Mapping in Malta

Posted by b-unicycling on 2/10/2024

I’m just back from a holiday in Malta where I obviously mapped a lot. I made it to #3 in number of changesets in the country which was not terribly difficult.

Something went wrong with my SIM card as soon as I landed, so I had no mobile internet, but I had downloaded Malta on OSMAnd beforehand, so I was good. And there is free wifi on public transport which I availed of excessively.

I added and modified all kinds of things: post boxes (also updated collection times which seems to have changed generally on the island of Malta to Mo-Sa 7:00), defibrillators, ferry terminals, shops, museums, bus stops, charging points, and because it’s me, jostle stones, urine deflectors and drawbar slots. In Mdina, I could actually see the jostle stones in action! I was so excited, I made a little Short for Youtube, but that corner didn’t have a guard stone, but was chamfered and had a metal protector: YouTube Link

Looking at neis-one for Malta and looking up some of the mappers, it seems that Malta is mostly mapped by tourists and these days. You can tell (at least it was my impression) that by what is mapped as well: Areas that are frequented by tourists are mapped much better (I added some post boxes that I spotted from the bus going through areas where tourists don’t get off the bus). Things that are of interest to tourists are mapped, like museums, hotels, bars, beaches and shops whose brands are known globally.

Even before I had set off, I had noticed many hiking trails mapped. I only tried out one heritage trail, and found it poorly signposted. If I hadn’t had the route marked out on OSMAnd, I wouldn’t have known where to go, I think. I noticed some bits missing in the relation and contacted the original mapper who turned out also to be a German tourist. I added some of the other features along the trail. I don’t know who mapped the other trails; I had initially thought that maybe the tourism department of Malta had done it, but I haven’t looked into it.

I also tried to map as many information boards as possibly, but I got a bit lazy in adding all the inscriptions, but I also mapillaried most of them or photographed them for Wikimedia, so if anyone fancies adding more information, they could do that. In some locations like the Ta’ Kola Windmill, I even went as far as to map the indoor corridors. I also went a bit mad in the Ġgantija Neolithic Temple with the information boards.

The bus network seems perfectly mapped, apart from some bus stops maybe being a few meters off the actual location, but not so far that you couldn’t see the bus stop from its mapped location. That was very helpful too.

I found it interesting to see how dedicated tourists made such a difference to the map of Malta. It’s maybe also more likely that certain features will get updated on a regular basis, because a visitor might find that a shop has closed or a feature has moved etc rather than a local going on a survey ever so often to check if anything has changed. And it will be mostly the tourists using the map, because the locals know where their next post box is etc.