Last updated on June 27, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Puglia

Is it Worth Hiring a Car in Puglia?

Yes, hiring a car in Puglia can significantly enhance your travel experience by providing the flexibility to explore this beautiful region at your own pace.

However, it also depends on the trip you have in mind.

That is why besides all the advantages and drawbacks to hiring a car in Puglia, in this article I have also added 5 interesting case scenarios with cost examples too that will help you to take a final decision.

Understanding Puglia’s Geographical Layout

Puglia, the “heel” of Italy’s “boot,” is a charming region known for its diverse landscapes, from the sun-kissed coastline to the rolling hills covered with vineyards and olive groves.

The region’s layout, with cities like Bari and Lecce, small coastal towns, and rural countryside, suggests that some form of personal transportation is beneficial.

Puglia is a narrow, however very long (around 500 km), region of Italy. Driving your rented car from south to north, without stops will take around 6 hours.

Map of the main destinations I suggest visiting in Puglia
Map of the main destinations I suggest visiting in Puglia

Pros of Hiring a Car in Puglia

Convenience and Flexibility: A rental car in Puglia provides the freedom to tailor your itinerary according to your interests and pace. You can spontaneously stop at enticing spots and spend more time at places you love.

Off-the-beaten-path destinations: Puglia is rich with less explored towns and landscapes that public transportation might not reach. With a car, you can decide where to stay in Puglia as a base and then discover hidden gems like the historic town of Ostuni, the picturesque Polignano a Mare, or the ancient olive groves of Salento.

Comfort and Privacy: Having your vehicle means you can travel comfortably without worrying about crowded buses or trains. You can also store your belongings securely in your car.

Ability to carry luggage or purchases: If you’re planning on shopping or moving accommodations frequently, or doing a great Puglia road trip, a car can be extremely useful for transporting your purchases or luggage.

I usually rent my cars from DiscoverCars, a great car aggregator that works similarly to AirBnb, together with the customers, that leave their own feedback on the rental agencies.

In this way, you can find the best price with the best quality (I usually book from companies that rate at least 7/10) and no scams.

Cons of Hiring a Car in Puglia

Costs: Rental fees, insurance, fuel, and parking charges can add up, making car hire a more expensive option compared to public transportation.

Driving: It can always be challenging driving in a foreign country, especially if you do not speak the local language. It must be said that the locals in Puglia are very easygoing.

Parking: It can be challenging in cities like Bari, Brindisi and Lecce. Less so in the smaller towns. Download the EasyParking App for pay in the blue areas.

Pay you parking at the station or download the EasyPark App to save money
Pay you parking at the station or download the EasyPark App to save money

Alternatives to Hiring a Car in Puglia

Public transportation in Puglia is relatively reliable and can take you to most major towns and cities. Buses and trains can be an economical alternative, although they might not offer the same level of convenience and flexibility as a rental car.

Taxis and ride-sharing services are available, especially in larger cities like Bari and Lecce. However, these can become expensive for longer journeys or regular use.

Bike or scooter rentals are popular in many coastal towns and can be a fun way to explore local areas.

Guided tours can provide a stress-free way to see the sights, often including transport, guides, and entry fees in the cost.

Alberobello - Street view of the typical Trulli - Puglia
Alberobello – Street view of the typical Trulli – Puglia

Case Studies: When is it Worth Hiring a Car?

Families

Puglia offers a host of family-friendly activities, from exploring the old town of Lecce to spending a day on the sandy beaches of Salento.

Hiring a car provides the flexibility to accommodate everyone’s needs and enjoy a personalized Puglia itinerary.

For instance, a family of four visiting the Castellana Caves (a must-see attraction) would have the convenience of setting their own departure time and avoiding crowded public buses.

Cost-wise, a mid-sized car rental can cost around €50 per day.

In comparison, a round trip for a family of four using public transport (bus and train) from Bari could reach €60, plus the inconvenience of adhering to the bus schedule.

Time-wise, the car journey would be about 1 hour, whereas public transport could take up to 2 hours or more, depending on connections.

Solo Travelers

Solo travellers seeking adventure and flexibility may find hiring a car in Puglia a beneficial option.

Imagine a solo trip from Bari to Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The convenience of stopping whenever you want to capture a picture or explore a small village is priceless.

The cost of a compact car rental can be around €35 per day. A round-trip bus ticket is around €10.

However, the bus journey is much longer (around 2 hours), while the car takes just around 1 hour.

For a solo traveller on a budget, I suggest public transportation, otherwise the increased cost may be justified by the added flexibility and time-saving.

Alberobello - the characteristic Trulli in Puglia
Alberobello – the characteristic Trulli in Puglia

Couples

For couples seeking a romantic getaway, Puglia offers idyllic coastal drives and charming hilltop towns.

A drive from Lecce to Otranto offers stunning coastal views that public transport can’t provide.

Additionally, having a car allows for spontaneous detours to secluded beaches or hidden local trattorias.

A daily car rental could cost around €40, while a round-trip train ticket for two from Lecce to Otranto is around €14.

Travelling by car would take about 40 minutes. The train trip would be much longer, at least double as much, but delays are not as unusual.

The freedom and flexibility of having a car may well be worth the small extra cost for couples.

Food and Wine Lovers

Puglia is renowned for its unique culinary offerings and world-class vineyards.

Hiring a car can allow food and wine enthusiasts to chart their gastronomic adventures at their own pace.

Consider a culinary tour from Bari to the Salento region, known for its olive oil and wine.

The freedom to visit vineyards, stop at local markets, and discover off-the-beaten-path eateries is a huge advantage.

A car rental might cost about €45 per day. In contrast, a guided food and wine tour might cost around €100 per person (but it would be guided, which is its advantage), and public transport across various locations may be inconvenient or unreliable.

Time-wise, the car journey from Bari to a vineyard in Salento could take about 2 hours while coordinating public transport could take upwards of 3 hours.

Thus, the convenience and flexibility of a car rental could enhance the overall experience and be worth the added cost.

Polignano a Mare - Sunset at Cala Paura gulf with Bastione di Santo Stefano - Puglia
Polignano a Mare – Sunset at Cala Paura gulf with Bastione di Santo Stefano – Puglia

In Conclusion: Weigh Your Options

The choice to rent a car in Puglia ultimately depends on your travel style, budget, and what you want to get out of your trip.

It’s worth weighing the pros and cons, considering the alternatives, and thinking about which scenarios apply to you.

A combination of transport methods might even be the best approach.

For instance, you could use public transport in larger cities where parking and traffic are challenges and hire a car for exploring the countryside or smaller towns.

Puglia is a region full of charm, history, and natural beauty, waiting to be explored. Whether you decide to hire a car or not, you’re sure to have an unforgettable journey.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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