Getting About in Malta
As Malta is quite a small island, you will find it is possible to see most key sights in a two-week holiday. Nothing takes very long to get to and you are almost always only a few minutes away from a coast for a quick refreshing dip in the sea.
Depending on where abouts you are staying, will depend on how well connected to the rest of the island you are. The more popular ‘tourist’ towns tend to have sight-seeing buses, trip touts, ferries and so on located on their main high streets and bays. Similarly, all the big hotels offer organised excursions to see most of the island’s main sights and beaches, laying on return transport accordingly. However, if you prefer to explore under your own steam, there are a number of convenient options available to you in Malta and Gozo.
Malta By BusOutside of the Malta sight-seeing ‘Hop-on Hop-off’ buses, the regular bus system is pretty good too. Unfortunately the characteristic yellow buses of Malta are being replaced due to EU regulations, which is a shame as a trip on one of these was an adventure in itself. The buses are owned by the drivers and personalised with stenciling, religious statues and unique names. On the up side, it does mean your bus trip will be less bumpy and hot as air conditioning and more modern vehicles get introduced.
Either way, the system is good and cheap. There are plenty of bus stops in every town and a Euro will get you a long way. The buses stop at all towns and key places such as the airport, ferry terminals and beaches, including regular return trips to Golden Bay. Timetables can be found at kiosks on the main strands, in hotels and tourist offices or online and you can buy anything from a single journey to a seven day travel ticket which currently costs €14. If you’re not sure, just ask the driver but do flag the buses down even when clearly waiting at a bus stop. Some buses don’t stop at all stops but some drivers will simply carry on even if they should stop!
Malta By Taxi
The taxi service in Malta has recently seen new regulations put in place as a result of a previously cavalier attitude towards fares. Inconsistent pricing and overcharging has been reined in amongst the bigger, official companies, with the help of transparent price lists and kiosk booking systems. Such a system is now in place at Malta’s airport where you’ll find it easy to get a cab without undue waiting times. The taxi kiosk is located at the Arrival’s exit and a list of Maltese towns is made clearly visible showing you the fare to each for your journey. You can tip the driver’s separately at your discretion. Away from the airport, one of the main taxi companies in Malta is Wembley’s Taxis. They have depots and ranks in the main towns and busy areas, and are usually available and prompt when booking via their main office numbers which are (00 356) 2137 4141 and 2737 4141. Hailing a cab in Malta is also fairly easy but be prepared to haggle your fee if you don’t want to get overcharged in your hour of need. Minibuses and coaches can also be hired for day-trips or group nights out for a reasonable fee.
Malta By CarBy far one of the best ways to see Malta is by hiring your own car. Having your own transport gives you the freedom to explore the hundreds of nooks and crannies that characterise the Maltese islands. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get lost despite the island being so small as the maps and road signs leave a lot to be desired. But that’s half the fun! It’s very easy to happen upon ancient ruins or discover a secluded cove if you venture from the beaten track. It’s also very easy to get back on said track as generally you just aim for the sea and pick up a main coastal road again. All signs are in English and the island isn’t very big so wrong turns don’t cost you much in terms of time. Just remember, the Maltese drive on the left as per the UK.
Car Hire companies
All the major car hire companies operate out of Malta’s Luqa airport, plus some less well known but cheap and reliable local companies such as Merlin Direct who run a friendly and honest service. In the main towns, you will find plenty of tour operators who will rent normal cars as well as open top or air conditioned jeeps for off-roading exploration – of which you’ll find a fair bit in Malta! You can also hire scooters and mopeds from any of these operators. The major hotels can also organise car hire for you.
A must if you are staying in Malta for any length of time, is a trip to Gozo and Comino (and likewise vice-versa). The ferries for Gozo leave from the Northern-most tip of Malta at Cirkewwa and cross to Mgarr. The crossing is 25 minutes and the ferries leave every 45 minutes in summer months; every hour in the wee small hours. You can get a timetable from a tourist office, your hotel or online. The ferries are well equipped and able to take cars so you can explore Gozo on the other side. A standard adult foot passenger fare is currently €4.65 while a single adult with car ticket is €15.70 (all subject to change).
Comino ferries leave from Cirkewwa as well but also from Marfa which is also on the Northern tip of Malta but off to the right as you approach the main ferry port – all very clearly sign-posted. Competing ferry companies go over to Comino but tickets are all around the €10 mark for an adult round trip. This journey is 25 minutes out and about 35 minutes back as they show you Comino’s caves on the return journey. Ferries for Comino leave on the hour, every hour in summer months with last ferries back leaving at 5 and 6pm. There is always a crush boarding ferries at Comino, but there is no need to worry or push as the ferry operators will not leave anyone behind. You can also arrange personal Comino trips on speed boats, party boats and more from the tour operators and hotels.
Valletta FerriesA shorter but pleasurable ferry trip is the Marsamxett harbour, Sliema to Valletta ferry, boarded at Sliema Creek by the bus terminals and north-west-coast Valletta. This journey takes all of 5-10 minutes but is a great way to avoid the traffic jams, sweaty buses or parking issues if you’re visiting Valletta or Sliema for the day. The price is currently just under the €1 mark and the ferries run on the hour and every half hour at peak times from 8am until 6pm. There are some nice restaurants, cafés and bars on either side of the service so it’s no great loss if you find yourself having to kill a little time waiting for the next ferry. The views are particularly impressive approaching Valletta from the sea.