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Travel from Malta to Sicily – Ryanair really does seem to be the best option

We are extremely sceptical of Ryanair at Maltapoints. The combination of punitive excess charges if you get things slightly wrong, the painful process of deselecting insurance, new suitcases, airport buses, hotels etc when you book and Michael O’Leary by himself is enough to make a number of people vow never to fly with them, and we can largely sympathise with this view.

Plus, of course, you don’t earn any frequent flyer points with Ryanair. So any recommendation of it is largely made through clenched teeth.

However, having looked at the various options time and time again, it really does appear that Ryanair is consistently, and by some way, the best value option for travel to Sicily from Malta.

This is in large part down to three things:

  1. Air Malta’s continued failure to offer particularly good value flights on this 40 minute journey;
  2. Virtu ferries comically high prices; and
  3. the regular “bargain” fares Ryanair offers, if you book far enough in advance (or keep checking back to see if offers are available).

To give some examples, a peak-season weekend in August (Fri 9th to Sunday 11th) will cost the following for one adult return:

  • Air Malta to Catania: €179.83
  • Virtu ferries to Pozzallo (no car): €146
  • Ryanair to Trapani: €96.98

Travel outside of peak season and a similar pattern occurs. Here are the adult return prices for a weekend in October (Fri 4th to Sunday 6th):

  • Air Malta: €98.83
  • Virtu ferries: €125
  • Ryanair: €56.98

Now the relative values of those will of course depend on where exactly you need to go in Sicily, but if your basic requirement is “a weekend in Sicily”, then Ryanair clearly represents the best value option (and bear in mind that Trapani is only an hour’s drive from Palermo: slightly closer than Pozzallo is to Catania). It will require another €50 on Ryanair if you check in a bag, but I’d suggest you can do a weekend in Sicily on 10kg hand luggage, in any event.

But I want the car…

This is many people’s justification for taking Virtu ferries. However, it’s an extra €189 to ship that over. Given that you can hire cars in Sicily for as little as €15 a day, there’s simply no reason to spend this much extra.

Obviously if you’re going over to Sicily to stock up on Ikea furniture, wholesale food or similar, then taking your car over makes economic sense, but the focus here is on pure holiday travel.

But I love taking the ferry…

Again, this is another reason for taking Virtu ferries that until its most recent price hike (on its already expensive prices) I couldn’t really argue with. Ignoring the bun-fight at the end to get off, the catamaran to Sicily is relaxed, comfortable and scenic.

However, prices are now so high that unless you are a hardened catamaran enthusiast, it is extremely difficult to justify taking the two hour ferry journey (when one compares it to the cost of the 40 minute flight plus car hire). If a family of 2 adults and 2 (14+) children takes a car to Pozzallo for the above weekend in August, it will cost a staggering €745 return. No matter how pleasant the journey, it will be hard to relax fully into it if you keep reminding yourself you’ve paid €745 to cross a small stretch of water.

So in conclusion, before you book with Air Malta, and certainly before you book with Virtu ferries, give some thought to the Ryanair plus car hire option. It may well be that it saves you a fortune, even if you do have to compromise a principle or two.

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