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How to drive in Malta

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Malta is a rather small island at only about 28km long and 15km wide, so it seems on paper to be very easy to get around everywhere quickly. However, when its comes to driving in Malta, the country is infamous for traffic, collisions, and general congestion. The per capita ownership of vehicles in Malta is one of the highest in the entire world!

As Malta is a former British colony, driving is done on the left-hand side of the road and roundabouts are fairly common. Road signs are similar to those you find in the United Kingdom.

If you would like to hire a car upon initial arrival, car rental is rather affordable in Malta. As with car hires everywhere, always be aware of terms and conditions in your rental contract and give a thorough inspection of the vehicle before leaving the hire agency.

Practical information for driving in Malta

For a comprehensive look at the Highway Code in Malta, visit the Transport Malta website to see the full PDF.

  • You must be at least 18 years old to be allowed to drive in Malta.
  • Avoid parking your car on double yellow lines. Otherwise, your vehicle can be impounded.
  • Main roads are equipped with parking meters for one to two hours' parking time.
  • Give way to vehicles on your right while taking a roundabout. In Malta, drivers also overtake on the right. But be careful as some drivers don't see anything wrong with overtaking on the left.
  • Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory both in the front and in the rear.
  • In the case of a collision, do not move your vehicle from the spot before the police arrive, unless it poses a danger to you or other motorists. Try to take a few pictures of the accident as proof.
  • Some petrol pumps are open 24/7. Some of these do not accept payment by card, so always be sure to have cash with you.
  • Speed is limited at 50km/h in built-up areas and at 80km/h elsewhere.
  • Honking is prohibited in residential zones between 11 pm and 6 am the next morning. There is no enforcement of this rule, as you will likely witness.
  • The use of mobile phones, even if you are using a hands-free kit, is prohibited when driving. Infringement of this law is liable to high penalties.
  • In order to ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians, Maltese authorities have introduced speed radars.
  • A maximum of 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is allowed. Of course, drinking and driving is strictly prohibited. In the case of infringement to this law, your driver's licence can be suspended.
  • You are required to switch on your vehicle's headlights when passing through a tunnel, even in broad daylight.
  • Generally speaking, vehicles going downhill should give way to those going uphill.

Maltese roads have greatly improved in recent years, especially thanks to the European Union's financial help. However, given the volume of traffic and the climate, proper road conditions can be a challenge to upkeep. Always beware potholes and bumps.

 Important:

Public buses and school buses have the priority on the road. Give way to buses pulling back into traffic after passengers have boarded.

Driving in Valletta

Valletta is now equipped with a CCTV system that can record the number of vehicles entering the capital city. This system aims to collect the tax according to the number of parking hours for each vehicle.

Note that you are likely to come across three types of parking lots in Valletta:

  • white parking lots are public and can be used for 24 hours per vehicle
  • green parking lots are intended for residents only
  • blue parking lots are intended for the public from 8 am to 6 pm.

Exchanging your driver's licence

Foreign nationals having a driver's licence that has been issued outside of the European Union are authorized to drive in Malta with their national driver's licence for a maximum of 12 months as from their last entry date into the country.

Nationals of the European Union, European Economic Area, Switzerland, and Australia may continue to drive using their own national licence. They are also entitled to exchange their driving licences to a local licence.

To exchange your EU/EEA/Swiss/Australian licence for a Maltese licence, you must have resided in Malta for at least 185 days during the previous year. The Maltese driver's licence is valid for 10 years.

The request has to be made at the Driver and Passenger Operator Licensing Unit, located in Paola or at the Licensing Office in Gozo.

The following documents are to be produced:

  • A driver's licence exchange application for EU nationals or the equivalent for Australian nationals;
  • a colour passport size identity photo;
  • a copy of your identity card; and
  • a copy of your foreign driver's licence (back and front).

If your residence card does not indicate that you have been in Malta for the minimum 185 days, you can alternatively prove your residence through your income tax returns, end of year FS3 forms, ETC engagement form registering client with employer, utility bills, lease contract, real estate purchase contract, or a letter from the educational institute in the case of foreign students.

Fees do apply. For all current requirements and fees, confirm with the Transport Malta website.

Obtain a new driver's licence in Malta

You must be at least 18 years old to be eligible for a driver's licence in Malta. Drivers less than 70 years old can renew their driver's licence every 10 years while those over 70 years of age are required to renew their licenses every 5 years.

If you prefer to apply for a driver's licence once in Malta, you have to proceed as follows:

First, identify an instructor. You may use a driving school or a non-licenced instructor who meets specific qualifications outlined by Transport Malta.

You will then have to apply for a learner's permit through the following steps:

  • Pay the fee (€23.25);
  • Pass a medical capacity test;
  • Produce a copy of your identity card;
  • Produce a recent passport-size identity photo
  • Submit the application endorsed by your instructor.

Thereafter, you have to pass a theory test, which takes about 45 minutes. To obtain the passing certificate, you must answer correctly to at least 30 multiple-choice questions out of a total of 35. You may apply for your practical test once your training has been completed and you have passed your theory exam.

For the practical test, you must be in possession of your learner's permit, have obtained your passing certificate for the theory test, produce your personalized form issued by the driving school, submit the application form, and pay the fee according to the day of the week of your test (€23.25-€40).

Finally, once you pass the practical test, you will obtain your probationary driver's licence. The probationary driver's licence is valid for three years and will be exchanged after that for a full driver's licence, which will be valid for ten years provided you have not lost your points during this trial period.

 Good to know:

The learner's permit is valid for three years and renewable. It allows you to drive from Monday to Saturday, except on public holidays, in the company of your tutor only.

 Useful links:

Transport Malta
Transport Malta – Exchanging your driver's license (for EU and EEA nationals)
Transport Malta – Obtain a new driver's licence

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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