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

Renting a car in Sardinia: 25 Tips to Avoid Scams & Headaches!

Ready to explore the beautiful island of Sardinia but feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start? Let’s tackle the first big decision: renting a car in Sardinia.

From navigating the cobbled streets of Cagliari to cruising along the picturesque Costa Smeralda, hiring a car in Sardinia is the ultimate way to soak in the island’s unique charm.

But, it can also seem a little daunting with different rules, unknown insurance types, and the fear of scams.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through 25 tips to avoid scams and headaches, making your Sardinian car rental experience as smooth as a sunny coastal drive.

Sardinia - Wonderful morning panorama of the colourful houses of the old town of Bosa
Sardinia – Wonderful morning panorama of the colourful houses of the old town of Bosa

Driving License

Let’s delve into the details. If you’re planning to rent a car in Sardinia knowing what type of driving license is required is crucial.

Those hailing from EU nations and the UK are fortunate enough to only need their standard driving license when renting a car in Sardinia – just show it at the rental office and off you go!

However, travellers from non-EU countries will need both their regular license as well as an International Driving Permit (IDP) which serves as a language translation guide for licenses for global recognition.

As for obtaining an IDP, you should enquiry your local Automobile Association.

Here below I list the common places to request an IDP in Canada, USA and Australia

Nowadays you can apply online and expect to have the IDP delivered in a few days. The process is really uncomplicated. The cost is between USD20 and 40.

Bear in mind, having the right driving license isn’t just a matter of legality. It’s about your safety, too.

Plus, no one wants to kick off their holiday with fines or worse, legal issues, because they didn’t have the correct license.

IMPORTANT. You may find that some companies rent the car in Sardinia to you even if you do not have an IDP (and no European/UK license), however, you may run into trouble with the insurance if ever needed. So the IDP is a must in my opinion.

Driving Side

This section isn’t relevant for travellers who are well versed in driving on the right-hand side (jump straightaway to the next session below).

If you’re used to left-hand driving there might be a slight learning curve, initially. I am from Australia and certainly, it is not my usual driving side.

But honestly, it’s not complicated to adapt and you will realize how you will become accustomed in a few days.

Here are two quick tips.

  • In the first couple of days of driving on the “wrong” side, try to follow other cars keeping them as a reference
  • If you are suddenly not sure about what side you should drive, then stop and wait for other cars. Probably you are on the wrong side.

Considering an automatic? Not a bad shout. It’s one less thing to worry about and can make the transition to right-side driving a bit smoother.

However, automatic cars are generally more expensive to rent in Sardinia, and the selection might be a bit slim.

Regardless of your choice, manual or automatic, mastering the winding roads of Sardinia will come naturally in no time at all.

And trust me, with the stunning views you’ll encounter, it’s going to be worth every moment of adjustment.

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. It comes without saying, using a GPS app, like Google Maps, helps a ton.

Sardinia - The port of Alghero in the province of Sassari on the northwest coast of the island
Sardinia – The port of Alghero in the province of Sassari on the northwest coast of the island

Renting a Car and rental terms to know

Terms and conditions can be boring, I know, but it’s very important to check them before booking the car and starting your trip.

The minimum age to rent a car in Sardinia is generally 21 years, although this can vary between rental companies. And if you’re under 25, expect a ‘young driver surcharge.’ I know it’s a bit of a pain.

Now, onto the more exciting stuff – the car itself.

The variety on offer is usually very wide. From compact, eco-friendly cars perfect for city exploring to larger, more robust vehicles for those off-beaten-track adventures, you’re spoilt for choice.

But remember, popular car models tend to get snatched up quickly, especially during peak season. So, booking in advance is a good idea, especially if you are visiting Sardinia in July and August.

The terms and conditions of your rental agreement might not be the most riveting read, but it’s worth combing through them.

Look out for key terms such as ‘additional driver’, ‘fuel policy’, and ‘mileage limit’.

An ‘additional driver’ fee is applied if you want to share the driving responsibilities, ‘fuel policy’ outlines whether you need to return the car with a full tank, and ‘mileage limit’ states how many kilometres you’re allowed to clock up.

Are you planning to drop off your car in a different location? Expect an extra cost. For example, if you plan an itinerary from Olbia to Cagliari most companies allow this but often charge an additional fee.

Here is a quick table that summarizes most of the terms.

Rental AspectDescription
Rental Age RequirementThe 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 RequirementsEU driver’s licenses are accepted. Non-EU license holders may need an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Insurance CoverageTypically includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP); Full insurance is highly recommended.
Fuel PolicyUsually “Full-to-Full”: Pick up the car with a full tank and return it full to avoid refuelling charges.
Additional FeesPossible fees include young driver surcharges (usually for drivers under 25), extra equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), and additional driver fees.
Cancellation PolicyMost 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/ModificationsLate returns can lead to extra daily charges and possible penalties; modifications to reservations may result in additional fees or changes in rental rates.
Typical rentals terms you can expect when renting a car in Sardinia

Nowadays the best place to rent a car is online.

In Sardinia, you can find the usual suspects (Hertz, Avis, Sixt, etc) as well as local operators. I don’t suggest one company or the other, however, I do recommend checking the reviews on the rental agencies.

Sometimes a price that is too good to be true maybe is not that true and you will be required to pay extra at the counter for some mysterious reasons (more on scams later).

For this reason, I usually hire my cars on DiscoverCars. This is a great comparative website which operates in a similar way to AirBnb.

It compares prices and provides the best deals, however, you will find also a rating of the rental agencies based on real customers’ feedback, which is so useful.

I always suggest having full insurance (no excess) when renting a car. Even more so in Sardinia where parking and streets can be really narrow. Scratching and denting a car is not that unusual, unfortunately. This website offers it for less than 8 Euros/day (a real bargain)

My tip: The rating on DiscoverCars is on a scale of 10, and I personally suggest trying to avoid any rental company below 7. It is usually not a great sign of professional service.

Before starting the engine have a check at the car and see if there is any scratch, dent or damage that was not documented on the rental agreement. If you find any new one, report it.

Check both the outside and the inside of the car, especially the seats. They may have that typical white halo that comes from the salty water. Report it as well.

Take photos and video of the car, especially of the issues that you highlight and the agent says it’s not a problem. This saved me a few hundred euros on one occasion.

It may all seem like an intense process, but honestly, this initial 30 minutes of making sure it’s all fine is nothing against the amazing freedom to have a car to drive everywhere you want, totally worth it! I personally see the start of my holiday from the time I drive out from the rental parking area 🙂

My tip: have a quick check that the spare tire, jack, and warning triangle are all in the boot of the car because these are all required by Italian law.

Sardinia - The lovely town of Castelsardo
Sardinia – The lovely town of Castelsardo

Type of car insurance for renting a car in Sardinia

Here below are the typical insurances that you have in Sardinia.

Insurance TypeBest ForProsConsEstimated Price (per day)
Third-Party Liability InsuranceCoverage of liabilities outside the rental carCovers damages to other vehicles, property, or peopleDoesn’t cover damages to the rental car itselfUsually included in the rental price
CDW/LDWBasic protection of the rental carCovers damages to the rental carHigh deductible; doesn’t cover other vehicles, property, or people€15-€25
Zero Excess/Super CDW/Full InsuranceComprehensive coverage with minimal out-of-pocket expensesReduces or eliminates deductible for CDW/LDWAdditional cost; not available with all rental companies€10-€20
SLI/Excess Liability InsuranceExtra protection beyond basic third-party liabilityIncreases coverage limit for third-party liabilityAdditional cost; may be unnecessary for some€10-€20
PAIMedical expenses and personal accident coverageCovers medical expenses and personal accident compensationMay be redundant if you have travel insurance€5-€10
Summary of the possible car insurance

When you rent a car in Sardinia, basic insurance is typically included in the rental price. This usually consists of Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection.

The CDW limits your financial liability for damage to the car, while Theft Protection covers you if the car gets nicked.

But beware! The CDW often comes with a hefty excess (usually 1,000 Euros or more), meaning you’ll have to pay a certain amount before the insurance kicks in.

To limit the deductible, you might want to consider buying Excess Waiver Insurance, also known as Super CDW or, even better, Full Insurance (no excess).

My tip: One of the reasons I usually book my car with DiscoverCars is that I can add Full Insurance (no excess) for less than 8 Euros/day, a real bargain. It gives me such a no-worry experience!

Another one to look out for is Third-Party Liability Insurance. This is usually included as standard and covers you for damage to other vehicles or property, as well as injuries to other people.

Lastly, some companies offer Personal Accident Insurance (PAI). This covers medical costs for you and your passengers if you’re involved in an accident. But before you fork out for PAI, check your travel insurance policy – you might already be covered.

Insurance can feel like a bit of a minefield, but it’s vital when you’re hiring a car in Sardinia. The right cover can save you a heap of stress and money if things don’t go to plan.

You can read more information about Car Rental Insurance Options in Italy, including a few real-life examples that are gold.

Size of the rented car in Sardinia

When you’re hiring a car in Sardinia, you should make sure to book the right vehicle size and this really depends on your type of trip.

Usually, Peugeot 108, Opel Karl and Fiat Panda are on the compact end of the scale.

These nifty little motors are perfect for zipping around the narrow streets of Sardinian towns and fitting into tight parking spaces.

But they’re not so great if you’re planning on taking big luggage or if you’re a taller person.

Next up, you’ve got your economy and compact cars.

These are slightly larger and offer a bit more boot space – handy if you’re planning on buying every souvenir in sight. They’re still relatively small, so they’re good for manoeuvring around Sardinian roads.

If you are travelling with family/friends or you just want more space then a full-size car is the answer. These offer more legroom and boot space, making them a comfortable option for longer journeys.

For the ultimate in comfort and luxury, there are premium and luxury cars. Think BMWs, Mercedes, and the like. These are perfect if you fancy treating yourself or if you’re on a business trip and want to impress.

Of course, you also have the choice to book an SUV (4×4). They work great if you are planning drives on unsealed roads to discover the hidden gems of Sardinia. However, they are less than ideal when you are looking for parking, due to the bigger size of the vehicle.

Finally, having decided already where to stay in Sardinia may also help in choosing the car size. If you’re booking your base in a bustling city centre like Cagliari or Olbia, a compact car might be your best bet. However, if you are in a smaller town and/or you are planning more of an itinerary of Sardinia, then a bigger car makes more sense.

Size of CarBest ForProsConsAverage Rental Cost/Day
Compact/EconomySolo travellers or couplesFuel-efficient, easy to manoeuvre, lower rental costLimited luggage space, less comfortable for long drives€30 – €45
Midsize/SedanSmall families, longer tripsMore spacious, comfortable, good balance of size and costHigher rental cost, harder to park in tight spaces€45 – €70
SUVLarge families, exploring rural areasComfortable, spacious, good ground clearanceHigher rental and fuel costs, harder to manoeuvre€70 – €100
Luxury/PremiumSpecial occasions, those seeking a luxury experienceStylish, comfortable, high-end featuresExpensive rental and fuel costs, harder to park€100 – €200+
Renting a car in Sardinia – Size matters
Sardinia - The beautiful sandy feach of Fontanamare - 70km west of Cagliari
Sardinia – The beautiful sandy feach of Fontanamare – 70km west of Cagliari

Type of Roads in Sardinia

Type of Roads in Sardinia

Sardinia’s roads are as diverse as its beautiful landscapes. You’ve got everything from modern highways to ancient country lanes, and each has its own charm and challenges.

The “Superstrade” or highways are the main arteries of the island.

These roads give the quickest way to go from A to B.

They’re typically dual carriageways with smooth tarmac and clear signage. But remember that Italy has strict speed limits (more on this later), and there are plenty of speed cameras about!

Next, are the Strade Statali (SS) or state roads.

These are a step down from the highways and are often single carriageway.

They can take you through some beautiful parts of Sardinia, but they can also be a bit more challenging, with sharper bends and slower speed limits.

Then you have the Strade Provinciali (SP), or provincial roads.

These are smaller, local roads that can vary slightly in quality. Some are well-maintained, while others maybe not. On the positive side, these roads will take you to the hidden gems of Sardinia.

Driving on the urban streets can also be challenging in a few towns and cities, because of their narrow streets. Also, keep in mind that there may be ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) areas in the centre and you cannot drive in (more on this subject later).

Finally, you have the rural and mountain roads.

These can be narrow, winding, and sometimes unpaved. These roads are better driven with a SUV, a 4×4 or at least a car with some ground clearance.

These roads are usually the most scenic and unspoiled routes of Sardinia.

There are no toll roads in Sardinia. Sure you do not have any 3 or 4 lanes roads, but do you really need them in this paradise?

In a nutshell, when renting a car in Sardinia, you’re in for a real mix of driving experiences. Drive adjusting to the type of road and never pass the speed limits (next).

Speed Limits

Type of RoadMax Speed (km/h)Max Speed (mph)
Superstrada11068
Urban Roads5031
Non-Urban Roads9056
School Zones3019
Residential Zones3019
Typical speed limits in Sardinia (check local restrictions)

On the Superstrade, the speed limit is typically 110 km/h. This limit drops to 90 km/h or less on Strade Statli or Provinciali.

Urban areas have a standard speed limit of 50 km/h which is decreased to 30 or 40 kmh in special streets/roads, especially in areas near schools, hospitals or roadworks.

Speed checks are common in Sardinia, and fines for breaking the limit can be steep.

Fines start at 50 euros to over 1,000 euros. It depends on how much you are exceeding the speed limit. Plus, points on your license. Ouch.

Also, did you know in Italy, speed limits vary depending on the weather? True story. So check out the signs on the road. The reason is safety. Roads may become slippery.

After all, Sardinia’s stunning scenery deserves to be savoured, not blurred by at high speed.

My tip: Be mindful of the speed limits and any changes in the limit, as speed cameras are common, and fines can be substantial (over 2-300 Euro based on the speed).

Sardinia - Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast
Sardinia – Scenic Strada Statale on the Sea Coast

Toll Roads

When you’re renting a car in Sardinia, you can breathe a sigh of relief because there are no toll roads!

That’s right, you can cruise around the island to your heart’s content without worrying about digging around for loose change or scanning for the right lane at toll booths.

That is a big difference from the rest of Italy. A great one, I may say.

GPS and Navigation systems – How to drive around Sardinia

Are you renting a car in Sardinia? Make sure you have access to a GPS system!

Attempting to navigate through twists and turns with nothing but a paper map can be challenging enough without having to deal with roundabouts too.

Thankfully most rental cars come standard with built-in GPS systems that can help take the stress off your shoulders during travel.

However – if yours doesn’t have one onboard – no worries! Just download an app like Google Maps or Waze onto your smartphone instead.

Built-in GPS systems are highly convenient and won’t require you to use any data from your phone plan (great for avoiding extra charges!). However, the most updated maps may not be loaded on the vehicle (it happened to me), and things may get confusing, especially on the most remote roads of Sardinia.

Alternatively, navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze are always being updated and even provide real-time traffic updates – but remember that using them will eat into your allotted data usage.

When venturing on a road trip through Sardinia, consider this clever hack – download the map beforehand while connected to WiFi and utilize it offline during your journey.

In addition, acquiring a paper map may appear old-fashioned but they are the best emergency fallback option in case technology fails. Plus, they are awesome on those nights when planning your adventures in Sardinia.

Navigation OptionProsConsComparison
Google MapsFree, easy-to-use, comprehensive, offline maps availableRequires data connection for real-time updates and route changesMore feature-rich and flexible than most in-car systems
WazeReal-time updates from users, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid trafficRequires constant data connection, less accurate in rural areasBetter at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations
SygicOffline maps, premium features, heads-up displayRequires a one-time payment, occasional map inaccuraciesMore advanced features than in-car systems, but at an additional cost
In-car NavigationNo data connection is needed, always availableLess feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent, and limited search optionsMore convenient in some situations, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience
GPS and Navigation Apps – What works best in Sardinia

Still figuring out your accommodation?

Check out this Ultimate guide to where to stay in Sardinia.

Once you venture on the hilly side of Sardinia it is not unusual to meet a herd of sheeps on the road
Once you venture on the hilly side of Sardinia it is not unusual to meet a herd of sheeps on the road

Avoid the ZTL areas

I cannot stress this enough – avoid the ZTL areas.

What is a ZTL area, you ask? Well, ZTL stands for Zona Traffico Limitato, or Limited Traffic Zone in English. These are designated areas, usually in the historic centres of towns and cities, where access is restricted to certain vehicles at certain times. And by ‘certain vehicles’, I mean not you.

If you enter a ZTL area without the appropriate permit, you will be fined. And it’s not a small fine either. So unless you fancy parting with a chunk of your holiday budget, steer clear.

Now, the tricky thing about ZTL areas is that they are not always well-signposted. You might be cruising along, enjoying the view, and boom, you’ve entered a ZTL area without even realising.

So, once you enter any town, pay well attention to the signs. The red circle sign with ZTL on top usually delimits the inaccessible area (see photo below)

Also, the GPS system has quite often loaded the ZTL areas of Sardina and it will advise to steer clear. Google does it but only in a few cases (not 100% trustable).

But what if you’re staying in a hotel that’s within a ZTL area? Good question! The answer is very simple. The hotel will give you a temporary permit to enter the ZTL. It is important, however, to organise that before you arrive in town. Send a message to the concierge mentioning you arrive with a car.

ZTL in Erice - H24 in summer and only during the day otherwise
ZTL – H24 in summer, otherwise only 11am-8pm

Parking in Sardinia

First thing first – on-street parking. Sardinia uses the same colour-coded system as the rest of Italy.

White lines mean parking is free, blue lines mean paid parking, and yellow lines mean it’s reserved (usually for residents or disabled badge holders). Easy peasy, right?

Blue-lined spaces often use a pay and display system. You’d find a parking meter nearby, get your ticket, and display it on your dashboard.

Several cities in Sardinia use mobile payment services, like EasyPark, for parking. It’s a godsend, especially if you don’t have the right change or you don’t fancy trudging to the nearest meter.

Another great thing about EasyPark is that you pay only for the time you are actually parked. If you get back to the car sooner than expected, you can always cancel the time in excess. And it gets better, you can extend your stay if you are running late at the restaurant.

Off-street parking is another option. Public car parks are often located close to city centres and they usually have longer hours or even 24/7 services. They might be a bit more expensive but they are usually more secure than on-street parking.

And one last thing, when you’re renting a car in Sardinia. Park your car in gear and with the handbrake on. You might be used to parking in neutral back home, but Sardinia’s hilly terrain means it’s safer to leave it in gear.

Parking TypeDescriptionTypical Costs
On-street Free ParkingWhite-lined parking spaces, no payment requiredFree
On-street Paid ParkingBlue-lined parking spaces, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)€1 – €3 per hour (varies by area)
On-street Accessible ParkingYellow-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 entryFines for unauthorized entry
Private ParkingPaid parking lots or garages, often operated by private companies€10 – €25 per day (varies by area)
Hotel ParkingParking offered by hotels, may be included in the room rate or charged separately€0 – €20 per day (varies by hotel)
Summary of Parking in Sardinia

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.

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

Petrol stations and fuel

When travelling through Sardia finding petrol stations while cruising along beautiful coastlines or exploring mountainous regions is not as complicated.

Petrol stations throughout Sardinia are quite abundant and often make for suitable pit stops during long journeys.

However, when driving through remote areas or smaller towns – it’s best practice to top up when given the chance so that you’re always prepared in case of emergencies.

In Sardinia/Italy petrol stations offer two primary types of fuels – benzina (petrol) and gasolio (diesel). To prevent any costly mistakes while refuelling your rental car, double-check which type it requires before filling it up.

When choosing between ‘servito‘ or ‘self service‘ options at Italian petrol stations- there are different cost implications, as you can imagine.

Petrol pumps under ‘servito‘ condition mean attendants will take care of fuelling up your car when requested but come with added expenses (usually 5-10% more). In contrast, self-service options require more work from your end but can save you money.

Want to slash those fuel bills? Keep an eye out for large signage displaying the prices outside the petrol stops.

Using Google Maps can help too, comparing the price between the different petrol stations in the area. Just search for “Petro Stations” over the area that you are driving – no rocket science! Doing this bit of homework could mean significant savings, as easy as that.

Also, several small-scale rural petrol facilities might have payment constraints such as not accepting credit cards. Hence, carry some cash with you. You never know.

Petrol stations in Italy have self-service areas - cheaper - and fully serviced areas - more expensive
Petrol stations in Italy have self-service pumps – cheaper – and fully serviced pumps – more expensive

Seatbelts

You have to wear seatbelts in Italy by law and honestly, it’s so much safer to do that.

Everyone in the car, front and back, needs to be buckled up.

And I fully understand that you may find it hard on those sunny warm days for just a few km down to the beach, but believe me, it’s totally worth it.

It’s not just about the hefty fines you can cop if you’re caught without it, it’s about keeping safe.

Drinking and driving

The local wine is of course fantastic and it’s really hard to limit to one glass of wine when driving a car, I know.

The legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limit in Italy is 0.05%. For new drivers who have held a license for less than three years, the limit is a strict 0.00%. That’s right, not even a drop.

CategoryBlood Alcohol Concentration Limit (BAC)Min. Fines (EUR)
General Drivers0.05%500 – 2,000
Novice Drivers (under 3 years of driving experience)0.00%150 – 500
Typical fines for driving over the BAC

If you drink only wine, you would go over the limit with the second glass (less so with beer). Of course, this depends on many factors like your body, if you are eating and of course how big is the glass. Keep it at one glass to be sure.

Fancying a wine-tasting tour?

Great idea, organise a designated driver, or even better, hire a local guide. They know the best wineries and can take you there safely, allowing you to indulge in the region’s best wines without worry. Remember, the goal is to create beautiful memories, not nightmares.

So, if you’re planning a day out tasting the fine wines of Sardinia, leave your rented car at the hotel. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the day even more without the worry of having to drive back.

Sardinia - Vineyard in Sanluri - 40km north of Cagliari
Sardinia – Vineyard in Sanluri – 40km north of Cagliari

Child Safety and Car Seats

In Italy, children under 36 kg or shorter than 150 cm must use a child restraint system that complies with EU regulations.

This law isn’t just a suggestion; it’s mandatory, with hefty fines for non-compliance. So, buckle up your little adventurers properly before hitting the road.

The type of child seat depends on the age and size of the kid.

Babies up to 13 kg need a rear-facing infant car seat. Toddlers between 9-18 kg should be in a forward-facing child car seat, and older kids between 15-36 kg can use a booster seat.

GroupWeight RangeHeight Range (approx.)Car Seat Type
0Up to 10 kg (22 lbs)Birth to 1.5 yearsRear-facing infant carrier
0+Up to 13 kg (29 lbs)Birth to 2.5 yearsRear-facing infant carrier
19-18 kg (20-40 lbs)1.5 to 4 yearsForward or rear-facing child seat with a harness
215-25 kg (33-55 lbs)4 to 6 yearsHigh-backed booster seat with a seatbelt
322-36 kg (48-79 lbs)6 to 12 yearsHigh-backed booster seat or a booster cushion with a seatbelt
Italy follows the European ECE R44/04 or ECE R129 standards for child car seats

If you’re planning on bringing your own car seat, make sure it follows EU standards.

If not, no worries, you can hire a child seat when you rent a car in Sardinia. Book it in advance, especially in peak season.

The average cost of a car seat is around 8-10 Euro/day

My Tip: If you are renting a car for a long period (2 weeks or more), you may actually buy the booster seat from a local shop (30-70 Euro) and save big time.

Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips

First off, patience is key. Like much of Italy, Sardinians live at a slower, more relaxed pace, and this is often reflected in their driving.

There is no point in rushing. The journey is as beautiful as the destination.

Pay attention to your mirrors. Italian drivers are known for their, let’s say, ‘creative’ overtaking manoeuvres. It’s a good idea to keep to the right and let faster vehicles pass when safe to do so.

And remember, honking isn’t considered rude in Italy, but a way of communicating. Sometimes is used to tell you to go (with some typical Italian hand movement). Over times to warn you of something happening. Somehow you will get quickly used to it.

In Sardinia, roundabouts are pretty common. The rule here is simple: those already on the roundabout have the right of way. So, be patient and wait for a gap before entering.

In Italy, you must have your headlights always switched on on motorways and major roads outside cities, even during the day. Better safe than sorry, right?

And don’t hesitate to ask for directions. Sardinians are known for their hospitality and are always ready to help. Trust me, you’ll be navigating the island like a pro in no time!

Torre di Longonsardo in Santa Teresa Gallura - The northernmost point of Sardinia
Torre di Longonsardo in Santa Teresa Gallura – The northernmost point of Sardinia

Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers

Roadside assistance and emergency numbers are your best pals if you happen to run into a hiccup while renting a car in Sardinia.

Most rental companies provide a 24/7 roadside assistance service.

The details of this service, including the contact number, are usually found in your rental agreement. However, you can also rely on national services.

In Italy, ACI (Automobile Club Italia) provides a nationwide roadside assistance service. You can reach them at 803116 for mechanical emergencies. They’re your go-to guys for anything from a flat tyre to an engine failure.

But what if you’re faced with a more serious emergency?

Dialling 112 will connect you to the European Emergency Number, which can be called from any mobile phone, free of charge. They’ll redirect your call based on the nature of the emergency.

Here’s a handy table with all the emergency numbers in Italy:

ServiceNumber
European Emergency112
Police113
Fire Brigade115
Ambulance118
Roadside Assistance (ACI)803116

Public Transportation Vs Renting a car in Sardinia

I have summarised in this table the pros and cons of both options, however, do not hesitate to leave a message below if you still have a question.

Public TransportationRenting a Car in Sardinia
Limited to schedules and routesFreedom to roam at your own pace
May require multiple transfersDirect travel
Often crowdedPrivate and comfortable
InexpensiveMore cost upfront, but potential savings if travelling in two or more people
Potentially slowerCan be faster, depending on the routes
Limited late-night optionsAvailable 24/7
Might not reach remote attractionsAccess to all areas
Environmental friendlyMore carbon footprint
No worry about parkingNeed to manage parking
No driving stressDriving on unfamiliar roads can be stressful
Public Transportation Vs Renting a car in Sardinia

As you can see, hiring a car in Sardinia offers greater flexibility and convenience.

You can explore Sardinia in its entirety and on your own terms. Plus, you won’t have to lug your beach gear on a bus!

The biggest drawback of renting a car is probably the stress of driving, but honestly, you will get used in no time. Sardinia traffic is not as chaotic, except in the major cities.

Is renting a car in Sardinia expensive? Well, it’s more expensive than the mainland Italy but you can reduce your cost if you book well in advance.

If you are travelling with kids, renting a car is a game changer.

Sardinia - S'Archittu - A small coastal town near Oristano on the west coast
Sardinia – S’Archittu – A small coastal town near Oristano on the west coast

5 scams to Avoid when Renting a Car in Sardinia

Renting a car in Sardinia is a dream come true, however, like in any place, also here you may experience unpleasant situations. Here are five scams to look out for when you’re hiring a car in Sardinia.

The “Extra Insurance” Scam

When you’re at the rental desk, they might try to sell you additional insurance, even if you already have one.

Do your homework before (check all you need to know about rental car insurance in Italy) before and make sure you know exactly what coverage you need.

I always suggest opting for full insurance (no excess) which costs less than 8 Euro/Day if you rent the car on DiscoverCars, a real bargain!

The “Fuel Policy” Scam

Some rental companies might use a ‘full to empty’ policy, meaning you pay for a full tank upfront and return the car empty.

The catch is, you’ll probably pay way more than the market price for that tank.

Moreover, you will likely leave some petrol in the tank at the end.

Try to opt only for “full to full” or “same-level” if you can.

The “Damage” Scam

A classic. They’ll charge you for damage that was already there when you picked up the car.

The way to avoid this?

Check the car when you pick it up and be sure that all sorts of damages are in the rental agreement, both outside and inside that car (including dirty or broken seats).

For peace of mind, also take a few photos of the vehicle from different corners.

Otherwise, book the car on DiscoverCars with full insurance for a no-worries experience.

The “Upgrade” Scam

You’re told that the car you booked is not available and are offered an upgrade – at an additional cost, of course.

If this happens, insist on a free upgrade, or a car at the same price as the one you booked.

The “Traffic Fine” Scam

After you return home, you might get a notification of a traffic fine you supposedly incurred while in Sardinia.

Always ask for proof, and remember, Italian authorities have up to a year to notify you of a fine.

Sardinia - Le Vecchie Saline in Murta Maria - Salt Pans
Sardinia – Le Vecchie Saline in Murta Maria – Salt Pans

4 amazing Scenic Routes you should experience in Sardinia

Costa Smeralda

Known as the Emerald Coast, this 60-km (35-mile) stretch of coastline in the northeast of Sardinia boasts stunning beaches, clear turquoise waters, and picturesque villages.

Start your drive in Olbia, and make your way up to Porto Cervo, the heart of Costa Smeralda. You will be surprised by the breathtaking views, hidden coves, and luxurious villas.

Take the SP82 to Golfo Aranci, then the SP16+SP73 to explore the quaint village of San Pantaleo.

Finally, make your way north to Porto Cervo stopping at Capriccioli Beach for a swim.

SS125 Orientale Sarda

This scenic route traverses the wild and rugged interior of the island, offering a true taste of Sardinian landscape.

The SS125 starts in Cagliari and goes all the way to Olbia, passing through towns like Tortoli, Baunei, and Dorgali.

As you drive through the Gennargentu National Park, you’ll encounter breathtaking mountain scenery, ancient forests, and traditional shepherds’ huts.

Don’t forget to make a detour to Cala Goloritzé, one of Sardinia’s most iconic beaches (the trail to Cala Goloritzé takes 1h40min both ways).

Sardinia - Stairways to the Neptune Cave
Sardinia – Stairways to the Neptune Cave

Alghero to Bosa

This coastal drive in the northwest of Sardinia is nothing short of spectacular.

Starting in the historic town of Alghero, follow the SS292 south along the coastline to Bosa, a charming village famous for its colourful houses and medieval castle.

The route offers dramatic views of limestone cliffs plunging into the sea, secluded coves, and the azure Mediterranean.

Before heading to Bosa, make sure to stop at Neptune’s Grotto, a stunning marine cave accessible by boat or a steep set of stairs, located near Capo Caccia in the Regional Natural Park of Porto Conte

Panoramica della Costa del Sud

This route takes you along the southern coast of Sardinia, offering a mix of pristine beaches, rocky cliffs, and lush greenery.

Starting from the ancient city of Nora, head east along the SP195 and SP71 towards Chia, a beautiful beach resort town.

Keep driving on the SP71 and you’ll pass by some of the island’s most beautiful beaches, such as Tuerredda and Su Giudeu.

Don’t forget to stop at the Torre di Chia, a 16th-century watchtower offering stunning views of the coastline.

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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