Last updated on June 6, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

Is it worth renting a car in Sicily? [with 3 examples]

Is it worth renting a car in Sicily?

As with many travel decisions, the answer depends on various factors such as your itinerary, the kind of experiences you seek, the budget and the number of people you are travelling with.

Exploring the enchanting island of Sicily, the largest in the Mediterranean, can be a fantastic adventure after all.

I have recently rented a car for a month to travel with my family and our 9-year-old kid and we had a blast. Besides, we have saved some money compared to public transportation because we shared the renting and running costs between all of us.

You can always find surprising cars on sale in Taormina
You can always find surprising cars on sale in Taormina

All you need to consider to answer “Is it worth renting a car in Sicily?”

Perhaps the most significant advantage of renting a car in Sicily is the independence it affords.

You can get around Sicily with both public transportation and a car.

However, with your own vehicle, you can create a personalized itinerary of Sicily, decide your own pace, and make spontaneous detours.

Sicily is packed with hidden gems that you can discover at leisure, from serene beaches and ancient ruins to charming hilltop towns and the stunning scenic drives of Sicily.

Public transportation and organised tours cover most of the popular attractions of Sicily. For example, it’s easy to organise a Mount Etna Tour.

However, they rarely arrive at less-known destinations and little gems. I thinking here of the Salt Pans near Marsala, for instance.

Driving to the Etna Mountain with the lava all around - Very picturesque and unique
Driving to Etna Mountain with the lava all around – Very picturesque and unique

Hiring a car in Sicily can provide easy access to such places and save you the hassle of aligning your schedule with that of public transportation, if any.

It also allows you to set off on your adventures right from your accommodation and make your journey in the comfort of your own space.

However, along with the freedom, renting a car brings responsibilities and challenges.

Navigating Sicily’s roadways can seem a tad daunting, especially for those unaccustomed to the local driving etiquette, which can be animated and assertive (but always very gentle inside).

Yet, this shouldn’t deter you.

Adopt a confident, cautious approach, and remember – a honk here doesn’t necessarily signal aggression but is often a way of communicating on the road.

A reliable navigation system is a valuable ally in ensuring a smooth journey.

Today, most rental cars offer integrated GPS, or you can leverage your smartphone’s capabilities.

Just ensure your data plan accommodates your needs, or download offline maps for seamless navigation.

Exploring the dead city of Poggioreale reachable only with a rented car in Sicily
Exploring the dead city of Poggioreale reachable only with a rented car in Sicily

Another crucial aspect is being well-versed with driving regulations.

As with the rest of Italy, driving in Sicily mandates adherence to rules – right-hand driving, compulsory seat belts, and usage of hands-free devices for mobiles, to name a few. Speed limits vary and are signposted, requiring your attention.

Also, traffic in larger cities like Palermo and Catania can be chaotic, and parking can be a challenge. I usually prefer to park the car 1-2km from the city centre and walk inside, much easier and less stressful.

The costs of renting a car can vary. It’s mostly made of the rental fee, insurance (there are usually 5 types of car rental insurance in Italy), fuel, and parking. It’s prudent to factor these into your budget.

Look for deals online or negotiate with local agencies to find a package that suits your needs.

I personally suggest opting for Full Insurance (Zero Excess) which costs less than 8 Euros/day if you rent the car with DiscoverCars. Unfortunately, with the narrow Sicilian streets and parking options, it’s not unusual to scratch or dent the car.

Despite these considerations, the lure of spontaneous exploration that a rental car offers is undeniably enticing.

The opportunity to discover this island, wander through the scenic drives of Sicily, visit remote vineyards or dine at a countryside trattoria at your own pace is a quintessential part of the Sicilian experience.

Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

3 Quick Tips for Renting a Car in Sicily

  • Book in Advance: To get the best deals and ensure availability, especially if you prefer an automatic car or need specific add-ons like a child seat, it’s advisable to book your car rental well in advance.
  • Understand the Insurance: Ensure you understand the insurance coverage offered by the rental company. While basic insurance is typically included in the rental price, it usually comes with a high excess. Consider taking out additional coverage or an excess reduction for peace of mind. The Full Coverage for 8 Euros/day with DiscoverCars is a real bargain.
  • Check for Damage: Before setting off, inspect the vehicle thoroughly for any existing damage and ensure it’s recorded in the rental agreement to avoid any disputes when returning the car.

Comparison of 3 trips in Sicily by car or public transportation

Let’s delve into some real-life examples to illustrate the differences between renting a car and using public transportation for journeys within Sicily.

Double parking in Via Garibaldi leading to the Catania Duomo - N
Double parking in Via Garibaldi leading to the Catania Duomo – Not that uncommon

Catania to Agrigento

Driving from Catania to Agrigento in a rented car covers approximately 165km and typically takes around 2 hours. The freedom of a car allows you to stop at Piazza Armerina to explore the stunning Villa Romana del Casale.

The rental cost is between €20 and €100, based on the car and the period of your trip. CDW Insurance included.

The fuel cost for the trip would be approximately €20 (considering average fuel consumption and the current petrol price at €1.7 per litre).

There are no tolls on this route.

What about public transportation?

Well, there is no direct train, however, you can take a bus or a combination of train and bus.

The travel time ranges between 5.5 and 6 hours. This time may vary based on where is your accommodation in Catania and Agrigento.

The cost of the ticket is around €15. However, reaching the bus/train station might require a local taxi ride, adding to the cost and journey time.

Visiting Piazza Armerina would be challenging due to the limitations of bus/train schedules.

The best way to see the Old Centre of Palermo on a motorized vehicle
The best way to see the Old Centre of Palermo on a motorized vehicle

Palermo to Trapani

The drive from Palermo to Trapani spans approximately 107km, with a usual travel time of 1.5 hours.

A rental car enables you to visit a few attractions along the route. I am thinking here of the beautiful beaches of Terrasini and Castellamare del Golfo, or the amazing Temple of Segesta or the medieval hill town of Erice.

For this journey, the rental cost would be similar to the previous example, while fuel costs would be about €12. This route has tolls, typically costing around €3.

In contrast, a bus journey takes about 2-4 hours (based on the time of the day).

The cost is around €10. Similar to the previous example, getting to the bus station might require a local taxi.

It would be hard to experience any of the attractions along the route.

The Greek Theatre in Taormina
The Greek Theatre in Taormina

Siracusa to Taormina

The drive from Siracusa to Taormina is approximately 120km long. The estimated travel time is 1.5 hours.

With a rental car, you could detour to visit Mount Etna.

The car rental and fuel costs would be similar to the above examples, around €32 for fuel. No tolls are present on this route.

Opting for public transportation would involve a train journey of about 2.5 hours, costing €9.

However, visiting Mount Etna by public transport would be not possible (there is only a daily bus leaving early in the morning from Catania to Etna)

In conclusion

Renting a car in Sicily is not merely a question of convenience, but also about the kind of journey you wish to embark on. For those who yearn to experience Sicily beyond the tourist hotspots, to truly uncover the heart and soul of this mesmerizing island, the answer would be a resounding yes. Rent a car, embrace the adventure, and create your unique Sicilian itinerary. Renting a car is a no-brainer if you are visiting Sicily with kids, so much easier.

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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