Last updated on May 3, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

Renting a Car in Sicily: 25 Tips to Avoid Scams & Headaches

In this article, I share my personal experience of driving and renting a car in Sicily, providing all the info you need to know besides a few valuable tips for a stress-free and enjoyable journey.

As a traveller, navigating through the island’s diverse landscapes and serene countryside can be a rewarding experience.

Renting a car in Sicily provides the freedom and flexibility to explore the island at your own pace, without being restricted by public transportation schedules.

However, it’s crucial to be well-prepared and informed about the driving regulations, rental processes, and other essential aspects of driving in Sicily.

This comprehensive guide aims to cover all the necessary information to make your driving experience in Sicily smooth and hassle-free.

You can always find surprising cars on sale in Taormina
You can always find surprising cars to rent or on sale in Taormina

Driving License

I am sure you have already a driving licence, however, is it valid in Sicily?

Well, European and UK license holders can use their licenses without any issues. It is valid, doesn’t matter the language.

If you live outside Europe, like I do (Australian), then you need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy.

Although the situation is a bit foggy, due to the post-Brexit situation, UK drivers do not need an international driving permit.

IMPORTANT: While some rental companies may accept licenses from countries like the US, Australia, or Canada, it’s better to have an IDP to avoid any last-minute issues at the counter or, even worst, insurance complications (hopefully you won’t need it).

An IDP is a translation of your national driving license, allowing you to drive in foreign countries. It’s valid for one year and can be obtained from designated authorities in your home country for very little money.

  • In the United States, you can apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) through the American Automobile Association (AAA). Unfortunately, the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) has stopped to provide IDPs.
  • For Canadians, you can apply for an IDP at the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
  • Similarly, for Australian citizens, you can apply for an IDP through your state’s automobile association, such as the NRMA, RACV, or RAA.

It’s essential to carry both your national driving license and your IDP while driving in Sicily. If stopped, the police will need both of them, otherwise, you may be fined.

Driving Side

Like most of Europe, also the Sicilian traffic is right hand. If you are already used to driving on the right side, skip this and jump to the next section below.

I usually drive on the left side and I can only suggest driving smoothly for 2 or 3 days to adapt to the different system.

To help ease the transition, try following other cars on the road, especially during your first few days in Sicily.

Observing local drivers and their habits can help you quickly acclimate to the new driving environment.

You might also consider renting an automatic car to eliminate the need to worry about shifting gears with your unfamiliar hand.

Unfortunately, automatic cars can be more expensive to rent. In saying that, they do help immensely to reduce stress, especially if you are not used to manual cars at home.

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.

Drive to Milazzo Cape - Another amazing tour you can organised when you rent a car in Sicily
Drive to Milazzo Cape – Another amazing tour you can organise when you rent a car in Sicily

Renting a Car and rental terms to know

I am not really sure if anyone still rents the car from the local shop, however, let me stress it once again, book your car online.

By booking online, you can compare prices and reviews from various rental companies, ensuring that you get the best deal and a reliable vehicle.

It’s important to read the rental terms and conditions carefully before confirming your booking.

Pay close attention to the insurance coverage (more on this later), fuel policy, and any additional fees that may be applicable, such as young driver surcharges or extra equipment charges.

Make sure to also review the cancellation policy and any penalties for late returns or modifications to your reservation.

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 Sicily

When selecting a rental company, it’s advisable to choose a reputable provider with positive customer reviews.

Some well-known international companies operating in Sicily include Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Sixt. However, there are also local rental companies that may offer competitive prices and personalized service.

For this reason, I usually rent my cars on DiscoverCars, a very helpful website that compares car rental prices as well as car rental agencies based on the renters’ feedback (think it of an AirBnb of car rentals).

This site aggregates prices from major rental companies as well as local ones, allowing you to add also inexpensive full insurance coverage to your booking. Speaking of insurance, always opt for full coverage to protect yourself from any potential mishaps, such as scratches or dents, that could lead to costly fees.

My Tip: Book your car based also on the rental agency’s rating. A poor rating (below 7/10) is possibly a sign of trouble and more costs once on site or once you give back the car.

Upon arrival at the rental location, inspect the car carefully for any existing damages or scratches, and make sure they are documented on the rental agreement before you leave.

Taking photos of the car’s condition can serve as additional evidence in case of any disputes. I usually make also a quick video all around the car.

If you see any scratch or dent that is not marked on the rental agreement, then ask to add it.

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.

Speeding inside the Kalsa - Certainly not with a car
Speeding inside the Kalsa – Certainly not with a car

Type of car insurance for renting a car in Sicily

Here below is a summary of the insurance that you may have available with your rental companies.

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 CDWComprehensive 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

In the last column, I have also added an estimate of the price. Of course, this varies a lot based on the rental company.

Third-Party Liability Insurance usually is included in the rental price. CDW and Zero Excess come at an extra price but give great peace of mind. Unfortunately, streets can be narrow in Sicily, same as parking. Scratching or denting the car is not that unusual.

My biggest tip: Take Zero Excess/Full Coverage insurance. You will be so much more relaxed. You can actually add Zero Excess insurance on DiscoverCars.com for just 8 Euros/day(a real bargain). I had two occasions with problems and the insurance paid all of it.

I have already PAI in my travel insurance and SLI is a bit redundant if you buy Zero Excess.

I wrote a full guide to understanding Car Rental Insurance Options in Italy, which applies to Sicily too. I have also included a few examples to clarify unusual or unexpected situations. It does help to clarify any questions you may have.

Size of the rented car

Let’s explore some factors to consider when choosing the perfect car size for your Sicilian adventure.

It all depends on the number of people travelling in the car, besides the luggage of course.

If you’re travelling solo or as a couple, a compact or economy car might be just the ticket. These smaller vehicles are not only fuel-efficient but also easier to manoeuvre through the tight streets of ancient towns like Taormina or Cefalù.

However, a sedan or a SUV will definitely work better if travelling in a group of friends or with kids.

Next, think about where you’ll be driving in Sicily. The island boasts a mix of urban and rural areas, each with its own driving challenges.

In cities like Palermo or Catania, parking spaces can be scarce, and navigating the busy streets might be tricky. A smaller car will make it easier to find parking spots and manoeuvre through narrow lanes.

In saying that if you plan to explore the countryside then an SUV may work better. It must be said that most of the roads are sealed and uneven terrains are more of a rarity.

Of course, the rental price goes hand in hand with the size of the car.

While a luxury car might make for an unforgettable journey, it could also significantly increase your rental and fuel costs. It is also certainly attracting attention from possible thieves.

On the other hand, choosing an economy car can save you money without compromising on comfort or style.

I guess it is all about balancing the cost, comfort and ultimately the experience you want to have.

I have recently rented a small SUV for a month and I had a great time. It was just perfect for the three of us and honestly, we had also some spare space in the trunk.

Here below I have summarised the key points for this choice with an average rental cost based on the car size.

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€20 – €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 Sicily – Size matters
Driving along a Strada Statale, secondary road, in Italy
Driving along a Strada Statale, secondary road, in Italy

Type of Roads in Sicily

When planning your driving route around Sicily, it’s essential to consider the various road types and conditions you may encounter.

Here are some tips for navigating the island’s roads:

Highways (Autostrade): Highways in Sicily are well-maintained and provide fast connections between major cities and regions. A18/A19 connect east/south coasts, A20/A29 connect north/west coasts. Be aware that some highway sections may have tolls, and you should carry cash or a credit card for payment (more on this later).

Main Roads (Strade Statali or SS): These roads connect smaller towns and cities and are generally in good condition. They may be single or dual carriageways and can be quite scenic, offering a more leisurely driving experience.

Secondary Roads (Strade Provinciali or SP): These smaller roads often lead to rural areas and smaller villages. Yes, most are narrow and winding, they are spectacular and often with an amazing view but they can be stressful for the driver. Be prepared to encounter local traffic, such as agricultural vehicles or even animals, and exercise caution when navigating blind curves or steep inclines.

Urban Driving: Driving in Sicily’s cities and towns can be challenging, with narrow streets, limited parking, and restricted traffic zones (ZTLs, more on this later) in place to protect historical centres.

My tip: Park outside the centres of the cities/towns/villages and walk inside. That will save you a big headache. Except for Palermo and Catania, most of the other destinations are small and you can easily walk around. Google Maps often highlights free parking too, which is quite handy. Also, pay close attention to signage indicating parking regulations and ZTL boundaries to avoid fines.

Speed Limits

As just mentioned, in Sicily, you will find all sorts of roads, from the highways along the coast to the mountain road heading to Etna Mountain and the narrow streets of the small towns.

Type of RoadMax Speed (km/h)Max Speed (mph)
Highway (Autostrada)130
(80 in tunnels)
81
(50)
Urban Roads5031
Non-Urban Roads9056
Expressways (Superstrada)11068
School Zones3019
Residential Zones3019
Typical speed limits in Sicily (check local restrictions)

Highways, or autostrade, connect most of the island and have speed limits ranging from 80 km/h (49 mph) in tunnels to 110-130 km/h (80 mph) on open stretches.

While most highways are toll-free, be prepared to pay a toll for the Palermo-Messina route, up on the northeast side of the island. It is a very small amount and well worth it because the alternative road (strada statale) will double, if not triple, the driving time.

Major roads, or strade statali, are similar to highways but often have just one lane in each direction. The speed limit varies between 70 km/h (43 mph) and 110 km/h (68 mph) based on the condition of the road.

When driving through the hilly inland or through smaller towns, you’ll likely encounter narrower roads with lower speed limits, usually between 30 and 70 km/h.

Exercise caution on these roads, and avoid driving into historic city centres where traffic is restricted by ZTL zones (Zona Traffico Limitato).

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).

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

Toll roads

Driving through Sicily, you’ll find that most of the motorways are toll-free, making it an attractive region for road trips.

However, there are still a few toll roads, mostly connecting Messina with the west and south of Sicily

The longest toll road in Sicily is the A20, which connects Messina to Palermo, in the north of the island.

There’s also the A18, a short stretch of toll road between Messina and Catania, in the east of Sicily.

These toll roads are maintained by the Consorzio Autostrade Siciliane (CAS) and have modern, efficient infrastructure.

Paying the toll road is as easy as paying for anything with a credit card.

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 exiting the road to determine the amount you owe. The fees are calculated based on the distance you drive on the Hway.

Besides paying by credit card, you can also use cash but expect lots of coins back.

In some cases, you can also use the Telepass system – an electronic device that automatically deducts the tolls from a linked bank account – if your rental car is equipped with one.

I would not suggest using the Telepass unless you are spending a considerable amount of time in Sicily. The main reason is that there is a processing fee by the car rental agencies.

To give you an idea of the costs, here’s a summary table of the toll roads in Sicily with the main exits.

Toll RoadRouteDistance (Km)Distance (Miles)Travel Time (Highway)Travel Time
(No Hway)
Cost
A20Messina to Palermo (Northern Coast)2081292h 30min4h€15.00
A20Messina to Milazzo392430min1h€3.50
A20Palermo to Cefalù70431h1h 45min€5.00
A18Messina to Catania (Eastern Coast)96601h 15min2h 30min€2.50
A18Catania to Taormina543445min1h 30min€1.50
Toll roads in Sicily

These are only approximate costs and travel time. They may vary based on your exit station (distance travelled) and sudden changes throughout the year.

I have also added the travel time for the same distance using a different road, which may be more spectacular, however, double the driving time, on average.

For the most up-to-date information, I recommend checking the CAS website or using a navigation app that includes toll information, like Google Maps.

GPS and Navigation systems – How to drive around Sicily

Does it make sense to rent a GPS system in your rental car?

It may or may not. In the table below I summarize the pros and cons of each option in relation to a trip to popular places as well as rural areas.

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 Sicily

I drove my car everywhere in Sicily. I used the car GPS as well as the apps on my mobile.

The car GPS can be great but it really depends on how updated it is. For example, the new roads on the south coast were not fully integrated into my car system on my last trip. And they are still extending the Hway.

I always end up defaulting to Google Maps or Waze. I usually download the Sicilian Map to make Google Maps working also off-line (similar to Sygic).

Moreover, once you approach the cities, the mobile apps are updated with the traffic too, which is a real time-saver!

Honestly, if you do not have already Waze, just use Google Maps and in 99% of the case you will not have a problem.

The only drawback of using the mobile is that the battery goes down very fast, so make sure to have a cable to connect it to the USB charger in the car.

ZTL - Zona Traffico Limitato - in the beautiful Scicli
ZTL – Zona Traffico Limitato – in the beautiful Scicli

Avoid the ZTL areas

A ZTL, or “Zona a Traffico Limitato,” is a restricted traffic zone commonly found in Italian cities and towns, including those in Sicily. The primary purpose of these zones is to reduce congestion, minimize pollution, and protect historical areas from excessive traffic.

The rules for entering a ZTL can be a bit tricky for first-time visitors to Sicily, but don’t worry, they are super easy.

Usually, ZTLs have specific hours of operation, often during the day when traffic is heaviest.

During these hours, only authorized vehicles, such as residents, delivery trucks, and public transportation, are allowed to enter.

There are usually cameras at the entrance of the ZTL that automatically record the license plates of vehicles passing through, so if you mistakenly enter one without authorization, you’ll likely receive a fine.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with ZTL signs and hours of operation.

The signs are usually round with a red circle and white background, stating “Zona a Traffico Limitato” or simply “ZTL.” Pay close attention to the time restrictions, which are displayed below the main sign.

If you use Google Maps, usually the yellow areas of the cities/towns are ZTL. In saying that, they may extend to a much wider size, so check properly the sign, like the photo below.

While ZTLs might seem intimidating at first, they’re a vital part of preserving Sicily’s charm and beauty. It’s easy enough to avoid them once you keep in mind the sign. Also, a little warning that the streets in the ZTL area are usually very narrow, something you want to avoid.

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

Parking in Sicily

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 Sicily

Finding parking in Sicily can be challenging, particularly in urban areas and popular tourist destinations. But, honestly, it’s like everywhere in the world. The biggest difference is more on understanding the colour-coded parking zones.

Here are some essential tips for parking in Sicily:

White lines: Define the area for free parking. Make sure to park within the designated area and respect any time restrictions posted on nearby signs.

There could be locals asking for 50c-1Euro for overseeing your car. It’s always worth paying, take it as a help to the local community (I know it’s not the same, but there is no point to ruin a day with arguments)

Blue lines: These zones are paid parking areas. Most of Sicily nowadays is covered by the EasyPark App (Android, iPhone). You just have to enter the zone number and your licence number.

The great thing about this app is that you pay only for the time you park. You can cut or extend your time as you please. Such a piece of mind!

If there is no EasyPark, then you will need to purchase a parking ticket from a nearby machine and display it on your dashboard.

Yellow lines: These zones are reserved for people with disabilities or specific permits. Avoid parking in these areas to prevent fines or having your vehicle towed.

Off-street parking: This is usually available in larger cities. These facilities often charge hourly or daily rates and can be a convenient option, especially in areas where on-street parking is scarce. It is quite common in Palermo, Catania or Cefalu, for example.

IMPORTANT TIP: To deter potential theft, avoid leaving any bags or valuable items visible in your car. Store them in the trunk or a hidden compartment if possible.

Honestly, I highly suggest never leaving anything even in the trunk.

When I do, I make sure that when I arrive at my destination, I park the car and leave straight away. I don’t start opening the trunk to leave my jacket, for example, because people around can see that there are also bags.

Basically behave like you are parking the car to visit a member of the family that lives there.

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

Petrol stations and fuel

When renting a car in Sicily, one aspect that might be different from what you’re used to is the fueling process.

There are two types of fuel stations in Sicily: servito and self-service.

  • Servito stations have attendants who will pump the fuel for you.
  • Self-service stations have nobody there and you will have to make the fuel yourself, of course at a lower cost.

To save money, I recommend opting for self-service stations whenever possible. Keep in mind that some stations have both servito and self-service options, so make sure to check the signs and choose the pump that best fits your needs.

When it comes to payment, most Sicilian petrol stations accept credit cards.

Honestly, I had only one occasion that I had to pay cash and it was inland and the credit card machine did not work at the petrol station. So, I always suggest bringing with you some cash, you never know.

Also, be aware that some self-service stations require payment before pumping, so look for instructions on the pump or ask for assistance if needed.

Another of my tips: Avoid filling up on or near motorways, as these stations tend to have higher prices. Instead, try to find petrol stations in towns or along local roads, where you’ll likely find more competitive rates.

If you have Google Maps, look for “Petrol Stations” in the area you are in and you will see the advertised price of the fuel. These prices are updated quite regularly but they are not 100% accurate.

Lastly, there are two types of fuel: benzina (petrol) and gasolio (diesel). It’s crucial to fill up with the correct fuel to avoid damaging the vehicle and incurring additional costs with the rental agency.

You may also find different types of petrol which supposedly are better for the performance of the engine. Usually, the cheapest one works fine.

Petro stations usually advertise how much more expensive is the petrol in the serviced areas
Petro stations usually advertise how much more expensive is petrol in the serviced areas. In this case 19c more, or around 10%

Seatbelts

Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers in the car, both in the front and rear seats.

You are probably used to that in your country of origin.

Keep in mind that it’s not unusual to be stopped by the police because of not wearing seat belts.

In saying that make it more for your safety than an imposed rule. Really worth it.

Drinking and driving

Drinking and driving is never a good idea, in Sicily too.

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

In Italy, the legal blood alcohol content limit is 0.00% if you have less than three years of driving experience.

Otherwise, it is 0.05%. Also in this case fines can be exceptionally high, and your license could be suspended based on your BAC.

My tip: If visiting a wine cellar, make one of the two choices:

  • join an organised tour with the driver for a no-worries experience
  • appoint a driver in the car that should limit his/her drinking.
Exploring with a rented car the interiors of Sicily
Exploring with a rented car the interiors of Sicily

Child Safety and Car Seats

Italian law requires that all children under the age of 12 or shorter than 150 cm (59 inches) must use an appropriate child restraint system.

The type of restraint system depends on the child’s age, weight, and height, with options ranging from rear-facing infant seats to booster seats for older children.

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

When renting a car, make sure to request the necessary child safety equipment in advance, as availability may be limited.

Keep in mind that rental companies usually charge around 10-15 euros/day for a child seat.

On my last trip, I was in Sicily for 4 weeks and I saved over 200 Euros by buying the booster seat directly at the shop (from 30 Euros and up).

Driving Etiquette and Safety Tips

While driving in Sicily, it’s essential to be aware of local driving etiquette and safety practices to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Take it easy: you are on holiday, so do not be stressed if the locals are sometimes too relaxed with driving, or they suddenly park the car in impossible spots (double parking is common). Just keep your distance from the car ahead of you, relax and follow the flow.

Use your horn wisely: In Sicily, the horn is used primarily as a warning signal, such as when approaching blind curves on narrow roads or to alert pedestrians of your presence. Avoid using your horn excessively.

Be prepared for overtaking: Local drivers may be more comfortable with overtaking on narrow or winding roads than you might be. They live there. Stay alert and be prepared to adjust your speed or position to accommodate other drivers.

Signal your intentions: Always use your turn signals when changing lanes or turning, and make sure to check your mirrors and blind spots before making any manoeuvres. That is even more important in cities, where you will share your lane with lots of scooters, the most popular mean of transportation in Sicily.

Night driving: Rural roads in Sicily may have limited lighting or visibility at night. Be cautious when driving in the dark, and use your high beams judiciously to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.

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

Roadside Assistance and Emergency Numbers

While driving in Sicily is generally safe and enjoyable, it’s crucial to be prepared for any unexpected situations. Before setting off on your road trip, familiarize yourself with the emergency numbers for roadside assistance and other emergencies:

  • Roadside Assistance: If your rental car breaks down or you need assistance, dial 116 for ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) service. Ask the rental company if they have other assistance besides the ACI.
  • General Emergencies: In case of an accident or any other emergency, dial 112 to reach the European Emergency Number, which will connect you with the appropriate emergency service.

Remember to always take with you the driving license, IDP, passport, car rental agreement, and proof of insurance with you while driving. This documentation will be essential in case of an accident or if you’re stopped by the police.

Public Transportation Vs Renting a car in Sicily

While driving in Sicily offers the freedom and flexibility to explore the island at your own pace, public transportation can also be a viable option for getting around.

I already organised a guide on how to get around Sicily and what public transportation is available.

In short:

FactorsPublic TransportationRenting a Car
CostAffordableRental, fuel, and insurance costs
FlexibilityLimited schedules and routesVisit off-the-beaten-path locations and travel on your own schedule
ConvenienceRequires transfers or additional transportation for specific destinations; crowded during peak times; common delaysComfort and convenience of having your own vehicle; easier to transport luggage or equipment
EnvironmentalEco-friendlyLess eco-friendly due to fuel consumption
Traffic & ParkingAvoids traffic and parking concernsPotential stress navigating unfamiliar roads and traffic; difficulty finding parking in urban areas
Scenery & RelaxationAllows you to relax and enjoy the scenery without focusing on drivingRequires focusing on driving, which may detract from enjoying the scenery
Summary of Public Transportation Vs Renting A Car In Sicily



In conclusion, the best mode of transportation in Sicily depends on your personal preferences and travel plans.

If you prioritize flexibility, convenience, and the ability to explore lesser-known areas, driving is likely the best option.

However, if you want more of a relaxed travel experience, public transportation may work better.

Budget-wise, renting a car may be more budget-friendly if you are in a group of 2 or more people.

The beautiful Cefalu
The beautiful Cefalu

5 scams to Avoid when renting a Car in Sicily

In true honesty, these are scams I expect everywhere in the world.

I never had any trouble in Sicily, however, I always do what I suggest below, just in case it happens.

Hidden fees and charges: Some car rental companies may try to add extra fees or charges to your bill without proper explanation. These can include cleaning fees, extra mileage charges, or administrative fees. Always review your contract thoroughly and ask for clarification on any unexpected charges. Book online and you are usually safe, what you see is what you get.

Unnecessary insurance upselling: Some rental agencies may attempt to pressure you into purchasing additional insurance coverage that you don’t need. They might claim that it’s mandatory or use scare tactics to convince you. When you book your car, make sure that it comes with Third-Party Insurance and CDW (usually they come by default). The problem is usually the deductible that is very high (1,000 Euros or more). My solution is to book my cars on DiscoverCars and add the inexpensive Full Coverage at 7-8 Euros/day that covers the deductible too. Basically, a no-worries experience.

Damaged car scam: In this scam, the rental company may accuse you of causing damage to the car when you return it, even if the damage was pre-existing. Before starting the car, I always suggest taking photos and videos of both the outside and the inside (problems caused by salty water is common). If you see any damage that was not reported, then ask to add it.

Fuel scam: Some rental companies may charge you for a full tank of petrol even if you return the car with a full tank. To avoid this, make petrol just before giving back the car. Keep your fuel receipts and make a photo of the fuel level when you leave the car.

Bait-and-switch tactics: A rental agency may advertise a specific car model at a low price, only to claim that the car is unavailable when you arrive. They then try to pressure you into renting a more expensive car. To avoid this scam, make sure to get a written confirmation of your reservation with the specific car model and price included. This is a problem that rarely happens, and mostly with local renters that want to scam foreigners. I always suggest checking the car rental company rating on DiscoverCars before booking anything (read the customer feedback). Avoid agencies rated below 7 if you can, sometimes deals that are too good to be true, are actually not true in the end.

My video on renting a car in sicily

4 amazing Scenic Routes you should experience in Sicily

As I already mentioned, one of the greatest advantages of renting a car in Sicily is to explore the region at your own pace, experiencing many of the hidden gems off the bitten path

Here are four of my favourite scenic routes and must-visit destinations:

  • The Taormina Coast: This iconic drive offers panoramic views of the Ionian Sea, rocky cliffs, and picturesque bays. Don’t miss the chance to visit the idyllic hilltop town of Taormina and its ancient Greek theatre.
  • Palermo to Cefalù: This coastal route takes you through vibrant Palermo, past charming seaside villages, and on to the beautiful medieval town of Cefalù. Be sure to visit the magnificent Norman Cathedral and stroll along the picturesque harbour.
  • The Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto: Explore the UNESCO-listed Val di Noto by car, where you’ll find eight Baroque towns, including Noto, Modica, and Ragusa. Each town boasts stunning architecture, historic sites, and delectable culinary offerings.
  • The Enchanted Circle: This inland route takes you on a journey through the heart of Sicily, encompassing the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges, the ancient city of Enna, and the serene Lake Pergusa.
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.

2 thoughts on “Renting a Car in Sicily: 25 Tips to Avoid Scams & Headaches”

  1. You didn’t mention anything about taking the rental car on the ferry boat to the mainland. Most rental companies do not allow that and some insurance doesn’t cover it.

    Reply
    • Correct Eric, it really depends of the rental company. On my last trip, for example, I picked up a car in Sicily and I gave it back in Milan but I had to pay more for both the insurance as well as the drop of in a different part of Italy.
      If this is what you are planning, then I suggest contacting the rental company directly and have a written email confirmation before booking your vehicle

      Reply

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