There are no scheduled internal flights within Malta, but charter flights making the short hop to Gozo are an option.
Cycling on Maltese roads can be nerve wracking – the roads are often narrow and potholed, there's lots of traffic, and drivers show little consideration for cyclists. However, things are considerably better on the back roads and also on Gozo – the roads can still be rough, but there's far less traffic, and more and more visitors are opting to cycle around the island rather than rely on the buses.
You can rent bikes from Magri Cycles & Spares and Victoria Garage. Electric bikes can be rented from Eco Bikes. A handy pick-up/drop-off service for using bicycles around Malta's main tourist destinations is nextbike.
To get from Valletta to the Three Cities, another option is on a traditional wooden dgħajsa. A one-way journey is €2 per person, and for €8 you can also go on a short harbour cruise.
Malta to Gozo
Gozo Channel operates the car ferry that shuttles between Malta’s Ċirkewwa and Gozo’s Mġarr every 45 minutes from 6am to around 6pm (and roughly every 1½ hours throughout the night). If travelling by vehicle you pay on your return leg, when leaving Mġarr (Gozo), so there's no need to buy a ticket in Ċirkewwa on the way out.
A new fast ferry is planned to link Mġarr with Valletta's Grand Harbour, providing a more convenient transport link for students and commuters between the islands. At the time of writing, the tender process for the service was under dispute, and the actual launch date of the service was unknown.
The bone-shaking, charming, brightly painted vintage buses that were so characteristic of Malta were taken out of service in 2011, replaced by boring-looking but more efficient modern buses, which have disabled access. These are operated by Malta Public Transport (www.publictransport.com.mt), which is presently run by the Spanish company Autobuses Urbanos de León.
Many bus routes on Malta originate from the Valletta Bus Station and radiate to all parts of the island, but there are also many routes that bypass the capital; bus timings range from every 10 minutes to hourly for less-visited places. Punctuality is a challenge, however, and many buses run considerably late, especially in the afternoon and evening. Patience is a traveller's friend. On Gozo the bus system is much more efficient than previously, though some places are only served by an hourly bus.
Big Yellow Buses
Malta's old buses were a tourist attraction in themselves, and it's a shame in terms of local colour and photo opportunities that they're no longer rattling around the islands' potholed roads at unsettling speeds. Run as independent businesses by their drivers, they were lovingly customised with handmade parts and decorations. They were known as xarabank, a derivation of charabanc (a carriage or an old-fashioned term for a motor coach).
On the other hand, they probably also contributed to Malta being the most car-dense country in Europe. Quaintness of buses is not necessarily an endearing quality when you have to use them day to day, and the bus system is more efficient nowadays. You will very occasionally see an old bus on the road: the classic Bedfords, Thames, Leylands and AECs dating from the 1950s, '60s and '70s, brightly painted in a livery of yellow, white and orange, have not completely disappeared. A few are now used for wedding transport and photographs, and on the Sliema waterfront near the Valletta ferry, one has been repurposed as a colourful souvenir shop.
The Malta Buses by Michael Cassar and Joseph Bonnici is an illustrated history of the islands' celebrated public transport.
You can buy single tickets as you board the bus or from ticket machines, which are found near numerous bus stops. Blocks of tickets and seven-day passes must be bought in advance from ticket offices or Agenda bookshop outlets. There's also a convenient Public Transport Malta office and electronic kiosk selling Explorer and ExplorePlus passes in the arrivals hall at the airport.
If you're caught travelling without a ticket, there's a penalty charge of €10. Fares:
- Single tickets (valid two hours) cost €2/1.50 July to September/October to June. They may be bought on the bus.
- €3 night fare (on night buses) are available year-round.
- Block of 12 tickets €15. This is a multi-user option, so if two people are travelling together, they can scan the ticket twice. A ticket is valid for two hours from when it's scanned. On night buses, you pay double (ie scan two tickets for one journey).
- Explorer seven-day tickets cost adult/child €21/15 and are valid on both Malta and Gozo, unlimited journeys, day or night
- ExplorePlus Card (€39) Valid for seven days and provides unlimited transport on public buses, two ferry trips with Valletta Ferry Services, one day's travel with CitySightseeing Malta, and a trip to Comino with Captain Morgan Cruises.
- Tallinja stored-value card. For this you need to register at Valletta Bus Station, at the airport, or online two weeks in advance to allow for delivery. You have to provide an ID card number, but this can be Maltese, a foreign ID, or your passport number. You also have to give your Malta address, which may be the address of your hotel in Malta – the card will be delivered there. With the Tallinja card, a single journey costs €0.75/0.25 per adult/child. Night buses cost €2.50. It is most relevant if you're staying in Malta for an extended period. Note there is a one-off €10 registration fee.
Routes & Timetables
To see up-to-date, full bus timetables and route maps, check online at www.publictransport.com.mt. The website also has a handy online journey planner. If you're staying in Malta for an extended period, download Malta Public Transport's Tallinja app, which provides real-time information about bus arrivals and departures.
There are six different express services running between the airport and various parts of the island, including St Julian's, Sliema and Ċirkewwa. The X4 runs between Valletta and the airport, and takes just over 20 minutes. For Sliema and St Julian's, catch the X3 from the airport.
Most buses run from around 5.30am to 11pm, and frequency varies depending on the popularity of the route. In towns and villages the bus terminus is usually found on or near the parish church square.
Car & Motorcycle
The Maltese love their cars. On weekends (Sunday in particular) they take to the road en masse, visiting friends and family or heading for the beach or a favourite picnic site. This means that there is often serious congestion on the roads around Valletta, Sliema and St Julian's. Friday and Saturday night in Paceville is one big traffic jam. However, renting a car gives you more flexibility, particularly to discover out-of-the-way beach coves.
Distance isn't a problem – the longest distance on Malta is 27km and the widest point is around 15km. On Gozo the longest distance is about 14km and the widest only 7km.
If you're renting a car, you'll be provided with a telephone number to contact in the event of mechanical difficulties or breakdown. If you're bringing your own vehicle, it's a good idea to take out European breakdown cover (offered in the UK by both the RAC and the AA). For roadside assistance in Malta, contact RMF or MTC.
Bring Your Own Vehicle
Tourists are permitted to use their vehicles for a maximum of six months in any given year without the need to apply for a permit. A motor vehicle entering a foreign country must display a sticker identifying its country of registration.
All EU member states' driving licences are fully recognised throughout Europe. For those with a non-EU licence, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a useful adjunct, especially if your home licence has no photo or is in a language other than English. Your local automobile association can issue an IDP, valid for one year, for a small fee. You must carry your home licence together with the IDP.
The price of fuel is set by the government and at the time of research was €1.31/1.18 a litre for unleaded/diesel. Petrol is dispensed by attendants, and garages are generally open from 7am to 7pm (6pm in winter) Monday to Saturday; most are closed on Sunday and public holidays – though a few are open from 8am to noon on a roster system. Larger stations have a self-service, cash-operated pump (€5, €10 and €20 notes accepted) for filling up outside opening hours.
Car rental rates in Malta are among the lowest in Europe. If you hire a car on Malta you can take it over to Gozo on the ferry without a problem. Rental rates on Gozo are lower (but with an extra charge for taking the car to Malta), but if you're visiting both islands the inconvenience of hiring a car in both places would outweigh any benefits. Supply is limited on Gozo so for July and August you'll need to book in advance to be assured of a vehicle.
Most of the car-hire companies have representatives at the airport, but rates vary so it's worth shopping around. Make sure you know what is included in the quoted rate – many of the local agencies quote very low rates that do not include full insurance against theft and collision damage.
Obviously rates will vary with season, length of rental period and the size and make of car (plus extras like air-con). Rates for the smallest vehicles start at around €25 a day (for rental of seven days or longer) in the high season. A child seat costs around €4 per day – but confirm whether it's a booster seat or full child seat.
The age limit for rental drivers is generally 21 to 70 years, but drivers between 21 and 25 years may be asked to pay a supplement of up to €10 a day. You will need a valid driving licence that you have held for at least one year. Rental rates often include free delivery and collection, especially in the Valletta-Sliema-St Julian's area.
Many accommodation providers offer car-rental arrangements – it pays to ask when you're making a booking. Most will drop off and collect cars (usually for a small fee). As well as all the major international companies, such as Avis, Budget and Hertz, there are dozens of local car-hire agencies.
Billy's Excellent option on Malta.
Mayjo Car Rentals Gozo's widest range of cars.
Wembleys Malta-based and also a good taxi service.
Car-hire companies offer collision damage waiver (CDW) and/or theft damage protection insurance at extra cost (usually charged per day). Be sure to read the fine print and understand what you're covered for, and what excess charges you'll be up for in the event of an accident.
If you are bringing your own car, check with your local insurance company before you leave to make sure you are covered.
Parking can be tricky in the Sliema-St Julian's and Buġibba-Qawra areas. While there are car parks available, it's far more difficult to find parking in the high season. There's a large car park next to the Malta National Aquarium (from €2). In Valletta you can park within the city walls in the blue parking bays, but those delineated in green are reserved for residents.
If you can't find parking within the walls, you can use the large MCP underground car park near the bus terminus, close to the Phoenicia Hotel, which is only a short walk from Valletta's City Gate and sights.
Parking in the MCP costs €3 for up to two hours and €6 for over four hours. Alternatively, you can use the Park & Ride facility, just south of Floriana, where parking costs €0.40 per day and free shuttle buses run to the City Gate in Valletta. Parking elsewhere costs around €2 per hour.
Local traffic police are swift and merciless in the imposition of on-the-spot fines. Most main towns, tourist sights and beaches have a car park, with an attendant dressed in a blue shirt and cap and usually wearing an official badge. These attendants will expect a tip of around €2 upon your departure.
Road Rules & Conditions
Unlike most of Europe, the Maltese drive on the left. Speed limits are 80km/h on highways and 50km/h in urban areas, but are rarely observed. Wearing a seat belt is compulsory for the driver and front-seat passenger. Any accidents must be reported to the nearest police station (and to the rental company if the car is hired); don't move your vehicle until the police arrive, otherwise your insurance may be nullified.
Road signs and regulations are pretty much the same as the rest of Europe, with one important difference – in Malta no one seems to pay attention to any of the rules. Be prepared for drivers overtaking on the inside, ignoring traffic lights, refusing to give way at junctions and hanging on your rear bumper if they think you're going too slowly. All rental cars have registration numbers ending in K, so tourists can be spotted easily. Vehicles coming from your right are supposed to have right of way at roundabouts, but don't count on vehicles on your left observing this rule.
You should also be aware that many of the roads are in pitiful condition, with cracks and potholes, and there are very few road markings. In winter, minor roads are occasionally blocked by wash-outs or collapsed retaining walls after heavy rain. Signposting is variable – some minor sights are easy to find, while major towns remain elusive. Often places seem to be well signposted, and then the signposts peter out. A sat-nav or a detailed road map will help ease the way.
The maximum allowable blood-alcohol concentration in drivers in Malta is 0.08%.
The karrozzin – a traditional horse-drawn carriage with seats for four passengers – has been in use in Malta since 1856. Many of the carriages are treasured family possessions passed down through generations, and are cared for with obsessive pride.
You can catch a karrozzin at Valletta's City Gate, Marsamxetto Ferry, Fort St Elmo, Valletta Waterfront and Mdina's Main Gate. There is an unfortunate tendency in some drivers to overcharge unwitting tourists. Haggle with the driver and be sure to agree on a fare before getting in. The fixed fare is €35 for 35 minutes.
Official Maltese taxis are white (usually Mercedes, with a taxi sign on top; www.maltataxi.net). To combat regular complaints of overcharging, taxi drivers must by law use the meter to determine the fare (except from the airport and sea port, where there are set fares). At the time of writing, Uber was not available in Malta, but a local company eCABS offers a similar app-based service.
Details of the fixed fares from the airport are available at the taxi desk in the arrivals hall, where you can pay in advance and hand a ticket to the driver. These were the fares at the time of research:
- Valletta or Floriana €20
- Three Cities area €22
- Mdina or Rabat €22
- Sliema or St Julian's area €25
- Buġibba or St Paul's Bay €30
- Golden Bay area €30
- Mellieħa €30
- Ċirkewwa €35
There are taxi ranks at City Gate and outside the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta, and at bus stations and major hotels in the main tourist resorts. Within Valletta, Smart Cabs provides an electric-powered taxi service for a flat fare of €5/8 for three people inside/outside the city walls.
As an alternative to the official Maltese white taxis, unsigned black taxis are owned by private companies and usually offer cheaper set fares (similar to the UK's minicabs). To order a taxi, it's best to ask your hotel reception for the name and number of their preferred service. There are several 24-hour companies.
Wembley's Reliable 24-hour radio taxi service offering both cars and minivans. Prices are often slightly less than other companies.
There are no train services in Malta.