After booking my Aeroplan mini-RTW in Europe, I looked at my itinerary and said to myself, “Oh my god, why am I doing this to myself?” Aeroplan mini-RTW’s is usually an awesome way to maximize the value of your Aeroplan miles. Before the September 2019’s Aeroplan mini-RTW changes, you were allowed 3 stopovers and 13 layovers (for a total of 16 segments). Because I’m a country collector, I wanted to maximize the number of countries I’m visiting when I travel to Europe. As you can already tell, I went crazy booked 16 segments. Doing so will help me visit 5 new countries in 2 weeks! Sounds good…right? Not quite. Despite how lucrative this Aeroplan mini-RTW booking sounds, it has one massive drawback. It’s that you’ll have horrible layovers that often times leaves you dead exhausted. And my travel to Malta is the first of these exhausting multi-segment flights.
Travel to Malta starting from Vancouver
Vancouver to Toronto
My journey started in my home town of Vancouver, Canada. The first segment of the flight going from Vancouver to Toronto was relatively smooth. However, I have two big obstacles that was in my way moving forward.
My first obstacle is that I have an 8 hour and 15 minutes overnight layover in Toronto. I strongly debated if I should book an airport hotel or just sleep in the airport. Toronto is not exactly cheap. And, it’ll take 30 minutes to drive in and out to the airport hotel including pick up waiting time. The next day, I need to be in the airport 2 hours before I fly to my next destination which is New York. So I’m lucky, I’ll get about 5 hours of sleep in the airport hotel.
Learning from past mistakes
Remembering my experience going to Harry Potterland in Orlando Florida back in December 2014, I remember sleeping in the airport back then and it really sucked! Being sleep deprive doesn’t just leave you feeling exhausted, you’re also more likely to get sick. I’m just starting my trip and I definitely don’t want to get sick this early on. So, I reluctantly used some of my IHG points and booked a cash + points booking for a Holiday Inn in Toronto. Despite this not being a great use of points, I found that getting 4.5 hours of solid sleep on a bed was very helpful as oppose to sleeping in the airport. If you’ve ever tried sleeping in an airport before, you would know that it’s impossible. Mainly because of loud airport announcements and generally feeling uncomfortable when sleeping in public places.
Toronto to New York
The next leg of my trip is going from Toronto to New York and is the second obstacle to my travel to Malta. Again, I have another long layover. This time, it’s about 10 hours and 30 minutes long. To make matters worst, New York is known to be very expensive. Finding an inexpensive place to get some rest will be challenging.
I took a shuttle bus going from La Guardia Airport and transferred over to JFK. Once I arrived in JFK, I managed to find a website called Hotelsbyday.com that sells hotel rooms for day use only. I went ahead and booked my hotel room there for $97.97 USD (I know, still massively expensive but this is the cheapest airport hotel there was). Doing this was a big life saver. I managed to get another solid 5.5 hours of sleep here helping me feel more refreshed afterwards.
New York to Zurich to Malta
When it was near 3 hours before boarding time, I left the hotel (free airport shuttle included) and went through the JFK airport. I heard bad things about this airport but I managed to get through immigration fine until I reached air side. From here, I’m flying on Swiss Airlines Business Class to Zurich thanks to my Aeroplan miles and connecting to Malta right after.
The flight from NYC to Zurich was relatively relaxing. Despite not liking Zurich that much, I do like their airports from an efficiency stand point. From Zurich, I managed to catch my connecting flight to Malta to begin my Aeroplan mini-RTW in Europe!
Getting a feel of Malta
I’ve been flying around now for two full days and I wasn’t sure if I’ll have the energy to explore Malta. Amazingly, as our plane approached Malta, I took a peek out of the window and was treated to a beautiful view of the country. This helped energized me a bit for the upcoming exploration I’ll be doing.
Going through immigration was a painless process in Malta. I then visited the tourism office and inquired how I can get around the country. The lady working inside was very helpful and even pointed out where I can get some Euros.
I stepped outside the airport and headed for the bus station. “I can pull this off”, I said to myself, referring to exploring Malta solo. I’ve travelled solo numerous times in the past. But, this is my first solo trip in two years so I’m a bit rusty. Regardless, backpacking is my roots so I was looking forward to exploring Malta.
Taking the bus to my hostel
What I hate about European countries in general is the amount of people that smoke. I hate the smell of cigarettes. And unfortunately, Malta is yet another country full of smokers. After inhaling a lot of cigarette fumes, I boarded the bus going near my hostel. The bus journey will take about 1 hour and it will also give me a preview of life in Malta.
Surprisingly, Malta’s buses are very good. They have free WIFI which makes getting around easier! There’s tons of backpackers boarding the local bus which tells me this is a popular tourist destination.
The bus ride was slightly uncomfortable because the bus was extremely crowded by the time we got going. After a tiring 1 hour ride, we finally arrived in the city of Sliema where my hostel was located.
Dropping off my stuff in my hostel and making my way to the docks
After getting off the bus, I made my way towards Two Pillows Boutique Hostel where I would be staying for the night. The walk to my hostel was very neat, as it was near the docks. I loved how the side streets looked and stopped a few times to admire them or take pictures.
Not too long after, I arrived at my hostel to check-in. The hostel staff was really friendly and I would recommend it as a good hostel stay in if you travel to Malta.
After locking away my belongings in the dorm room lockers, off I went toward the docks! From here, I will be taking a ferry going from Sliema to Valletta, the capital of Malta.
Taking the ferry from Sliema to Valletta
The ferry going from Sliema to Valletta is relatively inexpensive. A one way ticket cost 1.50 Euros while a round trip ticket costs 2.80 Euros. After lining up and boarding the ferry, I decided to make my way to the top for better picture taking opportunities.
After a relatively short ferry ride, we’ve arrived to our destination – Valletta, the capital city of Malta!
Arriving in Valletta and a brief history lesson
As soon as the passengers got off the ship, a bunch of people selling their tours came along. I decided not to join any tours and opted to see the city on foot. I find tours to be too slow for my liking and I prefer my own pace of sight seeing.
Malta has a very interesting history. It’s a former British Colony that became independent in 1964. And since 2004, it’s now part of the European Union. However, Malta’s history goes even further than yet. Humans have inhabited the country as far as 5900 BC. Apparently, there are even temples in the country that dates older than the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!
Because I was only in Malta for less than 24 hours, the best I can do is explore the capital city. As I walked the streets, I found it very fascinating to see the local shops and historic buildings.
The entire city of Valletta is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site with many of its buildings still well preserved. The country has been conquered by many civilizations ranging from Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and more.
After spending a few hours exploring the streets, taking pictures, I made my way back to the docks. But before boarding, I ended up watching some local Maltese teenagers performing some hip hop routine. It was pretty cool, and they were definitely talented. Some of them were even break dancing which was very fun to watch.
Before long, I’m back to the docks once again, inhaling cigarettes from these damn smokers. I hate inhaling cigarettes so much.
Heading back to the hostel
Thankfully, the ferry came to save me from these smokers. We boarded and off we go back to Sliema.
I returned back to my hostel and decided to skip dinner and went to bed. My flight the next morning was going to be very early so I needed to wake up early. This would be my first 8 hour sleep in awhile and I was glad to have it!
Will I travel to Malta ever again?
I actually enjoyed my time in Malta. I think as a country, it’s the perfect destination for backpackers and families.
With that being said, I don’t think I would go out of my way to come back to Malta again. Yes, it’s true that I wish I stayed longer because I did want to see Mdina. But, Malta was never on my bucket list of dream destinations. Malta is simply in my list of check list countries on my journey to visit all 193 UN recognized countries.
So I think the chances of me going back to Malta is very low, even if it is indeed a very beautiful country. However, I do recommend for people to travel to Malta. And, I think spending 4-7 days here would make for a nice neat vacation destination. So if you’re looking for a budget friendly travel destination, you might want to travel to Malta!