Malta has an excellent bus service - and it can be fun too. Although modernisation has now begun, many of the buses are still 1950s Leyland “boneshakers”, brightly painted in yellow and orange. From the main bus station at Valletta’s City Gate, there are frequent services to almost everywhere on the main island as well as to the Gozo ferry at Cirkewwa in the far northwest. The buses are cheap too. Most fares are below 50 cents (keep some change handy for paying the driver).
The bus system radiates from Valletta but there are some cross-routes, known locally as ‘direct’ buses, for example linking Saint Julian’s and Sliema to Mdina or the Gozo ferry. These services tend to be a bit less frequent, more expensive (although still cheap by any European standard) and to stop earlier in the evening.
Gozo also has an extensive bus network but with much lower frequencies (and reliability) than on the larger island. In winter, in particular, it is possible to find yourself stranded and have to walk or call a taxi.
Official white cabs are readily available in major population centres, but when booking a cab in advance (rather than picking it up on the street) most Maltese I know use private taxi firms such as Zarb Coaches (+356 21 489 991/2/3, www.zarbcoaches.com), Marshall Group (+356 21 691 007, www.marshallgroup.com.mt) or Wembley Cars (+356 21 341 41, www.wembleys.net). Agree a price on booking.
Boats: The Sliema Ferry and water taxis
By far the quickest and most enjoyable way to get between Valletta and Sliema (across Marsamxett Harbour) and between Valletta and the Three Cities (across the Grand Harbour) is by water. The regular Sliema Ferry (+356 23 463 862, www.captainmorgan.com.mt/ferry_service.htm) takes just 5-10 minutes and in good weather is very pleasant as well as quick. Water taxis for the 10-minute crossing of the Grand Harbour need to be ordered in advance (try A&S Water Taxis +356 21 806 921, www.maltesewatertaxis.com). The boats are small traditional craft called dghajsa, that have longed plied the waters of the harbour (they are not suitable for going outside the harbour wall). They used to be rowed gondola-style - and still are for berthing - but now have motors.
Getting to Gozo
The Gozo Ferry (+356 21 556 114, www.gozochannel.com) takes half an hour to get from Cirkewwa in the northwest of Malta to Mgarr Harbour on Gozo. It is a sizeable car ferry with a canteen, lounges and a small shop as well as deck space. It costs 4.65 euros per person return (and all fares are return), 1.15 euros for a child and 15.70 euros for a car and driver. Ferries leave about every 45 minutes (a bit less often in winter) throughout the day - and also run all night, though less frequently.
For a real treat, take off from the Grand Harbour at the Valletta Waterfront (Harbourair, +356 21 228 302, www.harbourairmalta.com) for the 10-minute sea plane flight to Gozo, landing just outside Mgarr Harbour where the Gozo ferry docks. The plane is a little 14-seater and on a clear day (which most days are in Malta) the views are spectacular. Seats cost 44 euros (38 euros for children) or for 66 euros you can book the seat next to the pilot!
Getting to Malta
For advice on transport to and from the airport, see Malta flights.