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Malta - Travel and visas
Visitors from the UK and Ireland need a valid passport but do not need a visa. Nationals of EU countries with national identity cards may travel on these instead of a passport. There is no limit on how long an EU national may stay in Malta so long as he/she is economically self-sufficient. After the first 90 days, however, residence documents are issued.
Malta is a member of the EU Schengen area, giving it the same entry rules as other EU counties (except the UK and Ireland) for visitors from outside the EU. No visa is required for a stay of less than three months by those from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or most non-EU European countries (with the exception of Russia).
Other nationalities need to contact a Maltese embassy, consulate or high commission or where none exists, the embassy or consulate that looks after Malta (often the Italian or Austrian). Further information and downloadable visa application forms can be found on the Maltese Foreign Ministry website (www.mfa.gov.mt/default.aspx?MLEV=53&MDIS=523).
There is one international airport in Malta, in the southeast of the main island. It is just three hours’ flying time from the UK – less from southern Europe. There are numerous direct flights, including with low-cost airlines including EasyJet, Ryanair and Air Malta.
Ferries operate to Malta from Sicily, arriving at the Sea Passenger Terminal on the Valletta Waterfront. They take as little as 1½ hours to cross from Pozzallo on Sicily or three to four hours from Catania (the city next to Mount Etna). The ferries are fast catamarans that also carry cars, and are run by Virtu Ferries.
Public transport on Malta is very good. There are no trains but you can get buses to almost everywhere and there are plenty of taxis. The ferry between Malta and Gozo is frequent and takes under half an hour. It goes from Ċirkewwa in the very north of Malta, about 45 minutes by car from Valletta (unless it is raining or rush hour, in which case it will take longer).
As one local put it: ‘We drive on the left … or on the right, or in the middle of the road.’
The bus system has recently changed completely, Gone are the brightly painted 1950s Leyland ‘boneshakers’ that had become icons of Malta, to be replaced with normal modern single-deckers and bendy buses controlled by Arriva. There have been a lot of teething problems but things now seem to be settling down and the excellent bus service Malta has long enjoyed is returning.
Taxi fares from the airport are regulated (find them at http://gettinghere.maltairport.com/en/white-taxi.htm) but it is still worth agreeing the fare before getting in, as it is on all other trips in taxis, water taxis and horse-drawn cabs.
Travelling between Malta and Gozo is easy, with regular ferries taking less than half an hour. Between mid-March and mid-November boats also operate to the tiny island of Comino from both Malta and Gozo.
There used to be a wonderful seaplane service from Valletta to Gozo. At the time of writing it is suspended but it may return. The 14-seater seaplane takes off from the Grand Harbour at Valletta Waterfront and the ten-minute flight to Mgarr Harbour (by the ferry terminus) in Gozo offers stunning views. The seaplane also used to do circular tourist flights from Valletta.
The Maltese love their cars. They will always drive rather than walk – even if it’s just a few hundred metres – and there is lots of interest in the best new model. There are therefore lots of cars on the roads, with some of them going rather faster than you might wish. Malta drives on the left (like the UK) – at least in theory. As one local put it: ‘We drive on the left … or on the right, or in the middle of the road.’ The standard of driving in Malta is described by the British Foreign Office as ‘poor’ and it can certainly be erratic.