Renting A Car In Puglia: 25 Tips To Avoid Scams & Headaches
Renting a car in Puglia can be an exciting part of your trip to Italy. You will be able to experience so much more than with public transportation.
But I totally get it. The entire hiring process can be so daunting.
From understanding insurance policies to avoiding scams, and from choosing the right vehicle to knowing the local driving etiquette, there’s a lot to consider.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through 25 essential things to know for hiring a car in Puglia, helping you to avoid potential headaches and ensure a smooth, enjoyable journey without scams.
Whether you’re visiting for the stunning architecture, the delicious cuisine, or the warm Mediterranean sun, these tips will help you make the most of your Puglian road trip.
Table of Contents
- 1 Driving Licence Requisites
- 2 Driving Side
- 3 Renting A Car And Rental Terms To Know
- 4 Insurance for renting a car in Puglia
- 5 Size of the Rented Car in Puglia
- 6 Type Of Roads In Puglia
- 7 Speed limits
- 8 Toll Roads in Puglia
- 9 GPS and Navigation Systems – How to Drive Around Puglia
- 10 Avoid the ZTL Areas
- 11 Parking in Puglia
- 12 Petrol Stations and Fuel
- 13 Seatbelts
- 14 Drinking and Driving
- 15 Child Safety and Car Seats
- 16 Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips
- 17 Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers
- 18 Public Transportation Vs Renting a Car in Puglia
- 19 9 Scams to Avoid when Renting a Car in Puglia
- 20 Amazing Scenic Routes you should Experience in Puglia
Driving Licence Requisites
Understanding the type of driving license needed for renting a vehicle in Puglia is vital.
EU and UK residents merely need their standard driving license for car hire in Puglia. Just show it at the rental office, and you’re set!
Non-EU travellers, however, need both their regular license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy. The IDP serves as a language translation guide for the global recognition of licenses.
To get an IDP, contact your local Automobile Association.
For USA, Canada and Australia, you can apply for an IDP at a nearby American Automobile Association (AAA) location, Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and Australian Automobile Association, respectively.
Online applications are available, with the IDP delivered in a few days. The process is straightforward, and the cost ranges between USD 20 and 40.
Having the right license is not just about legality; it’s about your safety too.
Also, no one wants to start their vacation with fines or worse, legal issues, because they lacked the correct license.
Although some companies may rent a car in Puglia even without an IDP (and no European license), insurance issues may arise when needed. Hence, an IDP is highly recommended.
This part isn’t relevant for those familiar with right-hand side driving (jump straight to the next session).
For those accustomed to left-hand driving, a slight learning curve might be encountered initially. However, believe me, it will not take that long to adapt.
Here are two quick tips:
- Follow other cars as a reference in the first few days of driving on the “wrong” side.
- If you’re unsure about what side you should drive on, stop and wait for other cars. You’re probably on the wrong side.
Considering an automatic car can lessen the worry and make the transition to right-side driving smoother.
However, automatic cars are usually more expensive to rent in Puglia, and options might be limited.
Regardless of your choice, manual or automatic, you’ll master the winding roads of Puglia in no time.
And believe me, the stunning views you’ll experience will make every moment of adjustment worth it.
My tip for adjusting to driving on the right side is to plan your route beforehand. Familiarize yourself with the general layout of the roads and any major junctions you may encounter. Using a GPS app, like Google Maps, helps a lot.
Renting A Car And Rental Terms To Know
Terms and conditions can seem tedious, but it’s crucial to review them before booking the car and starting your trip.
The minimum age to rent a car in Puglia is generally 21 years, though this can differ among rental companies. If you’re under 25, anticipate a ‘young driver surcharge.’
And now about the car itself.
Options are typically varied. From compact, eco-friendly cars ideal for city exploration to larger, more robust vehicles for off-beaten-track adventures, you have a wide selection.
However, popular car models tend to get booked quickly, particularly during peak season. So, advance booking is advised, especially if you’re visiting Puglia in July and August.
Your rental agreement’s terms and conditions may not be the most exciting read, but they’re worth reviewing.
Look for essential terms such as ‘additional driver’, ‘fuel policy’, and ‘mileage limit’.
An ‘additional driver’ fee applies if you wish to share the driving responsibilities, ‘fuel policy’ indicates whether you need to return the car with a full tank, and ‘mileage limit’ states your kilometre allowance.
Expect also an additional cost if you’re planning to drop off your car at a different location.
Check for hidden fees, like cleaning charges, late return fees, or highway toll fees.
Also, be sure about the ‘excess insurance’ clause. It determines the maximum amount you would need to pay if the car is damaged. You can often reduce this amount by paying for extra daily insurance.
Finally, you don’t want to incur any unnecessary charges for cleaning. Keep it nice and tidy and you won’t have a problem.
Here is a quick table that summarizes most of the terms.
|Rental Age Requirement||The minimum age to rent a car in Italy is generally 21, with some companies requiring a minimum age of 23 or 25.|
|Driver’s License Requirements||EU driver’s licenses are accepted. Non-EU license holders may need an International Driving Permit (IDP).|
|Insurance Coverage||Typically includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP); Full insurance is highly recommended.|
|Fuel Policy||Usually “Full-to-Full”: Pick up the car with a full tank and return it full to avoid refuelling charges.|
|Additional Fees||Possible fees include young driver surcharges (usually for drivers under 25), extra equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), and additional driver fees.|
|Cancellation Policy||Most companies offer free cancellation up to 24-48 hours before the pick-up time; cancellations within this period may incur charges.|
|Penalties for Late Returns/Modifications||Late returns can lead to extra daily charges and possible penalties; modifications to reservations may result in additional fees or changes in rental rates.|
I usually rent the cars from DiscoverCars, an aggregator website that works as the AirBnb for cars with ratings on the Rental Agencies submitted by real customers. Any rating above 7/10 is a good indication of the quality of service (including no scams).
DiscoverCars also compares the prices on the net providing the best deals coming from the global companies as well as the local rental agencies.
My biggest 2 tips here
- take photos of the car, each side + the top and the inside (halos or broken seats will be charged if not pre-existing damages)
- Make sure to find the spare tire, the yellow street vest and the warning triangle in the car. they are mandatory in Italy
Insurance for renting a car in Puglia
Insurance is a critical part of renting a car anywhere in the world, and Puglia is no exception.
|Insurance Type||Best For||Pros||Cons||Estimated Price (per day)|
|Third-Party Liability Insurance||Coverage of liabilities outside the rental car||Covers damages to other vehicles, property, or people||Doesn’t cover damages to the rental car itself||Usually included in the rental price|
|CDW/LDW||Basic protection of the rental car||Covers damages to the rental car||High deductible; doesn’t cover other vehicles, property, or people||€15-€25|
|Zero Excess/Super CDW/Full Insurance||Comprehensive coverage with minimal out-of-pocket expenses||Reduces or eliminates deductible for CDW/LDW||Additional cost; not available with all rental companies||€10-€20|
|SLI/Excess Liability Insurance||Extra protection beyond basic third-party liability||Increases coverage limit for third-party liability||Additional cost; may be unnecessary for some||€10-€20|
|PAI||Medical expenses and personal accident coverage||Covers medical expenses and personal accident compensation||May be redundant if you have travel insurance||€5-€10|
Standard insurance usually covers liability, theft, and collision damage. However, it often includes an excess (deductible) charge that you’re responsible for paying in case of damage.
To avoid this, many people choose to take out additional insurance, such as Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) or Zero Excess insurance (also called Full Insurance). These will cover the excess so you won’t have to pay anything in case of an accident. It is very practical when you have an itinerary of 7-10 days in Puglia and you don’t want to waste time with possible issues such as small damages.
Keep in mind, though, that Full Insurance may not cover the interior of the car. Avoid, for example, seating wet after a swim in the sea. That can easily leave a white halo on the seats.
My tip: Take Full Insurance (no excess) when booking your car on DiscoverCars. It costs less than 8 Euros/day, a real bargain for a no-worry experience!
Size of the Rented Car in Puglia
When renting a car in Puglia, it’s crucial to choose the right vehicle size depending on your travel needs.
Compact cars like the Peugeot 108, Opel Karl, and Fiat Panda are typically at the smaller end of the range, perfect for navigating narrow lanes in Puglia’s historic towns like Ostuni or Locorotondo, and easily parking in tight spaces. However, these compact vehicles may not be suitable if you’re carrying substantial luggage or if you’re a tall individual.
Next up, you have your economy and compact cars. These are a bit larger and offer more boot space, ideal if you plan on shopping for souvenirs or local produce in the region’s famous markets. They’re still relatively small, making them convenient for manoeuvring around Puglian roads.
For family or group travel, or if you simply prefer more space, full-size cars are the way to go. These vehicles offer more legroom and boot space, making them a comfortable option for longer journeys, such as driving from Bari to Lecce.
If you’re looking for luxury and comfort, consider premium cars like BMWs and Mercedes. These are perfect if you’re on a business trip or wish to indulge during your holiday.
Lastly, you also have the option to rent an SUV.
These are ideal if you’re planning drives on unsealed roads or wish to explore Puglia’s countryside. However, keep in mind that finding parking for these larger vehicles can be challenging, especially in busier city centres.
Where you choose to stay in Puglia can also influence your choice of car size.
If you’re basing yourself in a bustling city like Bari or Lecce, a compact car might be the best bet.
On the other hand, if you’re staying in a smaller town or planning to extensively tour Puglia, a larger vehicle may be more practical.
|Size of Car||Best For||Pros||Cons||Average Rental Cost/Day|
|Compact/Economy||Solo travellers or couples||Fuel-efficient, easy to manoeuvre, lower rental cost||Limited luggage space, less comfortable for long drives||€20 – €45|
|Midsize/Sedan||Small families, longer trips||More spacious, comfortable, good balance of size and cost||Higher rental cost, harder to park in tight spaces||€45 – €70|
|SUV||Large families, exploring rural areas||Comfortable, spacious, good ground clearance||Higher rental and fuel costs, harder to manoeuvre||€70 – €100|
|Luxury/Premium||Special occasions, those seeking a luxury experience||Stylish, comfortable, high-end features||Expensive rental and fuel costs, harder to park||€100 – €200+|
Type Of Roads In Puglia
Puglia’s road network is as diverse as its stunning landscapes, ranging from modern highways to charming country lanes.
The Highway (Autostrada) is the main transport artery in the region with a toll system. This road offers the quickest way to get from one place to another, typically featuring smooth asphalt and clear signage. Unfortunately, there is only one Hway and it covers only a few towns/cities/areas. You can easily drive from the border of Gargano (in the north of Puglia) to Bari and down to Taranto and that is pretty much it.
The Superstrada is a double-lane road that connects the south of the region. It is very similar to a Hway, however, it is not so well maintained. The advantage, though, is that it is free of charge. The Superstrada is categorised as a Strada Statale.
Then you have the Strade Statali (SS) or state roads. These are smaller than the highways and often single-carriageways. They can lead you through some of Puglia’s most picturesque landscapes, but they can also present challenges with sharper bends and slower speed limits.
Smaller still are the Strade Provinciali (SP), or provincial roads. These local roads can vary in quality. Some are well-maintained, while others are less so. However, they offer a chance to discover Puglia’s hidden gems off the beaten path.
Driving in urban areas can be challenging due to narrow streets, particularly in older towns. Additionally, some city centres have ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) areas where driving is restricted.
Lastly, rural and mountain roads are typically narrow, winding, and sometimes unpaved. These routes are best navigated with an SUV or a car with good ground clearance. These roads offer some of the most scenic routes in Puglia, taking you through olive groves and vineyards.
In short, this is a table with the typical speed limits.
|Type of Road||Max Speed (km/h)||Max Speed (mph)|
I just want to add one simple thing. Don’t drive over the limits for your safety and also because there are plenty of Autovelox (speed cameras) in the region and lots of police, especially in summer, that check the car speed.
Do not be fooled by locals driving over the limit. There is no point to compete on public roads.
Toll Roads in Puglia
Most of the region does not have toll roads, which is great.
The A14 highway is the only toll road in Puglia and connects the region to other parts of Italy.
This road extends from Bologna in the north to Taranto in the south, passing through important cities in Puglia such as Bari and Foggia.
It’s a modern highway maintained by Autostrade per l’Italia.
As you enter the toll road, you’ll collect a ticket from a machine. Keep this ticket safe as you’ll need to present it when you exit the highway to calculate the toll.
The fees depend on the distance you drive on the highway. You can pay the tolls by credit card or cash.
To give you an idea of the costs, here’s a summary table of the toll roads in and to Puglia with the main exits:
|Toll Road||Route||Distance (Km)||Distance (Miles)||Travel Time (Highway)||Travel Time (No Highway)||Cost|
|A14||Milan to Bari||775||482||7h 30min||10h 30min||€55.00|
|A14||Rome to Bari||413||257||4h 30min||6h 15min||€30.00|
|A14||Bari to Taranto||92||57||1h 10min||1h 40min||€5.00|
|A14||Bari to Poggio Imperiale||150||93||1h 45min||2h 30min||€9.00|
These costs are only approximate and may vary based on your exit station (distance travelled) and any changes throughout the year.
For the most up-to-date information, you should check out the Autostrade per l’Italia website or use a navigation app like Google Maps that includes toll information.
Navigation in Puglia can be an adventure on its own, with winding roads and picturesque landscapes waiting to be explored. Using a GPS or a navigation system can make this experience much smoother.
While most rental cars in Puglia come equipped with a GPS system, it’s always good to double-check when booking your vehicle. If they don’t, you can always pay extra for it.
However, based on my experience, I suggest using Google Maps or Waze. Maps on the rented GPS tend to be outdated, at least more often than not.
Just keep in mind that they use data from your data plan, so be sure to either have a roaming contract or buy a local sim card, which is usually inexpensive.
You can always download the maps and use the GPS functionality offline.
Being online helps with traffic and real-time information, like car crashes or interrupted roads.
|Google Maps||Free, easy-to-use, comprehensive, offline maps available||Requires data connection for real-time updates and route changes||More feature-rich and flexible than most in-car systems|
|Waze||Real-time updates from users, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid traffic||Requires constant data connection, less accurate in rural areas||Better at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations|
|Sygic||Offline maps, premium features, heads-up display||Requires a one-time payment, occasional map inaccuracies||More advanced features than in-car systems, but at an additional cost|
|In-car Navigation||No data connection is needed, always available||Less feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent, and limited search options||More convenient in some situations, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience|
Still figuring out your accommodation?
Check out this Ultimate guide to where to stay in Puglia.
Avoid the ZTL Areas
ZTL stands for “Zona Traffico Limitato” or Limited Traffic Zone. These zones are common in many Italian cities, including some in Puglia like Bari and Lecce, to reduce congestion and pollution.
You cannot drive inside a ZTL otherwise you will be probably fined (most ZTL have cameras). Be sure to check the local regulations and signs for these zones, as they can sometimes only apply at certain times or on specific days.
If your accommodation is located within a ZTL, contact them beforehand. They may be able to arrange a temporary permit for you to unload your luggage or even park inside.
Here below is the typical ZTL sign
Parking in Puglia
Parking in Puglia varies by location. In larger cities like Bari or Lecce, parking can be more challenging, particularly in the city centres.
Look out for paid parking zones, indicated by blue lines, and remember to purchase a ticket from the nearby parking meter.
In smaller towns and rural areas, parking is generally easier and often free.
However, it’s essential to check the signs for any restrictions.
White lines indicate free parking, blue lines are paid areas, and yellow lines are reserved for disabled drivers, residents, or delivery vehicles.
Download on your mobile the App EasyPark and you will pay only for the time you are actually parking your car. No more stress to cut or extend your time in the parking area.
|Parking Type||Description||Typical Costs|
|On-street Free Parking||White-lined parking spaces, no payment required||Free|
|On-street Paid Parking||Blue-lined parking spaces, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)||€1 – €3 per hour (varies by area)|
|On-street Accessible Parking||Yellow-lined parking spaces, reserved for individuals with disabilities (with proper permit)||Free for eligible individuals|
|ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone)||Restricted traffic areas, usually in historical city centres; fines for unauthorized entry||Fines for unauthorized entry|
|Private Parking||Paid parking lots or garages, often operated by private companies||€10 – €25 per day (varies by area)|
|Hotel Parking||Parking offered by hotels, may be included in the room rate or charged separately||€0 – €20 per day (varies by hotel)|
IMPORTANT TIP: Never leave anything visible in the car, not even a jacket or a bag. Thefts could think there is a wallet inside.
If you have to leave something in the car, put it in the trunk, but don’t do it once you arrive. Organise yourself and do it before arriving at the parking area. Basically, leave the car as if nothing is inside.
Petrol Stations and Fuel
Petrol stations in Puglia are plentiful, and you’ll find both self-service and full-service stations. Note that many self-service stations are closed on Sundays, but the automated pumps accept credit cards and are available 24/7.
When renting a car, check whether it takes petrol (benzina) or diesel (diesel). Usually, it is written on the cap. Don’t fill it up with the wrong liquid, it could be an expensive mistake to fix.
The petrol stations offer 2 kinds of service:
- Servito: they come to help you with the petrol. They fill the tank up and you can pay directly to the person providing the service. No need to step out of the car.
- Self-service: you do everything on your own and you save around 10% on the cost of the petrol
Wearing seatbelts is mandatory in Italy, both in the front and back seats. Children under 12 years of age or shorter than 150 cm must use an appropriate child restraint.
In Puglia, you may see a few people and children not following these rules, however, don’t be tempted to do the same for both your safety and a healthy fine if the police stop you.
It’s also worth noting that it’s illegal to drive in flip-flops. This might seem like an unusual law, but it is taken seriously in Italy and can lead to fines if broken.
Drinking and Driving
The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Italy is 0.05%. This is lower than in most of many countries in the world.
For example, you will be likely over the limit after the second glass of wine or beer (if you are not having a meal).
In case your license is less than 3 years old, do not drink any alcohol at all because the limit drops to 0%.
Penalties for drunk driving are severe in Italy, including large fines, driving bans, and imprisonment in serious cases.
So, drinking and driving is not a real option.
If you plan to visit a winery, it may be a good idea to join an organised experience for a no-worries time or agree on the driver that should limit his/her drinking
Child Safety and Car Seats
Italian law requires all children under 12 years old or less than 150 cm tall to use an appropriate child restraint.
Child seats must be EU-approved, and children under 4 cannot travel unless they are in a child seat.
Most car rental companies in Puglia offer child seats as an add-on, but it’s advisable to book these in advance to ensure availability.
|Group||Weight Range||Height Range (approx.)||Car Seat Type|
|0||Up to 10 kg (22 lbs)||Birth to 1.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|0+||Up to 13 kg (29 lbs)||Birth to 2.5 years||Rear-facing infant carrier|
|1||9-18 kg (20-40 lbs)||1.5 to 4 years||Forward or rear-facing child seat with a harness|
|2||15-25 kg (33-55 lbs)||4 to 6 years||High-backed booster seat with a seatbelt|
|3||22-36 kg (48-79 lbs)||6 to 12 years||High-backed booster seat or a booster cushion with a seatbelt|
Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips
Puglia’s roads are generally well-maintained, but you may encounter some challenging driving situations, especially on smaller roads or in rural areas. Here are a few tips for safe driving in Puglia:
- Always give way to vehicles coming from the right, unless otherwise indicated.
- Watch out for scooters and motorcycles, which can sometimes appear out of nowhere. There are plenty of scooters in Puglia!
- Use your horn sparingly and only to alert other drivers of your presence.
- Stick to the speed limit. Remember that these can change also depending on the weather conditions.
- Never drive and speak on the mobile
As I already mentioned previously, locals may not follow all of the driving rules, like talking with their mobile while driving, but don’t assume that you can do it too. Healthy fines are always around the corner.
Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers
Your rental company will most likely give you a phone number to call in case of road assistance.
Here is a full table with other useful numbers, including ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia), the official Italian Road Assistance.
|Roadside Assistance (ACI)||803116|
Public Transportation Vs Renting a Car in Puglia
Puglia has a decent network of trains and buses that connect most towns and cities.
You can easily navigate from A to B if these are major destinations, however, this may require double or triple the time you need with your car.
If they are not major destinations, then you will find yourself struggling to find a way.
Public transportation can be a good option if you’re staying in a city like Bari or Lecce and plan to do day trips.
Also, it’s a great option if you plan to spend most of your time in a single beach destination, for example, Gallipoli.
What you will miss are the amazing landscape and the stops along the route in the small villages where you will experience more of the local life.
Here below is a table that compares the pros and cons of the two options
|Public Transportation||Renting a Car in Puglia|
|Limited to schedules and routes||Freedom to roam at your own pace in Puglia|
|May require multiple transfers||Direct travel|
|Often crowded||Private and comfortable|
|Inexpensive||More cost upfront, but potential savings if travelling in two or more people|
|Potentially slower||Can be faster, depending on the routes|
|Limited late-night options||Available 24/7|
|Might not reach remote attractions||Access to all areas of Puglia|
|Environmental friendly||More carbon footprint|
|No worry about parking||Need to manage parking|
|No driving stress||Driving on unfamiliar roads can be stressful|
9 Scams to Avoid when Renting a Car in Puglia
The “No Car Available” Scam: Some rental companies may claim that the car you booked isn’t available and will offer you a more expensive one instead. Always insist on the car you booked or an equivalent, and if they refuse, consider taking your business elsewhere.
The Excessive Insurance Push: Rental companies often try to sell their own expensive insurance policies. Check if your credit card or personal auto insurance policy covers car rentals before you go, and if they do, you can politely decline the rental company’s offer. Also, consider the Full Insurance (No excess) with DiscoverCars at less than 8 Euros/day. A real bargain for a no-worries experience.
Hidden Fees: Always read the fine print to understand all fees associated with your rental. Some companies might add extra charges for satellite radio, GPS, and more. Just refuse them if not needed
Damage Charges Scam: Some rental companies might charge you for damages you didn’t cause. Always inspect the vehicle before you leave the lot and take photos of any pre-existing damage and all sides of the cars. I also suggest taking photos of the inside.
Fuel Policy Scam: Some companies will charge you for a full tank of gas and ask you to return the car empty, but it’s almost impossible to return a car completely out of gas. A better option is the full-to-full policy where you return the car with the same amount of gas it had when you picked it up.
Overpriced Drop-off Fees: this is not actually a scam but more of a warning that you should expect high fees for a drop-off in another location. Try to always close the loop and leave the car where you picked it up
Extra Driver Fees: Again more of a warning than a scam. Some companies will charge you additional fees for each additional driver. Always check the company’s policy on this before you rent.
Tire and Windscreen Coverage: Some rental companies may try to sell you separate coverage for the tires and windscreen. Check your insurance policy to see if these parts are covered to avoid paying for unnecessary insurance. The Full Insurance (No excess) with DiscoverCars usually covers that as well (make sure during the booking phase).
GPS Rental Scam: Some rental companies might insist that you need to rent their GPS system. However, you can usually use your smartphone’s GPS, which is much cheaper and often more reliable. Just make sure to download offline maps before your trip to avoid using lots of data.
Amazing Scenic Routes you should Experience in Puglia
Coastal Drive from Bari to Leuca: This scenic route takes you along the Adriatic Coast of Puglia, passing through historic seaside towns like Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, the stunning city of Ostuni, and the picturesque Trulli houses of Alberobello before ending in the southernmost tip of Puglia, Santa Maria di Leuca.
The Itria Valley: This route takes you through the heart of Puglia, known for its ancient olive groves and Trulli houses. Start in Martina Franca and make your way to Locorotondo and Cisternino, before ending in Alberobello.
Gargano Peninsula: Start in the fishing village of Rodi Garganico and drive along the coastline to Peschici and Vieste. The route offers breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and the rugged cliffs of the Gargano National Park.
Salento Circuit: Begin in Lecce, known as the “Florence of the South”, and drive south to Otranto, then west to Santa Maria di Leuca, before heading north to Gallipoli. This circuit showcases the diverse beauty of the Salento region, from its Baroque architecture to its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters.