Driving in Sicily – Really Useful Tips for your Italy Road Trip
What you can expect from this article...
Should you take a Road Trip in Sicily, Italy?
I’m a huge advocate for self-drive holidays. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting on a coach passing by somewhere amazing thinking ‘if only I could explore there!’ With a driving holiday, you can stop when somewhere catches your eye, take lunch by a pretty view and change your plans at short notice.
With a driving holiday, you can stop when somewhere catches your eye, take lunch by a pretty view and change your plans at short notice. Click To Tweet
However, driving abroad can be challenging at times when you are not used to the roads and the rules. Driving in Sicily is no exception. An Italy road trip can be incredibly rewarding however it is not always the easiest way to travel! Crazy Italian drivers (otherwise affectionately referred to as road hoggers,) narrow pot-holed roads and the craziest hairpin bends you’ve ever seen. Yes, driving in Sicily is not exactly easy. It is, however, rewarding!
Would I do it again? Absolutely!
So you need to decide if driving in Sicily is your thing or not! So I suggest you answer these questions before you embark on your Italy road trip!
- Are you a confident driver?
- Are you happy driving in new cities back home?
- Can you keep calm in high-stress situations?
- Are you happy to be flexible on holidays?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, you may want to think twice about your mode of travel! That or convince a more confident driver to come with you. Driving in Sicily is a lot of fun so that shouldn’t be too hard!
So here are a few tips to help your Italy road trip go smoothly…
Renting a Car in Sicily
These days it’s super easy to hire a car online however, it’s also easy to get completely shafted by the hire company.
We’ve all been there. We find an amazing deal. Only €8 / day you say?! Awesome. You click through only to be hit by all the extortionate extras and suddenly your car hire is more like €30-40/day. Not so awesome anymore!
Luckily I have a little travel hack for you! Two actually!
- Say no to any fully-comp insurance policies. Yes, you need one for peace of mind. No, you do not need the one the car insurance company is offering! If you live in the E.U. head over to Moneysupermarket.co.uk. There you can buy an annual policy covering you for ANY time you hire a car in Europe for the next 12 MONTHS for just €40! That’s a fraction of what it’ll cost you with the hire company – I was quoted over > €200 with mine! And even better, if you take a 2nd or 3rd trip that year, you are instantly covered so your next policy will work out EVEN cheaper! Win-Win! Whilst as far as I’m aware, this policy is only for travel in Europe, I am sure there are similar policies to be found for other places!
2. Again this is more of a tip for Europeans but is super useful. These days there is a reciprocal agreement with phone networks across the E.U. This means your data, minutes and texts carry over to any country you visit within Europe. Therefore say no to the expensive €10/day sat nav and instead use google maps on your phone. Most hire cars have a USB point these days and you can buy an inexpensive which slots into the air vents.
For those of you not from the E.U. it may work out cheaper to buy an Italian sim card with plenty of data than hire one of the extortionate satnavs! Or even better, bring your from home! (As long as it’s set up for worldwide maps.)
Rent the smallest car which meets your needs – you’ll thank me when you are navigating Sicily’s notoriously narrow lanes!
Rent the smallest car which meets your needs - you'll thank me when you are navigating Sicily's notoriously narrow lanes! Click To Tweet
Remember it’s almost always cheaper to pick up and drop off at the same airport. There are, however, exceptions. I once managed to get an absolutely awesome deal on a campervan in New Zealand. Someone had rented it from north island and dropped it off on the South Island. It needed taking back home so we offered to do just that and got it super cheap! It’s always worth asking!
And really it goes without saying, make sure you shop about for the best deal as they can vary hugely!
Depending on which country you are visiting from, you may need an international driving license so check first. Check out E-ITA for international drivers licenses for Italy.
Road Tolls in Sicily
There are road tolls everywhere in Sicily, especially in the North. You pick up a ticket at the first toll booth then pay for it at the next booth. I had a little panic when I came across my first one just outside of the airport not having yet been to a cashpoint! Fortunately, this one had a manned booth and accepted card payment! Phew! However, not all do so I suggest you head to a cash point at the airport before you pick up the car!
On another occasion, I was charged over €9 and only had €5 left in my purse. Don’t panic if this happens to you. There is a button to press for assistance. The person at the other end clearly didn’t speak English but after 5 minutes of speaking Italian at me and me not understanding a word, he eventually gave me a new ticket. Again, not understanding Italian I had no idea what to do with this! But I gave it to a guy at another toll booth and he sorted it for me and I was able to pay for both. Fine avoided! Phew!
Lesson learnt – always keep spare change handy!
Roadworks in Sicily
Whilst driving in Sicily, you will notice there are roadworks EVERYWHERE! However, there never seems to be anyone working on the roads or even evidence that any work has been started! Just a lot of cones prohibiting you to drive normally! I’m sure they do it to frustrate the tourists!
You will also notice that the road conditions can be poor with a lot of potholes. So take your time and don’t feel that you need to keep up with the crazy local drivers!
Hairpin bends in Sicily
One of the things which makes driving in Sicily so challenging is the hairpin bends! There are a lot of them! The plus side is that this will make your Italy road trip incredibly scenic. It will also make it stressful. Take your time and if you can’t see if there’s oncoming traffic, do like the locals do and honk your horn!
Probably the most challenging things about an Italy road trip is the Italian drivers! Their driving is like their personalities – firey and passionate! They will gesticulate a lot, drive right up to your car to push you along, overtake even when there is oncoming traffic and they NEVER stick to the speed limits! The good news is that you do get used to it for a while. You also learn to expect the unexpected and adapt your own driving accordingly! Especially at roundabouts!
Driving on the right
So many UK travellers tell me this is what worries them most about taking an Italy road trip or a road trip anywhere where they drive on the right! I won’t deny, it feels weird at first. The number of times I walk to the passenger’s door by mistake!! But you do get used to it very quickly! Roundabouts can be the most challenging part but even then, it doesn’t take long before driving on the right just feels normal. Just take your time when you first get the car hire especially at junctions!
Car Crime in Sicily
Car crime is high in Sicily. In general, I felt very safe walking about but I never felt entirely safe leaving my car in deserted car parks. Make sure you don’t leave any valuables in the car. If you absolutely have to (I had to leave my drone in their once when I wasn’t allowed into The Valley of The Temples with it, hide your valuables somewhere that isn’t instantly obvious. I put mine under the car seat. Also, park your car somewhere as public as possible. It will also help if it doesn’t look like you’ve come straight from the airport in a super clean shiny hire car – likely with a load of luggage in the boot! So a few empty drinks bottles on the passenger’s seat will do nicely!
Choose your Accommodation wisely.
Always check in advance if your hotel has secure parking. I use booking.com and I select a car park as a filter option. However, I would also ring ahead and double check. I got stung here when one guest house I stayed at made me park in a public car park. Apparently, they had a car park once. 3 years ago. Not very useful for me! When I went to park the car, I had a group of shady characters loitering around – one even tried to brazenly look inside my car boot! Not only that, but the route back to my hotel was through dark alleys and had I known in advance, I would not have stayed there – nice as the guest house was!
Parking in Sicily
In general, the rules are:
Yellow spaces – residents only
Blue spaces – paid parking – sometime will need to get a ticket at a local shop or via an app on your phone.
White spaces – free parking – being a cheapskate, these are what I stuck too!
I used TripAdvisor forums a lot to find recommended parking areas. There is also a great ‘nearby’ feature on google maps which will show you where the closest parking to your location is!
Despite the difficulties associated with driving in Sicily, I would definitely still recommend an Italy Road trip! You get to see so much more and experience it all at your own pace! So follow these rules and you should be just fine!
So now all that remains is to plan your Sicily Road Trip Itinerary. Luckily I have that covered and am working on that article right now! Check back in a few days to read it!
In the meantime, here are a few other posts you may be interested in:
My Ultimate Europe Bucket List – for more travel inspiration!
My Iceland road trip guide – for another amazing road trip packed with beautiful scenery!
As always, I love to hear about your own ideas and experiences and of course, I’d really appreciate if you can share this article on Pinterest or social media to help spread the word about driving in Sicily!