Because of Malta’s relatively small size, it would be easy to presume that getting around the country would be a breeze! However, the reality is that you have to be very sharp when driving in Malta. So to help, there are a few things that you should bear in mind when trying to get about.
Vehicles in Malta are driven on the left hand side of the road due to the country’s former British ties, and common conventions such as the roundabouts and road signs will be familiar to those in Britain.
Vehicle hire is a cheap, feasible option if you would like to pursue it in Malta, but as ever, do be careful to thoroughly examine vehicle as well as the terms and conditions on your hire contract to avoid getting any last minute surprises when you return the vehicle!
Basic Guidelines For Driving in Malta
First and foremost you have to be over the age of 18. Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory for all passengers in the car, and using your mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited. If you violate this rule, high penalties are possible. This also includes the use of hands-free kits as well. As with British customs, don’t park on double yellow lines as this could lead to your car being seized, and when you do need to park on a main road, use a parking meter which will allow you to park for up to two hours. As ever, drinking and driving is strictly prohibited, and breaking this law can lead to your licence being suspended. The limit is 35mg per 100ml of blood but should be avoided if at all possible.
In terms of driving, the speed limit in built-up areas is 50km/h and 80km/h elsewhere. To enforce this, Maltese authorities have recently introduced speed radars as well. Be aware of cars trying to overtake on both sides of you. Some drivers speed past you on the left side even though the right side is where they are meant to. If you are going downhill, you should give way to those vehicles going uphill. If you have an accident in Malta, don’t move your vehicle before the police arrive unless it is a danger to others and if you can, get some pictures of the accident for your records as well.
Blowing the car horn is supposed to be prohibited between the hours of 11pm and 6am, but as you will quickly become aware this is not enforced at all! The only other issues to be aware of are that some petrol stations are open all night but don’t accept card payments, so keeping cash on you at all times should be a priority, and your vehicle headlights have to be on whenever you pass through a tunnel at any time, even if it broad daylight outside.
Despite the vast improvements made to Maltese roads lately, it is still important to be very careful while you drive in Malta. Due to various factors such as the volume of vehicles and the hot climate, maintaining the roads can be very difficult. If not done, bumps and potholes do become an issue that you have to be aware of while driving.
It is paramount that public buses and school buses are given priority, and they do have to be allowed back onto the roads after they have stopped to pick up passengers.
For a deeper look at the country’s Highway Code, more information is available in a PDF file on the Transport Malta website.
Valletta is now equipped with automatic number plate recognition that can allow the CCTV systems to record the number of cars that come through the city, and is designed to aid with taxation of vehicles based on the amount of time they have been parked in the city for. Valletta operates three types of parking lots, differentiated by colour. White parking lots are designed for public use and can be used for 24 hours, blue parking lots are for public use from 8am to 6pm and green parking lots are built for residents only.
What To Do With Your Current Licence
If you move to Malta from outside of the European Union, you are entitled to drive in Malta using your existing licence for a maximum of 12 months from the last date of entry into the country. If you coming to Malta from countries included in the EU, the EEA, Switzerland or Australia, you are able to drive using your own licence still. You do also have the option to exchange your current driving licence for a Maltese one, which will be valid for 10 years. To go ahead with this, you will have had to have resided in the country for over 185 days in the prior year, and the exchange has to be requested at the Driver and Passenger Operator Licensing Unit. These units can be found either in Paola or at the Licensing Office in Gozo.
You will be required to fill in a driver’s licence exchange application if you fall in the criteria where your licence can be exchanged, along with a full colour passport sized photograph as proof of identity. You will also need to present a copy of your identity card and a double sided copy of your existing driver’s licence.
If your Maltese residency card does not highlight that you have been in the country for at least 185 days, there are other ways to prove your residence. This can be shown through either income tax returns, FS3 forms from the previous year, utility bills, property lease contracts, property purchase contracts or a letter from an educational establishment if you are a foreign student.
Getting a New Driver’s Licence
Only 18 year olds and above are eligible to apply for a Maltese driver’s licence, and people below the age of 70 can renew their licences for up to 10 years at a time. If you are over 70, the law requires you to renew your licence every 5 years.
You can apply fora Maltese driving licence after settling, and to do so you have to follow basically the same process as applying for a licence anywhere else. First you find a driving instructor, either from a driving school or a non-licenced instructor. If you go via this route, they will have to meet specific criteria as specified by Transport Malta.
You then obtain a learner’s permit, similar to a provisional licence that you get in Britain. There are a few minimum requirements involved, which will require you to pass a medical test and provide a copy of your identity card alongside an up-to-date passport sized photo. Your application will have to be endorsed by your instructor, and the permit fee that is payable amounts to €23.25. This permit is valid for three years at a time and is renewable, but it means that you can only drive from Monday to Saturday, except on public holidays. You do have to be accompanied by your tutor as well.
After this point, there is a theory test to sit, which lasts for around 45 minutes. You are required to answer a total of at least 30 out of 35 possible multi-choice questions correctly in order to pass the exam. If you are successful at this stage, you are able to apply for your practical examination after this.
To take part in the practical examination, you will be required to have your learner’s permit, your certificate to show that you have passed your theoretical examination and your personalised form that is issued you by the driving school. You have to submit the application form and a fee is payable dependent on the day of the week that you sit the test. These fees range from just over €23 up to €40.
If you do pass the practical exam, you will then receive a probationary driver’s licence. This is a driving licence, but it means that your driving is more scrutinised for a three year period of time. Providing you don’t lose the points ascribed to you in that three year period, you can then exchange your probationary licence for a full driver’s licence, valid for ten years.