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Driving in Malta

Driving in Malta

What is driving in Malta like? Here’s what you should know

When I first hired a car and jumped behind the wheel in Malta, I had lots of questions running through my mind, like these:

Driving on the left is one of the biggest concerns many drivers have to face. I have found that watching the traffic both ways comes naturally for a driver, regardless of which side of the road you are used to drive on. Now that I think of it, I must have always checked both side mirrors as well as the rear view mirror before joining a new road or turning, as changing from one side of the road to another didn’t feel too difficult when I realised I can trust myself and remember to check both sides. What has sometimes caused difficulties is to remember which side of the road we drive on today, if I travel from country another.


How do you remember to turn the right way in a roundabout when driving on the wrong side of the road?

Luckily many roundabouts are marked with arrows, also in Malta. You are also usually not alone in traffic – you can just follow what other cars do and go with the flow.


What’s the traffic like in Malta? Are there any traffic jams and angry overtakers?

There are recent studies that show that traffic on the island is the main concern of the Maltese people. You should be prepared for them all: slow traffic and very angry, horn blaring locals.


Do other cars give way when joining a new road in Malta?

Not always. You need to claim your space on the road like you own it.


How exactly do you overtake a donkey with a carriage?

Give it as much space as you possibly can, drive slowly and avoid getting your gears wrong which can potentially surprise the animal. I haven’t needed these instructions before but there’s a first for everything!


Do you give way to a horse approaching from the right in a roundabout?

Yes! Even if it’s approaching super slooooow.


Is speeding so common in Malta that I have to hit the emergency break?

Yo should be prepared to break fast. Luckily this is a reflex for experienced drivers so just go ahead and trust yourself.

Horse carriage in Malta

In Malta you may still encounter these on the roads

The speed of driving in Malta

I felt rather confident to get behind the wheel in Malta, as I had given my driver’s license in a left-hand-drive country. The driving speed in Malta seemed mostly okay around the city centres. The only roads I was wary of were the big ones leading to the airport, where the speeds would hit ridiculous levels. By this time I had heard a joke from alocal man who said that you can get Maltese driving licenses inside a Rice Crispies packet. So I prepared myself to defend my space on the roads and hit the pedal when I saw the smallest opportunity to join the big roads or to change lanes. We hired a Hertz car from the Preluna Tower hotel and made sure the insurance would cover everything from scratches to the invasion of space mice or the explosion of the Death Star. Once behind the wheel, I felt ready for my Maltese driving inauguration.


Mysterious parking habits in Malta

This is one the main reasons the Maltese leave their car behind yours, blocking your exit. Meet your enemy, the Pastizzi.

This is one the main reasons the Maltese leave their car behind yours, blocking your exit. Meet your enemy, the Pastizzi.

The first challenge Malta’s driving gods laid upon me was untangling the mystery of “double parking”. By double parking I mean the scenario where you have parked legally in a parking space and someone parks on the road behind you, blocking all of your exit attempts. As the driver had switched the emergency lights on before vaporizing into the thin air, surely I should know which signal this sends to all of the drivers. I had to quickly put my Sherlock hat on to solve the mystery of getting out of the parking space. I weighed the options – mounting the side walk, denting the wheels and scratching the car or beeping the horn so long that I’d get shouted abuse from the balconies above. Instead I approached a Maltese looking gentleman, who kindly offered me a clue how to solve my double parking puzzle. He hinted that normally the culprit was to be found in a shop nearby. As a local this gentleman had read the emergency lights correctly, I found the parking genius and soon I was on my way again.


Crossing the road as a pedestrian

As the Maltese zebra crossings were few and far between, I have become accustomed to run over the road to get out of the way. Afterwords I stubbornly curse the city planners for placing safe zebra crossings a mile apart. I took great pleasure in surprising pedestrians by slowing down my car early when I spotted someone crossing. A few pissed off beeps from other drivers behind only made me smile inside.


The horse carriage manoeuvre

In Malta you may need to give way to horse carriages. These are not the types that take tourists around Central Park in New York. It seems that they are used as a form of transport by the owners, not for transport anything else. I came across a new type of road user when I was about to enter a roundabout and saw a horse carriage come from my right. At least this was in the afternoon when the traffic was slowing down. So I gave way to the poor horse trotting on the tarmac.


How do the Maltese drive?

I found that I was able to adapt to the driving well, as I prefer to drive on the left. As Malta gets really congested due to the high number of cars per capita, the travelling speed is very slow especially during the rush hour. Some drivers thinking they were the MacGyvers of the road emerged from time to time. Whereas in many countries you can drive economically as the traffic is predictable, in Malta I found myself speeding up and locking the breaks a lot, with a couple of emergency breaks in there too. Towards the end of the day my ankle literally needed a rest after all that gear changing and pedal pumping.


Car accident if you are a foreigner in Malta

The expat / immigrant community warns you of not getting in trouble with the police in Malta. There are circulating rumours of foreigners who have built their lives in Malta having to flee the country in a matter of days when they have been involved in a car accident that was not their own fault. Apparently it is very difficult to win a ruling against a local in the Maltese and Gozotan courts. As the legal system is accused of being corrupt and inefficient, it is best to get on the next flight and depart the country rather than face unjust court proceedings. As I don’t have personal experience in this, I only quote expat stories and articles I have come across. But having a plan B up your sleeve seems to be something foreigners living and working in Malta have developed for one reason or another.


Valletta roads are steep and narrow

How can Malta be so different from Sicily?

If you want to drive in Malta, be prepared for rush hour traffic and some random cowboys who think that speeding up just to emergency break three seconds later is the best practice. If you get a taxi from the airport, they tend to drive aggressively too. One taxi we took actually wasn’t able to break before entering a roundabout, as he was speeding completely unnecessarily. We were very lucky that no other cars were coming our way at the time. Whereas the Italians love their scooters and we saw lots of them just 100km away in Sicily, only a few are driven in Malta. I could imagine the way of driving is one reason for the lack of scooters. The difference in traffic behaviour was great between these two small islands. In Sicily, people crossed freely and drivers slowed down for them, whereas in Malta I recognise similar bad traits like driving in some cities I have lived in in England. Mainly I hate the drivers not slowing down for you when you have to walk across the road.  It is almost like the drivers want to prove a point: “there is no zebra crossing here so get the f** out of my way” without considering that the next zebra crossing is a mile away.

Overall, our driving adventure went just fine, as I was prepared to squeeze my car in gaps I would normally not invade in other countries. We spent a good chunk of time just sitting in the static rush hour traffic.

What you should know when Driving in Malta

  • Get the best available insurance
  • Only use reputable rental companies
  • If you drive a heavy van for example, you need to take extra care as the other drivers tend to speed up and then fully hit the breaks
  • You will probably hit traffic when approaching cities like Valletta, Sliema, Gzira or St Julians during the rush hour
  • If someone has parked behind you a blocked your exit, check the nearest shops if the driver was just picking up the newspaper

Read also:

International house move: where to get large cardboard boxes in Malta

Can an expat get a bank account in Malta? What you need to know

EU Citizen: looking for Brexit exit but not sure where to move?


Pastizzi photo credit: Charles Haynes

Where to watch football or rugby games in Malta

Where to watch football or rugby games in Malta

Watch football in Malta; Best pubs for sports

You will hopefully find this article helpful if you are heading to Malta at the time of a big game and are concerned whether you will be able to watch football in Malta, either view the match on TV or preferably, in a good pub. As a rule of thumb, follow the tourists to watch your big game. It is safe to assume that where you find for example British holiday makers, you will find pub landlords that want to attract this clientele by showing the top games. However, how do you know your pub will also play the commentary? Your search is over, as this article covers the busy areas of Malta where tourists flock to watch the game of your choice. We have listed the best pubs to watch games in, by popular areas. So take your pick based on these reviews and never miss a game again!


Watch football in Sport pubs in St Julians, Sliema & Gzira


The Dubliner pub in Malta

At the time of writing this article, there was an important rugby match on. We went ahead and tested the ever-popular Dubliner in the busy tourist spot of Spinola Bay in St Julians. At the time of our visit, it was the low tourist season, so we had no issues finding a table. The cheerful crowd spilled onto the street to smoke and have a few drinks. The upstairs bar was also open, so we headed there and found seats by the window. The view over the Spinola Bay and its blue water was magnificent but we were there to examine the visibility to the nearest TV set and the level of commentary volume, so let’s leave the scenery for another time. The nearest TV set was above the bar and the lighting was dark enough to create a clear image. The volume was sufficient so we were able to hear the commentary well. The drink prices were mid-range and the draft lager selection included Stella and Heineken. Also Guiness was available, and as this is an Irish pub, it should be.

The Dubliner Pub review

The atmosphere is truly like back in Ireland. This is not a glamorous spot as such but works wonders if you miss your local where ever in Ireland or the UK. The Dubliner is very popular especially during the summer season so get there early, if you wish to find a seat to perch on. This is one of our favourite spots to watch football in Malta.


The Dubliner Pub Location

  • Near the Love monument of Spinola Bay. The Dubliner is located behind Costa Coffee, look out for blue signs
  • Address: Triq Gorg Borg Olivier, St. Julians STJ 1080, Malta
  • Enquiries: +356 21367 106


Best pubs to watch football or rugby in Malta - the winner is the Dubliner pub in St Julians


Dicks Bar & Cafe in Malta

This great little pub was established in 1946, way before the tourist boom hit the shores of St Julians. This small venue has seats both outside and inside and commentary is on for most of the time. In the morning the doors open as early as 08:00 and close around midnight.


These are the best pubs to watch football in Malta: the Dubliner, Dicks Bar & Cafe, Peppi's Kiosk and Black Gold Saloon


Dicks Bar & Cafe review

We give points to Dicks for creating happy buzz in the neighbourhood. The price range is moderate: at the time of writing this article, a pint sized bottle of local Cisk or Hopleaf lager was 2 euros. Paulaner Weissbier was 3 euros and a bottle of wine 7 euros. This is an authentic spot if you want to watch football in Malta. We think that the atmosphere at the Dicks is fantastic!


Dicks bar & cafe Location

  • Off the main road leading from Spinola Bay in St Julians to Paceville
  • Address: 22, Triq San George, Paceville, St Julians, Malta
  •  Enquiries: +356 2135 0091 or +356 7780 7806


Peppi’s kiosk in Malta

Peppi’s is a food restaurant at the Exiles Beach location of Sliema. Don’t get distracted by it’s Kiosk name, they also do have a small kiosk serving the passers-by, but Peppi’s is mainly a restaurant. We tested this venue at the time of the Manchester derby, so one can imagine we wanted to get a good view of the TV set. We arrived slightly late for the kick-off but were able to find a table near the balcony overlooking fabulous bay views. From our table there was a good view of two TV sets and the commentary volume was sufficient. As this is partly an outdoor venue, there was lots of sun, which meant that the atmosphere remained calm and relaxed, whereas in darker pubs, such as the Dubliner in the Spinola Bay, one can forget about the sunny day completely.


Peppi’s kiosk review

Despite its name, Peppi’s is much more than just a kiosk. Peppi’s gets points for its great location just over the Exiles Beach. The menu is long and pastas, salads, burgers and other classics are represented. Peppi’s is a lovely spot especially on warm nights when there’s no rush to get back home. And if you are hungry, the varied menu should have something for everyone so give Peppi’s a try.


Peppi’s kiosk location

  • Next to the Fresco restaurant at the Exiles Beach in Sliema, above the small sandy beach.
  • Address: Tower Road, Sliema, Malta
  • Enquiries: +35621335621

Black Gold saloon in Malta

Black Gold is favoured particularly by those living in the Gzira and Sliema areas. Black Gold is located on the strand very close to the Valletta ferry harbour. There is plenty of seating inside and outside and the drinks are reasonably priced. There are a sufficient number of TV sets and the commentary is on for the big games. The doors open early in the morning and usually is one of the last night spots to close so head there also for late night drinks.


Black gold review

Black Gold is popular for a couple of reasons. First of all, the drinks are reasonably priced. Secondly, the outside sitting area is large enough also for big groups. And thirdly, the place seems to always pull crowds in. We recommend Black Gold if you want to watch football in Malta, consider staying up late and are based in the Sliema or Gzira neighbourhoods.


Black gold location

  • The Black Gold Saloon is located on the Sliema strand near the Valletta ferry. From the ferry, keep your back towards the centre of Sliema and the Point Shopping Centre and keep walking for five minutes down the road that faces the sea. Black Gold is in the middle of a group of restaurants, such as TexMex and MedAsia.
  • Address: Triq ix-Xatt, Sliema, Malta
  • Enquiries: +356 2133 480

If you are able to travel to any of these locations and are not bringing children along, then my ranking in the order of authenticity and atmosphere is:

  1. The Dubliner
  2. Dicks Cafe & Bar
  3. Black Gold Saloon
  4. Peppi’s Kiosk


Read also:

International house move: where to get large cardboard boxes in Malta

Can an expat get a bank account in Malta? What you need to know

EU Citizen: looking for Brexit exit but not sure where to move?