Renting a car in Malta? Be aware of these rules! [with VIDEO]
Renting a car in Malta is a great idea, however, you should be aware of a few road rules that may turn otherwise your holiday into an unpleasant time.
In this guide, I have added all you need to know when hiring a car in Malta, with a few tips that will help you have a smooth experience.
And if you are planning a 5 days or more in Malta, why not adding the smaller island of Gozo in your itinerary.
With the car, you will be able to see so much, just even in one day, and the ferry to Gozo is such a cheap, easy and pleasant experience.
But let’s get into the juicy stuff
Where is best to rent a car in Malta?
Let’s start with the first step. What rental locations provide the best value for money when renting a car in Malta?
Easy answer: it is the Malta International Airport.
That is where you will get the best rental price. A car supplier in other rental locations like Valletta, St Julian’s, Sliema or St Paul’s Bay (or surrounding areas) may charge even twice as much.
You can rent the car as you land at the Malta International Airport.
And even if you are already in Malta, the island is so small that it pays off to take a quick bus back to the airport to pick up the car.
For example, from Valletta, you can grab the direct bus X4 (1.5Euro) and you will be at the rental offices at the Malta Airport in 20-25 minutes, that easy.
My suggested go-to website for the best value rentals is DiscoverCars. This is a website that compares a great selection of cars and rental companies, locals and internationals, providing the best deals (read low prices).
I highly suggest renting a car with full comprehensive insurance. So easy to scratch it or damage the side-view mirrors.
Book your car well in advance if you visit Malta in the summer months, because there is not much availability, unfortunately.
Public transportation versus renting a car in Malta
Let me be honest with you, the public transportation works actually very well, and it’s not expensive. It may be even cheaper if you buy a multi-day ticket.
It actually works so well if you stay in Valletta and you plan day trips to see a popular destination (the capital is the hub of the bus network).
There are direct busses from Valletta to the major towns of Mdina, Sliema and St. Julian’s. And also to the smaller centres like the fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
Or you can catch a direct bus to the Mnajdra archeological site and to the best beaches of Malta. And I could keep going.
Things become much more complicated if you do not stay in Valletta, as you will have first to reach the capital (or the Malta International Airport in a few cases).
And it becomes impossibly time-consuming if you want to move between destinations.
For example, if you want to go from Marsaxlokk to the Mnajdra archeological site (15km), you would have first to go back to Valletta (or the Malta Airport) and from there catch another bus to the archeological site making the 20-30 minutes trip by car lasting 1.5 hours or more by bus.
On my last trip to Malta I organised a drive for the best things to experience on the south and west coast.
I was able to visit the St Peter’s Pool in the morning, the fishing village of Marsaxlokk for lunch and a walk. Then I drove to the Blue Grotto Viewpoint and I spent two hours at the Mnajdra archeological site (one of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Malta). Finally, I chilled out at the beautiful Riviera Beach, one of the best sandy beaches on the islands of Malta.
This was all done in one single day. Impossible by bus, you would need 2 or even 3 days.
Besides experiencing some of the best things in the country, sometime hard to reach by bus, with the car you can also stop in villages off the beaten path, almost untouched by the tourism.
Gozo, another of the Maltese islands that you want to see, is a good example. Impossible to visit by bus. The alternative to the car in this case is the organised tour.
Renting a car in Malta is the best way to experience as much as you can of the country.
Of course, there are a few important rules that you should know before driving (I will come to that shortly) and it is more expensive than public transportation.
Important rules and information you should know when renting a car in Malta
Most of the road rules are similar to any other western country. There are, however, a few exceptions, different interpretations, and misleading oddities.
In this section, you will find all the important rules that you should be aware of. Later I will give you also a few tips that will help out immensely.
Driving in Malta after Brexit or with any non-European Union driving licence
I have checked and asked many rental companies to be triple sure 🙂
You do not need any international driving license (or Maltese License) if you are driving in Malta after Brexit.
In fact, you do not need any international license to drive in Malta. Full-stop. It does not matter if you come from the European Union or another part of the world.
For example, I have an Australian Driving License, and I had no trouble renting a car.
And yes, you can drive with a US license or an Indian License. There is only one catch.
The rental agent must be able to read the license (Latin letters). They would not accept, for example, a license written in Chinese ideograms or Arabic language.
Having 18 years is a legal requirement for driving a car in Malta. Rental companies may request an older age, though (typically 21-year-old)
Which side of the road do they drive in Malta
In the country of Malta, they drive on the left-hand side of the road, which means the steering wheel is on the right side.
Basically, driving in Malta is the same as driving in the United Kingdom or Australia, for example.
If you are used to driving on the right side, I give you a few suggestions to start with.
Firstly, rent a car with automatic gearing. You will have one less thing to take care of.
I already mentioned that, but it becomes even more important in this case. Rent the car fully insured.
We are all guilty of driving more in the central section of the road, even more so if we are used to driving on the opposite/wrong side of the road.
It is not uncommon to see minor accidents, especially on the secondary narrow roads, in which you nay scratch the car or damage the side-view mirror.
These are small things but they can happen and a full comprehensive insurance is such a peace of mind!
On the first day or two, try to follow the cars more than leading or overtaking. In this way, the brain can take a rest.
And last, avoid as much as possible driving at night (in the dark) because things become a bit more complicated for our brain to work out.
I had to dedicate a section to them.
Roundabouts were always somehow popular in Malta, but even more so in the last year.
During the Covid time, plenty of roundabouts were added to the road network.
The rules in the roundabouts are like in any other country, except you turn to the left (the driving direction) when entering.
Take extra care of the painted roundabouts, because you may not even notice them.
What are the painted roundabouts?
As the word says, you will find just a painted circle in the centre of the crossroad.
In this case, follow the roundabout rules when approaching it, avoiding to drive on it (even if there is no physical obstacle).
There are always roundabout road signs once you approach the crossroad, you cannot miss it.
I found more of them in Gozo. In fact, there is one right in the centre of Victoria, the capital, on Republic Street.
The official speed limits are 80kmh outside the cities/towns and 50kmh on the urban roads.
I say official because more often than not you will find all kinds of speed limits on the road.
60kmh and 70kmh are often used on the main road when approaching the roundabouts, near the urban areas, and other cases.
You can even find the odd 45kmh speed limit, very unusual, probably the first time in my life I see it, actually.
In a few urban areas, especially in Valletta, the speed limit is often reduced to 30kmh
The main coastal road from Valletta to the terminal for the ferry to Gozo has an 80kmh speed limit, which changes when approaching the towns.
The message here is to keep your eyes open and check more often than usual the speed limits
And yes, there are a few speed cameras here and there, but they are kind enough to put road signs on when you approach them.
Run your headlights in tunnels (by law) and everywhere you go (for safety reasons).
Basically, keep running headlights doesn’t matter where you are.
Usual rules apply as in most of the world nowadays.
Do not use your mobile meanwhile you are driving, even to check the maps.
Seat belts and child seats
Seat belts must be worn by all passengers and the driver too, again like in any other country.
About the child seats:
- Young Children (under the age of 3 years) must be carried in a child restraint system according to the child’s weight
- If below 15 months, they must be carried in a rear-ward facing position
- Children (3 to 12 years of age) must be restrained by a child restraint system according to the child’s weight
The child restraint systems change based on the weight of the kid. You should check the tables on this Government updated article for more information.
Ask also your rental agent if you have any doubt. Usually the child seat comes at an extra charge.
And finally, I don’t want to scare you with all these rules. Most of the countries have similar rules, I believe.
My biggest tip here is to drive the car rental more carefully than usual, especially if you rarely drive your own car on the left side of the road.
And check the DiscoverCars to find the best rates.
For the complete list of driving rules of the road in Malta, check out the Transport Malta website.
Parking in Malta
My experience with parking in Malta has been always very positive. There is, however, an exception, but let me start with the basic rules.
Parking spaces are delimited using 4 colours:
- green paint is used only for resident parking, sometimes the entire day, sometimes only from 7pm to 7am. You cannot park there with a rented car
- blue paint denotes a private parking, and you will have to pay a fee to leave your car there
- yellow paint is used for special parking spaces, like bus stops, loading/unloading etc. Do not park there. They may even town away the car. Sometimes these areas may become free parking on Sundays, check the sign and make sure before leaving the car.
- white delimited and blue painted inside is only for disabled parking (with a special permit). Do not park there. They may even town away the car.
- white delimited (no colours inside) denotes free public car parks.
Honestly, there are plenty of free parking spaces everywhere you go but be sure to check there is no time constraint (like free for 1 or 2 hours)
Of course, it may be hard to find a spot if you arrive at your destination at peak time
For example, Mdina has a good size free parking area just outside the main gate.
Every major attraction and beaches have free parking spaces.
There may be a car park attendant (approved and engaged by Transport Malta) that helps you find a spot.
Technically speaking, it is a free of charge service, but tips are of course very welcomed.
There are fines from 25 to 100 Euro for wrong parking and that is not as bad as the towing cost for the most illegal parking.
The exceptions to easy parking are Valletta, Sliema and St. Julian’s, where it is notoriously challenging to find a spot and be ready to pay for it
They are pretty much everywhere, both in Malta and Gozo island.
There is only one company providing petrol in Malta, at a fixed price, so there is not much point looking for a cheaper deal.
It costs always the same price. The good news is that it comes around 30-40% cheaper than in most of the European countries.
Petrol stations are usually served, which means they will fill it in for you at no extra cost.
Business hours are usually between 7am and 6pm.
Outside the business hours, most of the petrol stations offer an automated fill in system and you can pay at an ATM-like machine with either the credit card or cash (10, 20 or 50 Euro banknotes)
More information and tips
Driving inside Valletta
Driving inside Valletta is not suggested, and for a few reasons.
Streets are very narrow and you need just a car wrongly parked to block the entire lane
Guess why you see some wild parking in the capital city? Because there is no space to park the car.
And finally, driving inside Valletta has a cost.
There are cameras recording the time you enter and leave, and they will send the invoice for the time spent in the city to the rental company.
The rental company will send you the invoice overcharged with admin costs. Basically, it is an expensive experience.
If you make it to Valletta by car, I recommend leaving it in one of the parking areas on the Great Siege Road.
You can find both public car parks and private as well. This area is, for example, free of charge (so far)
Driving inside Gozo
Driving in Gozo is similar to driving in Malta. There are not many differences except it is much quieter and the roads in the rural areas are narrower.
In many places you can see walls (made of rocks) to delimit the fields, making you feeling the roads are even narrower than they actually are
Taking the ferry to Gozo (read my guide) is very easy and straightforward and you will get beautiful views over the Mediterranean Sea.
How are Maltese drivers?
A bit more aggressive than average. I give you an example.
Some of the Maltese roads remind me of the roads on the Island of Skye, in Scotland, very narrow.
But with a difference. When meeting another car driving the opposite way, the Scottish driver would wait for me to pass (assuming I have more space available), the Maltese driver would sprint through using the tiny available space.
It is fine with me to give always precedence to the local drivers, I am on a holiday after all.
I would compare Malta’s way of driving to the North of Italy, energetic but careful.
The traffic on the main island of Malta can be stressful around Valletta, Sliema and St. Julian’s.
There is not the traffic congestion typical of a large city but it can be challenging during rush hour.
Elsewhere is manageable.
The secondary streets are usually less busy, but you will find very hard, if not impossible, to overtake a slow truck.
Traffic is basically non existing in Gozo, except on the way to Victoria from the Mgarr Gozo Harbour.
In case of damages or accident
In case of a serious accident, call 112 for an ambulance.
Call the rental company to let them know about the problem.
You can even call the local wardens on +356 2132 0202 but do not count on it to come out for minor accidents.
You should not accept liability. Leave it to the rental agency to deal with it.
Surely take as many photos and videos before and after moving the car. They can and will be used by the agency.
In case of damages that are minor like scratches, broken side-view mirrors, just report it to the rental offices once back.
There are no highways on the island and therefore no toll roads.
Which takes me to the road quality.
Overall, it is pretty good on the main roads. Meanwhile, you need to drive more careful on the secondary roads, but no major issues.
A GPS navigation system can surely help. I personally find Google Maps to be 95% accurate in Malta. I had only a couple of issues, but really minor.
A popular car to rent is an economic vehicle like a Peugeot 208 or a Ford Fiesta. A smaller rental car like a FIAT 500 or a Citroen C1 is also a good choice for couples.
There are not as many luxury cars for rent and that is why you should hire it well in advance.
Drunk driving is not a good idea in any country, Malta included.
You will notice a K or a Z on the third position of your number plate.
This is how the locals know that you are a tourist, although they may have already guessed it based on your careful way of driving 🙂
My Overall experience renting a car in Malta – Hit or miss
I do love the public transportation system in Malta, but renting a car gives me so much more flexibility.
The bus network can become annoying when not staying in Valletta, the central hub, because you are going to end up spending lots of time back and forward from the capital city
Personally, I highly suggest renting a vehicle once out of Valletta, Sliema and St. Julian’s.
This is the best way to see and experience the most of the country.
You will realise that although Malta is not a big country, it has so much to offer!
The car is essential if visiting Gozo.
Have fun in Malta!