that have settled here have left their indelible marks. Thus the Maltese are among the most cosmopolitan people in the world. Nonetheless, there remain definite characteristics, which are � and always have been � distinctly Maltese both culturally and physically.

The Maltese character is gregarious and amiable. We love visitors and will go out of our way to make strangers feel at home. Nearly all Maltese are Roman Catholics and the influence of the church is not what use to be. Every town and village has its own church.... some of these are large and imposing � for example the parish church in the town of Mosta has the second largest unsupported dome in the world. During the summer months each town and village celebrate the feast day of its particular saint. These are coluorful occasions with the whole population of the village en fete. Religion seems to be as much a part of life as eating and sleeping. Tolerance is another character trait, which has been honed over generations of foreign occupations.

Most first-time visitors to the Maltese Islands remark on the friendliness and almost na�ve openness of the people. When you live here you realize that it is no act, put on for the sake of the tourist. Neighbours will always look out for one another � they will knock on the door on their way to the shops to ask if they can getting anything for you � they take messages happily � look after your children and pets � and generally become very protective towards any non-Maltese living in their community.

Tourists to Malta � who later become permanent or temporary residents here do so for the overwhelming reason that they are made to feel welcome � and that � in a nutshell, sums up the character of the Maltese people.

Time: Malta is on central European time (CET), that is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter and two hours from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October.

Electricity: The electrical supply is 240 volts, single phase, 50 cycles. The 13 amp, three-pin rectangular sockets are used in Malta.

Medical Care: Malta enjoys a high standard of medical care. Medical facilities, run along modern lines, are available through the regional health centres and two general hospitals:
Mater Dei Hospital, Malta. Tel: (+356) 2545 0000, and Gozo General Hospital. Tel: (+356) 2156 1600, Fax: (+356) 2156 0881.
There are also special clinics for diabetic sufferers.

Chemists generally stock a wide range of pharmaceutical products and drugs and can be found throughout the islands. They are open during normal shopping hours. On Sundays chemists open by rota from 09.00 until 12.30 in Malta and from 07.30 until 11.00 in Gozo; check the local Sunday newspapers for details.

Persons receiving medical treatment and who may need to carry medicines into Malta or purchase fresh supplies are advised to carry a letter of introduction from their family doctor. British nationals holidaying in Malta are entitled to free medical and hospital care.

Tap water is perfectly safe to drink but may taste strong by European standards. Milk is pasteurised and available daily in cartons and bottles. All dairy products are safe for consumption.