I’ve just driven my car from UK to Malta via the port of Livorno and this is an indication of the route/timings and costs of such a journey.
My thanks to David, an English guy who lives in Gozo and gave me a lot of advice before I left. He drives a rather fine blue Ford Racing Puma so say hello if you come across him.
Costings are accurate at the time of my trip (February 2011).
First off, obviously, check your vehicle is up to the trip. Check your UK insurance is fully comp when driving in Europe. I also arranged my local Malta insurance to start at 12.01am on the Monday I landed in Malta. You need a warning triangle, spare set of bulbs, florescent safety vest, headlight deflectors when driving in France. I ordered the European Travel Kit Euro Travel Kit from the AA (cost £27.99). The advantage of this is that it also gives a discount on the AA European Breakdown Cover (£35.73).
Across the channel I took the Eurotunnel. I booked a one way ticket (£53) but you can book a day return ticket for less (£44).
Book your Livorno ferry ticket with Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV) (http://www3.gnv.it/en/gnv-home/gnv-home/0/home/0/140/0/home-page.html). Ferry sailings are every Saturday at 10pm. I booked a man berth in 4 berth cabin. You will get your own cabin with this and save about €50 compared to booking the whole cabin yourself as there's not that many people using this service in winter. However if you do get to share you can always ask to be upgraded. Total cost for the ferry and accommodation was €148. The shipping line, GNV, has a local agent in Zachary street in Valletta. You can get details of the service from there as well as a map of the terminal at Livorno port.
I left south west London at 1.45am on Friday morning. Eventually ending up on the M26/M20, exit at 11a to the Channel Tunnel. I boarded the 3.27 train and arrived in Calais about 30 mins later. Eurotunnel will give you a ticket to hang from the rear view window. If you are intending to import your vehicle into Malta under the 24 mth registration tax exemption rule it is important that you retain this ticket together with your internet confirmation booking. You will need to present them to the ADT/Ministry of Finance.
Eurotunnel exits straight onto the French autoroute system There is no passport check. Off the train you’re immediately away.
You’re on the A16 and head towards A26/E15 (Saint-Omer, Arras, Reims, Paris).
At Setques/Calais you pick up your first motorway ticket. At Courcy you pay your first toll (€20.20).
Head towards A26/E17/E50 (Reims, Chalons-En-Champagne, Metz-Nancy, Strasbourg, Lyon).
At Taissy you collect another motorway ticket.
Head towards E17/A26 (Saint-Gibrien, Chalons en Champagne Rive, Gauche, Troyes, Lyon).
Continue towards E17/A5 (Mulhouse, Lyon-Dijon, Chaumont).
Continue along A5/E17 and A31/E17/E21 and you will be approaching Dijon (about 350 miles from Calais).
Head towards A39 (Grenoble, Geneve, Besancon, Dole).
Head towards A40/E21/E62 (Milan, Annecy, Geneve, Oyonnax).
At Viry you pay your second toll (€45.80).
Head towards A40/E25 (Annecy, Grenoble, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Turin-Milan).
At Nangy you pay your third toll (€1.70).
At Cluses you pay your fourth toll (€3.70).
You’re now heading towards Mont Blanc tunnel (about 550 miles from Calais) and will leave France. Local time is now about 3pm. The cost for the Mont Blanc tunnel is €35.10.
The French motorway system is excellent. The road surfaces are uniformly good. The speed limit is 130 kph (80 mph), 110 kph in the wet. Most drivers keep reasonably to the speed limit. Petrol is very expensive in France. At time of driving it was between €1.55 and 1.60 per litre. French motorways are well provided for in terms of service areas. Known as ‘Aires’, full service areas occur at regular intervals and smaller areas, which are off-road parking areas, known as ‘ aires de repos’ are very frequent. All are always clearly indicated in advance with standard pictograms. Note there are very few hotels on the French motorway system.
You’re now in Italy.
Pick up your Italian motorway ticket at Aosta.
Continue on the A5/E25.
Head towards E25, E64/A4 Milano and A26 Alessandria, Genova.
The first thing to notice on the Italian autostradas is that the motorway numbers appear very small on the motorway signs. You’ll also notice that whereas the speed limit is the same as in France (130 kmh) this appears to be a minimum as far as Italian drivers are concerned. I kept to the speed limit all the way and I was very much the slow coach. Service areas are not as frequent as France and not indicated as well in advance. Petrol is cheaper at about €1.40 to 1.45 per litre.
Continue along A26/E25/E80 to Alessandria/Genova. A7/A10 into Genova.
It’s now about 5 .30pm and approaching Genova. There are a lot of tunnels around Genova. At rush hour on a Friday evening it is like a racetrack in tunnels; initially a bit daunting but ultimately quite exhilarating. At this stage I decided to stop for the night in Genoa. There are no hotels on the Italian motorway system so I came off and paid my first Italian toll (€26.10).
I stayed in the Novotel in Genoa which is just off the A7. It’s a bog standard business hotel but the advantage of this hotel is that it has secure underground parking, so if your car is loaded up like mine it’s reasonably secure. Cost of the room was €74 for the night.
Back on the autostrada next morning take the A12 to Livorno. If you didn’t take a break at Genova you would have gone straight from the A26/E80 towards A7 Milano and A12 Livorno.
The drive from Genova to Livorno is about 100 miles, again through lots of tunnels and dramatic views of the coast through the breaks in the tunnels. I took it slowly and stopped for a very nice lunch in a place called Camogli.
Approaching Livorno come off the motorway system at the signs for Livorno and porto. My second Italian toll was €12.20 but if you didn’t take a break at Genova the toll would be €38.30.
The sign for the port (porto) also includes Firenze (Florence) but it is Liverno port you’re heading towards. You soon come to a sign indicating about 5 terminals. It includes Varga Galvani.
Continue until you come to a large sign stating simply Varga Galvani. This road is Via L. Galvani. It looks like you’ve entered the container port but you’re in the right place. Continue until you see a number of car transporters with lots of UK plated cars on them. The terminal building is on the left. You’ve arrived at Stazione Marittima Galvani. It’s an ochre coloured building with blue doors. The only mention of the shipping line Grandi Navi Veloci is on the letterbox. The terminal opens about 4.30pm.
This is not the glamour end of ferry terminals. There is nothing there. There is a bar/trattoria attached to the terminal but it wasn’t open. There is another bar/trattoria 100 yards up the road but that also wasn’t open. So basically you sit in your vehicle. If you want anything to eat or drink bring it with you.
When you book in you’ll be given two 2-part tickets. One for the ferry and one for your accomodation.
At about 8pm the cars/vans drive forward and are separated into Palermo and Malta bound in a holding area. At about 9.30 a guy takes your ferry ticket, rips it in half, keeps one himself and puts the other part under your windscreen wiper. Keep your eye on this piece of paper. Once you’re on board this ticket will not be checked again but you must make you sure you retrieve it as if you intend to import your vehicle into Malta under the 24 mth registration tax exemption rule you will need to present it to the ADT/Ministry of Finance. He’ll also give you a piece of paper which simply says ‘Malta’ to put on your dashboard.
Shortly after this the cars are loaded on the ferry. The ferry leaves about 10pm.
There is a self service cafeteria on board and the food is ok but expensive for what it is. It closes quite quickly after leaving port so if you want to eat get in quickly. There is a bar but this also closes early, about 11.30pm. Unless you speak Italian there is no entertainment at all, and even if you do speak Italian the only entertainment is the dubious pleasure of Italian TV. Otherwise there is nothing to do on board so bring a good book. The ferry travels about 30 miles from the coast so all you can see is sea!
On Sunday morning the cafeteria is not open so the only available breakfast is coffee and croissant from the bar. Lunch is available for about an hour and a half around midday.
The ferry arrives at Palermo, Sicily around 4pm. Passengers in transit to Malta can get off and look around. The plus as far as Palermo is concerned is that the port is right in the town and it’s a big, lively place. It’s well worth having a look and you can get some decent food here. You need to be back on the ferry about 6.30pm and the ferry sails around 8pm.
The ferry gets into Grand Harbour about 7am. It berths at the quay just beyond where the cruise liners dock. You drive straight off, there is no passport, papers check and you’re home.
The trip was very enjoyable. However I had no hold-ups at all and the weather was good and the sea calm.
The drive can be done in a day if you leave the UK on the 3.27 train but that allows for no hold-ups and very limited breaks. Total mileage Calais to Livorno is about 850 miles.
Costs for me were Eurotunnel: £53, travel kit and breakdown insurance: £63.72, ferry: €148, tolls: €144.80, overnight stay: €74, petrol: €200, eats and incidentals: €50. About €750 in total.