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The information below has been updated to reflect the changes to bus services that took place on Malta during spring & summer 2016. Further changes are expected to take place when the winter timetable is introduced sometime in September/October, so please check it again before departing for Malta.
In 2011, the old bus network on Malta which was operated by a variety of elderly buses, was swept away and replaced by a new network of services operated by modern air conditioned vehicles.
Details of the current network are available on the Malta Public Transport website, including a detailed route map. However if you find the official map a bit complicated, this independently produced map shows the main services that are likely to be of use to people visiting the island (note that if it appears a bit blurred, you may be able to get a clearer version by clicking on the “file” menu and selecting “download”).
There are four types of services:
There is also a comprehensive network of services on Gozo numbered 301-399, most of which which run approximately once hour.
Most bus services on Malta run fairly frequently but allow plenty of time for your journey as hiccups in service are not unknown ! In addition, some bus services, particularly those operating through Sliema, St.Julians, Bugibba, St.Pauls and Mellieha can get VERY crowded, and standing loads are not uncommon, so unless you are getting on at the starting point, be prepared to have to stand for all or part of the journey or wait for the next bus. Also be aware that there have been several reports of foreign pickpockets operating on the busier routes - particularly services 13, 14 and 16 through Sliema
There is now a new free app for your phone called Tallinja giving users the actual time for a bus to arrive at your bus stop. Buses have been fitted with a transponer giving info to a central system. This app also assists you in planning your journey and it is also possible to check your balance and top up your tal-linja card using vouchers or your bank card.
In 2015, a completely new fare structure was introduced on Malta, in a bid to eventually reduce the number of people who pay fares to the bus driver. The only ticket that passengers are now able to purchase on the buses is a 2-hour ticket costing €2.00 (reduced to €1.50 during the winter) but there are a series of electronic "Tallinja" cards that can be purchased in advance that provide a significant discount.
However Tallinja cards have to be posted to your address and can take some time to arrive, and so visitors to the island are advised to purchase following "Explore" cards instead when they arrive on the Island, as these are specifically designed for tourists:
These cards are available from ticket offices at the Airport, the bus stations in Valletta, Bugibba and Victoria on Gozo), and the kiosk at Sliema Ferries. They may also be sold in some shops and at some hotel reception desks as well. Please note that British "Contactless" bank cards do not work on Maltese buses.
For those staying in the main tourist resorts, here are the buses that you will need to use during the daytime. Please note that with the exception of routes 186, 212 221 & 222, services numbered over 100 only run once an hour:
FROM SLIEMA & ST.JULIANS
FROM BUGIBBA & QAWRA
FROM MELLIEHA & GHADIRA BAY
FROM GOLDEN BAY (Ghajn Tuffieha)
FROM RABAT & MDINA
GOZO FERRY (Mgarr)
Note that Mgarr ferry terminal on Gozo is shown as L'Imgarr on some maps and as "Vapur" on some bus timetables!
Bus services to other parts of Gozo depart every hour from Victoria Bus Station - see route map here . In addition, the Gozo Hop on Hop off tours (there are 2 companies - City Sightseeing Gozo, & Gozo Sightseeing) also run every 45 minutes from the ferry to most parts of the Island.
There are currently two operators offering Hop-on Hop-off tours of Malta and Gozo using open top buses - Malta Sightseeing and City Sightseeing . The routes that the tours take are no-longer the same as explained in this TA posting, so check carefully which one is going to be the best for you before buying a ticket for them - it may not be cheaper to buy them over the internet ! Also note that these tickets no longer offer a free harbour boat tour, although you can usually get one of these added in for a small discount.
Competition between the two companies is fierce, so it is worth shopping around for the best deal when you get to Malta - look out for the ticket touts all along the Sliema Waterfront ! Note however that on Sundays, the tours offered by Malta Sightseeing finish earlier in the afternoon, so check the timetables carefully before buying a ticket on that day.
One final tip - Valletta needs at least a whole day (or two half-days) to explore, so visit that on a different day using local buses, not the Ho-Ho tour.
The ferry service to Gozo is operated by the Gozo Channel Company and carries vehicles as well as passengers. To get to the Gozo Ferry terminal at Cirkewwa, there are direct buses from Valletta, Sliema/St. Julians, Qawra/Bugibba, St.Pauls, Golden Bay and Mellieha - see above.
Passenger ferry services also operate to Valletta from Sliema and from Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Senglea in the Three Cities. The service is reasonably priced and quite regular, but remember that most of Valletta is on top of a hill and it is a very steep up hill walk from where the ferries dock to the City Centre. Fortunately the dock for the Birgu ferry (which is near the cruise liner terminal) is linked to the city centre by the new Barrakka Lift which finishes at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Sadly there is no such facility at the dock for the Sliema ferry but a red minibus meets most journeys and will take passengers up the hill for €1. However, many people prefer to travel from Sliema to Valletta by ordinary public bus and use the ferry for the return journey.
In 2011 the network of bus services serving the airport was significantly improved, with direct services to many parts of the island: Further details are available on the Malta Public Transport website and a summary of the bus services that run from the Airport is as follows:
A shared transport service is also available from the airport to all hotels in Malta. You buy a ticket for a place on a minibus which stops at various hotels on the same route. Have a look at the Top Questions on the Malta Forum Page for more details.