Transfers and Transport in Malta
Getting around in Malta can be pretty easy but has its challenges. Public transport depends solely on a network of bus routes and the island doesn’t have a metro or train system. Well, the island had a railway system from 1883 until 1931 but buses proved to be more economical to run.
The bus routes, run by Malta Public Transport, reach most parts of the island quite easily and buses generally run according to schedule. Apart from hiring a car, you can always book taxis and mini buses (for larger groups) which are available for private bookings through various operators.
Public transport – Maltese buses
By far the cheapest way to get around the island, but not necessarily the easiest quickest, is traveling by bus.
Malta’s public transport system was overhauled 2011, with the introduction of an independent operator in the form of Arriva (UK-based operator) and a completely revised network of routes.
The replacement of the yellow buses Malta become known for, as well as its frustratingly difficult routes and inefficient service got the project off to a difficult start and when Arriva realised the service was just not profitable enough, they pulled out.
Although a new operator has been introduced (still under the name of Public Transport Malta currently) and punctuality has improved, the routes and the service’s website and journey planner aren’t great. Your best bet is to ask your hotel reception, public transport representatives or bus drivers for advice. They’re always willing to help.
A few of the bright yellow buses of yesteryear are still around as a tourist attraction. These buses, some built as far back as the 1950’s were still running mid-2011 and were much loved by tourists. The Maltese had mixed opinions. Some felt the need for change for decades, with pollution and poor service to blame, others were more nostalgic in their approach and were content with keeping the service as it was.
Taxis and mini buses
Of course, taxis are available from almost everywhere and are either black or white. Your best option is to get a black taxi because they offer fixed prices for set distances, but unfortunately they’re quite rare to find these days. White taxis are far more common but will charge you more.
Always ask the price up front and keep in mind that bargaining for lower prices is not unusual. In tourist hot spots there is plenty of competition amongst taxi owners so they may be more willing to lower their fare if you negotiate. When no competitors are around, however, bargaining for a better fare is difficult.
Mini buses are an ideal way of transport for groups of more than 4-5 people. They are particularly convenient for group visits to tourist sites, or for clubbers trying to get to the more remote and secluded open air clubs. The charge is usually around €5-7 per person for a return trip, depending on the size of the group (normally up to 12). A time of pick up is usually agreed upon with the driver.
There are numerous car hire agencies around of international fame but also family run businesses. Both provide quality cars and at relatively good prices. Be informed before deciding to drive in Malta, as the country is one of the few countries that follow the British standard of left-hand drive. There are a few speed cameras around and its best to ask your car hire agency on details where these are posted. Read more: Car hire in Malta.
Malta International Airport (MLA) is located between the villages of Luqa and Gudja, 10kms from Valletta (journey time – 15 minutes). Buses depart regularly to and from the main bus terminal at Valletta City Gate. Also, there is a full, 24-hour, taxi service to all parts of Malta, with fares being charged at a fixed rate.
The terminal complex at Malta International Airport comprises of split level Departure and Arrival Halls at either side of the main building with spacious Check-In, Baggage Reclaim and Welcomers’ Halls, cafeterias, restaurants, incoming and outgoing duty-free shops and other retail outlets. Other facilities include car hire, bank, bureau de change and offices. For the business travelers, the airport has three executive lounges as well as a separate, exclusive VIP building for Heads of States and diplomats.
All airlines that fly to Malta, including those offering cheap flights to Malta, have their own representation at Malta International Airport.
Gozo Channel line ferries
Even though it’s possible to pack you belongings in a plastic bag and cross the straight between Malta and Gozo by swimming the distance, using the ferries of the Gozo Channel line is a little more convenient, easier and safer. The ferries are accessible through Cirkewwa, which is situated in the Northern most part of Malta and is easily reachable by bus, being served by a number of routes. Trips usually take 20-25 minutes and the ferries cater for car transfers as well.
Getting to Gozo from the airport is easy with public transport, with direct a direct bus route (X1) that take you from the airport in the south of Malta, to the Northern tip of the island (Cirkewwa), to the Gozo Channel line ferries. Although definitely not the fastest way to get there (expect a 1-hour trip outside of rush hour), it definitely is the most economical, costing only a few Euro for a one-way trip.