Car or public transport in Sicily?
Whether you need a car or public transport in Sicily mainly depends on your itinerary. On a visit to Sicily’s cosmopolitan Palermo and Catania it is better to avoid the car or at least, minimize driving in these cities. You won’t need a car on a relaxed vacation in coastal resort towns like Taormina, Giardini Naxos, San Vito lo Capo, or Cefalu. This said, the car will be of great value out of high season, for traveling around and visiting all the historic and archaeological ancestry that Sicily has to show.
How to get from Palermo to Syracuse? How to get from Catania to Ragusa? Etc.
There are two main ways to travel around in Sicily by public transport: bus and train.
For bus schedules from one point to the other this link will also have the most updated and relevant information:
http://www.interbus.it (change the language in top right corner to your native one, “Inglese” for English
Just insert your point of departure and arrival and you will see the schedule, the cost and time of travel.
For trains check this link
It is worth checking all three links to find your convenient route.
Is it difficult to drive in Sicily?
Driving is not difficult in Sicily. Even though big cities are hectic and it is better to avoid driving there – especially during rush hours – following basic driving rules and common sense is enough to be on the safe side. Driving style in Catania and especially Palermo is aggressive, but for the rest of the island it is similar to the rest of Italy and the European Mediterranean. Taormina, Enna, Erice and other towns on the hills may be slightly tricky because of their mountainous position and steep and narrow roads.
Trains in Sicily
Trenitalia service is generally fast and frequent along the coast from Palermo to Messina via Cefalu, and from Syracuse to Messina via Catania. Trains run slower and less frequently from Palermo to Agrigento, Trapani and Marsala, however, there are bus services as an alternative. There is now a direct connection via the center of the island from Palermo to Catania. Some years ago this trip could easily take more than 7 hours. It is only 2,5 – 3h maximum by car on a highway.
Buses in Sicily
Buses are generally slower and less frequent than trains, however, it’s the only reasonable public transportation option in some areas. Val di Noto towns, Agrigento and Marsala areas, Villa Romana del Casale (Piazza Armerina) are easier to visit by bus. Palermo and Catania followed by Messina and Trapani are the biggest transportation hubs. Most of the other routes to smaller towns and archeological sites like Segesta, Selinunte, Piazza Armerina are served via these cities.
Taormina, and Siracuse both have a decent choice of destinations available with a direct route in summer months.
Sicily ON a bus vs Sicily FROM a bus
This said, if you want to really see and experience Sicily, the car is the best option. Sicily is a destination where public transportation requires diligent advance planning. And even with such planning there may be factors to alter your plans. Although some may decide to go by bus from Taormina or Siracuse to Agrigento, Piazza Armerina or even a closer Ragusa on a day trip, this is a big waste of a precious vacation time. Driving is fast in Sicily along the highways, so if you want to see Sicily ON a bus instead of FROM a bus – make sure to plan this part very well and verify all the options routes.
Highways are your guidelines
Driving (by car or by bus) is fast in Sicily along the highways. Palermo – Catania, Palermo – Messina, Taormina – Siracuse, Trapani – Cefalu – all these routes and the ones along the same roads will be time efficient. Traveling in the south of Sicily generally is much less efficient and the roads, though safe, aren’t wide and fast. They are even slower by bus. Looking at the map it is difficult to believe that the trip by car from Siracuse to Agrigento will take you 3,5 – 4 hours, but it is so. It will be even slower by bus and will require a change.
Think twice and read more different sources before deciding in favor of public transportation, especially if you are not based in Palermo or Catania, and/or if you are visiting in low season.
Car hire in Sicily
Car hire is readily available at all airports and many towns. Some companies will allow you to return the hired car in a different location on the island. Always hire from a reputable broker – company, e.g. Auto Europe, and a reliable internationally known supplier like Europcar, Avis, or Hertz.
Transfers vs taxis
Taxi is usually not the best value for money in Sicily. If you need a transfer upon arrival or for your departure, pre-arranged private transfer will be a better deal. The value will be the best if you contact the transfer agency operating in the area where you need the transfer. So, if you land in Catania and need a transfer to Taormina, look for Catania – based or Taormina- based service provider. A simple google search will give you a list of options. You will most probably need to request a quote to know the exact price of the transfer.