10 Tips for driving a hired car around Malta
By: Edward Penza
Malta is one of the most popular tourist destinations for summer holidays and car hire is affordable and practical. Driving around Malta in your own transport allows you take benefit of the fact that the island offers a lot of places of interest in close proximity. Hiring a car will help you avoid unnecessary trips to and from and youíll be able to do much more with your precious holiday time.
Driving in Malta is a unique experience and there are a few things you should keep in mind if you decide to hire a car on your Malta holiday. Although the core information provided in these tips is correct, they are slightly exaggerated and should by no means be taken as discouraging you from hiring a car. Driving in Malta is fun, but more so if you know what to expect!
Warning Ė Parts of this article are purely fictional. If you have a sense of humour youíll be able to detect the bits I made up.
1. Left hand drive
When you ask the Maltese on what side of the road they drive, theyíll usually tell you "On the shady side" or "On the side that doesnít have potholes". The expected answer to that question is actually "On the left hand side". Malta used to be a British colony (up until its independence in 1964) and has therefore adapted the left hand drive system and Highway Code.
2. Vehicles with priority
Although the Maltese adopted much of the Highway Code used in the United Kingdom, the rules are interpreted differently by many drivers in Malta. Thatís not unique to Malta really, but perhaps these creative interpretations are more noticeable there. The rule most often ignored is who is given the right of way. Right of way is actually given according to vehicle size. If you hire a pick-up truck, youíll have a significant advantage over other road users. If, however, a yellow monstrosity (public transport bus) crosses your path play it safe and apply the brakes. The same goes for private coaches, lorries and so-called mini-buses (red Ford Transit vans used for private transport).
3. Budget vs comfort
If youíre the type of person who tends to go for budget when on holiday, please reconsider when it comes to car hire. Yes, you can hire a cheap car thatís decent but there is one important luxury you will not want to pass up on during the summer months: Air conditioning. Maltese summers are HOT, which is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and chilling by the beach, but not so much for driving. You will want A/C!
4. Navigating your Moonlander
Maltese roads reach to all parts of the island and there are plenty of shortcuts around, with plenty of tarmac having been laid over the years. HOWEVER, the quality of the roads is well below par. Itís so bad in some parts that vibrations felt in the car can turn milk into butter. Some surfaces will make Neil Armstrong reminisce of his times spent on lunar landscapes. Seriously Ė Although the roads arenít quite up to scratch with European standards, they are not dangerous to drive on.
5. Parking in abundance
Space is limited in Malta, while there are practically as many cars as people living on the island. That means in some areas trying to find parking is a bit of an adventure. Problem areas in summer are Sliema, St. Julianís, St. Paulís Bay, Bugibba and Qawra.
6. Parking skills
If the mere mention of parallel parking means youíre on the brink of a panic fit, perhaps you might want to hire a driver to come with the car on your Malta holiday. Parking bays are the exception to the rule of pavement side parking. Surprisingly, exchanging paint is not something that happens often in Malta.
7. Picking up a few words in Maltese
The Maltese are very expressive, and more so when behind a steering wheel and in situations where they believe they have the right of way (but where they donít). If you were thinking of picking up some Maltese on your holiday in Malta and youíll hire a car, this is a very easy way doing so. It wonít be the kind of vocabulary to boast about back home, however.
8. Know where youíre going
Thereís nothing more frustrating than going for a drive in a place youíre not familiar with and getting lost. Actually, getting hit by another car is probably worse. Pre-plan your trips to avoid being in doubt in the middle of the road. Do not depend on road signage and save yourself the embarrassment of getting lost on an island that barely measures 20 miles in length.
9. Beware of the men in green
As mentioned before, Maltese drivers tend to interpret the rules of the road very liberally. A couple of years ago the Maltese government figured it would be the perfect opportunity to earn a little extra cash. The result? Local wardens going around in villages sporting a green uniform and handing out fines left right and centre. As long as you abide by parking rules (avoiding any parking slot that is marked by yellow lines), you should be fine though.
10. Avoid public transport
Itís a scientifically proven fact that time passes slower when you travel by bus in Malta. Whereas prolonging your holiday is something youíd probably be all for, this is definitely not the way to do so. Alright, if you prefer a cheap solution nothing beats a Maltese bus, but depending on public transport in Malta means youíll be wasting time on a bus stop and in transit.
Malta car hire
Donít be worried too much by these tips Ė Driving in Malta is fun and not expensive at all. Shop around for good prices and youíll find a bargain to suit your budget.
For more information on cheap Malta car hire, visit the Malta travel guide GuideToMalta.net. Find out more about Malta, Maltese people, Malta car hire and Malta holidays. The site also offers a selection of articles that give you a great impression of what Malta has to offer.
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