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DK is not the first publisher I would turn to when looking to purchase a travel guide. I tend to buy Lonely Planet or Rough Guides as a first choice but lately I’ve bought Bradt guides as they’ve been the only thing available for my destination.
When we made a last minute booking for a four day stay in Malta I wanted some ideas on what to see and do, but I didn’t have a great deal of time to do research so the highly illustrated ‘DK Top Ten Malta & Gozo’ by Mary Ann Gallagher appeared to be just the ticket. We wouldn’t have endless time to explore at leisure so I was looking for a guide that could condense the main sights into one small volume that could be stashed easily in both hand luggage and a small day-pack. With just 128 pages and measuring approximately 19 by 10 centimetres (and less than a centimetre thick), this guidebook takes up next to no room.
I liked the idea of picking from the top ten examples of historic sights, restaurants and beaches; although it means that the book doesn’t cover everything, you’d hope that the most famous or the most notable places at least are going to be included. For the most part this approach works, well certainly for things like the top ten ancient sites or the top ten restaurants. Occasionally the top ten approach is a little strained with some places being listed in two categories or overlapping (for example, Jeffrey’s, a restaurant on Gozo is a recommended restaurant for Gozo but also appears in the Top Ten restaurants for Malta & Gozo). If they had avoided the repetition they’d have been able to include some other recommendations.
This is not a guidebook to rely on if you want a high degree of detail. It’s really only for people looking for ideas on what to see and do. I’d have found it lacking if I’d been staying any longer than our four days but it may be that people who are staying a week or two might find it suitable if they intend to do only a little sightseeing and expect to spend more time soaking up rays. I’d say it’s a great book to use when planning a short trip but you do need something else if you want to know more about Malta and its historic sites.
The restaurant top ten is a little pointless in my opinion. There are so many places to choose from in Malta, spanning a variety of cuisines and covering a range of budgets that to cherry pick such a small number seems silly. Likewise the section on accommodation seems to me a waste of pages: I’m guessing that if you buy this book you’ve already decided that you’re going to Malta or Gozo and where you’re going to stay. Even if you hadn’t decided on your accommodation you’d probably want a bigger choice than is given here. Furthermore Malta isn’t so big that you need worry about where you base yourself; you can get round the island in no time at all and pubic transport is excellent. Day trips to anywhere on Malta and Gozo are a cinch no matter which part of either island you’re staying in so you’d be unlikely to use this guidebook to plan where best to stay as a base.
I’d say that this guidebook is best suited to experienced tourists who are confident in getting themselves around independently. There are loads of companies offering guided tours in Malta and it’s easy enough to get around independently too but this book doesn’t give much help to tourists who would like to see all the practical information presented before them. (Though presumably, perhaps the publisher of an English language book for English speaking tourists in an English speaking country, expect that it shouldn’t be too difficult to find information on where to catch buses from, when the bus comes and whether to pay the driver or buy a ticket from a shop or kiosk). Still, if you’re the sort of tourist who wants to know every last instruction of how to get from A to B, this book alone won’t be sufficient.
The book comes with a free pull out map but, really, it’s a bit too small to be used on the go; it’s OK if you’re sitting down with time to spare but quite frustrating to use when standing at a windy junction at night while searching for a restaurant. It is useful, on the other hand, for getting an overview of the island and how to plan a route for a days sightseeing.
For me one of the best ideas in this book is the inclusion of suggested itineraries for a day’s sightseeing in different parts of Malta or on Gozo. Obviously you can just take those elements that interest you but we found that it had a couple of ideas we wouldn’t have thought of doing and which turned out to be good tips.
For a short stay we found this to be a good but not brilliant guidebook. Visually it looks good with excellent colour photography but the pages can be a bit cluttered with normal text and text boxes in addition to the photographs. The detail is just enough to whet the appetite and you can read further in other publications or else pick up information in Malta if you want to know more.
RRP is Ł7.99 but the book can be bought more cheaply from the usual online retailers.