Sicily for the First Time! Drive??

A friend and I will be going to Sicily for the first time next year. Although we have traveled to Italy many times and are very familiar with the rail system, Sicily's public transportation doesn't seem as efficient. We are thinking of renting a car but we are not sure if we should just stick to the bus system. Since the trip is in the planning stages, we don't have an itinerary yet. Any advice on how to plan and if we would be better off rent a car would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by Anita
Philadelphia, PA, USA
331 posts

Renting a car is the more efficient choice. The main roads between cities and major tourist sites are fine. As in many old European cities, the urban streets were not designed for cars and parking will be a problem. So, when you arrive in Palermo, Siracusa, etc., you will probably want to park at your hotel and rely on walking or city bus systems to get around the urban streets. The typical tourist route basically goes around the island. For example, you could start in Taormina, Siracusa, Piazza Armerina, Agrigento, Segesta, Erice, Monreale, and Palermo.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
543 posts

My husband just spent 10 days there and said that they highways were beautiful. He did say that he was glad he rented a Smartcar because some of the city streets were exceptionally narrow! Even moreso than other places we have been in Europe. Parking was not an issue for him. Sicily is quite big so having a car that you can use on your own schedule is an advantage here.

Posted by Angelina
Chicago, Illinois, USA
73 posts

Yes, I know that's it's part of Italy but I've never driven on the mainland either. Thank you, Ed. Your info was also helpful. I looked it up on line and printed an application.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7934 posts

Application for what??? Anything on line is worthless. What you do is march yourself down to AAA with a couple of photos and a twenty dollar bill. They copy stuff down off your regular license, snatch your money, and boot you out the door.

Posted by Angelina
Chicago, Illinois, USA
73 posts

Thank you Anita (from Long Beach) your reply is also a big help. I feel better now about renting a car.

Posted by Angelina
Chicago, Illinois, USA
73 posts

Do I need to get a driver's license to drive in Sicily?

Posted by Anita
Philadelphia, PA, USA
331 posts

If you've never driven in Europe, a GPS system will help. I'd strongly suggest buying road maps or printing out maps to take with you. The Via Michelin website is useful because you can get detailed directions, including estimates of travel times, tolls, gas costs, etc. I particularly like to print out maps showing routes to our hotel in each city. Check out parking options ahead of time. Usually hotels will respond to emails asking whether they have parking available or where they recommend you leave your car. Write if you have any specific questions.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8724 posts

Do I need to get a driver's license to drive in Sicily? Italy, especially southern Italy, would not be my choice of place to learn how to drive. Yes, you must have a full valid drivers license from your home state, and show it to the rental dude (dudette) behind the counter, to any police, to any other driver in case of an accident. Each driver must also have a valid International Drivers Permit (only available at AAA and CAA in the US and Canada) to show to all the above, but perhaps the rental dude (dudette) will not ask for it. If its an International Driving (Drivers) License it is a fraud and not worth the paper you print it on - it is only a way to get your money.

Posted by Chloe
Asnieres sur Vegre, France
48 posts

Driving in Sicily is easy and a much better way to see the island than depending on public transportation. It is also nice to be able to stop if you see something interesting, which you can't do on a train. Be sure to rent your auto stateside, as it is much less expensive than renting once you get there. If you are flying into Catania, it is particularly easy to pick up your car and get out of the town, as it is on the outskirts.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2420 posts

I've visited all the places Andrea mentioned by public transportation. It's doable but you have to schedule efficiently. A car will be much more convenient, except for parking/driving in Palermo.

Posted by Janet
Colorado, USA
506 posts

There are plenty of places you can go in Sicily on public transportation. We've spent at least five weeks there doing it, as Zoe has. You really need to decide which places are important for you to visit and how much time you have before you make the decision to rent a car and spend those extra $$. You can go basically all around the perimeter of the island on the train. We took buses to get to Erice, Scopello, a mountain town north of Cefalu and on to Enna and Piazza Armerina, and a few other out-of-the-way places.

Posted by Ron
Cesena, Italy
755 posts

I would opt for a car. Driving in Sicily was easy. You do need an IDP as the others mentioned. The only two places I would recommend not driving in is Palermo and Catania unless you just want a white knuckle experience. The autostrada on the western half is free and pretty much uncrowded with traffic. The only place we had trouble finding parking was in Palermo. Even Catania was pretty easy as far as that. I would say if you could do an open jaw trip and start at either Palermo/Catania and end at the other you could avoid the car in those two as most everything you'll want to see is in walking distance of each other.

Posted by Jennifer
Motta Sant'Anastasia
17 posts

I live in Sicily and I would say that it would be much easier to have a car. I would recommend you get the smallest car that will work for you. Some roads in the towns can be quite narrow and a smaller car will also make parking easier.