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10 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Car in Malta

Malta is one of the most popular tourist destinations for summer holidays and car hire is affordable and convenient. Traveling around Malta on your own means of transport allows you to take advantage of the fact that the island offers many places of interest nearby. Renting a car will help you avoid unnecessary trips and you can do a lot more with your precious vacation time.

Driving in Malta is a unique experience and there are a few things you should keep in mind if you decide to rent a car while on holiday in Malta. Whilst the basic information provided in this advice is correct, it is slightly exaggerated and should in no way be taken as discouraging you from hiring a car. Driving in Malta is fun, but even more so if you know what to expect!

Warning – Portions of this article are purely fictitious. If you have a sense of humor, you will be able to detect the pieces that I invented.

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 that has no potholes”. The expected answer to this question is actually “On the left side”. Malta was a British colony (until its independence in 1964) and therefore adapted the left-hand drive system and the rules of the road.

2. Priority vehicles

Although the Maltese have adopted much of the rules of the road used in the UK, the rules are interpreted differently by many drivers in Malta. It’s not really unique to Malta, but perhaps these creative interpretations are more visible there. The rule most often ignored is the one that has the right of way. The right of way is actually granted based on the size of the vehicle. If you hire a van, you will have a significant advantage over other road users. If however a yellow monstrosity (transit bus) crosses your path, play it safe and apply the brakes. The same applies to private coaches, trucks and so-called mini-buses (red Ford Transit vans used for private transport).

3. Budget vs comfort

If you’re the type of person who tends to stick to your budget while on vacation, please reconsider car rental. Yes, you can rent a cheap and decent car, but there is one important luxury you won’t want to pass up in the summer months: air conditioning. Maltese summers are HOT, which is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and relaxing on the beach, but not so much for driving. You will want A/C!

4. Navigate your Moonlander

Maltese roads serve all parts of the island and there are plenty of shortcuts around, with a lot of tar having been laid down over the years. HOWEVER, the quality of the roads is far below normal. It’s so bad in parts that the vibrations felt in the car can turn milk to butter. Certain surfaces will remind Neil Armstrong of his moments spent on lunar landscapes. Seriously – Although the roads are not quite up to European standards, they are not dangerous to drive on.

5. Plenty of parking

Space is limited in Malta, while there are almost as many cars as people on the island. This 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 might want to hire a driver to come with the car on your holiday in Malta. Parking spaces are an exception to the curbside parking rule. Surprisingly, paint swapping is not something that happens often in Malta.

7. Pick up a few words in Maltese

The Maltese are very expressive, and even more so when behind the wheel and in situations where they think they have the right of way (but where they don’t). If you are planning to take a Maltese on your holiday in Malta and are hiring a car, this is a very easy way to do it. However, it will not be the kind of vocabulary that we can boast about back home.

8. Know where you are going

There’s nothing more frustrating than going for a drive in an unfamiliar place and getting lost. In fact, getting hit by another car is probably worse. Plan your trips in advance to avoid being in doubt in the middle of the road. Don’t trust the road signs and save yourself the embarrassment of getting lost on an island that’s just 20 miles long.

9. Beware the men in green

As mentioned earlier, Maltese drivers tend to interpret the rules of the road very liberally. A few years ago the Maltese government thought this would be the perfect opportunity to earn some extra cash. The result? Local guards walking through the villages wearing a green uniform and handing out fines left right and center. As long as you follow the parking rules (avoiding any parking spots marked with yellow lines), you should be fine.

10. Avoid public transport

It is a scientifically proven fact that time passes more slowly when traveling by bus in Malta. While extending your vacation is something you’d probably like, it’s definitely not the right way to do it. Ok, if you prefer a cheap solution, nothing beats a Maltese bus, but depending on public transport in Malta means you will waste time at a bus stop and in transit.

Car hire in Malta

Don’t worry too much about these tips – Driving in Malta is fun and not at all expensive. Shop around for great prices and you’ll find a great deal to suit your budget.

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