Wondering how to get around Malta on your trip? The small Mediterranean island nation is well connected by a network of scenic roads, and its public transport system makes it relatively easy to travel between the main towns and villages by bus. The nation’s three islands are also connected by frequent ferry crossings, with the added benefit of beautiful views. Getting around Malta is all part of the experience! In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about Malta transportation when you visit for the first time.
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Getting around Malta: a quick introduction
We always love going back to Malta. What a beautiful place to spend a few days, whether for a warm-weather break or a Malta workation out of season.
Malta actually consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Most people stay on the main island, Malta, which is just 27 kilometres long and 14.5 kilometres wide. Driving from Mellieħa on its far north to Marsaxlokk on its far south takes just 50 minutes or so.
On our repeat visits to Malta we’ve come to know and love its road system, which is busy in the towns, but quiet and picturesque in the rural countryside. It’s fairly straightforward to navigate either by hiring a car or taking public buses, and we’ll explain all of that in detail in this article.
Apps to download before you travel
Before you set off for your flight, there a few apps you should download for getting around Malta:
- Tallinja: created by Malta Public Transport, this app provides real-time information on public buses, including times of arrival, as well as journey planning features. We find it saves a lot of hassle and we always use it when we visit.
- eCabs: Malta doesn’t have Uber, but this ride-hailing service is a useful alternative that can help you arrange a taxi within a few minutes.
- Gozo Channel: if you want to take the ferry over to Malta’s beautiful second island, this app provides information and travel updates on crossings.
- VisitMalta+: a mobile Malta guide that includes a map of attractions that you can use offline.
- Maps.me: this is a great app we use wherever we travel. You can download local maps to use offline. Signal is sometimes weak in Malta’s rural areas, so it’s useful to have this as a backup if you need to plan a route from A to B.
Do you need a car in Malta?
It’s definitely easier to travel around Malta if you hire a car. But is it essential? Absolutely not. We’ve been happy to simply navigate via public buses and ferries on previous visits.
Hiring a car does give you the benefit of freedom to travel when and where you want. This makes life easier, especially in the low season when public transport services are reduced. And you have the added adventurous element of plotting a road trip around the island.
We always use Rentalcars.com to find and book the best local car hire deals.
Are there trains in Malta?
Malta did once have a railway line, but sadly it was decommissioned in 1931 and most of its tracks have long since disappeared. The line ran from Valletta to Mdina.
Remains of some sections of the railway line can still be seen, including various bridges and tunnels, particularly near Mdina. You can visit the old Mdina station as it is now a popular restaurant called Stazzjon.
Arriving at Malta International Airport (Luqa)
Malta has one international airport, in Luqa, which is located inland towards the south of the main island. It’s definitely one of the better airports we’ve visited, with good facilities and signposting, and it’s easy to find your feet when you first arrive.
Booking a transfer from Malta International Airport in advance is the quickest and easiest way to make sure you get quickly to your destination when you arrive. When we first visited with Lisa’s family, we arranged a private transfer from Malta Airport, which worked out perfectly for our group of four.
You can also use the eCabs app to hail a taxi quickly when you arrive, but it’s nice to have it already arranged!
If you are arriving late in the evening, pre-booking a transfer or getting a taxi on arrival is definitely the way to go, as the airport express buses don’t run after about 11pm.
How to get from Malta Airport to Valletta
Valletta is Malta’s capital city and is about 8 kilometres from the airport by road. It is a hub for transport to anywhere on the main island, with many bus routes passing via the capital’s main station.
These are the best ways to get from Malta International Airport to Valletta:
- As outlined above, the easiest way to make the journey to Valletta is to book a private transfer, which costs around €27 and will take about 20 minutes.
- Another option is to book a shuttle services using SunTransfers. These can work out cheaper, and they also offer transfer options.
- The cheapest way is to take the bus. The X4 express bus goes directly from the airport to Valletta and takes about 25 minutes. Alternatively, if you walk a few minutes from the airport to the bus stop at Cintra, you can take the 71, 72 or 73 services, which will get you there quicker. A single bus ticket is €2 in summer or €1.50 in winter, or you can buy a multi-journey card (see the section on buses below).
Also check out our guide to visiting Malta in winter to find how you can make the most of visiting in the low season when it’s cheaper to get around.
How to get from Malta Airport to Sliema or St Julian’s
Many people choose to stay in the nearby seaside neighbourhoods of Sliema or St Julian’s rather than the capital Valletta, which is more residential. You can see our complete guide to where to stay in Malta for insights into those and other areas.
As with Valletta, if you’re staying in Sliema or St Julian’s you could book a transfer.
The TD2 bus runs about twice every hour and goes directly from the airport to both Sliema and St Julian’s. If this doesn’t work well with your arrival time, you could follow the instructions above to get to Valletta, and then take a connecting bus onwards from there (13A or 16 for Sliema, TD13 for St Julian’s).
How to get around Malta by bus
Malta has a highly efficient and easy-to-use bus system that is our go-to mode of transport when we visit. It connects the islands’ towns and villages with frequent services.
The services are operated by Malta Public Transport, and you can check their website for the latest information on routes and fares.
Some quick tips for getting around Malta on public transport:
- Allow plenty of time for your journey – more than Google Maps tells you. Traffic can get very busy in the more built-up areas, and we often find that several minutes get added to our expected journey time.
- If you are visiting in lower season, many services are reduced, so be sure to check the timetables. But there’s also a benefit that fares are lower too (€1.50 for a single journey rather than €2).
- There are two night bus services that run until after midnight, which cost €3 for a single ticket. The N13 connects Valetta and St Julian’s via Sliema, and the N212 connects Sliema and Bugibba via St Julian’s.
Multi-journey travel cards
You can save money on bus fares in Malta buy using a multi-day travel card. We did this when we first visited, and it made getting around Malta much cheaper and simpler.
The best travel card for your trip will depend on how long you are staying. The options are:
- Explore Card: unlimited travel for 7 days for €21 (or €15 for children).
- 12 Single Day Journeys Card: does exactly what it describes for €15, saving you €9 on paying for journeys individually. It can also be combined with night services.
- Explore Flex Card: a pay-as-you-go card that gives you discounts on public transport, and can also be used on ferry services. Beginning from €6.
Whichever card you choose, it’s best to buy it from Malta International Airport when you arrive, so you can start reaping the benefits immediately. You can buy them in the airport from WHS Express in the arrivals hall or Agenda Bookshop in the departures hall.
Don’t worry if you forget, as the travel cards are available in a multitude of shops all over Malta. You can find out more on the Malta Public Transport website.
Driving in Malta: what you need to know
If you opt to drive in Malta, there are a few useful things to know before getting on the road. These are some of our tips for driving in Malta:
- Driving in Malta is on the left side, which makes it easier for us coming from the UK! At roundabouts, remember to look right when you approach.
- There are no motorways in Malta; the small islands are navigated by scenic countryside and coastal roads that have lower speed limits than most countries. Outside urban areas the max is 80kph, and in towns the speed limit is usually 50kph or 35kph.
- As the roads are often small, many locals ride scooters. So be extra vigilant for road-users on two wheels.
- Whether you’re in the town centres or out in the sticks, roads in Malta are often narrow and winding. Tale care, and you may need to be patient if you meet someone coming in the opposite direction.
- Some Maltese villages have gone car-free, including those closest to the Blue Grotto and the ruins of Ħaġar Qim. If you visit here, you can use car parks outside the villages.
- Drivers in Malta are known to be lax with indicating, which can be frustrating, so be aware and take extra care.
- As with buses, allow plenty of time when driving into urban areas. Traffic can get very busy.
Hiring a car
As mentioned above, we use Rentalcars.com to find and book hire cars in Malta, which is really useful for finding the best deals. Cars do tend to get booked up, so it’s much better to sort one in advance for when you arrive at the airport rather than try when you arrive. You’ll need to arrange insurance too, which is best done when you make the booking.
You need to be at least 21 years old to hire a car in Malta. When you collect the car, you will need to bring a valid driving licence from any country, a credit card in the driver’s name and a passport or EU ID card. It’s also best to bring a copy of your reservation confirmation.
Make sure you take photos of any marks or scratches on the car when you pick it up, as well as the fuel level.
Ferries in Malta
A number of ferry services will help you navigate between Malta’s islands and coastal points. These are the main ferry routes you are likely to take:
- Sliema to Valletta ferry: a scenic alternative to taking the bus, and an experience in itself. The journey is €2.80 for a day return, so it’s even cheaper than taking the bus! The service is operated by Valletta Ferry Services and departs from the Sliema ferry port. It runs regularly from morning to evening.
- Valletta to the Three Cities: Valletta Ferry Services also offers this route across the Grand Harbour, on the other side of the capital from Sliema.
- Gozo Channel ferry: Malta’s beautiful second island is easy to reach via this 20-minute crossing, costing €4.65 for a return. It departs throughout the day from Cirkewwa ferry terminal. Arrive early as there may be a wait of up to 45 minutes before you can board.
- Ferries to Comino: the smaller island is reachable by public ferry from both Cirkewwa on the main island and Gozo. There are a number of operators that serve these routes.
Malta transport for fun: Blue Lagoon cruises
Transport in Malta isn’t always about getting from A to B. It’s also a recreational activity! Cruising around the sights of the main island, Gozo and Comino – in particular the famous Blue Lagoon – are a must to include in your Malta itinerary.
On our latest trip to Malta, we took a catamaran cruise to the Blue Lagoon, beaches and bays, with optional BBQ. It includes a stop at Popeye Village, the purpose-built filming set for the 1980 movie Popeye, and there are also opportunities to jump in and have a swim.
Do you have any of your own tips for how to get around Malta? Let us know in the comments below.
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