Malta Inside Out

 

Licence to Drive: insights of a learner driver

 
 
A well-preserved vintage model on Malta's roads.  It can take years to pass the driving test too!

A well-preserved vintage model on Malta's roads. It can take years to pass the driving test too!

Even though the minimum age for driving in Malta is 18, there is a considerable number of luckless and frustrated twenty-somethings who still do not possess a driver’s licence – and not for lack of trying. While there are some for whom not driving is a personal lifestyle choice, the vast majority of Maltese youngsters can’t wait to obtain that much-sought-after and almost mythical legal document signifying a blessed release from the horrors of public transport.

Malta’s Car Culture

The Maltese have embraced a private car culture –  there is at least one car in circulation for every two people – and this places high social pressure on young people to obtain their license as quickly as possible. Owning and driving a car signifies increased independence and grants freedom of movement: you’re suddenly free to completely avoid Paceville on a weekend outing and look for an alternative instead. Yet the system in place often seems to deliberately obstruct such a goal. Statistics show that almost 60% of people fail their driving test first time.

Getting that licence…

With such odds, it is important to know exactly what to do and what to avoid if you want to get behind the wheel in a time- and cost-effective way. Getting a driving license can quickly become a massive financial burden if you’re not careful. While reform of the system is on the horizon for 2010, the costs involved can still quickly shoot up into the hundreds of euros. Most of the problems encountered can be effectively eliminated by being prepared to not let them arise in the first place. This means preparation has to start from before you take your first lesson.

Tips to take to heart

I speak from experience: at the time of writing I have been taking regular driving lessons for almost two years and have been failed three times on my test. Nevertheless, in retrospect, the torturous experience allows me to understand what I did wrong and to see what I would have done differently. Take these tips to heart:

  • Set your agenda by answering these questions: why do you want to learn to drive? Are you sufficiently motivated? For how long are you willing to pay for regular driving lessons? Be methodical when choosing your motoring school: do not rush ahead and simply sign up with the first familiar sounding service. You would regret doing this later. Even if a particular school has been recommended by a trusty friend, look that service up.  The internet is your best friend: search for reviews and clients’ reactions.
  • Obtain a pass in the theory test which is held at the Test Centre in G’Mangia, easily found by taking the first left to the side of St Luke’s Hospital. The test is multiple choice and can be taken either in English or Maltese. You do not need to wait for your instructor to give you the go-ahead. To prepare yourself, you can obtain a copy of the question bank in CD format from the Floriana Driver Licensing Unit against a fee of €6.9. You can also peruse The Highway Code on which most of the questions are based.
  • Make a list of 7 or 8 schools to contact by visiting the website of the Transport Authority. Try and include some small or lesser known names as these tend to have a smaller number of clients, which in turn may result in a shorter waiting list when the time comes for you to apply for the test.

Choosing the right driving school

Know what you need to ask each school before you enlist. Do not allow yourself to be sidetracked. Take notes as to the answers given so you can make an informed decision later. Questions you should definitely ask include:

  • The duration of lessons: some schools only offer 45 minute lessons while others range between one hour up to 90 minutes. Decide according to which duration is in line with your goals and which you would feel most comfortable with.
  • The fee for each lesson: this may range between 12 euros up to 22 euros and is frequently linked to the duration of the session. Make sure you know clearly what the fees are beforehand and also that your school won’t up the fee without your knowing.
  • The frequency of the sessions: establish a routine beforehand and stick to it. You might prefer two shorter lessons each week or one longer one every fortnight. Whatever your choice, keeping a rhythm to your lessons will help you develop a learning pattern.
  • Any extra charges: some schools ask for a fee which acts as insurance against any potential accident or damages to its cars. Also, most schools require you to pay a service fee when applying for the test on your behalf: while the ADT fee is € 23.95 some motoring schools may ask for a fee of up to € 80 when applying on your behalf.

And finally…

  • Don’t believe rumours: Check things out – make sure to check with the relevant authorities about anything you might hear before assuming it is true. For example, it is a common myth that in order to switch motoring schools once lessons have started, one has to pay a high fee. In truth, If your motoring school does not nominate you for the test within 12 months, one simply has to file a fresh application form.
  • Establish a conversation with your instructor: Ask for help in identifying weak spots at the end of each lesson and request feedback the next time round. Do not be afraid to complain if you feel time is being wasted from your lessons. Ask questions and do not allow yourself to be guided along as this will simply increase the number of unnecessary lessons you have to take.
  • Keep to time frames: Be aware that if your motoring school does not nominate you for the test within a year of starting lessons, you must inform the ADT in writing that you are still interested in obtaining the license. Failing to do so will cause your application to expire.

Above all…Aim to learn to drive rather than learning simply to get your license. Try and enjoy the experience and do not think of it as a chore.

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31 Comments about “Licence to Drive: insights of a learner driver”

  1. Thanks for the information, do you know any school how give driving test lesson?
    because i am lazy to prepare it by my self thanks

     
  2. Not quite sure what you mean, but if it’s a list of driving schools you want, I suggest you try go.com.mt and look up their directory online; or perhaps Malta’s yellow pages.

     
  3. You can also check the Transport Malta Website http://www.dca.gov.mt/Page.aspx?pageid=579&lid=1

     
  4. I mean teory lesson

     
  5. I mean a theory lesson, not practice lesson

     
  6. thk

     
  7. what do i have to do to take the theory test?

     
  8. @Steve, see this link and scroll down. It has info on applying for the theory test. http://www.transport.gov.mt/Page.aspx?pageid=577&lid=1

     
  9. As a driving instructor I have to say that your comments are absolutely real and extremely honest. A student should never run for one single school, should go around as to book a lessons or two does is not a unbreakable commitment. Students should look around and choose as there are their money, time and expectations that matters. Congratulations Neville.

     
  10. is theres any crash course possibilities in Malta, means making the licence as fast as possible … like a week ? or 2-4 weeks ?

    if yes, someone can recommend a school ?

     
  11. Arnie, not sure but I would think you could learn like that, in a ‘crash’ course – sorry about the pun! I suggest you contact the writer of the article – click on the name, to email him. He might know. Otherwise try contacting a few schools and see. Here’s a link to a list: http://www.searchmalta.com/dir/Automotive/Driving_Schools/index.shtml

     
  12. If I was a learner driver, I would search the Yellow Pages and the internet for driving schools. There are so much more than 8 schools!

    IMPORTANT: Be careful about Motoring School’s charges. You might pay for an hour lesson, but drive only 20 minutes of it ! This used to happen to me. The instructor used to have 3 learners in his car, and since learners drive in turns for 20 minutes each, they had to pay for a full one hour each anyway! Make sure it is a one to one lesson that you are paying for.

     
  13. IMPORTANT: Be careful about Motoring School’s charges. You might pay for an hour lesson, but drive only 20 minutes of it ! This used to happen to me. The instructor used to have 3 learners in his car, and since learners drive in turns for 20 minutes each, they had to pay for a full one hour each anyway! Make sure it is a one to one lesson that you are paying for.

    There is a large list of motoring schools on this link provided by Neville – http://www.dca.gov.mt/Page.aspx?pageid=579&lid=1
    If I were a learner once more, I would get a few lessons with different schools and then choose the one which I ”click” with best.

     
  14. I know first hand how much the quality between these schools can vary. I wanted an A+ licence for MC, and contacted the first driving school about five years (!) ago. We agreed to meet outside Baystreet outright for a talk and walkthrough of the process. To my surprise he was in the middle of a driving lesson, and there was a third person in the back seat. He was clearly rushed, impatient and for no apparent reason very aggressive. He had an aggressive manner on the phone earlier also. I didn’t call him back.

    This experience annoyed and disheartened me so much that it actually made me put the whole A+ licence plan on hold, and almost two years later I contacted another driving school. Mistake one was to not do better research on where you start off every lesson. In this case it was Paola which is a long hike from Sliema. Even if I had both a 125cc scooter and a car at disposal it was a drag.

    Mistake number two was to accept an MC that was very old and had duct tape to hold instruments in place – one of the signal lights just hanging and dangling. The gears worn and with a very sensitive and short clutch travel. You really don’t need extra technical challenges like this when you are learning to drive a vehicle which for a lot of people already is quite challenging.

    On the day of the actual driving test I didn’t even get to take it. My wife had forgotten to put my ID-card back in my wallet, and I only found out when the examiner asked for it. I had brought both my passport and international car licence, and had a Norwegian debit and credit card with photo in my wallet, but he was not interested. Even if I clearly was able to prove my identity to the bastard. As there was still 20 minutes to go I suggested that my wife could drive down to Floriana to deliver it, and probably wouldn’t be more than five minutes late, but no. I was so angry at that point, also at the instructor who hadn’t even mentioned that the only kind of ID accepted would be a Maltese ID card. To make matters worse he didn’t even offer to at least make a driving lesson out of the allotted time. It was after all paid for anyway. He didn’t care, didn’t express any concern or pity on my behalf.

    I was so furious that I didn’t make another appointment with this unprofessional joke of a motoring school (he didn’t even give me advice and tips for the driving exam), and was so fed up that I waited another 18 months (!) or so before I signed up with another driving school, Motorcycle World. Couldn’t be happier. They are very professional and very friendly, in particular the girl who arranges the appointments and payments for you. The first lesson was at Luxol Grounds (central), and the rest was at Santa Venera (not too bad for me personally either). There was a proper walkthrough with tips and advice the day before the exam, so I actually felt I was prepared. I passed the test with four minor errors which isn’t too bad considering the given route was one I had never driven before. Even the smallest “lane discipline” and hesitation errors can add up points quickly. You think you drive flawlessly, but the instructor always finds something to put a finger on. Keep concentration up all the time, don’t wander off.

    Bottom line, choose your motoring school with care! Don’t be afraid to change or complain if you are unhappy, it doesn’t pay off to be Mr Nice Guy. Most of them treat you badly anyway.

     
  15. Geir,
    Well, OMG. What can we say! But thanks for this detailed and illuminating insight and warning. I have no doubt that similar treatment has been meted out to others trying to find a reputable school. Much appreciated. Thanks for sharing here.

     
  16. My memory is clearly faltering, the name of the motoring school I recommended is Cycle World – not Motorcycle World. Sorry about that. Schools that actually make an effort deserve to be singled out and praised for it.

    And to Arnie: I’m quite sure it will be impossible to squeeze an “express course” into an extended holiday in Malta if that is what you were thinking? Even four weeks is highly unlikely – the reason being that anything government-run takes time in Malta (an exception to the rule is the issuance of Maltese ID cards which only takes two or three days!). It’s not like Transport Malta has any competitors, so it makes sense for them to understaff on purpose in order to always have queues. Perhaps it also makes them feel special.

    Same goes for Mater Dei hospital: Their time is precious, yours isn’t. That is why they couldn’t care less that patients on average have to wait 60-90 minutes in the corridors before they get to see their specialist. Every day will be fully booked in order to avoid the grim scenario of any employee twiddling their thumbs for two minutes a week. It is after all better to have 15 patients wasting a total of 15 working hours – per hour (do the math!) – than having one doctor wasting five minutes per day. The mind boggles.

    And even if a motoring school that specialises in ‘crash courses’ for holidaymakers does in fact exist, such schools still won’t be entitled to queue-jumping or special treatment from Transport Malta (formerly known as ADT). The biggest obstacle is perhaps that motoring schools can’t even apply for a practical exam on your behalf before you successfully have completed a number of lessons (all?). The motoring
    school is required to fill out an evaluation form supplied by Transport Malta after each lesson.

    So what I am saying is that you can’t apply for an exam date at the start of the course, and this obviously lengthens the whole process by a great deal. For my first test it took almost two months from the time of application until the actual exam date. Another thing to keep in mind is that Transport Malta’s systems/databases often are down (I have experienced it twice – Hall B, Window 30 is my second home), and they never bother to post such essential information on their website. Taking time off and get something done there is down to pot luck. There is always something, Murphy and his darned law.

    I know I have been moaning a lot here, but I think I might be doing people a favour preparing them for frustrations I personally have had to endure. Now the really, really good news about getting your licence in Malta is obviously that it is dirt cheap! Although the courses in i.e. Norway are a lot better and much more thorough (compulsory driving on ice, test-track, night and long distance driving etc), a car licence costs 4000 euros (!) on average. It’s insane. I am not making it up – google translate this article if you want: http://www.klikk.no/motor/bil/article735990.ece

    For that purpose I have myself played with the idea of bringing my 16-year old half-brother from Norway to Malta for a summer holiday. Even if it means that he has to fly back and forth two, perhaps even three times, he can save a lot of money on it.

    Then again, can you put a price on a training which ultimately can turn out to be life-saving? In my opinion Maltese drivers should for instance not be allowed to drive in snowy and icy conditions in Scandinavia – they just don’t know what they are in for, and will be a hazard to themselves and everyone else.

    I apologise if this got a bit long, but hopefully I answered one or two questions people might have.

     
  17. am a Nigeria having Italy document but am currently staying in Malta , i want to no if i can use Italy permit of stay in Malta school of driving . please i need information on it . thanks

     
  18. Hejsa kan nogen evt fortælle mig om der er en bestemt tid man skal have boet i Malta for at tage kørekort, jeg er nemlig lige flyttet herned og vil gerne igang så hurtigt som muligt med kørekort? :-)
    Mvh Maria

     
  19. Hi can anyone possibly tell me if there is a certain time you have to have lived in Malta to take driver’s license, I namely just moved down here and would like to start as soon as possible with the license? :-) and Im Danish :)

     
  20. Hi can anyone possibly tell me if there is a certain time you have to have lived in Malta to take driver’s license, I namely just moved down here and would like to start as soon as possible with the license? :-)

     
  21. Hi Maria, unfortunately I don’t really know….did you check the Transport Malta website? I would also try calling a school, they would know. I think that anyone can start learning as long as you’re living here though but don’t take my word for it

     
  22. can you start your lessons a few months before you are 18? thanks

     
  23. Hi Liz! Is driving license required for small motorbikes? (under 50cc)?

     
  24. Geir, wonderful posts, very helpful, thanks!
    When you say cheap can you be more specific? I have a B license (car) and want to get an A+ one for a motorcycle, any idea how much it would cost me? I know how to drive one so I won’t need too many lessons, do you know if there’s a compulsory minimum number of lessons one has to take before taking an exam?

     
  25. Dimitri, there is no minimum requirement for lessons. The actual cost depends on your driving abilities. Generally a rider that knows how to handle a motorcycle as such, can expect to get away with around 10 hours of training, sometimes less. Please bear in mind that there are changes in regulations for January 19, 2013 pending.

     
  26. @luke you need a learners permit to start lessons. This can only be applied for when you have reached the age of 18.
    @ julian 50cc require a driving licence in Malta. As of January 19 it requires almost the same as. A 125, so no need to bother with this categor? Some European car licence holders have it included in their licene.
    @ maria european regulations stulate taht you must be living here for 185 days out of the last 365 to legally obtain a licence. This applies for the test. You can apply for a learners permit now and start tuition.

    As to the statement that you should book soe test lessons with a few schools? This is a) illegal since you need a learners permit ! B) what do you find out in ne lesson? Nothing really. C) better ask friends or family of they can recommend someone.

     
  27. Hi everyone.
    I’ll be glad if someone can help me. I have a driving license from Bulgaria with B(car) and M(motorcycle). With this I can drive motorcycle until 125cc in Bulgaria. So I want to ask you. Is there any problem to drive with this license in Malta, something between 50cc and 125cc.
    Thank you in advance.

     
  28. Hi to all,
    I would like to share my bad experience lately on Malta that otherwise proved to be a most exciting and beautiful island to visit.
    I thought that I could utilise my ten day stay on the island in August to take some motorcycle lessons, and Lewis my friend on Malta tried to sort this out for me. Unfortunately he got one email returned from one school and another school was closed for the period I was going to be there. So I got lumped with more or less one choice. Although he bragged that his was the best school on the island, the only one with a test track, and also the official motorcycle school for Kawasaki in Malta, he was going to charge me and my two friends 26 euros for each of ten one hour lessons, a total of 260 euros each, and also suggested going on with lessons till 9pm. Although Lewis pointed out to him that a learner’s permit was required he completely ignored this and insisted on charging us 50 euros each extra for his insurance, and we accepted his terms, until we contacted Transport Malta about the learner’s permits, only to find that a minimum of six months stay in Malta was required before a learner’s permit could be issued. Fortunately the guy refused to give us his IBAN account and was probably hinting at a cash settlement.
    All this anticipation and frustration could have been avoided if we had contacted another school, which is my advice to you all seeking to get a motorcycle license in Malta legally.
    There are other things in Malta to enjoy though and we thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact we stopped in Malta again during our Mediterranean cruise.
    All the very best,
    Sreve

     
  29. Steve,
    Thanks for taking the time to pen these experiences. Certainly useful info whether one is a local or coming over temporarily to Malta to live. I’ve removed direct reference to the particular service supplier you mentioned in your post, for obvious reasons. But the tenet of your advice is clear enough still. Thanks for this.

     
  30. @ Valeri in Malta you can only drive what is written on your licence. If your licence states B, you can only drive a car. Local rules from Bulgaria are of no regards in Malta.
    @ Steve , if I recall correctly you contacted us as well and we adviced you about these issues. In order to obtain a driving licence here you must be resident for a minimum of 6 month. Holiday Lessons are I am afraid no option.

     
  31. On a little side note: Regardless of what instructors are telling you. You must have a learners permit in your hand when operating a vehicle in Malta. No learners permit, no licence! even if the instructor is present!!! Its the pupils problem when he gets caught.