Malta is one of the most popular tourist destinations for summer holidays and car hire is affordable and convenient. Driving around Malta on your own means of transport allows you to take advantage of the fact that the island offers many places of interest in close proximity. Renting a car will help you avoid unnecessary round trips and you will be able to do much more with your precious vacation time.
Driving in Malta is a unique experience and there are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to hire a car on your Malta holiday. Although the core information provided in these tips is correct, they are a bit of an exaggeration and should by no means be taken as a deterrent from renting a car. Driving in Malta is fun, but even more so if you know what to expect!
Caveat – Parts of this article are purely fictional. If you have a sense of humor, you’ll be able to spot the parts I made up.
1. Left hand drive
When you ask the Maltese which side of the road they drive on, they will usually tell you “On the shady side” or “On the side with no potholes”. The expected answer to that question is actually “On the left side”. Malta used to be a British colony (until its independence in 1964) and has therefore adapted the left-hand drive system and the Highway Code.
2. Vehicles with priority
Although the Maltese adopted much of the Highway Code used in the UK, many drivers in Malta interpret the rules differently. Actually, that’s not unique to Malta, but perhaps these creative interpretations are most noticeable there. The most frequently ignored rule is who is granted the right-of-way. In fact, the right of way is granted according to the size of the vehicle. If you rent a van, you will have a significant advantage over other road users. However, if a yellow monstrosity (public transport bus) crosses your path, play it safe and apply the brakes. The same goes for private coaches, trucks and so-called minibuses (red Ford Transit vans used for private transport).
3. Budget vs comfort
If you’re the type of person who tends to go on budget when you’re on vacation, reconsider when it comes to car rentals. Yes, you can rent a decent cheap car, but there’s one important luxury you don’t want to pass up during the summer months: air conditioning. Maltese summers are HOT, which is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and relaxing on the beach, but less so for driving. You will want air conditioning!
4. Sailing with your Moonlander
Maltese roads reach all parts of the island and there are many shortcuts around, with much asphalt having been laid over the years. HOWEVER, the quality of the roads is well below average. It’s so bad in some parts that the vibrations felt in the car can turn milk into butter. Some surfaces will make Neil Armstrong remember his days in lunar landscapes. Seriously: although the roads are not up to European standards, they are not dangerous to drive on.
5. Parking galore
Space is limited in Malta, while there are almost as many cars as there are people living on the island. That means that in some areas trying to find parking is a bit of an adventure. Problem areas in summer are Sliema, St. Julian’s, St. Paul’s Bay, Bugibba and Qawra.
6. Parking skills
If the mere mention of parallel parking means you’re on the verge of a panic attack, you may want to hire a driver to accompany you on your Malta holiday. Parking spaces are the exception to the pavement-side parking rule. Surprisingly, painting swapping is not something that happens often in Malta.
7. Learn a few words in Maltese
Maltese are very expressive, especially when behind the wheel and in situations where they think they have the right of way (but they don’t). If you were thinking of picking up some Maltese on your Malta holiday and will be hiring a car, this is a very easy way to do it. However, it won’t be the kind of vocabulary to brag about at home.
8. Know where you are going
There is nothing more frustrating than taking a walk in a place you don’t know and getting lost. In reality, getting hit by another car is probably worse. Plan your trips in advance to avoid doubts in the middle of the road. Do not depend on road signs and save yourself the embarrassment of getting lost on an island that is barely 20 kilometers long.
9. Beware of the men in green
As mentioned above, Maltese drivers tend to interpret the rules of the road very liberally. A couple of years ago the Maltese government thought this would be the perfect opportunity to earn a little extra money. The result? Local vigilantes going around the towns wearing a green uniform and handing out tickets from left to right and center. However, as long as you abide by the parking rules (avoid any parking spots marked with yellow lines), you should be fine.
10. Avoid public transport
It is scientifically proven that time passes slower when you travel by bus in Malta. While extending your vacation is something you’d probably like, this is definitely not the way to do it. Very good, if you prefer a cheap solution, nothing beats a Maltese bus, but depending on public transport in Malta means that you will waste time at a bus stop and in transit.
car hire malta
Don’t worry too much about these tips: driving in Malta is fun and not expensive at all. Shop for good prices and you’ll find a bargain that fits your budget.