Driving from UK to Malta via Livorno

[Editor’s note: This piece was written by Melby, one of our Malta forum supporters. He has kindly given his permission for us to reproduce it here.]

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 the 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 comprehensive when driving in Europe. I also arranged for my local Malta insurance to start at 00:01 on the Monday I landed in Malta.

You need a warning triangle, spare set of bulbs, fluorescent safety vest and headlight deflectors when driving on the Continent. I ordered the European Travel Kit from the AA (cost £27.99). An advantage of this is that it also gives a discount on the AA’s European Breakdown Cover (£35.73).

For the Channel crossing 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). Ferry sailings are every Saturday at 22:00. I booked a berth in a 4-berth cabin. In winter 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 then. However, if you do find you’re sharing 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 01:45 on Friday morning, eventually ending up on the M20 at Junction 11a, the exit for the Channel Tunnel. I boarded the 03:27 train and arrived in Calais about 30 mins later. Eurotunnel will give you a ticket to hang from the rear windscreen. If you are intending to import your vehicle into Malta under the 24-month registration tax exemption rule it is important that you retain this ticket together with your internet booking confirmation. 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.

The French motorway system is excellent. The road surfaces are uniformly good. The speed limit is 130 km/h (81 mph), 110 km/h (68 mph) in the wet. Most drivers keep reasonably close to the speed limit.

Petrol is very expensive in France. At the time of driving it was between €1.55 and 1.60 per litre.

French motorways are well provided for in terms of service areas. Full service areas, known as aires, occur at regular intervals and smaller areas known as aires de repos, which are off-road parking areas, are very frequent. All are always clearly indicated in advance with standard pictograms. Note that there are very few hotels on the French motorway system.

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, Genève, Besançon, Dole).

Head towards A40/E21/E62 (Milan, Annecy, Genève, 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 15:00. The cost for the Mont Blanc tunnel is €35.10.

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 km/h), 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 slowcoach. 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 17:30 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 Genova. 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 Genova, 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 weren’t taking a break at Genova you would go 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 Livorno 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 as if 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 at about 16:30.

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 accommodation.

At about 20:00 the cars/vans drive forward and are separated into Palermo and Malta-bound in a holding area. At about 21:30 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 sure you retrieve it as if you intend to import your vehicle into Malta under the 24-month 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 to put on your dashboard which simply says “Malta”.

Shortly after this the cars are loaded on the ferry. The ferry leaves at about 22:00.

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 23:30. 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 16:00. 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 18:30pm and the ferry sails at around 20:00.

The ferry gets into Grand Harbour about 07:00. 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 03:27 train, but that allows for no hold-ups and very limited breaks. Total mileage from 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.

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39 thoughts on “Driving from UK to Malta via Livorno

  1. A very helpful article as I am planning to do the exact same trip myself in April.How is payment taken for the toll roads in France and Italy?

  2. A very helpful article as I am planning to do the exact same trip myself in Feb 2012.
    How is payment taken for the toll roads in France and Italy, what was your Total Miles, I am leaving From Yorkshire.

  3. Thank You for your article. I’m hopefully doing this in April / May aswel 🙂 .. how long did it take you?

  4. Glad you all found it useful.

    All the tolls can be paid by cash or credit card. Note that payment from the card is automatic and doesn’t require a PIN. This can be a bit unsettling at first. Also remember that the machines and booths are designed for left hand drive vehicles so if like me you are a lone driver you have to get out of the vehicle and walk round to the machine. Some of the drivers behind you are not always appreciative of the delay!

    Total mileage from Calais to Livorno was 850 miles. You’ll have to add your mileage from your UK origin point.

    The trip can easily be done in 2 days.

  5. Many thanks for this information, are there any Pitfalls to look out for, on my travel.

  6. Just a mention about fuel prices in France. We lived in France for the seven years before we moved to Malta in October 2010. The French fuel price albeit now much more pricey than last year does INCLUDE road tax. I know that this is of no benefit to non-French residents but for those who live in France, there was no separate road tax bill and so much fairer to road users.

    We too noticed the immediate drop in standards re the Italian roads and drivers.

    Keep your ferry tickets as proof of when you arrive in Malta re all sorts of official requirements.

  7. I have never driven the “wrong” side of the road how difficult is it? and what is the worst part, I am dreading roundabouts.

  8. I’d say that generally it’s not that bad, but there are a few pitfalls.

    Overtaking on a single carriageway is problematic if you’re in a right-hand drive vehicle – you have to hang back a bit further than you might otherwise do and move out a little to get a good clear view ahead, and be prepared to move back in sharpish if you see something once you have that clear view.

    The other thing is to remember that you should be on the right-hand side of the road – easy enough when there’s other traffic around, but it can be tricky if you’re pulling out on to a quiet road from, say, a petrol station.

    Roundabouts aren’t generally as common on the Continent as they are in the UK and so tend to be very clearly signposted – I remember one largish one in Germany which I used several times before realising that it was simply a roundabout, after which it became much easier! French ones became simpler once they switched to the UK priority rule that traffic already on the roundabout has priority.

    Good luck, anyway! 🙂

  9. thanks for this wonderful article. We are doing the same trip at the end of August (to france via ferry not eurostar tho). I was worried about getting on the Ferry at Livorno cos I read somewhere that it is chaos and was going to email the agent we got the ferry tickets from to ask for advice – but it has all been answered here. We’re planning to do this trip in a 2-vehicle convoy – 2 drivers plus a 5 year old. Because we have our daughter will us we are planning to take it slowly – 6 days to travel down through france and italy staying at camp sites on the way (one of our vehicles is our beloved ’58 VW splitty!).

    Again, many thanks and gratitude for the benefit of your experiences Melby!!

  10. Hi

    Very interesting article. Thanks. Do you mind guiding me (and maybe it will help some others too) as regards to what documents are required to buy a car from a uk dealer and importing it to Malta. Which is the best way to pay the dealer? What documents are needed? Which documents you need once in Malta to register car?

  11. fantastic blogg told me everything i need to know thank you so much im leaving 1st if july with my little girl cat and birds [much cheaper to ship pets yourself]im so excited but very nervous about driving on the so called wrong side of the road but you have re assured me there also -very very helpfull thanks

  12. Hi All

    Has any one done tha A road, away from the motorway, when i googled there seem a lot of roundabouts, and busy area’s.
    Any Nice places to stay, as i would like to make it a weeks trip from Uk..

    Some people have said to use motorway its quick and easy..

  13. A very interesting and informative article, especiallly, for me, the section on driving in Italy, which I shall be doing in a few weeks.
    As for the French roads (I have lived in France for nearly 20 years), driving on the Autoroutes is very easy – they are much less busy than British motorways. They are also well signed, and the service areas rather cleaner. Food is also generally excellent, although a little on the pricey side. Fuel is more expensive than off the autoroute, but often there are signs indicating how far off the autoroute you may find ‘normal’ supplies. If possible always buy your fuel at any major supermarket, as they are always cheapest. The Auchan chain usually sells the cheapest fuel in France – and has the longest queues.
    The A roads (actually labelled N roads, for Route Nationale) are also excellent, and much better maintained than equivalent British A roads – very few potholes, and lane lines usuually clearly marked and maintained. There are emergency phone points at approx 2km intervals on most of the network, and it is recommended that you use these rather than your mobile to call for assistance, as your position will be much more easily pin-pointed – and the French resue services, operated by local franchised garages, are quick and efficient, and have to comply with a set scale of charges. I have broken down several times in my elderly cars, and the service I have received has always been excellent. Even the gendarmes have been helpful.
    Similarly, if you break down on the autoroute, use the phone points, not your mobile to summon assistance, even if this is to call for your UK-purchased service – the local emergency network service will do this for you (some basic French is useful, as not many of the operators, especially at night, speak English). The three autoroute operators all maintain video surveillance over their roads, and you will usually find a motoway patrol van arrives first, and will protect you from following traffic. He may also help you with basic repairs, like changing a wheel or providing spare fuel. Don’t attempt to tip him (it’s usually a him), as he is not allowed to accept money, and if he gets back to base with additional cash, he is liable to be sacked. It’s a much better system than in the UK.
    On a safety note, whatever the standard of road, always leave the vehicle and shelter behind the crash barrier. As a slight difference to previous advice, you must carry two warning triangles in France, and a high-viz waistcoat for each passenger space in the car. These must be within reach in the car, and put on before you get out, so no stashing them away in the boot.
    If you have driven before in France, but not recently, you need to know that, in an attempt to save itself money, the French Government has handed back to local authorities many of the former N roads, so maintenance standards are slipping. The roads have also had to be re-numbered as D (Departmetal) roads, so an up-to-date map or atlas is essential. I find the Michelin National maps 721 (France) and 726 (Route Planning France, which gives distances and driving times) good value at 4€30 each in France, and they should be available at good UK stationers.
    I have friends who regularly do the trip across France, avoiding all autoroutes, and find it very easy. Personally, I always use the autoroutes, and find the reduction in driving time and stress is worth the additional costs.
    As for hotels, assuming you just want to have a meal and flop for the night, there are any number of cheap chains, often with premises very close to autoroute exits. If you are travelling in peak season (eg red or black weekends), you will need to book in advance, otherwise it is usually possible to find a bed without too much difficulty – I have only had to sleep in my car once in all the years I have been travelling to and from the UK. All of the major chains will send you their directories on request, or you can collect them from the entrances to the first hotel complex you encounter en route.
    Note that most budget hotels and service stations will operate with UK Mastercard and Visa, but few machines will accept Amex.
    Also when travelling in France, you need to remember that the French eat at closely defined times. Lunch is taken at noon, and if you arrive after 13H30 you may find that the hot service has finished, even on autoroutes. The evening meal is available from about 18H30, but you may not be welcomed if you try and order after 21H00. From about 22H00 service stations are more or less dead, and the budget hotel chains will only be available via credit card entry systems, although Camanile, Ibis, Novotel and the like have 24 hour staffing – and prices which reflect this.

    Now, can anyone provide me with similar information on what I might expect on Italian motorways?

  14. I’ve been looking for ages to find a way to drive over to Malta – my partner, me and our 3 cats are moving over in Jan/Feb 2011 and we want to drive cos “shipping” the cats is exorbitant! This blog has been an absolute godsend!
    Can anyone shed any light on what happens if taking pets across from Livorno to Valletta? They all have thier passports and it’s been well over the 6 month waiting stage to allow them into Malta. Do we need to do anything at Valetta or simply drive off the ferry with them sightseeing in the back?
    Also we are planning to use a “people carrier” type vehicle to travel in (we’ll freight ship anything that won’t fit into the car). Does the ferry fare go up depending on the size of the car?
    Solooking forward to geting threr – just waiting to sell our house and say Happy New Year to the folks then we’ll be on our way!

  15. we are looking to do this trip mid sept, is that ‘high season@ would we need to pre-book hotels?
    also re food, are supermarkets signposted on motorways ( sounds stupid but never driven in france/italy) for food stock up and petrol or is there a website that tells you.

    on the ferry can you go back and forth to your car or is it parked up for trip?

  16. I am trying to Book a Ferry From Genoa or Livorno to Malta In Feb 2012, But I have been advised there will be no crossing in 2012 by the ferry companys, are there Any others routes out there.

  17. The Livorno – Palermo – Valletta route was changed on 22/10/2011 to Genoa – Palermo – Valletta. However I understand that after the 17/12/2011 sailing the shipping line, GNV, has decided to limit the Palermo – Valletta leg to cargo transport only, so effectively there is no passenger through route from Genoa to Valletta. I don’t know if this is only temporary, or if the Livorno route is to be re-instated.

    You can of course still take the ferry to Palermo and then drive across Sicily to Pozzallo and pick up the catamaran (Virtu Ferries) to Valletta.

  18. Thanks Melby,
    for your help, its been a great help..
    I google a route from Port to port, but it seems to take me, on the out skirts of the Island, is there a better route you may know, its a shame i can not get one boat from the north of england to Malta, never mind it will be good Sight seeing, and a few Pictures..

  19. Dean, the best route is the A19 motorway to Catania and then south to Pozzallo via Siracusa. However you’re going to have stay overnight in Sicily as the Genoa ferry gets into Palermo about 6.30pm and the evening catamaran from Pozzallo usually leaves at 7.30pm. There is currently a morning crossing at 9.15 on Wednesdays and Fridays. The drive across Sicily is about 200 miles, of which 180 miles is motorway and it will take at least 3.5 hours. Look at viamichelin for detailed route instructions.

    You’ll enjoy the drive, especially through the Italian side of the Alps and across Sicily you’ve got Mt Etna to look forward to.

    There are alternative routes, driving all the way down Italy. Look at the specific Malta forum for other people’s tips and experiences.

  20. Hi Melby

    Thanks for all the information, more Question if you don’t mind. what is Base quota for, the ferry company dont seem to answer that Q plus is it best to book with them direct, as there web site is not very friendly. There Base Quota seems to change every time I look up Prices..

  21. Dear Sir, Madame
    My father past away last February and i wish to bring his car down to Malta. The car is presently in our house in Busan o Canavese in the province of Torino. It is a 10 year old Lancia Y10, of sentimental value. I shall be in Busano from the 17th January 2012 for five days. Can you please suggest what other alternative other than driving the car down myself ? Can i freight it down ?
    thanks and best regards

  22. Great info.

    We are looking at driving from the UK to Malta as well in July .
    is the ferry you used the only one that you can take to Malta?

  23. Very good and useful at time of writing, I have even used this route myself. However, when trying to make same trip again in June 2012, Grand Navi are no longer operating this route. In fact they now only do Sicily to Valletta and I am having problems finding another route.

  24. Only discovered this website recently, great article. Thanks for taking the trouble. I Love Malta and am considering doing this journey in 2014.

    Will now check in to this site on a regular basis. !

  25. Hi Mike S, read your blog on travelling to Malta this year, when are you thinking of travelling, as I may be travelling over this month if you want to share trip. Also if anyone has recent knowledge of doing this trip, any information will be very useful. Thanks in Advance, Linda :0)

  26. What a great article written by Melby and we are doing this journey this summer. Anyone have anything else to offer? has the Livorno ferry to Malta been reinstated yet? If not, drive through Sicily sounds wonderful.
    We are also taking 3 dogs so has anyone experience of having dogs on one of the ferries?
    Any help and advice will be greatly appreciated.

  27. what is the current connection between Italy and Malta by ferry apart from Pozzallo – Catania?

  28. I am about to do the same journey from York to Xemxija in a mini with a greyhound Yes ok stop laughing. Any body travelled this route in a good car with dogs?
    I intend travelling 3rd October this year any help wold be most helpful.

  29. Hi George
    Just done the trip, Taunton-Gozo-Taunton, with dog. What would you like to know ?



  30. hi I am also planning this trip but to end up on Gozo and doing this on a motorcycle can you tell me how long the ferry trip is in total

    many thanks

  31. Hi Alex

    Thanks for the post, what was your total travel time and route? cost if you dont mind as well.
    Paperwork was it easy enough to get the dog here?

    My Malta Number is 99710072 if your here already.

  32. Hi Alex. I would love to speak to you about your trip last year as we are looking at driving to Malta with 2 dogs and 2 cars. When you have a moment could you email me at ewilliam5@hotmail.co.uk and I will send you some questions over as I feel very daunted by this journey at the moment, especially the ferry crossing. Many Thanks Liz

  33. Hi there, we are looking to do this journey in July 2016 and I was checking ferry prices etc. am struggling to find the ferry from Sicily to Malta for some reason and not sure how we complete the move.

    We are going to be bringing a Van with some of our stuff as well and it will be a round trip to Ireland. Just costing it all up before we decide the best way to get across as we might end up selling car and flying!

    All so confusing right now 🙂

    Many thanks

  34. Exciting Stuff…..Glad Im not the only one who is bonkers enough to attempt this trip , with 2 (large)dogs.

    We will be going for a month or so around August

    Should be a breeze, took wife and 5 kids to Israel (via italy, Greece and Cyprus) end of last century in a Rover Montego, before there was so much information on the inter web. sometimes there can be so much information we get paralysed

  35. Hi Melby, is it still possible to drive to Malta, I am planning to go next April. I don’t want to be stuck in Italy.

    I loved your article it is very helpful giving all the routes and costs, I am aware that they have gone up since you wrote your article but I am allowing for that.

    Best regards

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