They're only small islands with ridiculously narrow streets, but car ownership is high, so it's a challenge.
Locals are only half joking when they say, "We neither drive on the left nor the right, we drive in the shade."
Even those who have a kind word to say about the crazy, stuntman-like driving can only go so far as "organized chaos". Those who've been to Bangkok or Cairo will understand… drivers make their own way, anyway, they can, and the horn is the favored safety device (hear it and expect anything to happen).
Don't be surprised to see donkeys and horse-drawn carts sharing the roads with cars, trucks, and buses. Don't be surprised to see tiny cars carrying huge loads. Conforming to bureaucratic dictate is not a Maltese characteristic (and OH&S is routinely ignored).
Malta's National Statistics Office reported that in the first quarter of 2017, 3,508 traffic accidents occurred, down by 5.6% compared to the first quarter of 2016. Unfortunately, six people lost their lives.
Having said that, Malta has the least number of fatalities by population and the least number of fatalities per million passenger cars of any European nation.
Road safety campaigns and tougher licensing requirements are improving standards. There are even speed cameras on the main island!
Take a day or two to observe local driving habits before picking up a hire car.
Once you feel brave enough here are a few rules to observe:
Malta's colorful buses are a great way to get around the country.
There was a time, when it was difficult and expensive to get vehicles onto the islands, that all the buses were old, held together with string and brown paper and virtual death-traps (albeit with icons of the Virgin Mary or Christ keeping an eye on the passengers). Modern, safer buses are being introduced, but authorities are trying to retain the ‘retro' look that has become synonymous with Malta.
Still, the roads remain narrow, the surface potholed, and the owner-drivers in a rush to keep to the timetable. Just hang on tight, and keep children secure.
Malta holds on to many traditions from its past as a British colony, such as red phone boxes, and driving on the left – why not the venerable zebra crossing?
The particularly British practice of giving way to anyone who even looks like they're contemplating stepping onto a pedestrian crossing is totally absent in Malta. Crossing the road, especially in congested Valetta, can be a life-altering experience. Don't expect, or give any quarter! Keep your wits about you, your eyes open, and your travel insurance policy close to your chest.
If you're after a car-free holiday, head to Comino, the smallest inhabited island in Malta – there are no cars at all.
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