New Bus Tickets in Malta: Bad News for Tourists?

tallinja card malta busFirst the good news.  The new bus card (the “tallinja” card*) will mean that for just €26 you can take as many bus trips per month as you like.   This is exactly the same price as the existing 30 day card.

So I guess the ‘good news’ is that prices are not going to increase under the new regime, at least not so long as you have a personalised tallinja card, which you can apply for online or at a ticket booth in Valletta or Bugibba or anywhere else you can find one.

(A little side-note here:  I applied online, and after initially rejecting me due to my ‘Alien’ status, they fixed the glitches so I was able to register using my Maltese ID card.  Now I have to wait until June when they will email/text me to say that my card can be picked up from my local council office).

These cards will have your name and photo on them, and so they cannot be used by or loaned to anyone else.

As most tourists won’t be able to register for this card, does that mean they are going to be forced to pay higher bus ticket prices?

The answer to this question is a definite: “Yes”, but exactly how much more depends on what type of ticket they do buy.

When this system comes into place in July, the only tickets you will be able to buy on the bus are going to cost €2 for a 2 hour journey.  There will be no other ticket available on board, no more ‘all day’ or weekly tickets as you can buy at the moment.

Pretty bad news for the tourist then, as they will end up paying €4 per person for most return journeys.

There is an alternative, although it is not being widely advertised by Malta Public Transport at the moment.

You will be able to buy what they are calling ‘Non Personal’ tallija cards at (unspecified) ticketing booths.  These cards won’t have your name or photo on them, and so they can be used immediately.

There are 2 types of these ‘Non Personal’ cards:

– A 12 journey card costing €15, and

– A 7 Day ‘Explore’ card which allows you as many trips as you want over a 7 day period, costing €21

I imagine that the bus company aren’t advertising these cards yet because they want residents to sign up to the personalised card scheme before summer.

When Arriva arrived on the scene in 2010, they imposed a system whereby residents could buy tickets at about half the price of non-residents.  Following complaints from foreigners and non-residents to the European Commission, the EU intervened to stop the practice, stating that it amounted to “indirect discrimination based on nationality of EU citizens who have used their right to move and reside freely within the Union, and where applicable, their right to receive services, right to free movement of persons and right to free movement of capital under the EU Treaty”.**

malta bus ticket

What the new bus company are doing is slightly less clear-cut than Arriva’s ham-handed policy, the end result will be more or less the same.  Tourists will not have the option to buy the ‘Personal’ tallinja card and so will pay €21 (at best) if they take 2 journeys per day over a 7 day period, whereas the adult resident holding a personalised card will pay the equivalent of just over €6 for the same period.***

If this hypothetical tourist doesn’t get this over-the-counter tallinja card then he could be paying €28 based on 14 journeys over a 7 day period.

Now if you are coming to Malta from Northern Europe, the fact is that a €2 bus fare is not going to seem particularly exorbitant, so maybe the English and German tourists will just shrug and pay up.

However the fact remains that this looks quite similar to the same type of price discrimination which the EU had such a problem with last time.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

Somehow I have a feeling that somebody is going to start kicking up a fuss about this soon, so let’s see if there are any more changes before the system goes ‘live’ in July.

 

Cost of 2 bus journeys a day for 7 days:

– Adult with personalised tallinja card:          €6.09

– Adult with non-personalised tallinja card:  €21.00  (245% increase)

– Adult without a tallinja card:                          €28.00 (360% increase)

 

* Tallinja means ‘bus’ in Maltese, apparently.

**http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130210/local/eu-action-on-bus-fares.456848

***http://www.tallinja.com/en/faq:

I am an adult travelling regularly and I use a 7 day ticket at the price of €6.50 which entitles me to unlimited travel during the week. How will the new fare system affect me?

You will be provided with a new tallinja card free of charge. If you travel regularly on the bus, the card will automatically cap your spend at €26 for every month. This means that the daily cost will be of just 87c if you travel every day, or €1.24 if you travel by bus on weekdays only.

41 thoughts on “New Bus Tickets in Malta: Bad News for Tourists?

  1. This is probably the best analysis I have seen of the situation, and I agree entirely with your thoughts !

    Phil-the-Bus

    • Thanks Phil. To be honest I’ve not seen anyone questioning the new ticket system anywhere except the rather muddled Comments section on the Times of Malta site, so I thought I’d put something out there to try and hold the new plans up to the light.

    • I think Malta has always taken advantage of tourists visiting and it is totally wrong, even cafes charge more if you do not speak the language, we went to Malta a number of years back went into a cafe had drinks and I paid for them next time we went in my mum ordered and paid for the same drinks and it cost her half what I had been charged, my mum pulled them up on it and the lady just said oh sorry must have been a mistake and gave me back the money ???

  2. I go to Malta every year for 2 weeks. I go everywhere by bus. 6 euros 50 a week was really good.
    If it goes up by ths amount you say then i think that it maybe time to go to another country or perhaps hire a car instead as it might work out cheaper.

    • Well I think a lot of visiting families will certainly be tempted to rent a car instead. The 7 day non-personalised ‘Explore’ ticket which costs €21 for an adult will be €15 for a child of under 11. Buying a ticket on the bus will be €2 in summer season (€1.50 in winter) and will be the same price for adults and children, students and pensioners. So at best a family of 2 parents and 2 kids would be paying €72 for 4 Explore 7 day passes, as family members cannot share the same card.
      You will find cars to rent cheaper than that.

  3. Hi David,

    this is really helpful thanks. I new the bus prices were too good to be true and would rise eventually, didn’t realise they would rise quite so drastically at once though (especially for tourists).

    Just in general is there anything I can do from the UK to help me for when I get to Malta? I’m visiting Malta in two months and I tried to apply for this Tarinja card from the UK, I put my passport number instead of Maltese social security number and when I submitted it gave error message “page not found” and I wondered if this was because I have a British passport.

    Can I apply online for a Maltese social security number before moving there or do I have to live there first? If I have to wait until I’m there do I need one before I can get a job or can I get a job straight away and get this later?

    Is it possible to open Maltese bank account with either HSBC or BOV from here in UK?

    Sorry for mass questions but thought you may be able to help as your site is so helpful!

    Thanks in advance

    Scott 🙂

    • Thanks Scott, let’s see if I can help with those questions.
      – You should be able to apply for the tallinja card with a UK passport, but will be asked to collect it in person here in Malta this June. There were initially problems with non-Maltese registering for a card, but that was a systems issue that has been fixed now, so give it a try.
      – For the social security number, my understanding is that you would need to have an address in Malta plus proof of employment (or self-employment) in Malta. So you will need to get the job first, and then apply for the social security number afterwards.
      – Opening a bank account usually requires you to do so in person, and again a Maltese address is required. Maltese ID is also helpful, though not mandatory.

      Don’t take it as gospel, but that’s what I believe to be correct. I hope that clarifies things a little bit!

        • No worries. Let me know if you are able to successfully apply for a tallinja bus card from the UK, I’d be interested to know if that works.

          • Hi again,

            I tried again and whilst it accepted my passport number it wouldn’t let me proceed without Maltese a valid phone number and address. (I was hoping to collect in person when I visit Malta).

            Nevermind – certainly not the end of the world but was worth a try haha! 🙂

            Scott.

          • So basically only people who live here can get one of these cards, unless they know someone with a Maltese address. Thanks for the info, good to know.

  4. Malta must surely rely on tourism for a large part of its income so this seems to be a stupid idea.
    Personally I don’t want to spend every day lying on the same beach/hotel pool but use the weekly bus ticket as a way of exploring the wonderful and varied island(s).
    Judging by the amount of tourists on the busses and using them to visit the more remote areas of the island then I’d say this will inevitably impact on those lido/cafe owners eeking out a living in the middle of nowhere,
    The roads/traffic/driving standards are bad enough without encouraging more tourists to hire cars.

    • I can understand why the company is going this way, but there is going to be quite a dramatic difference in prices for residents and tourists. I think that more than a few visitors will opt to rent a car.

    • Yes I saw that article. Maybe I’m just a bit dull-witted, but it’s not entirely clear to me which cards they are talking about in that article. It says ‘foreigners pay same as locals’ but does that mean resident foreigners? Or does it mean that everyone pays the same €21 for a weekly non-personalised card? I just don’t see how a tourist here for a week could possibly get a personalised card, since according to Scott in the comments here you cannot order a card before you arrive unless you have a Malta address.

  5. I think it almost certainly is a cynical ploy to milk tourists out of more money than residents – but in saying that, as a resident, the buses are almost unusable during the summer because of the amount of tourists. So hopefully the extra revenue generated will allow for investment in more buses to actually deal with the tourists (which hopefully it should, given that they will then be profit making instead of subsidised) and the quality of the bus service itself will improve.

    • Yeah I can definitely see the argument, believe me. Although the obvious question is that if everyone knows the buses are going to be packed over summer, why not put on a few more buses? The routes from St Paul’s to Valletta are sardine cans all the way from morning to early evening.

  6. As a Maltese resident that uses a bus maybe twice a week its going to get pricey too. As far as i can see if i buy or top up my card but dont use the amount on it, it wont be carried over to the next week/ month.

    • Susan – I think you are misunderstanding how the Tallinja Card works. If you put money on the card, I doesn’t expire – it stays there until you use it all up. So if you put €15 on the card and only made two journeys a week by bus, it would take 10 weeks to use it all up – you would not loose anything.

  7. Hi I moved to Malta in April and haven’t got a id card yet we use the buses every day I don’t suppose there is a card for us or a reduced fare that we can pay

    • As long as you have an address in Malta and a passport, you should be able to apply for a Tallinja Card – try applying on the Tallinja website and see what happens, but do not expect the card to arrive quickly !

      In the meantime, you should be able to purchase an “Explore” 7-day card for €21, or a 12-journey Explore card that gives you 12 2-hour journeys for €15 – These should be available from Bus Stations and some local shops.

  8. For a small country so reliant on tourism income , it beggars belief that those in government should be stupid as to think that tourists using buses will be the golden egg-laying geese that will prop up the transport system by paying exorbitant prices for crowded and unsatisfactory bus services.

    • We paid 6.50 Euros for a one week bus ticket in June (2015) and now they will be charging 21 Euros for the same one week bus ticket from July (2015). That’s a pretty steep increase for tourists. We are UK pensioners and feel this is discrimination charging so much extra for bus tickets. Might reconsider our usual yearly visit to Malta because of this and the fact that we find other prices in Malta much more expensive than in the UK and other EU countries. A shame as we love Malta but this could well cause less tourists to visit…….

      • Hi Lisa
        Hope u get this, I went to the highest level in Malta about this an received an email. You or anyone else is entitled to the Tallinja card. They never advertised it anywhere thinking the could rip off tourists. I live here and had difficulty getting my card, which I now have.. I don’t know how to upload the email onto this site, but if you forward your email address I will forward the email. Alternatively you can go to Valletta outside the Phoenicia hotel there is a marquee where the girls will do everything for you. Take your passport. Unfortunately it can take up to 2 weeks but you can have it sent back to UK or wherever for future use.
        Regards
        Keith

  9. Who is Phil the bus, an unknown spokesman for MPT. Can you tell me the name of the Spanish company running the system now.

    • The name of the Company is Alesa – and no I don’t work for them or MPT, I just monitor the Maltese press and do my research !

      • Thanks for that. I wasn’t being nasty, but it seems everyone , apart from the powers that be, are giving there opinions, but nothing from officialdom

        • Keith – an article that appeared in the Malta Times today suggests that there should be no problem for you to get a Tallina card if you register giving your Maltese address and your passport number. Some of the people that contribute to the Tripadvisor website have managed to get a card by doing this so please give it a go and tell us what happens.
          Phil-the-Bus

          • Hi Phil,
            Have tried to upload my passport but it goes into error. Have tried getting through on the telephone. No joy there either.

          • When you tried to do it – I know that there were problems when the website was first introduced.

          • Tried again today, same thing. Going to Valleta in the morning and see if I can solve problems.
            Have talked to three vendors who sell top up vouchers taday, and they have not been told of tourist cards either. Someone is talking porkies.
            Has anyone got one. You would think the bus drivers could issue them, but no, you have to go to Valleta, Buggiba or Gozo and no doubt they won’t know about them. I have been in touch with MPT but no one answers. Typical call centre, 5 choices, choose 1 and line goes dead.

          • Strange – I have just tried on the website using my passport number and have got as far as the address page so seems OK. Have you “unclicked” the little box underneath the “Passport / Identification document number” box – that is essential to make it work.

            The “Explore” tourist cards are reported to be on sale at Bugibba Bus Station, and according to the newspaper article they should be available at Valletta Bus Station, the Airport and Sliema Ferries as well. It says that Hotels will sell them eventually but doesn’t say anything about the other outlets.

          • Good news
            Went to Valleta this morning. Tent outside Phoenicia hotel were girls inputted all details in system. Getting card within two weeks. Took 5 mins. Advice for anyone waiting for card, keep bus tickets, as you can claim money back.
            Thanks to Phil and others for your help.

  10. Arrival and Malta were guilty of taking tourists and EU nationals for a ride, now they are doing it again. It is illegal under EU law to charge non resident EU citizens around 300 percent more to travel. As a person who lives here for approx 6 months of theyear, but for family reasons retain my UK status I find it a disgrace what Malta is doing. If it is not overturned, I will lobby my MP in UK that any Maltese tourist be charged the equivalent percent increase when using public transport.

  11. I have applied for a Tallinja card with no problems, but will it ever arrive? I am a student, not rich, and I have never seen such slow processing for a bus card. So far it has taken two weeks. They say it might take up to 4 weeks. Why would it take so long to stick a picture and a name on a plastic card?
    Meanwhile, 2 euros each time. It is a very good strategy to keep us paying up while they are sitting on their ass laughing at the situation. Why does it take so long and will it ever improve? No need to answer, just a rhetorical question….

    • 2 weeks seems fairly typical I’m afraid – try posing a message on the Tallinja Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/tallinja – they seem to be fairly quick at replying to those !

      One good bit of news though, the €2 on bus ticket fare goes down to the €1.50 winter fare from 18th October.

  12. I applied online for the card, used my UK passport number & had it sent to my Malta address. No problem with that, except there was no name or picture on it! I’ve yet to see if I can use it…

    • Don’t worry – you are not the only person reporting this, although the absence of a name on the card is a new situation. Initial indications are that this should not a problem but if you want to check, try contacting MPT through their Tallinja facebook site – http://www.facebook.com/tallinja .

  13. When does the winter period finish and what will the single bus journey be this month? April 2017.

    • Summer fares & timetables apply between mid-June and mid-October. The fare for a single journey until then is €1.50.

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