Malta Public Transport Fails

While considering a move to the rock, it’s tempting to think that it should be easy to get around without a car. After all, how ineffective can a bus system really be when there’s only 316 square kilometers of space that you need to cover?

As anyone who has lived here longer than a month without a car will tell you, the answer is: ridiculously ineffective.

We’re talking hour and a half waits for a bus that is supposed to show up every 20 minutes ineffective. We’re talking bus drivers skipping your stop because “Mela, I didn’t hear you press the button,” ineffective. We’re talking waiting fifteen minutes at the Kulleġġ bus stop because the driver needed a pastizzi right now ineffective (he went for ricotta, just in case you’re wondering).

Honestly, when even the drivers are in search of divine protection, what hope do we poor passengers really have?

It’s true that lately Tallinja has greatly improved its service. In particular, the Tallinja app manages to save time by telling you when a bus is (more or less) actually going to arrive. And to be fair, given the traffic situation in Malta, it’s amazing how well most drivers handle their jobs. However, as my experience earlier this year shows, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, especially when we’re just trying to get to work.

Where Do They FIND These Drivers?

It started out as a normal enough commute from Swatar to St. Julian’s. Thanks to the Tallinja app, I knew when my bus was supposed to arrive, and I watched as the 110 from Marsa to Pembroke Park and Ride pulled up to the stop. At this point, I had my first inkling that this bus ride would be one to remember. Before the driver could bring himself to open the doors, he sat there for a moment, staring out at the road. Then, taking a deep breath, he crossed himself.

Honestly, when even the drivers are in search of divine protection, what hope do we poor passengers really have?

Still, I had to get to work, and the 110 to Pembroke was the only bus that would get me there on time. I boarded. The bus jerked to a start, and I held on for dear life.
Thinking back now, I’m positively certain it must’ve been that bus driver’s first day. But while I was being thrown around curves and bends, and the horns were honking as the bus careened into traffic circles, all I could think was, “How the hell did this guy get a bus license?”

And then came the fun part. As the 110 approached the road along the Sliema coast, the bus, which was supposed to turn left toward St. Julian’s, instead took a hard, arm-wrenching right.

Any Excuse Will Do

For a good minute, the bus was completely silent. All the passengers glanced at each other, wondering if we were on the right bus. Then the Maltese ladies in the front let loose, asking the bus driver where the hell he was going.

“They changed the routes!” shouted the driver. (Spoiler alert: they hadn’t.) “They changed them this morning! I’m supposed to go to Sliema Ferries before turning around!”

“Ferries!” exclaimed one of the women. “Let me off here, then! It’ll be faster to walk to my stop.”

But the bus driver kept going, so the woman resorted to desperate measures by repeatedly pressing the stop-requested button. Finally, the driver let her off near Surfside. The rest of us watched as the woman crossed the street to the opposite stop, hoping to wave down the next bus to St. Julian’s. We waited for the bus to start moving again, but our driver was having a moment of crisis. He gripped the steering wheel and took a few deep breaths. And then—

“Okay!” he exclaimed, to no one in particular. “Okay! Fine! I’m turning around! I’m turning around right now!”

With a few too many points to his three-point turn in the middle of Sliema’s coast road, he got the bus facing the right direction, and set off for St. Julian’s.

All Too Common Problems

That’s probably not even the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen while using Malta Public Transport. It’s almost hard to hate the bus system when you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up with a story every time you take it.

That said, so many of us rely on this system to get to and from work, or to get home in the evenings. At the very least, we should be able to trust that our drivers know where they’re going. Of course, there are things you can do to make your bus experience less painful (Related: How to Not Lose ALL Your Hair When Using Buses in Malta), but at the moment, don’t ever expect it to be completely painless.

Got a ridiculous Malta Public Transport story? Share your #busventures in the comments!


  1. Vaguely amusing, but when there are 30+ routes in your group and you can be on multiple routes in a single day, other road users who give scant consideration for anyone else — parking on bus stops, double parking, stopping on roundabouts, don’t let the buses out of the stop, overtake buses on crossings and in busy built-up areas only to stop or turn left in front of them, the list goes on — especially in already problematic areas like Hamrun, Birkirkara, Mosta to name but a few, passengers who *don’t* ring the bell and then moan because your telepathy skills aren’t as honed as they clearly expect, or ring the bell before you’ve left the stop (thereby, on the newer buses, preventing anyone from further ringing the bell until the rear doors have been opened), expecting to be let down wherever they like, irrespective of whether it’s a stop or not (clue: if you want that level of service, get a taxi), then maybe you will appreciate that we’re human too and do this job for barely more than the minimum wage.

  2. I’m pretty sure I was on this bus that morning. I remember him telling everybody going to Ferries to get off there as he was turning around. Quite a lot of shouting in Maltese, so I couldn’t give you details. Since then I’ve opted to rather walk to work from Kappara to Sliema, haven’t been late to work since 😀

  3. I had a bus ride in Malta a few months ago, were the driver refused to stop to pick us up(along the Sliema to St Julians road) so my friend decided to stand in the middle of the road in front of the bus until the driver let him on which was about 10 minutes. The driver then opened the doors to let him on,then without waiting, left with about 10 people waiting to get on the bus me included

  4. Well, I am a tourist waiting almost 1h 30m already on San Giljan stop with a baby waiting for 222 to beso grateful to stop and 3rd one refuses to stop, already. There are 20 other people waiting for it, too, so I am not at the wrong stop. I bought the 7 days pass and I am going to throw it at the next bus that doesn’t stop. That’s unacceptable.

  5. Bad very bad , they don’t respect nothing, no rules nothing
    Only if you lucky you can get bus in real time
    I need to fight with the boss every morning cause of lately bus
    Tallinja is worst company ever

  6. Had 3 mornings in a row, at my new job (!), where I had to wait more than one hour… even though the time schedule there would be a bus every 30 minutes.. Finally one bus kind of arrived… I signed… And it just kept on driving.. didnt stop at all evem though it wasnt full. After coming too late 3 times because of this… I was actually fired… FML. I don’t have enough money yet to purchase a car and the traffic here is insane.. will get myself an accident in no-time here!

    Today starting my new job… And again I need to take the bus. I may pray to God that it will arrive in time or that it doesn’t just pass me without stopping.

  7. Here is my disaster trip i was going to birkirkara 48 for work but the bus driver was taking forever enjoying his coffee then he makes a mistake while typing in the destination number he is for mosta 47 but typed 48 instead probably was staring at his coffee instead of what he was doing so i ended up lost in mosta alongside the other passengers and the damn driver does not care and still drives his route no refunds either and i end up late for work thx alot tallinja


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