The Classic Malta Buses

Their charm and beauty as seen through the eyes of the traveller!

Up until the 2nd of July 2011, you could see various Malta buses models on the island’s roads, ranging from the classic, to the more “modern” to the vintage!

All this came to an end, when a new public transport system was introduced on the 3rd of July. The old buses were not part of this new public transport restructuring exercise and therefore nowadays you won’t see these cheerful orange buses around.

As you will see from the various photos and travellers’ comments on this page, these old buses represented a unique part of Malta and Gozo, that visitors to the islands loved!

maltese bus

Lorna McColl shared her favourite Malta bus photo: "In this picture, is my nephew Ben and his 'funny' Granda (my dad). Many happy memories."

Perhaps the main reason why the traditional Maltese buses were so unique, came from the fact that a lot of the buses were owned by the actual person who was driving it. Some individuals owned more than one bus and so they used to employ local drivers while they themselves often drove one of their buses too.

maltese bus

maltese buses

Ricky Mullen from Motherwell, Scotland had this to say about Maltese buses: "Really sad to hear about the demise of the old buses, I remember our very first visit to Malta in 1996 and our journeys during that 2 week stay were fond indeed, especially one journey from Mellieha Bay up the hill at breakneck speed - scary but fascinating!"

This in return added that extra “charm” to each bus because each bus owner used to “customize” his bus to his liking. So one could see the driver’s personality, interests and passions reflected in the actual bus itself via the various decorations, details, banners, etc that Maltese buses used to have.

maltese bus

"Love these buses, they are an icon. I also remember the green ones." - Lyn Hale

Often, you would see the bus owner’s nickname proudly hand-painted on the front and the back of the bus!

Malta Buses: The Beginning

How did it all start?

Buses in Malta know their birth in 1905! The first models were imported to the islands. In the 1920s, a local bus manufacturing industry was starting to take shape.

In the 1930s, the industry experienced a period of growth and enhancement as talented Maltese carpenters and mechanics joined forces to construct and produce some of the most beautiful bus models you’ll ever see!

maltese buses

maltese buses

Jeff Juhnke graciously shared many of his favourite Malta bus photos

With each bus model they produced, you could see and feel the level of pride and passion that these skillful people used to put in their work … detailed (often customized to each bus owner’s orders) decorations adorned each bus.

maltese bus

An adorable photo of old Maltese bus models which was kindly sent to us by Birgit Daiminger

In an effort to improve the service and system, public transport in Malta became centralized in the 70s. An association was formed (ATP) and it was in charge of the day to day running of the system by creating Malta bus schedules and timetables. Buses were still owned by individuals though and continued to be like that until the traditional Malta bus era came to an end in July 2011.

gozo bus

maltese bus

Birgit Daiminger shared her thoughts and photos of buses and bus drivers in Malta and Gozo: "Here is one of the oldest buses in Gozo ... and one of the oldest, but most polite drivers."

Over the years, the venerable Malta bus experienced many colour “makeovers”.

Up until the 70s, the buses were painted in various colours. Each colour represented the actual villages/towns that the bus served. Colours ranged from various shades of blue, red and green.

It was later decided that the colour green should be used on all buses. The colour was changed again years later to the popular orange colour that accompanied Maltese buses until the end.

Have a look at this short video to see the many beautiful colours that Maltese buses had over the years …

In the 80s, the bus fleet was “modernised” with the importation of various second hand buses from the U.K. Low-floor buses were also introduced. However, the old classic Malta bus remained to be a holiday highlight to many visitors to the islands!

maltese bus

Clara Haggai from Montreal, Canada had this to say about Malta and its classic buses: "Legendary Maltese buses! Had the opportunity to discover Malta in March 2011! I absolutely loved it ... fantastic people, great history, awesome food and the most colourful buses ever :-) So sad we won't see them any more!!!"

It’s all in the detail!

Something that used to distinguish Maltese buses from other buses that you see worldwide, were the intricate hand-painted details. This used to be done locally. This special craft is called “tberfil” in Maltese.

Top favourite hand-painted details that you could see were:

- the bus owner’s nickname

- the bus owner’s wife or girlfriend’s name

- a “welcome aboard” sign

- intricate hand painted designs around the bus lights, above the bumper and elsewhere

- slogans that were usually the personal mantra of the bus owner

maltese bus

Another beautiful Malta bus photo sent in by Birgit Daiminger

For more information, anecdotes and travellers’ photos of these much loved buses, visit our Tribute to the Maltese Bus page.

SPECIAL THANKS go to Lorna, Ricky, Lyn, Clara, Jeff and Birgit for sharing all the beautiful Maltese bus photos that you see on this page!

Follow the incredible journey of one particular old Maltese bus which was restored and preserved, through this wonderful video compiled by Johann Tonna ...

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