Transport in Malta

Malta Expats | Transportation in Malta

The first mechanised land public transport in Malta was the train. This was inaugurated in 1883 and had only one line, the Valletta-Mtarfa line. The railway passed through Floriana, Hamrun, Santa Venera, Birkirkara, Attard, Rabat, Mdina and Mtarfa. It was created mainly to serve the people employed with the British Services, to reach home as quickly as possible. The Maltese could use this means of transport, but tickets were rather expensive. In 1905 two new types of transport were introduced. These were the tram and the buses.


Malta Expats | Transport in Malta

At first, privately-owned buses were used. These buses were introduced by an Englishman who brought some vehicles over to Malta to start transporting people to and from the most popular spots of the island. The first team of buses consisted of a single-decker, four double-deckers and a lorry. They were introduced at a time when many Maltese were trying to find the ideal means of transport. There were many problems to solve, such as narrow and steep streets. The first buses were known as ‘matchboxes’. These started functioning with a very limited timetable.

The tram served some areas of Malta which the train did not cover, mainly Rahal Gdid (Paola). The Grand Harbour cities were joined by ferry boats owned by the Senglea Mattei family. The horse-drawn big cab, known as the ‘omnibus’, was stationed at Lija and used to operate from this locality to Valletta. Small horse-driven cabs operated from all parts of Malta with the exemption of streets with steep slopes.

At first, buses faced all this competition, but as they were tailored-made for Malta, they became the most popular means of public transport. In 1922, the first scheduled bus service started to operate. This was run by the British Motor Company »(BMC) which had been set up by the German brothers two years before. By that same year, there were about 50 buses which were built locally with either a Ford or a Chevrolet chassis. These buses, about 16 in all, had a balcony-shaped opening on the rear of the bus. Because of this, they became popularly known as ‘tal-gallarija’ (‘of the balcony’).

In 1926, the number of licensed buses reached 108. Well-to- do families started to invest in this means of transport. They would buy a bus engine and then order the bus body from a local carpenter who built wooden bus frames. One person who invested in buses for the Sliema and St Julian’s route was Dr Joseph Gasan. By time, Dr Gasan switched to another type of business, when he founded a company which sold private cars. During the 1930s, two major companies started operating on the Sliema routes. These were the BMC and the Sliema Bus Company. Before the Second World War, more elegant and stylised vehicles appeared on the Maltese roads. These new buses had a passenger access door at the back. This door was later removed and placed in a more convenient location, close to the front of the bus.

During the 1960s, a new design appeared in Malta buses. These buses were referred to as having ‘Front Control’. One bus was a special one. It was operated by Gasan under licence from the Posts Department to carry Gozitan mail. This bus was painted grey with a red cheatline. It used to be parked by the building of then General Post Office in Merchants Street, Valletta. Passengers who wished to go to Gozo could use this bus to take them to Marfa, where the Gozo ferryboat used to berth. This service stopped when the Mellieha buses took over. Moreover, there were also ‘private’ buses painted light yellow and their job was to transport people to places of work or entertainment. As the service was extended to cover the entire island of Malta, buses of the same route were painted in the same colour. Examples of these were the Mellieha buses, which were painted bluish white with a dark blue cheatline; the Birkirkara and Hamrun buses, which were all red; and the Sliema and St Julian’s buses, which were a dark green colour with a darker green cheatline.

Malta Expats | Transport in Malta
Transport in Malta

All these buses operated from Valletta. This locality had two termini. One was at Porta Reale or Kingsgate (also called ‘Bieb il-Belt’ or City Gate), the former entrance to Valletta, while the other was at Castile Place, in front of the then British Services main office, Auberge de Castile.

Transport in Malta

The bus service is frequent and fairly reliable.  However, don’t be surprised during the summer if several buses go straight past you at the bus stop without stopping.  During the warmer months when thousands of tourists visit Malta every week, the buses are often full after just a couple of stops and then have to skip any following stops.  It can be frustrating, but by avoiding peak travel times can help.

Malta Expats | Transport in Malta
Transport in Malta

Tickets can be purchased from the Bus Driver on all our Buses. These Cash Tickets are Single Journey tickets that can be used to get to any destination within two hours, including interchanging. They cannot however be used for return journeys. Rates vary between Summer and Winter months. Summer rates apply between mid-June and mid-October.

Ticket PriceAmount €
Day Single Journey – Winter1.50
Day Single Journey – Summer2.00
Night Single Journey – Winter/Summer3.00

There are several private taxi firms on the island, but private taxis have to be booked, they cannot pick up passengers hailing a ride at the side of the road. You should always get a quote for the fare at the time of booking. Public taxis are white and run on meters. These don’t have to be booked in advance, and there are plenty of these waiting at the airport, near the bus station in Valletta and at larger hotels. These white taxis can, however, be comparatively expensive. Some taxi drivers in Malta have a reputation for their risky, high speed driving and some passengers have reported a “white knuckle ride” to their destination.

Taxi Price

Destinations by zoneDeparture Points
Malta International AirportMalta Seaport Terminal
Zone1Luqa, Kirkop, Sta. Lucija, Hal Far, Hal Farrug , Safi, Gudja€11.00€15.50
Zone2Valletta, Hamrun, Msida, Floriana, Gwardamangia, Marsa, Qormi, Pieta, Sta. Venera, Albert Town€15.00€11.00
Zone3Zebbug, Siggiewi, GHar Lapsi, Rabat, Dingli, Ta’ Qali, Mdina, Mtarfa€18.00€20.00
Zone4Paola, Fgura, Laboratory Wharf, Corradino Industrial Estate, GHajn Dwieli, Tarxien€13.50€13.50
Zone5Cospicua, Kalkara, Senglea, Vittoriosa, Zabbar, XgHajra, Marsaskala, Smart City€18.00€18.00
Zone6Zejtun, GHaxaq, Mqabba, Dellimara, BirZebbuga, Qrendi, Marsaxlokk, Zurrieq,€15.50€18.00
Zone7Sliema, GZira, Kappara, Ta’ Xbiex, Paceville, San giljan, San gwann, Lija, Swieqi, St. Andrew’s, Pembroke, L-Ibrag, Iklin, Birkirkara, Balzan, Attard,€20.00€18.00
Zone8Mosta, Naxxar, GHargHur, HighRidge, Madliena, BaHar ic-cagHaq€22.50€22.50
Zone9Mgarr, Wardija, Salini, GHajn TuffieHa, Bidnija, Burmarrad, Golden Bay, San Pawl il-BaHar, Bugibba, Qawra, Xemxija, BaHrija, ZebbiegH, Bingemma, MtaHleb,€25.00€25.00
Zone10MellieHa, Manikata€29.50€29.50
Zone11cirkewwa, Armier, Marfa€32.00€32.00