Malta International Airport: Travel tips for arrivals and departures

Malta International Airport: Travel tips for arrivals and departures
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The Malta International Airport (abbreviation: MIA and airport code MLA) is the only airport of the Malta and Gozo, and the main point of entry for most visitors.

Air travel is, without a doubt, the most popular, cheapest and most time-efficient mode of travel to the islands.

In this article, you can find a lot of info on what you can expect when you arrive at, and depart from Malta’s airport.

Malta International Airport building. Photo by Cezary Borysiuk.

Quick facts

  • There is only one airport that serves the Maltese islands, the Malta International Airport.
  • Malta International Airport served more than 5 million passengers in 2016.
  • It serves as the main hub for the local airline, Air Malta, as well as a base for the very popular, budget airline, Ryanair, amongst another 30 or so airlines.
  • The airport has two runways, 28 Aircraft parking stands, and serves over 80 destinations
  • It has ranked second in the “Best airport by region” category in the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards
  • The airport itself is quite small, with one arrivals and one departures area, situated right next to each other. It’s very easy to navigate, and easily accessible, even for those with reduced mobility.

Where is Malta International Airport located?

The airport is located towards the South East of main island Malta, near the villages of Luqa and Gudja. The first village name often shows up in flight searches, in fact.

How far is the airport from…

  • Valletta: 8km / 15-min drive / 25-min bus ride
  • Sliema / St. Julian’s: 10km / 20-min drive / 50-min bus ride
  • Buġibba / Qawra / St. Paul’s Bay: 19km / 30-min drive / 90-min bus ride
  • Mellieħa: 22km / 35-min drive / 50-min bus ride
  • Gozo ferry at Ċirkewwa: 29km / 45-min drive / 70-min bus ride

How to get to/from the airport and transfers

Malta’s a very small island, so transport to and from the airport is a fairly simple affair. These are the most popular options for transport

1. Public Transport

Public transport in Malta is primarily based on a system of bus routes. There are four express routes designated to travelling to and from the airport, which run daily from morning to evening:

Routes X1, X2 and X3 operate from early in the morning (5-6am) until late in the evening (11pm-midnight), seven days a week. Route X4 operates between 10-11am and 10-11pm, seven days a week. Follow the links above to each of the routes to get to their timetables on the website of Public Transport Malta.

Tickets can be purchased from the airport arrivals hall as well as directly from the bus driver (although please make sure you offer the exact amount of cash or a small denomination since drivers carry limited change) and are single journey tickets that can be used to get to any destination within two hours, including interchanging. Rates vary between summer (€2.00 per person – mid June to mid October) and winter (€1.50 per person) months.

2. Airport transfers

Services such as Malta Transfer offer shared transport from the airport to a number of destinations and hotels around the island, at more economical rates than taxis. You can manage your transfers with fixed prices through the booking system online or visit the booking desk in the airport baggage reclaim area and make your transfer arrangements on arrival. Rates vary depending on your destination.

3. Taxis

Taxi services between the Malta International Airport and any destination on the island are available 24 hours a day. Pre-paid tickets can be purchased at fixed rates from a booth in the airport’s Arrivals hall.

A regular taxi usually accommodates 4 passengers, but the number and size of luggage must be taken into consideration. Rates once again vary depending on your destination, ranging from €35.00 per vehicle for the farthest points on the island to €10.00 per vehicle for areas closest to the airport.

4. Car Hire

If you’re a confident driver, renting a car might be the most suitable option for you to travel around the islands! There are a number of rental agencies within the airport’s in the Arrivals terminal.

You can pre-book your rental online (you can get the best rates as well as tips on car hire in Malta through my site here), or choose to do so upon arrival.

There are numerous car rental booths available on arrival to the MIA representing a mix of international and local car hire agents, i.e. AVIS, Budget, Dollar Thrifty, Europcar, First Car Rental, Gold Car, Green Motion, Hertz and Sixt.

Tips for transport to/from the airport

  • In general: If you need to catch a flight close to rush hour (6:30-8:30h and 16:30-18:30h) make sure to calculate extra transit time for your transfer to the airport to take into account the possibility of encountering traffic on the way. Traffic is one of the country’s major issues at the moment and some travellers and even airline stafff have missed or delayed flights as a result.
  • Update – March 2017: The Malta International Airport is undergoing works to its facilities and expecting a busy summer season so time your trip to the airport well. More info here.
  • Public transport: Although using public transport is definitely the cheapest, and a very safe travelling option, unfortunately it isn’t the always the most reliable of services in terms of punctuality. Even though there is a fixed timetable you can look at for every route, buses are sometimes late, and the service is not very efficient with. If you are on a budget, and not in a hurry (and not carrying loads of luggage), I would suggest catching a bus from the airport to your accommodation in Malta when you get on the island, then getting a taxi or shuttle back to the airport when it’s time to leave, as these services are much more efficient and reliable, albeit more expensive. Even so, using the bus will definitely get you were you want to go in a safe and relatively comfortable way – just be prepared for longer transit times.
  • Transfers by taxi: Always agree on the price of the transfer with your taxi driver prior to travelling (or simply book online – I have nothing but praise for a local company eCabs). Most taxi drivers are honest and decent enough guys, but it’s always best to discuss pricing prior to arriving to your destination; that way you can avoid any expensive fees!
  • Driving in Malta isn’t for the faint hearted. I’m not saying Malta has the worst drivers in the world, but the Mediterranean attitude and temperament does tend to leak into Maltese drivers mannerisms unfortunately. Read my tips for driving in Malta to help you decide whether it’s something you’ll be comfortable with doing and info on where and how to best rent a car in Malta is available here.

When you get to Malta: Handy services in the Arrivals terminal

After your flight touches down at Malta International Airport there are a couple of things you can do to get a good kickstart to your trip to Malta.

Internet and connectivity

You can get free Wi-Fi at the airport by connecting to the MIA access point and logging into the MIA website, which pops up on your mobile/tablet browser once your device is connected.

If you’d like to stay connected through mobile data, you can also purchase a local SIM card and a data bundle for your mobile, should you need one, from the Vodafone outlet in the Arrivals hall (to your right as you exit the baggage collection area).

More info on internet and Wi-Fi in Malta here.

Cash and currency exchange

If you’d like to withdraw some cash, you can find an ATM in the Arrivals hall of HSBC (bank) and there’s also a currency exchange machine available (also HSBC) which accepts most major international currencies.

Pharmacy

If you need to buy any drugs or any form of medication once you land, there is a well-stocked pharmacy within the Arrivals hall (to your left as you exit baggage reclaim), which is open seven days a week from 8am until 10pm. You’ll also be able to buy things like sun block lotion here, not just medicinal goods.

Transport

  • There’s a taxi stand available to book a quick transfer with clearly displayed rates
  • Car hire agents are located to your immediate left once you exit baggage reclaim
  • A Public Transport Malta ticket and service information booth is located right opposite baggage reclaim exit, although you can also purchase tickets on the bus itself from the driver. The booth is manned between 8:00h and 19:30h daily.

Airport services

  • Lost & Found – If you lose something in the airport, or find something which is not yours, you can visit the Customer Service Information Centre, which is located in the Check-in Hall and near the Departure Gates. They handle all lost and found items within the airport. Opening Hours: 7:30h – 16:00h (Monday to Friday). If you need to file a report of a lost item outside of those hours you can do so on the airport’s website here.
  • Reduced Mobility Assistance – The MIA offers services and support for those traveling with mobility problems. If you, or someone you’re travelling with needs any special assistance during their time at the airport, there are facilities and a number of staff members available on call to make your arrival and stay as comfortable as possible. You can book Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) services through your airline carrier or by contacting the airport (Email: info@maltairport.com).
  • Damaged or Missing Luggage – If any of your checked baggage is damaged on arrival, you should report it to an MIA staff member or representative immediately to file a report. You can do so at the desk inside of the baggage reclaim area, before you pass customs and enter the Arrivals hall. Customer relations are largely dependent on the airline you have used, but your best course of action is to report your missing or damaged luggage to MIA staff so that a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) can be filed. If your luggage is missing they will also be able to help trace it and ensure it gets delivered at your address of stay as soon as possible. You will need to present your flight ticket and the baggage receipts which were given to you at check-in for your journey.

A few tips for dealing with missing luggage

  • My biggest piece of advice: always have some form of travel insurance when travelling. Although lost luggage is not a common occurrence at Malta International Airport and airlines like Air Malta have a solid track record in this respect, it pays to be covered.
  • If you’ll need to file a claim with your insurer upon your return home, you’ll be asked for a list of documents. Make sure you get a paper copy of the Property Irregularity Report and keep all boarding passes and luggage tags and labels (including and most importantly the one attached to your luggage once retrieved). Don’t assume your luggage has the tag associated with your name and record attached to it. It’s not uncommon for check-in staff to randomly affix tags before departure if you’re travelling together with others.
  • Always ask for the staff member’s names when lodging a complaint, so you can actually refer to them if calling back later on.

The check-in area of the departures terminal at Malta's airport.

Heading back home: What’s available in the Departures terminal

In the check-in hall you can find:

  • Check In Tills, as soon as you enter the MIA Departures hall. Although service is usually quite efficient, the MIA is not a large airport, so it does get quite busy and crowded, during peak hours. Online check-in does make your departure more quick and efficient, so make use of this if your airline offers the option. Both Ryanair and Air Malta (two of the biggest airlines that fly to/from Malta) both offer online check-in to most destinations which they serve.
  • An ATM of local bank BOV (which accepts major credit cards)
  • A Maltapost mailbox
  • 24 Hour Luggage Deposit Service – The MIA offers a Baggage Deposit Service so you can drop off your luggage and pick it up before you check-in or fly. The storage room is a 24/7 Service, located inside the check-in hall near the Customer Services Information Centre. Prices range from €5.00 to €15.00, depending on the type and size of luggage stored, as well as duration of storage. For every additional 24 hours or part thereof, an additional €10.00 is charged to the fee.
  • Baggage Wrapping – A baggage wrapping service is available at a fee in the Check-In hall to protect luggage from scratches, liquid damage, and small bumps. Opening Hours: 5:30AM – 8:00PM (Monday – Thursday) 5:30AM – 10:00PM (Friday & Saturday) 7:30AM – 8:00PM (Sundays).
  • Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport.
  • Charging Points – Device charging stations are available throughout the airport. Here’s where you’ll find them: 
    • Check-in hall: Costa Coffee has desks/working areas for laptop users and electrical sockets for charging.
    • Food Court (lower level accessed from in between Departures and Arrivals terminals): Charging stations for various electronic devices and sockets.  Also available are a number of wall-mounted electrical sockets and space where you can work on your laptop.

In the departures area you can find:

  • Airport Lounges – The MIA offers two luxury lounges for passengers looking for a little extra privacy and comfort while they travel. The La Valette Club Lounge offers comfortable sofas, complementary snacks and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), TVs, flight monitors, Wi-Fi and wired internet terminals, newspapers and magazines. Its entrance can be found on the entrance to the upper level of the check-in hall, past security and up the escalator.
  • Charging Points in the Departures area: Charging stations for various electronic devices and sockets.  Also available are a number of wall-mounted electrical sockets.
  • Various retail and duty free outlets – see below for more details.
  • Various dining/drinks options (see below) – see below for more details.
  • A smoking area can be found at the outside terrace of Relish cafe, close to Gate 1

Security

  • Passing through security at the MIA is pretty much the same as in any other airport. When passing through security, remove any accessories such as mobile phone, coins, wallets, watches and sunglasses from your pockets before passing through X-Ray Screening. Laptops and tablets must also be removed from your bag and placed in a separate tray.
  • All hand luggage and carried items are X-Ray screened and while liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed in carry ons, they must not exceed 100ml and should be placed in a transparent re-sealable bag before flying from Malta. Liquids carried in hand luggage are still subject to security controls.
  • Food in the form of fruit, vegetables and all solid foods can also be held in hand luggage. However, foods in sauces or liquid also need to be sealed in a 1-litre transparent re-sealable bag, and not exceed 100ml.
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products are allowed in hand luggage. Only one small packet of safety matches or one single cigarette lighter may be carried on one’s person, however. Matches and lighters are not allowed in the hand or checked in baggage. Lighter fuel and lighter refills are also not permitted. Smoking is not allowed inside the terminal building, on the aprons, or on board aircraft.

Passport Control

If you’re travelling to Malta from a Schengen country, you usually do not require a passport when entering the MIA. Even so, you still need a valid form of identification, and carrying a passport or ID card when travelling is always the best option. If you’re coming from non Schengen areas, you need:

  • to be in possession of a valid travel document (passport) or recognised equivalent (like an ID card);
  • to possess documents stating the purpose and the conditions of the planned arrival to Malta and have sufficient means of support, both for the period of the planned visit and return to their country of origin;
  • to possess a valid entry or transit visa if required.

If you require more information please consult the website of Identity Malta.

Shopping at the airport

There’s a variety of shopping options within the MIA, including a couple of jewellery stores, book shops and stationeries, a few fashion outlets and a well stocked souvenir shop. Most important to note are:

  • Vodafone – There’s a Vodafone outlet in the Check-in hall which can provide you with customer service, a selection of mobile phones, iPads, network keys and top up cards. Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9:00AM – 9:00PM
  • Pharmacy – The airport pharmacy can be found in the Welcomers’ hall. Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 08:00AM – 10:00PM
  • The Spirit of Malta – A quirky shop within the Departures hall selling classic and traditional local products, wines, sweet confectionery treats, and souvenirs. This shop is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for some last minute gifts! Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours. 
  • Duty Free Store – Located in the Departures hall, the Duty Free Store means offers reduced prices on perfume, cosmetics, spirits and tobacco goods. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours.

Consult this page on the most up-to-date information on shops at Malta International Airport.

Dining and quick food options

There are a few dining options available at the airport for a proper dinner but also food options for a quick bite. These can be found in the landside section, that is, close to departures, at the airside section, after checking in and passing through security, or at the SkyParks Business Centre.

The latter is part of the MIA complex, but is housed in a separate building in close vicinity to airport itself (within a 5-minute walk from the Arrivals terminal).

Here’s a short list of what the dining options the MIA has to offer.

Arrivals

  • Costa Coffee – Serving their staple coffee selection plus some simple snacks. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours.

Check-in hall

  • Costa Coffee – Also in the Departures lounge upstairs, after you pass security. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours.
  • Dr. Juice – For some healthy smoothie options. Opening Hours: 6:30AM – 7:30PM

Food court

The Food court can be found on the lower level of the airport, which is accessible between the Departures and Arrivals terminals.

  • Burger King – Found in the Food Court area of the MIA. Opening Hours: 10:00AM – 01:00AM
  • KFC – Also located in the Food Court. Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 01:00AM
  • Fat Harry’s Pub – A pub style eatery serving hot and cold beverages, as well as simple, fresh, pub style food. Situated in the Food Court. Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 12:00AM
  • Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe – Eatery within the Food Court serving a selection of grilled flatbreads, paninis, quesadillas, burritos, wraps and salads. Opening Hours: 11:00AM – 11:00PM

Departures lounge (after security)

  • Hard Rock Cafe – Found at the Departures hall, serving hot and cold snacks early morning and late evening, and more of their staple sandwiches and meals during peak hours. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours
  • Cleland and Souchet Wine Cafe – A wine bar and cafe. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours
  • Relish – Here you can find some freshly prepared meals as well as a selection of pre-packed snacks and pastries. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 24 hours

Just outside the airport in or near SkyParks Business Centre

The SkyParks Business Centre is a 5-minute walk away from the Arrivals terminal and offers a few good options for food if you have extra time to kill.

  • McDonalds – Behind the SkyParks Business Centre. Opening Hours: 7:00AM – 1:00AM daily except for Fridays and Saturdays when closing time is at 2:00AM.
  • Zen Sushi To Go is a great option for sushi lovers. You can have your sushi to go, or dine in. Opening Hours: Mon -Sun 11:00AM – 11:00PM
  • Vecchia Napoli – A great place to have an authentic Neapolitan and Italian pizza. Opening Hours: Tues to Fri 11:00 – 23:00, Sat to Sun 12:00-16:00 / 17:00 – 23:00
  • Talbot & Bons – Bistro by day, tapas bar by night. They also have a selection of organic and artisanal pastas, wines and other products on sale. Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 7:00AM – 1:AM
  • Beer Kitchen serves a wide selection of beers as well as some tasty snacks and bites.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about Malta’s airport?

Leave a comment below and let me know!

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