Getting around Puglia with or without a car – ULTIMATE GUIDE
Navigating through the enchanting landscapes and cities of the “heel of Italy’s boot” can be an experience of a lifetime. Getting around Puglia, however, requires some planning and understanding of the region’s transportation system.
This article will provide you with comprehensive insights on how to get around Puglia without a car or with it, exploring public transportation, rental options, cycling routes, taxis, and even private transfers.
I’ll also delve into the strategic locations of where to stay in Puglia for easy access to various modes of transport.
But let’s get to the point.
How to get around Puglia with a car
Hiring a car in Puglia and driving around the region presents an opportunity to explore this beautiful Italian region at your own pace.
Well, unlike public transportation, having a private vehicle offers flexibility and convenience, allowing you to stop at the many hidden gems Puglia offers, from the centuries-old olive groves to the sandy beaches lining the Salento coast.
However, driving in Puglia also comes with its own set of challenges.
For starters, road signs may not always be clear, and some rural roads can be narrow and winding.
Additionally, parking in the city centres such as Bari or Lecce can be tricky and you need to be aware of the ZTL (Limited Traffic Zones) to avoid fines.
When renting a car, do your research and compare prices from different rental companies.
Check the insurance coverage and consider any additional coverage if necessary. There are a few options for car rental insurance in Italy.
Make sure to inspect the car for any damage before driving off to avoid potential disputes when returning the car.
I have written an extensive guide on renting a car in Puglia, with all you need to know, including a few scams you want to avoid.
I personally highly suggest renting a car to experience the best of Puglia. You can see so much more with a car. I usually hire my cars from DiscoverCars, an aggregator website that compares local and global car rentals providing the best price on the market.
There are two things I love about this website. First, they rate all providers based on real customers’ feedback (a sort of AirBnb for cars), so you know you a renting from a reputable rental agency, even if with an unknown name. They also offer Full Insurance (no excess) for around 7 Euro/day, which is a bargain. Such a peace of mind.
Here below I have organised a table with the average price for renting a car. Consider that these numbers can vary widely based on how close you are to the travelling time, availability, length of the stay, etc.
(low season and specials)
|June & September Avg. Daily Cost (7 days rent)
|July & August Avg. Daily Cost (7 days rent)
|Average Daily Cost in June 1 Day rent
|Average Daily Cost in June 3 Days rent
|Average Daily Cost in June 7 Days rent
Also, as in most of Europe, also Italian drive on the right side of the road. Remember to always use seatbelts, for all passengers, and avoid using the mobile when driving.
The legal blood alcohol limit is just 0.05%, or a bit more than a glass of wine. Speed limits depend on the type of road and they go from 30/50 kmh in the towns/cities up to 130 kmh on the Hway. Speeding fines can be hefty, so stick to the limit.
Lastly, don’t miss the opportunity to plan a great Puglia road trip. There are amazing scenic drives in the region. The coastal road from Bari to Leuca offers breathtaking sea views, while the drive through the Valle d’Itria will take you past picturesque trulli houses and verdant vineyards. Whichever route you choose, remember to take your time and enjoy the journey, because in Puglia, getting there is half the fun.
How to get around Puglia without a car
In a region as picturesque and rich in history as Puglia, navigating the local transportation system is an integral part of the travel experience.
The public transportation network in Puglia is extensive and relatively reliable, connecting major cities and towns as well as some of the region’s lesser-known gems.
The backbone of Puglia’s public transportation system is its train network.
Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), the national railway company, operates high-speed trains connecting Puglia’s main cities, such as Bari, Brindisi, and Lecce, to the rest of Italy.
In addition, regional trains and the local Ferrovie del Sud Est (FSE) service connect smaller towns and rural areas.
Trains are generally reliable and punctual, with modern, comfortable interiors.
Prices vary depending on the distance and type of train, with regional trains being the most affordable option. For instance, a one-way ticket from Bari to Lecce costs around €15.
However, the train network may not cover all the areas you wish to explore.
Some coastal towns and rural areas in the Salento Peninsula, Gargano, and the Itria Valley are better served by buses.
Puglia’s regional bus network is operated by several companies, including SITA Sud, STP Bari, and Cotrap. Buses are generally less expensive than trains but can be less reliable due to traffic conditions and fewer daily runs. A bus ticket from Bari to Alberobello, for example, costs around €5.
Despite the lower cost, the bus service in Puglia can be a bit complicated for a first-time visitor. The timetables can be confusing, and delays are not uncommon.
The bus stops in smaller towns may not be well marked. You may need to purchase your ticket in advance at a local newsstand.
Here below I have organised a table with all the public and private bus/train companies providing transportation. Sometimes they overlap in the area served, other times they have a bit of a monopoly.
The biggest issue is that you may have to go through the different websites to understand the timetable and the final cost of a ticket. Moreover, these trains and buses are not usually synchronised, which means waiting time at the stations.
In a few words, you can use public transportation, but it can be confusing, especially for the first-time traveller.
|Various parts of Puglia, especially Foggia and Bari
|Foggia, Bari, San Severo, Manfredonia, Vieste, Peschici, Lucera
|Part of a national bus and coach transport company
|Apricena, Bovino, Foggia
|Family-owned company with a modern fleet of coaches
|Around Bari, northwards to Andria, Barletta and Cerignola; westwards to Matera and Gravina
|Bari, Andria, Barletta, Cerignola, Matera, Gravina
|Local services, not especially convenient for visitors
|Ferrovie del Gargano
|San Severo, Vieste, Pechici
|Regional railway company that operates bus services in addition to trains
|Ferrotramviaria/Ferrovie del Nord Barese
|Parallel to railway services between Bari and Bitonto, Andria, and Barletta
|Bari, Bitonto, Andria, Barletta
|Another regional railway company that also operates bus services
|Ferrovie Appulo Lucane
|Between Bari, Gravina, Matera, and Potenza
|Bari, Gravina, Matera, Potenza
|Regional railway company with bus services duplicating train routes
|Ferrovie del Sud Est
|Inland area between Bari and Lecce, and south of Lecce covering the “heel” of Italy
|Bari, Lecce, Ostuni, Ceglie Messapica
|Significant bus services, but not covered by the COTRAP system
|Freccialink (Italian state railways – FS)
|Intended to link main stations served by Freccia trains to important destinations beyond the Freccia network
|Bari, Lecce, Gallipoli, Otranto
|Currently, no services operating in Puglia, but may be resurrected
Moreover, if you have a Puglia itinerary of 7-10 days max, you are probably better off with a rented car, if you want to maximise your time in the region. If you are planning a much longer stay, then public transportation becomes a valid option.
Here are a few tips that may help you with public transportation.
First, always validate your ticket before boarding a train or bus to avoid fines.
If you’re planning to travel extensively by public transportation, consider getting a Puglia Rail Pass or a Puglia Artecard, which offers unlimited travel on regional trains and buses and free or discounted admission to various attractions.
Book your tickets in advance as routes can fill up quickly, especially in July and August.
Renting a car in Puglia Vs Public transportation
Here is a quick table with pros and cons of both options
|Renting a Car in Puglia
|Limited to schedules and routes
|Freedom to roam at your own pace in Puglia
|May require multiple transfers
|Private and comfortable
|More cost upfront, but potential savings if travelling in two or more people
|Can be faster, depending on the routes
|Limited late-night options
|Might not reach remote attractions
|Access to all areas of Puglia
|More carbon footprint
|No worry about parking
|Need to manage parking
|No driving stress
|Driving on unfamiliar roads can be stressful
Cycling in Puglia
Cycling in Puglia offers a slow, immersive travel experience that lets you appreciate the region’s rich landscapes, from olive groves and vineyards to quaint coastal towns and historic city centres.
One of the most popular cycling routes in Puglia is the Ciclovia dell’Acquedotto Pugliese, a 250 km cycle path following the route of the ancient aqueduct from Caposele to Santa Maria di Leuca.
Another noteworthy route is the EuroVelo 5, a part of an international network of long-distance cycling routes that crosses Puglia from Taranto to the Adriatic coast.
Puglia’s cities are also becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with Bari and Lecce leading the way with dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing services.
However, car drivers may be not as used to share the streets and roads with bike riders. Surely not as polite as you are used to back at home. Pay extreme attention in peak time
Renting a bike in the main cities and destinations is not complicated, but also not as straightforward. E-bikes are becoming more common though.
Keep in mind that summer temperatures in Puglia can be intense, well over 30°C (86°F), making cycling less enjoyable. Try cycling in the early mornings and late afternoons for the best temperature in summer.
Always wear a helmet, use sunscreen, and carry plenty of water.
Taxis and Private Transfers
While public transportation and self-drive are popular options for getting around Puglia, there are situations when a taxi or a private transfer might be more convenient.
For instance, if you’re arriving late at night, carrying heavy luggage, or travelling in a large group.
Taxis in Puglia can be found at taxi stands in city centres, airports, and train stations, or can be called via local taxi services.
Be aware that taxis in Italy use a meter, and additional charges may apply for luggage, night service, or travel on public holidays.
A taxi ride from Bari Airport to Bari city centre, for example, costs around €30.
Private transfers, on the other hand, offer a more personalized and comfortable travel experience.
They can be booked in advance, often include door-to-door service, and the cost is agreed upon beforehand, eliminating any uncertainty.
This can be particularly helpful for longer journeys, such as from Bari to Leuca, or when travelling to remote areas not well-served by public transportation.
Remember, while taxis and private transfers provide convenience and comfort, they are generally the most expensive way to travel in Puglia. Be sure to balance your budget and needs when planning your transportation in the region.
Tips for Getting Around Puglia
Getting around Puglia can be a pleasure with a little planning and some handy travel tips. Here are a few tips that will help you with travelling in this stunning region.
Plan your routes in advance: Whether you’re driving, taking a train, or cycling, plan it well in advance and book your transportation ticket or rent your car in Puglia well ahead of time, especially if you are travelling in July and August.
Use reliable online maps, but also consider getting a good old-fashioned paper map for a comprehensive view of the region.
Respect local driving rules: If you’re driving, make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road in Italy. This includes understanding ZTL areas, speed limits, and parking regulations.
Remember that Italians often drive assertively, so stay calm and patient.
Stay flexible with public transportation: Trains and buses in Puglia can be late or off-schedule.
Don’t let this stress you out; consider it part of the local charm and plan some buffer time into your travel plans.
Stay hydrated and protected from the sun: Whether you’re walking, cycling, or waiting for a bus, the Puglian sun can be strong, especially in the summer.
Always carry water and wear sun protection.
Learn some Italian phrases: While English is widely spoken in many tourist areas, knowing a few Italian phrases can be helpful, especially when using public transportation or hailing a taxi.
These phrases should help you navigate the transportation system in Puglia more effectively.
|Dov’è la stazione?
|Where is the station?
|Quanto costa il biglietto?
|How much is the ticket?
|Vorrei un biglietto per…
|I’d like a ticket to…
|Questo autobus va a…?
|Does this bus go to…?
|È libero questo posto?
|Is this seat free?
|Mi scuso, devo scendere
|Excuse me, I need to get off
|A che ora parte il treno?
|What time does the train leave?
|Dov’è la fermata dell’autobus?
|Where is the bus stop?
|Posso avere la mappa?
|Can I have a map?
|Quanto tempo ci vuole per…?
|How long does it take to…?
|È lontano da qui?
|Is it far from here?
|Dov’è il parcheggio?
|Where is the parking?
|Posso noleggiare un’auto?
|Can I rent a car?
|Dov’è l’ufficio informazioni?
|Where is the information office?
|Sono perso, può aiutarmi?
|I’m lost, can you help me?
|Quale autobus devo prendere per…?
|Which bus should I take to…?
|Qual è la prossima fermata?
|What’s the next stop?
|Questo treno va a…?
|Does this train go to…?
|Ho bisogno di un taxi
|I need a taxi
|Potrebbe mostrarmi sulla mappa?
|Could you show me on the map?
Puglia, with its wealth of historical sites, stunning coastline, and culinary delights, is a region best explored at a relaxed pace.
Whether you choose the autonomy of a rental car, the affordability of public transport, the eco-friendly nature of a bicycle, or the comfort of a taxi or private transfer, you’ll find each mode of transportation offers its unique perspective of Puglia.
In conclusion, the mode of transportation is strictly related to your budget.
Renting a car in Puglia will make your life so much easier but it is usually more expensive when travelling solo or just with your friend/partner.
By planning ahead, respecting local rules, and staying flexible, you can avoid common issues and make your trip to Puglia a truly unforgettable experience.