Malta was the 22nd European country that I visited with my dog, just over a year after we arrived in Europe and when we were in need of some sunshine and warmth at the end of winter. Despite being part of the European Union, Malta is one of the trickier countries in Europe to travel to with a dog.
The night before our flight, I was a bit worried (both because it would be my dog’s first flight in 10 months and there was a potential hiccup with our paperwork), but it all ended up going quite smoothly, luckily! Here’s the steps we went through to travel to Malta with our dog.
Paperwork for Travelling to Malta with a Dog
Just like other European Union countries, to travel to Malta with your dog they’ll require an EU pet passport (or other paperwork from your country of origin), showing your dog’s microchip number and proof of rabies vaccination. Additionally, Malta is one of the countries that also requires your dog to be wormed by a vet, between five days and 24 hours before arriving in the country.
Then there’s an extra special step just for Malta. Malta also requires you to notify them of the arrival of your pet, at least three working days before arrival. This is so your pet is inspected on arrival by a vet (at the airport or ferry terminal.) The form is online. The form requires your arrival details (flight or ferry), microchip number, rabies and worming dates. Once submitted, you receive an email with a number to go back and edit details if required.
Dog-Friendly Transport Options to Malta
Taking the Ferry from Sicily to Malta with a Dog
Our initial plan to travel to Malta with our dog from Sicily was to take the ferry operated by Virtu Ferries. The ferry crossing only takes a couple of hours and there are multiple options for pets available, as detailed here.
If you’re travelling with a car, you can leave your pets in your car with the window open. Your first two pets travel for free, then €12 for each subsequent pet.
Alternatively, your pets can travel in the “pet cabin”, an air-conditioned and insulated room located on the vehicle deck with individual cages for pets. There is a charge of €25.
Foot passengers also have the option with small pets of transporting them on the outside deck (no pets are allowed inside the passenger saloon or other passenger common areas). This is restricted to small pets up to 9kg, in a cage up to 48cm x 35cm x 35cm. You must remain with your pet, and this option is not available during inclement weather. There is an €18 charge for this option.
However, we encountered the issue that during winter the ferry only runs from Pozzallo, a small town on the southern coast of Sicily, where there are no hire car offices (to drop off a hire car) or easy public transport connections. The location is fine if you’re travelling with your car, but otherwise a big difficulty. There are a few ferry services that connect with a VirtuFerries-run coach service from the large city of Catania, but not on the days we were considering crossing. There is also no information online on whether dogs are allowed on the coach.
During summer time, this is not an issue, with some longer ferry services operating from Catania. Note however that the ferry is also quite expensive when it comes to human fares. Even during the off-peak season, a one-way fare for adults is €67, rising to €130 during late July and August.
Flying to Malta with a Dog
We ended up choosing to fly to Malta with our dog with AirMalta. AirMalta is a very pet-friendly airline, allowing pets to fly in the cabin, as well as in the hold as checked baggage or as cargo. For pets in the cabin, they have a generous weight allowance of up to 10kg including carrier bag, although the maximum dimensions of the carrier are a small 40 cm x 34 cm x 20 cm. There is a flat fee of €70, regardless of flight duration.
We booked to fly out of Catania Airport, where we could easily pick-up and drop-off a hire car for our stay on Sicily. Its a very short flight from Catania to Malta: it was scheduled to take 40 minutes, but in reality we spent under half an hour in the hour! While the ticket for our dog was more expensive, tickets for humans were cheaper.
Note that bookings for pets on AirMalta can’t be done online, instead you need to call up to book (which we did immediately after booking our own tickets). Additionally, AirMalta states in their pet policy that your pet should have a health check from a vet noted in their passport within three days of the flight.
(One side note for UK readers: When flying out of the UK, AirMalta allows your dog to fly in the cabin, just not when returning to the UK.)
Our Adventure Visiting a Vet in Sicily
The next step to organise was a visit to the vet in Sicily, which would be extra tricky as neither my husband or I speak more than a smattering of Italian. We’d previously visited vets in Paris and Nuremberg, where a quick Google search for English speaking vets turned up plenty of options, but a similar search didn’t turn up anything on all of Sicily…
Complicating things, we only had a narrow window of time to visit the vet. Our dog needed the worming treatment between 5 days and 24 hours before the flight. And the health check for the AirMalta flight was required within 3 days of the flight. Meaning, the vet visit needed to be done within a 48 hour window.
And as our flight was on a Tuesday at 1:30pm, that meant from Saturday 1:30pm to Monday 1:30pm. Preferably not on the Monday morning, as we wanted to do a trip up Mt Etna that day. Meaning, ideally on Sunday or else the Saturday afternoon! And as expected, not many vets in Sicily are open on a Sunday…
I ended up just searching on Google Maps for vets which listed opening hours and were open on Sunday, in between the town of Milazzo and the city of Catania (the area we would be travelling through that Sunday). I found a 24-hour clinic in Catania with an email address and sent an email (prepared with Google Translate), but didn’t receive a reply. The reviews also weren’t that great, so I cajoled my husband into calling a vet near Milazzo. Success: appointment made with our pre-prepared Italian phrases and a little English!
I hoped when arriving at the vet that he would be able to speak some English, but that wasn’t the case. He also didn’t seem overly familiar with the EU Pet Passport. He was working in a small town, not a big city, I guess.
He gave our dog the worming tablet and then filled in the relevant section. But when we said we needed the health check filled out, he didn’t seem to understand what we needed (and we didn’t have enough reception to use Google Translate on our phones), so he wrote a letter instead. We paid the bill (just €30) and hoped it was all good.
Our Experience Flying and Arriving in Malta
The night before our flight, I started to worry. As well as the fact the health check wasn’t actually written in the passport (and could be an issue for either the flight or our arrival in Malta), I also suspected that our dog’s carrier bag was probably a touch larger than the requirements specified by AirMalta. Not that I could check, as I didn’t have a ruler.
When booking, the lady had asked the measurements, and my husband said he didn’t know but we’d used it for flying before, so just said it was the maximum. Although it is soft, so could be squished down, if necessary – but only if we got past the check-in desk!
Also, I’d written down that it might cost €50 for the vet inspection on arrival in Malta, but now I couldn’t find anything about a fee.
The next day, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. At the check-in counter, the lady at asked for our pet’s passport and quickly glanced at it. (I don’t think she even looked for the health check I had worried over, I think she just made sure our dog had one.) And just like the last time we flew in Europe with our dog in the cabin, she barely glanced at him in the bag, didn’t check the size or weight. We were through!
After a final lunch of arancini and cannoli, it was then time for boarding. Our dog’s carrier bag fitted under the seat, no problems. (Although given the lack of foot space left for my husband, he was glad it was just a quick flight).
When we arrived at the airport in Malta, we headed for the baggage carousel, as we’d checked in luggage. While waiting for it to appear, a man approached us with an official badge. He was the vet, and while I waited for the luggage, my husband went off with the vet.
He checked our dog’s microchip, looked at the pet passport and the letter from the vet, didn’t charge a fee, and it was all over in a couple of minutes. No issues about the separate letter, rather than the health check in the passport. It was over, and we were officially in Malta with our dog!
My recommendation for if you’re travelling to Malta with a dog? Yes, the paperwork can be a worry. But make sure you complete all the requirements, especially the worming, and it should all go smoothly, just like it did for us.
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