Long wait pays off for double-decker bus operator

Open top double decker buses will be providing extensive tours around the island from Saturday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi.

Open top double decker buses will be providing extensive tours around the island from Saturday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi.

Eight open top double-decker buses will take to Malta's roads on Saturday - 14 years after their owner applied for a road licence.

Painted white, with Malta Sightseeing emblazoned on the side in red and orange letters, the open top buses will be taking sightseers on three-hour, hop-on, hop-off tours - one around the north and another to the south of the island.

Another two buses will be on the roads soon.

Nazzareno Abela, owner of Cancu Supreme Garage, said the problem with the licence was due to the fact that no new licences for route buses were being granted. However, the authorities had finally granted a new form of licence for sightseeing buses.

The south-bound tour will be the first to be wheeled out, with the other starting in about a month's time.

Leaving from the Sliema Ferries, the south-bound tour will take passengers to some of the island's most popular attractions, including the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Fort St Elmo, the Valletta Waterfront, Senglea Point and the Vittoriosa Waterfront, the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples, Marsaxlokk, Ghar Dalam, the Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim and the Limestone Heritage, before returning to Sliema.

The north-bound tour will take in San Anton Gardens, Mosta, Ta' Qali - including the Crafts Village, Mdina Glass and the Aviation Museum - Mdina Gate, the Domus Romana, Buskett Gardens, Dingli Cliffs, Chadwick Lakes, Ta' Hagrat Roman Baths and Golden Bay.

Tourists - or Maltese who want to take in some of the island's most popular sites - can hop off the bus at any of the numerous stops and hop on the next one. Buses will leave from Sliema every 45 minutes.

Each bus is equipped with an audio system allowing passengers to listen to information in eight languages - English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Japanese and Maltese - through headphones which are included in the €13 (Lm5.57) ticket, and which passengers can keep.

The computerised audio is connected to a GPS system to ensure that the commentary on each attraction starts only when the bus reaches that particular spot. The system cost Lm12,000 for each bus. Mr Abela said he expected a strong take-up by tourists, adding that similar tours in other European countries were extremely popular.

The first bus will leave from Sliema at 9 a.m. and the last one at 3 p.m. between Monday and Saturday. Tours held next Saturday will be free of charge.

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