With Dr Felicity Nicholson
Potential health problems
Malta is a European Mediterranean country with no specific health problems. It is hot in summer, so be sure to drink enough water, have a little extra salt if you are sweating more than usual and protect yourself from sunburn and the glare of the sun’s rays. Sunglasses are essential on water, and also in town where the sun comes off the creamy yellow limestone like a mirror.
Leishmaniasis is a protozoan infection spread by the bite of sand flies that have acquired disease, most commonly from dogs. Symptoms include a localised swelling or skin ulcer. A serious systemic disease (kala-azar) occurs even more rarely. Ensure that beds are off the ground and use a bednet that is impregnated with permethrin as sand flies are small enough to get through otherwise. DEET-containing insect repellents will also help to prevent sand-fly bites, and a concentration of 50–55% DEET is recommended. It should not be applied to broken skin or used on infants under two months old. If you need to wear it when also requiring sunscreen then apply the sunscreen first and the repellent second.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on ISTM. For other journey preparation information, consult NaTHNac (UK) or CDC (US). Information about various medications may be found on NetDoctor. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
Crimewise, Malta is an ordinary European destination. Crime against tourists is rare. Simply take the same common-sense precautions you would at home or in any western European country: don’t leave valuables visible in parked cars; keep an eye on your belongings; and if you plan to wander the streets in the early hours, take advice from locals or hotel reception as to where is safe and where is not (most places are safe). If walking alone (especially as a woman) late at night, the lower end of Valletta (towards St Elmo) is considered less safe than the upper end (though neither is exactly 1960s Harlem). Gzira has a red-light district, making it a less salubrious place for women alone at night. St Julian’s seafront in summer has so many late-night establishments that it is generally considered safe at most times of day and night.