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Driving in Malta

So as a visitor to Malta, should you rent a car, or should you rely on the Maltese transport system?

This is sort of like asking whether you would prefer to be clattered over the head by a saucepan or a flowerpot.  Neither option is wonderful.

However I think that most people would choose to avoid the infamous buses, especially during peak season when they are crowded to bursting, and when your journey may involve a lot of standing at bus stops waving feebly at packed buses as they zip past.

Driving has it’s own challenges however, and is not for the faint of heart.  For one thing, visitors from continental Europe or the US must adapt to the right hand drive favoured in most ex-British colonies.  After that, it’s a case of negotiating labyrinthine towns and villages, squeezing through narrow roads, and braving the succession of roundabouts where meek and cautious driving is not rewarded.

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Having recently got my licence (I know, but better late than never) I decided to rent a car* for a weekend jaunt.

Driving around the patches of countryside on decent roads is good fun, although these are few and far between in Malta.  More often you are chugging along in traffic, or else trying to deduce the one-way system of a sequence of identical back streets in some unpronounceable town.  My downloaded Sat-Nav lady found roundabouts particularly confusing, telling me to ‘TAKE THE THIRD EXIT’ as we approached one, upon which I would carefully count off the exits and take the third one.  The Sat-Nav lady would ponder silently for a moment or two before intoning: ‘RECALCULATING THE ROUTE’, causing me to blunder into a warren of tiny one way streets trying to get back to the roundabout again.  Few expressions can become as wearying as ‘RECALCULATING THE ROUTE’ on a sweltering day driving in circles around Marfa.

We also managed to pick up a parking ticket (cost= €23.29) for putting the car into what looked like a perfectly acceptable place on a small road near Golden Bay.  Lots of other cars were parked there too so I didn’t think twice about it, but we all got a little white ticket on our return.  Parking in Malta can be an absolute nightmare by the way, I spent about an hour trying to find a space in the general vicinity of Bugibba on a Sunday, when the town gets packed with visitors.  Likewise trying to park near a popular beach is not easy, so I reckon the traffic wardens treat that little road where me and the other fellows parked as a nice breezy way to write up a few tickets.

Despite these minor bothers, having a car really opens up the country to you, and allows you to explore a lot of places where going by bus just isn’t a realistic option.  If you’re here as a tourist then I suggest that you rent a car for the week – it won’t be all that expensive (see below) – and you’ll always have the bus option as a back-up.

 

*We went to Agius Rentals, a rather scruffy looking place behind the main square in Bugibba.  Appearances aside, they offered the best rates we found in the area (€20 per day or €18 per day for 3 days for a small car), and we tried about six or seven other places in Bugibba and Qawra.   Most of the competition quoted €30+ per day, down to €25 per day if you booked for at least 3 days.  Agius don’t seem to have a website, so don’t book a car in advance but just go there when you arrive.  Apart from anything else it’s a family business and they are nice people, so check them out.  And no, they don’t pay me anything for saying this, I’m not smart enough for that.

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4 thoughts on “Driving in Malta

  1. Thanks for this article 🙂

    I am planning on learning to drive at some point in the not too distant future and wasn’t sure whether to do my test here in the UK or wait until I move to Malta. (I am planning on moving at some point in the latter half of next year).

    I like the idea of being able to get around as soon as I arrive and from my research I believe whilst you can start taking lessons straight away; I cannot sit a test until I have been living on the Island for at least 6 months. Also I sometimes hear the public transport can be a little testing at times (and I’m somebody who doesn’t particularly like buses, I almost always opt for trains or tubes here when I can).

    On the flipside it seems that driving lessons are quite considerably cheaper in Malta than they are here in the SE of England. Here you will easily pay £25-30 for a 1 hour lesson, I have seen in Malta you could pay as little as €10-12 which is a big difference. Also a Maltese friend of mine pointed out that people drive very differently in Malta (some have been known to say slightly erratically) and the roads are different to most of our roads here in UK so would be advantageous to learn on the roads I will actually be driving on I suppose.

    All in all, once I have weighed everything up I think I will wait to do my lessons and take my test in Malta. It will be an EU licence so I will still be able to use it back here in the UK if necessary anyway.

    How did you find learning to drive and taking your test in Malta? Was it relatively stress free?

    Any information would be very gratefully received.

    Many thanks

    Scott.

    • Well I managed to pass the test first time when I took it in Malta. I took about 10 or 12 lessons beforehand, and you’re right in that they are a lot cheaper than you would pay in the UK.

      Parallel parking was the part of the test I probably found trickiest, but I did better in the actual test than during my practice runs beforehand. Otherwise it was relatively pain-free. The theory test part is a breeze, so given that you come out with an EU licence I don’t see any disadvantage to taking the test in Malta, especially taking into account the cheaper lessons.

      • Fantastic! Yes, I fear parallel parking will be my nemesis haha!

        Thanks again for your post and hope you have a great New Year 🙂

        Scott.

  2. We did as 3 week trip in December to Sliema and used public transport, a couple of 21 Euro weekly tickets and I think we got value for money. We returned in January 2016 for 10 days and hired a car from a well known hire company and collected the car from Luqa airport on arrival, I recall it costing around 80 Euro with the extra insurance to cover the excess. I thought the value was good. I must say the car was an absolute disgrace with paint peeling and scratches everywhere. I went over it with a fine toothcomb when I picked it up and made sure the damage was indicated in the paperwork. I took lots of photo’s to help cover myself. As to the driving I had brought my Tomtom satnav with me so had no problem finding my way around. I think if you are happy with aggressive driving then you will be OK in Malta. The state of roads are generally appalling in rural areas.
    We plan to move to Gozo in March 2017 but will not bother with a car and stick to public transport which is quite reliable on Gozo.
    Ray

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