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Driving in Malta has changed massively over past couple of decades, as the amount and standard of vehicles on the island has increased. Also experiencing massive upsurges has been the average speed and frequency of traffic jams, while available parking has plummeted. But do not be afraid, or put off, because in spite of all this, driving here is still fairly tame and the most efficient way of getting around.

As recently as the 1990s we can recall seeing a vast array of ancient, asthmatic vehicles coughing and wheezing their way around the island, struggling to make it up even the slightest incline and belching out clouds of thick smoke like James Bond with a villain after him … in slow motion.


The public buses of that period could only be described as … well, vintage. The fleet dated back to around the Second World War and was only replaced in 2011.


Such was the relaxed nature of Maltese motoring that not so very long ago, if you hired a car and asked which side of the road you should be driving on, then the stock response was ‘Drive in the shade!’ That’s hardly the case today though!


True, there are still some hangovers to that more innocent age of motoring and you will still encounter queues caused by tired engines that simply can’t get beyond 5mph up a steep hill. But the fact remains that in spite of a very efficient bus service, now operated by modern air-conditioned vehicles, The car is still the star on Malta and Gozo.


Both are small islands and there are no trains, trams or underground. The network of roads is gradually improving and the many potholes are slowly but surely being filled in. The standard of driving may still sometimes leave you open-mouthed and disbelieving – the ‘give way’ concept, for example, is alien to most locals here - but if you take your time and remain calm, it’s safe enough. Compared to Italy and Spain, for example, it’s far less treacherous.


A hire car leaves you free to explore at your own pace and to go exactly where you want to, when you want to – even the out-of-the-way places! All you need to do is throw your clobber in the boot, set off and the island is your lobster.


This way you’ll see lots of new and interesting places you’ve got on your list and with the confusing state of the road signs, you’ll probably also see lots that aren’t on your list too! The signs are not the best and even with a map you may have the odd quiet moment of tension between driver and navigator, as the name of the town you’ve been aiming for vanishes from the signs between roundabouts.


But be safe in the knowledge that however lost you get, the friendly Maltese will always be happy to set you back on the right track. We can’t promise they won’t collapse in hysterics when they hear your attempts at pronouncing the place names but that’s all part of the fun! If in doubt point at it!


Nearly everyone here speaks perfect English, and probably some other languages too, so you have nothing to fear!


All the big multi-national car rental companies have a presence on Malta and Gozo so you’ll get quality vehicles at reasonable prices. Their fleets tend to be new or nearly new and range from cheap and compact, to the family sized and executive.


Don’t discount the local operators though, as you can often get better rates with these than with the major players and after all, you don’t need something that will do 90mph because there’s nowhere to do that kind of speed. If the air-con works and it moves, it’s fine! Most options can be booked in advance online. 

Further Information

Website: www.unicarmalta.com
Website: www.butterflycarrentals.com
Website: www.sundrivecarrentalsmalta.com

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