Vintage Bus Tours
Malta is well known for its traditional vintage buses. Until July 2011 they could be found on regular bus services throughout Malta and Gozo, running alongside more modern buses. From that date Arriva took over the regular services (they only lasted a couple of years) and the individual owners were persuaded to hand in their buses to the government in return for compensation. Some were kept by their owners and some are stored by Heritage Malta but many were scrapped. Fortunately a number survive in private ownership, and in recent years several have been lovingly restored, many into the pre-1973 route liveries which identified by colour on which group of routes a bus was operating.
As well as private hire, the Maltese Government now allows a certain number of licences for these old buses to operate on special vintage bus tours, further details of which are shown below. You may find other vintage bus tours advertised through local agents.
Vintage Bus City Tour
The Vintage Bus City Tour runs principally between Valletta (Triton Square next to the Triton Fountain near the bus station) and St Julian's (Westin Dragonara Hotel) via Sliema. Departures are every two hours from 0900 to 1700 (50 minutes later from St Julians), and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays there are additional departures at 1830, 2000 and 2130 (30 mins later from St Julian's).
Fares are €2.50 single or €4.50 return; child fares are €1.50 single or €3.00 return. Return tickets are valid all day. Please check the website for latest details in case they have changed.
Buses also call at intermediate stops, namely those used by the open top routes. Buses returning from St Julian's also serve the Valletta Waterfront and loop around the perimeter of the city. The service started in December 2020 and is run by a consortium of operators. Vehicles are also available for private hire.
A second route runs on Sundays only between Valletta and Marsaxlokk also calling at the Ghar Dalam caves. Departures from Valletta are hourly 1000 to 1300, returning 30 minutes later. Further routes may be added in due course.
For readers of MTN, an article about the operation appeared in issue 63 dated March 2021.
Three Cities Vintage Bus Tour
This long-established tour to Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea starts from the seafront at Sliema (opposite Marks and Spencer) where it's not difficult to spot the vintage bus. It leaves at 1100 on Mondays to Saturdays but does not run on Sundays or public holidays. The tour takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. You can book through Hello Malta.
It's worth booking in advance as the price includes a free transfer from various points and back (Cirkewwa and Bugibba for example). The price is €18 for adults, €12 for children.
The vintage bus will be one of several owned by Cancu Supreme Travel. Regular performers are two small vehicles with bodywork built in the style of 1920s buses used in the area. One is a Bedford WLB registered LCY 002 where the chassis dates from 1932, and the other is a 1939 Morris registered LCY 004. The old style bodywork, by Brincat, actually dates from 1991. Another bus, pictured here at Vittoriosa Square, is a 1949 Austin CXB, still with its original Plaxton bodywork, registered LCY 003.
The driver gives informed commentary en route, which I found interesting when I travelled on it. You may find that the company advertises other trips using the vintage buses, and they are also available for group hire.
Malta Bus Coop
The Malta Bus Coop has a number of beautifully restored Maltese vintage buses which have also undergone internal refurbishment. They are Euro 5 compliant and ftted with an LPG system to provide a more environmentally-friendly service.
A number of different tours are available, as shown on their website. Advance booking is necessary, either through an agent or online. They are also available for private hire and transfers, and are particularly popular for weddings.
For readers of MTN, an article about the operation appeared in issue 53 dated September 2018.