After spending the winter working in the UAE, I needed to head home to Scotland for the summer. At the time I left at the start of January 2021, returning to the UK was easy; however it has become a lot more complicated and expensive since the Green/Amber/Red lists were introduced in February.
The UAE is currently on the UK’s redlist, which meant either hotel quarantine on arrival for 11 nights at a cost of £1750, or 11 nights in an “amber” country before onward travel to the UK, followed by 10 days home quarantine. I didn’t much fancy “hotel jail”, never mind the cost, so I flew Dubai (DXB) to Istanbul (IST) to Malta (MLA) on 24th May 2021
Important: check that the country you are travelling from is accepted for entry into Malta here.
I flew via Turkish Airways from Dubai to Malta via Istanbul. Cost was £465, baggage allowance was 30kg with 2 hand baggage items allowed, and my luggage was checked right through to Malta, so all I needed to do at Istanbul was walk between gates, grabbing a coffee on the way.
Before travelling I downloaded and completed a PLF and also a health declaration required to enter Malta, however these were also given out on the plane from Istanbul along with pens.
I required a negative PCR to enter Malta so took one at Menalabs in Dubai at a cost of 110aed and I got the result within 7 hours, well within the time limit of 72 hours before arrival in Malta. You should print this off, and if you use Menalabs the result text will come thru with a link to download. If you use SEHA then you can download from the SEHA app – these are the only 2 places I used for my 19, yes you read that right, 19 PCRs since January!
I booked accommodation for 11 nights through booking.com, I stayed in a hotel apartment which was ok, but I wouldn’t go back there, hence not adding it as a recommendation.
I arrived at DXB, with all my paperwork, some 3 hours before my flight which was more than enough time. The checkin lady looked over my PCR test very carefully, then checked me and my bags thru to Malta. The plane was 90% full, was clean and everyone was wearing masks.
Transit in Istanbul was very smooth; if you’ve ever been to the old airport you are in for a pleasant surprise as the new one is bright, clean and very modern. I am lucky enough to have a UK passport and don’t need a visa to enter Malta, however some others of different nationalities had to quickly apply for a visa online at the boarding gate!
On arrival at Malta, we were met by nurses who checked our PCR certificates, and asked us where we had come from and how long we had been there; some passengers were chosen for a (free) pcr test, but not me – I was cleared immigration and stepping into a taxi within 20 minutes.
My apartment was in Qawra, St Paul’s Bay and the area was ok; close to buses, shops, restaurants and lots of lovely places to walk, however when I go back I will head for the quieter Melliah, or even catch the ferry to the beautiful island of Gozo. I paid £330 for my 11 nights and there are other places available around, or slightly above this price.
I explored Malta by bus – I bought a 7 day Tallinja card for 21EUR which gave me limitless travel in both Malta and Gozo.
I found supermarket food to be a little more expensive than the UK/UAE; Malta has lots of Icelands, some Lidls and a few local supermarkets, which keep a very wide range of gluten free items. Eating out I found to be very reasonable and possibly slightly cheaper than the UK/UAE.
There are lots of Eurocash machines which charge you a fortune in conversion fees and charges; look out for BOV (Bank of Valetta) where you can withdraw cash at a reasonable cost.
RETURNING TO UK
I returned to the UK on 4th June via Easyjet to Manchester (MAN) at a cost of around £120 including luggage. Before flying I got a rapid antigen test from swabbingmalta, which is located in the carpark next to the airport terminal. Cost was 35EUR and I had the result back in 15 minutes.
The night before my return to the UK, I filled in a UK Passenger Locator Form (PLF), and booked and paid for covid tests for days 2 and 8. I had to provide the reference number for the tests on my PLF, and these cost me £170 for 2. I carried copies of the PLF and the invoice for my two post arrival PCR tests.
There were 10 passengers on the plane, and we took off and landed ahead of schedule. The immigration queue was only 5 minutes long at Manchester, and the border control officer was very polite. He checked my printed documents, asked to see my antigen test (which was on my phone) and then waved me through. Son picked me up in Manchester and drove me home to Edinburgh, where I am now self-isolating for 10 days.
I chose Malta as I had hoped it would go on the UK green list while I was there, but sadly this didn’t happen. I still believe it is one of the best bets for an #amber11 country for a number of reasons. Firstly, Malta reached herd immunity on 24 May, and is highly unlikely to go to the UK redlist at any time soon. Secondly, Covid 19 safety protocols are being observed very well. Everyone is wearing a mask (though a few, not many, tourists wearing them below their nose. That being said, a bus driver stopped his bus, shouted out “sir, please wear your mask properly” to one who wasn’t!). Thirdly, the weather is lovely at this time of year!
Places I’d definitely visit again: Valetta (beautiful historical city with interesting harbour and incredible buildings), Mdina (for the ancient walled city) and Rabbat (a little off the tourist trail, fantastic buildings), Gozo (lots of amazing walks but be prepared to hike up hills; the 15 minute boat trip from the inland sea; the Pancea Museum), Melliah (beautiful beach, a little quieter than resorts nearer Valetta).