Renting a Car in Sicily: All you Need to know Renting a Car in Sicily: All you Need to know

Renting a Car in Sicily: All you Need to know

At the foot of Italy lies the country’s largest island, Sicily. This captivating region is steeped in history and boasts some of the most incredible landscapes, from rugged mountains to pristine coastlines and charming villages. Nothing tops exploring ancient temples, lively coastal towns, and all the wonderful hidden gems on the island. Because of this, there’s no better way to get around than by your own transportation. Here’s all you need to know about renting a car in Sicily, Italy.

How to rent a car in Sicily, Italy

Though it is possible to see the incredible island of Sicily by public transport, the very best way to travel through this Italian gem is by car. Having your own transportation offers you the freedom and flexibility to travel to many destinations at your own speed.

how to rent a car sicily taormina italy

From your car rental in Palermo (or any other town), you’ll drive past ancient seaside cities, rocky cliffs, towering mountains, and pristine beaches. In this guide, we’ll share exactly how to rent a car in Sicily, including useful tips on how to drive on this stunning Mediterranean island.

What do you need to rent a car in Sicily? 

When you rent a car in Sicily, you’ll need to bring a couple of documents with you:

  • Your driver’s license from your home country
  • Your ID (passport) 
  • Credit Card 
  • International Driver’s Permit (IDP)

The legal driving age in Italy is 18 years old. To be able to rent a car, however, you need to have had your driver’s license for at least one year. Generally, rental car companies in Sicily require you to be 21 or over and no older than the maximum age (usually 70-75 years). All drivers must present a valid driver’s license, an ID as proof of their identity, and a credit card to make the payment. 

Note: Most car rentals in Italy charge an extra fee if you’re under 25 years old.

car rental sicily italy city street

If you’re a non-EU citizen and want to rent a car in Sicily, you’ll need to have an International Driver’s Permit. The Italian car rental might not ask for it, but it is required by law that you have one, and the traffic police might ask for it. An International Driver’s Permit costs just 15 USD and is valid for one year. You can arrange yours here.

car rental sicily carabinieri sign

Rental car insurance in Sicily

Though car insurance isn’t mandatory in a lot of European countries, it is in Italy. This is regarding the basic Car Damage Waiver insurance, which is arranged upon booking. Theft cover is recommended but not mandatory.

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Renting a Car in Sicily: All you Need to know
small car rental sicily Erice

When you decide to add additional coverage, make sure to arrange that in your initial booking, as the prices are the best when done like this. You can also check if your credit card policy covers car rental insurance in Italy.

Tip: Buy CDW but make sure not to purchase it twice. Many companies will ask if you want to add this insurance upon pick-up, even if you’ve already arranged it in your online booking. Make sure to print a copy of your rental contract and show it to the agent so you don’t buy the mandatory insurance twice. 

car rental sicily Palermo - Fontana Pretoria

Is it easy to drive in Sicily?

Before you rent a car in Sicily, it’s important to know some of the road rules and customs of Italy.

The Roads & Speed Limits

Just like in mainland Italy, there are a few different roads on Sicily, ranging from medieval alleyways to winding mountain roads. Major cities in Sicily are linked by the Autostrada (the highway), which has a maximum speed limit of 130 km/h. However, you’ll only find a few of these in the northern part of the island, meaning it can take a bit longer to get from one point to another. 

When you make your way south, close to Taormina and Mount Etna, you’ll only find dual carriageways (Superstradas) with a max of 110 km/h. From there, the roads flow into single lanes and small country roads stretching along the coastline. Here, as well as in towns, speed limits range between 50 – 90 km/h. Keep in mind that these roads are less well-maintained and frequently have potholes. 

Note: Italy has many speed monitors, so follow the speed limit to avoid getting an expensive fine. You’ll find speed limits displayed in a circular white sign with a red border. A GPS is not necessary when renting a car in Sicily, Italy. Offline maps on Google Maps work perfectly fine.

car rental sicily parking old town

Zona Traffico Limitato

In Italy, there are certain zones that you need to pay attention to. These ‘zona traffico limitato’ or ‘Area Pedonale’ areas are off-limits to all vehicles without a permit. The country has over 200 marked ZTL zones, including on the island of Sicily.

Sometimes they are difficult to identify, but most are recognizable by a sign with a big red circle or a light system. You can only enter these zones with a car when the ZTL is open. This is noted on the sign at the entrance of the ZTL zone or when a green light shows. 

Many of these historic zones can be found in the city centers of Sicilian towns like Ragusa and Catania. If you want to be sure you don’t accidentally drive into a ZTL zone, park your car outside the center and walk the rest of the way. Notify the hotel staff if you need to park at your hotel in the center, and they’ll inform the parking authorities to authorize your car.

sicily italy catania car rental tips

Traffic in Sicily, Italy

While you make your way past Sicily’s wonderful highlights, you can expect some traffic on different routes. Especially during the high season, you’ll be driving on narrow streets and two-lane roads with more traffic. However, visit outside of this time or head to lesser-known areas, and you’ll be able to avoid busy streets. 

For example, you won’t encounter much traffic driving from Palermo or your car rental in Catania to the stunning Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. Though in popular towns like Taormina, traffic becomes more frequent due to its narrow, steep streets and sharp curves. 

It’s good to always watch for traffic, as Italians are known to drive a bit erratically. Not everyone uses their blinkers or gives way on roundabouts, for example. You’ll notice that a lot of Italian cars also have at least a few scratches, so we recommend getting good insurance when renting a car in Sicily.

car rental sicily Trapani city

Top Tips for Renting a Car in Sicily

1. Do a walk-around & check the car

When you pick up your rental car in Sicily, make sure to do a walk-around with an agent to sign off that there’s no damage to the car. Use this time also to check if everything you need is there. Cars in Italy are legally required to have a safety triangle and vests in the back. 

If you’re traveling in winter, see if you’ve got snow tires or chains in the car’s trunk. Many areas require these between November and April. When you return the car, make sure an agent checks if there’s no damage before you leave.

car rental sicily Palermo small tricycle

2. Be mindful of where you park

Parking in Sicily, Italy, can be paid or free. Paid parking areas are marked with blue lines, whereas those marked white (or without marking) are typically free. However, in Sicily, white parking lines can also mean that it’s for residents only. Because of this, try to watch for signs of a free parking spot, parking time limits, and possible parking disk (disco) requirements. Yellow lines are for residents, handicap-permit holders, or loading/unloading. 

car rental sicily seaside town

At the paid parking spots, you’ll either buy a ticket through a parking meter (parcometro) or at a tobacco shop that sells tickets. After getting your ticket, place it on display in your rental car. In some Sicilian cities and towns, such as Palermo, you can use the Easy Park app to park and top up when needed without having to walk back to your car.

parking car rental sicily fiat 500

3. There are toll booths

There are two toll roads along Sicily’s highways: the A20 from Palermo to Messina and the A18 from Messina to Catania. When you enter these Autostradas, you’ll receive a ticket and pay the toll once you exit again. A toll ticket in Sicily typically costs no more than 5 EUR (5.46 USD) per journey.

Toll booths are marked on your map app. Some toll booths have cashiers who can make a change for you, while others are automated and require exact change. Because of this, it’s good to keep some spare change in your rental car in Sicily. If you have problems at the booth, you can push on the ‘help’ button. However, be prepared to speak some Italian as most assistants won’t speak English.

car rental sicily cefalu drone view

4. Fill your car with the right fuel

Getting gas in Sicily is fairly easy. You’ll find both self-serve (fai da te) and serviced (servitor) pumps, though the second option is a bit more expensive. At the pump, you have two options: Gasolio (diesel) and Benzina (gas). It’s important not to confuse the two!

Your Sicily rental car often has a sticker indicating what type of fuel it needs. You’ll usually find this on the car key, dashboard, or fuel door. Gas stations can be found all over the island, though sometimes far apart. Because of this, we recommend keeping your gas tank full.

How much does a car rental in Sicily cost?

Overall, car rentals in Sicily (and mainland Italy) are fairly priced. The total price typically depends on a few factors: the time of the year you’re visiting, the duration of your trip, and the type of car you want to rent.

During the summer months, there’s always an increased demand for renting a car in Sicily, which drives up the prices. If you’re visiting in the other seasons, including winter, the prices will be considerably lower.

car rental sicily Trapani sunset

The time you decide to rent a car also influences the total price. If you rent a car for a longer period of time, the daily price usually drops. This means that five days of rental might just be slightly more than three days, for example. If you can, consider exploring Sicily, Italy, for at least one week!

Tip: Save some money if you’re starting/ending your travel in Palermo or Catania. Since parking is pricey and the cities are easily navigated on foot, you won’t need (or want) to drive a car there. Instead, rent a car after you’re done exploring the cities to see more of the island.

car rental sicily Jeep parking

Getting the right vehicle

The general rule in many European countries is that the smaller the car, the lower the price. Bigger cars are more expensive because they require more fuel. Opting for a smaller car is also better for navigating the narrow streets and parking places in Sicily’s towns. This way, you drive more comfortably and don’t have to worry when parking.

Browse your options online via a comparison site to make sure you get the best deal. If you book in advance, it’ll also be much more affordable than stepping into the office and arranging it there.

Where do I Rent a Car in Sicily, Italy? 

There are numerous reputable car rentals in Sicily to choose from. If you’re planning on renting a car in the summer, try to book it in advance. This ensures that you secure the type of car you want, possibly for a much lower price.

The main locations to rent a car are Palermo Airport and Catania Airport. Though you can also rent a car in the city centers or in smaller locations such as Cefalu, Pozzallo, and Taormina. The airports are known to have a wider selection of rental cars, though the prices are also higher. It’s worth renting a car in Palermo or Catania after exploring the city first.

car rental sicily

If it makes sense on your route, pick up and drop off the car in different locations on the island. For example, pick up your rental car in Catania and drop it off in Palermo instead of driving all the way back. There will be an extra charge, but it can be worth it if you consider the tolls, gas, and time. You can also take a rental car from Sicily to mainland Italy if your rental car company allows you to do so.

car rental sicily Cefalu
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