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My Escapes Malta Rocky Dry Malta Trip The Maltese "Xarabank" Vintage Buses

The Maltese "Xarabank" Vintage Buses

April 29, 2015

One of my best ever vehicle-related experiences was riding and spotting Malta's vintage buses locally called "xarabank".
I now dedicate and entire article to the xarabanks!

I didn't allocate time specifically to spotting vehicles during my stay on Malta, I just immortalized what showed up in front of my eyes...

The vintage yellow buses attracted my attention from the very beginning and they even constituted part of the reason why I traveled to Malta.

Old Leyland bus

My favourites were these vintage Leyland buses

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A large number of these old buses belong to the Leyland brand - which was a (defunct) British bus manufacturer, part of the Rover Group.

Too bad that all of these vehicles (around 500 of them!) were withdrawn from service (but I was still lucky enough to have been there 2 months prior).
It is said that they were technically unreliable, many were doorless, had poor comfort, bad steps and polluted terribly...

Old bus in Valletta

An old bus in Valletta

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Malta's vintage buses were taken out of function in July 2011. As it was already reported in this Telegraph article.

This Malta trip that I took dates back to May 2011 and I was lucky enough to enjoy a few (rough) rides aboard some of these old beauties.

My most notable experience on a Leyland bus was an hour-long bus trip from Sliema's Bus Terminal to the Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal to catch the boat to Gozo.

They have an adorable design, but riding these vintage buses feels rough.
They're heavy and they have no soft suspensions and shake at every bump.
If feels like riding a heavy truck.

The ventilation is terrible, so during the hot sunny May weather it felt suffocating with so many people inside.
The few tiny windows would at best create current and get some fresh air in...

But to me, it wasn't about the comfort, but the rare experience. I was ready to make a few sacrifices.

The hardest thing to bear were the uncomfortable worn-down old seats that were quite often filthy dirty, stained.

Vintage bus front view

Front view of a Leyland

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Typical to these old buses that regardless of the type, they all had shiny chrome radiator covering grids.

The buses were painted in dark yellow with a thick horizontal orange-colour painted strip surrounding the vehicle just under the windows' section.

Around the windows and the top of the vehicles were white.

I don't know if all buses, but several of them were owned by their drivers who gave names to their vehicles.

The nickname for "bus" in Maltese is xarabank - pronounced "sharabank".

The xarabanks aren't punctual at all, rides aboard them are rough and drivers are rude as hell.

...but what happened with the buses once they were withdrawn?

Well, some of them ended up as scrapheap, but (thank God!) 90 "specimens" were saved: the Heritage Malta organization has allegedly acquired 90 vehicles in order to fully restore them to their original condition.

The buses are to be exposed in a museum. But I sure hope at least some of them will re-enter service for "nostalgia tours".

Leyland bus on Malta

My favourite Leyland is coming to get me in Rabat

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Simple design old bus

Simpler design... this one was waiting for passengers at the Sliema Bus Terminal

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Another yellow bus

Kind-of "tiger face", prolly it has been modified a bit

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Bus 68 in Sliema

Number 68 operated through the station in front of my hotel

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Leyland bus in Valletta

These Leyland models (as many others) had that characteristic "hole entrance" on their left side

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Old bus with sun-shield

My favourite bus with a sun-shield and this one has no door either

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Beautiful bus

A truly beautiful specimen

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Yet another Maltese bus

Newer, but still old

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Escape Hunter

About the Author:

Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...


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