A bit of a parsons egg.
If you are wondering about the title of this tip, perhaps if English is not your first language, please allow me to explain. There is an expression in English referring to the parsons egg. When asked how his egg was, the mythical parson is supposed to have replied replied that it was good in parts and bad in parts and it was thus with my experiences of the Maltese bus system.
I had read much about the wonderful colourful owner-driven old buses that used to ply the island and had seen the photographs. I knew they were long gone, having been driven out (no pun intended) and superseded by the Arriva company. I must say that Arriva operate many bus services in the UK and generally make a pretty poor show of it so I wasn't expecting much.
The alternative good and bad were shown right on arrival at Luqa airport (see seperate tip. A cut and paste from my blog will illustrate some of the good and bad points.
"If I can avoid it, I do not use airport taxis as they generally prove to be a ripoff and there is almost always a viable public transport option available. This proved to be the case here although it proved a little trickier than anticipated. The bus stops are well signed as indeed was the self-service ticket machine..
This is where the problems began. The smallest note I had was a €10 and I had two choices of tickets, either a two hour ticket at €2:60 or my preferred seven day Rover ticket at a very reasonable €12. OK, can any of you mathematical geniuses (genii?) tell me how I can obtain either when the machine very helpfully informs me that the maximim change returned is €5? My admittedly limited maths left me without a solution so I thought that buying on the bus might be a plan. I spoke to the driver and explained the situation. No problem, and he very kindly took my €10 and disappeared into the terminal to get it changed. The dot matrix display had indicated that the bus was meant to leave in four minutes and about ten minutes later he sauntered out of the building, stopping on the way to chat to his mate. I smiled an apology to the only other passenger, a young female airline employee. She just smiled back sweetly. The driver then wandered over to another bus to chat to the driver there for a while before returning to the bus and giving me my change and a ticket which he said was valid until midnight. I still don't know how he worked that out but that is what he told me."
Another experience was when I went to Qawra. I turned up about five minutes ahead of the published departure time to find the bus already gone. I checked the timetable and wandered off then returned, again in good time, for the next one. The door of the bus was shut, and the driver deep in conversation with his mate in an adjoining bus. I knocked on the door and he looked at me, clearly saw me, whereupon he continued his conversation for perhaps another minute and then drove off. At this point the dot matrix display was showing that the next bus would be some 40 minutes later, in clear contradiction of the published timetable on the stop. Utterly confused and not a little annoyed by the drivers ignorance (I can use no other word), I went to the office. The man on duty there was sitting with his feet up on a desk, saw me and deliberately ignored me for a minute or two before deigning to speak. When he did he told me that the next bus was in about ten minutes in complete contradiction of both the dot matrix display and the timetable.
It appears that Arriva have now established their monopoly position on the island and really could not care less about the customer.
On the plus side the buses, when they do run (never in accordance with the schedule) are quite frequent along the major routes and realtively inexpensive. They are clean, modern and relatively comfortable. I recommend the seven day rover pass at €12 for an adult which represents good value if you are travelllng a lot as this gives you unlimited travel all over the island.
Be aware, however, that your rover ticket does not cover you for night buses!
Update September 2013.
If you are on Malta and a "bendy bus" appears at the stop, do yourself a favour and do not get on it! We had them in London and they were prone to catching fire, leading to them being taken out of service. What happened next? The bus company sold them to Arrive and they were shipped to Malta for use there. So far this year, nine of them have caught fire, here is a link from a local website.
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Small and efficient airport.
I know there are a number of the low-cost carriers now flying from UK and other parts of Europe to Malta but I really have given up on them. By the time you add on all the extras etc., it is usually feasible, with a little research, to fly on a proper carrier for not a lot more and without all the attendant hassles of the cheapos. I had decided, therefore, to travel with Air Malta. Certainly not he best airline I have ever flown with but no complaints, the flight was OK and arrived on time. I even managed a little doze en-route. My first steps onto Maltese soil were therefore at Luqa airport which is, I believe the only commercial airport on the Maltese islands.
Luqa is not large by any stretch of the imagination and I don't know how it operates in high season when there are a lot of passengers but I flew there in February and it was quick, efficient, clean and generally no bother at all. The luggage from a fairly fiull flight was delivered to the carousel in about 20 minutes and the immigration / passport / Customs formalities were literally a walk-through.
There are numeous taxis hovering aboutt outside but there really is no need to take one. I have found taxis on Malta to be pretty expensive and airport taxis are notorious worldwide for being more expensive than the norm locally. The very regular bus service into Valletta departs from just outside the terminal building from bus stop "Ajruport 1", as pictured. This stop is just outside the departures entrance and there is a well-signed ticket machine inside. If you need to, you can buy a ticket on the bus. The slightly incongruous image is of a "modern art installation" by two female artists and entitled, perhaps understandably, "Flight".
A reasonable national carrier.
I elected to fly to Malta with the national carrier, Air Malta.
The details of my flight are recounted here in a cut and paste from my external blog, slightly edited to make it relevant here, for which I make no apology. I really don't have time to be retyping the same informationj in several different places.
"I flew out of Heathrow and am returning to Gatwick but it really makes little difference to me as it takes about the same time to get to or from either. I made LHR in good order and headed to the check-in desk where I was the only passenger present. The friendly lady took one look at my six foot five frame and asked if I would like an exit seat. Would I ever! Air Malta appears to be adopting the appalling Ryanair / Sleazyjet model and charging for just about everything. Had I requested this seat online it would have cost me about €15 each way for the privelege. She gave me a window seat and a further joy was that the middle seat of the configuation of three was unoccupied. Oh happy day. Having looked at the first class accomodation whilst boarding, I genuinely reckon I had at least as much legroom as them, so thank you kind check-in lady.
The flight itself was unremarkable if comfy but it highlighted another practice that seems to have crept into airlines that really annoys me. The plane was loaded and ready to go on time but we didn't take off until 30 minutes afrter we should. The pilot announced the estimated flying time which, funnily enough, was about 30 minutes less than that advertised. I have no doubt this is done merely so airlines can crow about punctuality figures when all they are doing is misleading the passenger and I really wish they would discontiunue this nonsense immediately. In the absence of any entertainment I dozed a bit and then had a bit of a shufti at the inflight magazine which was actually dated that day, 13th February. Apologies for the image which was obviously taken on my knee on the 'plane. I might try to take a very arty one to replace this one later!"
That is about my thinking on Air Malta really. Nothing remarkable but friendly staff and I would have no hesitation in flying with them again. The service at the airport is dealt with in a seperate tip on this page.
Malta was once famous for its colourful old buses. They're gone now. They've been replaced by new boxy Chinese built buses run by the British company Arriva. They are incredibly good value. You can travel anywhere on the island for two hours for just 2.20 euros. You can buy a day ticket for just a little more at 2.60. And an entire week of travelling all over the island of Malta costs just 12 euros. Residents of Malta even get a discount of nearly 50% on these already low prices. Note these prices cover just the island of Malta, and don't cover the ferry to Gozo or the island of Gozo either. You have to buy additional, equally cheap, tickets for Gozo.
The main bus stop is just outside Valletta's city gates. Pretty much all buses run from here, although there are a few exceptions.
Malta's airport is located just five kilometers from Valletta in Luqa, and is typically referred to as Luqa Airport. It's a very busy airport for such a small island, and has international flights all over Europe and North Africa. Along with multiple budget airlines and charter flights for holiday makers, Air Malta is a major national airline too.
When I landed at Luqa I was expecting a bumpy ride. Being a flat island in the middle of the Mediterranean, the wind can get quite strong, and when I touched down in December it was nearing gale force. But the landing was remarkably smooth. That's because the Maltese have cleverly built the landing strip running towards the North-West where its strong winds usually come from. That means typically no nasty side winds.
The airport is very easy to get to. You could even walk it in about an hour if you had no baggage. Express buses serving Valletta are number X4, X5 and X7.
Take the bus
Be aware that the public bus prices in Malta are extremely cheap.
We took the bus from the airport to Bugibba.
A taxi would have cost LM£10 (maltese pounds) and the bus cost us LM£1.68 for the 2 of us!
Bus number 8 takes you from the airport to Valetta main bus station (about 30 minutes) - depart every 20 mins or so.
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Take the bus when you're in Malta! It is not only cheap but a great a touristic attractions in it self. The bus types on Malta are no longer in service anywhere else in the world. They go less frequent on Gozo though. I hired a car when i went there.
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Malta is a small island and many destinations can be reachable by bus, however, sometimes it takes long due to you have to go to Valletta to get the bus to other place. So, from my point of view, it's better to rent a car (I did), it's not expensive. There are many companies and websites where you can find many offers.
I found this company, Active Car Rental Malta, and rented the car through them. They deliver the car to your accommodation with no extra charge (at least now).
For other possibilities, check the other website you'll find down below.
Pic: As you can guess, this is the car I rented.
This is the international airport of Malta, about 8 kms. south of Valletta.
- Fax: (+356) 2124 9563
* How to get there:
- By bus: The problem is that almost all of the times, if you don't have your accommodation in Valletta, you have to go there anyway, then, another bus to your final destination. The bus that links Valletta and the airport is number 8.
- Taxi: There are fixed rates (it depends on the destination), so, you know how much you will pay no matter the traffic jams.
For more, check this link.
There is a ferry every 45 minutes and the trip takes about 20 minutes.
* Malta Island: Cirkewwa (on the west).
- Tel.: (+356) 2158 0435/6 and 2157 5884
- Fax: (+356) 2158 0435
- E. mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Gozo Island: Mgarr (on the east)
- Tel.: (+356) 2155 6114 and 2156 1622
- Fax: (+356) 21556743
- E. mail: email@example.com
Driving a car is very dangerous in Malta! You can and should go everywhere by bus! A bus ticket for one week is about €14 per person (also availiable 1 day tickets etc.) which is valid everywhere in Malta. All buses leave in Valetta, there are just some cross connections. A map with all main routes is availiable for free at the tourist information in Valetta.
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The ferry to Gozo
In order to reach the smaller island of Gozo you need to get at first by bus to the port of Cirkewwa (on the weat coast of Malta). Usually the bus arrives at the port just in time before the ferry departs. The ferries cross on a regular basis between the port of Mgarr on Gozo and Cirkewwa on Malta. This service is used for goods, tourism and transfer for locals as many of themwork or study in Malta. Due to its frequent use residents of Gozo are able to use the ferry at a lower fare.
The ferry carries passengers, cars and tracks and despite the crossing lasts no more than 20 minutes, the ferry facilities are great (apart from them being kept in clean condition)
There are scheduled departures (less in winter) but in case of high traffic they run more frequently.
Getting around...by bus
That is the funny way to go around the island and is definately my favourite. It is almost an adventure :):) Busses are usually full with tourists though the locals use them as well. Prices - depends on zone - from 0.20 - 0.50 lm for a ticket.
Bus around the Island
The old beautiful Bedford buses are the best way to get around, they are frequent and go all over the Island. The fares are cheap enough for you to jump on and off (wait until the bus has stopped first), remember to keep your ticket. The ticket inspector jumps on and off, I can't tell you what will happens as I was never cought without one.
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OUR NATIONAL AIRLINES - AIRMALTA
Although we are a very small Island compared to other developed countries we have a very modern and efficient airport and also a National Airline.
One can use AIRMALTA from all any major airport in Europe,North Africa and the Middle East.....the good service starts once you board AIR MALTA.
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