Updated april 12, 2022

Your Guide To Renting A Car On Sicily

Aleksandrs Buraks
Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com

Why should you rent a car in Sicily?

The island of Sicily is one of the most fascinating travel destinations in Europe. Culturally distinct from mainland Italy, it is a proud and unique place. From ancient sites to seriously impressive beaches, delicious cuisine to amazing hospitality, cultured cities to Europe's highest volcano, it has everything for a holiday to remember. Getting a rental car is the best way to see everything that this island has to offer and explore it on your own terms.
  • Palermo and Catania, the two largest cities of Sicily, are among the most fascinating in all of Italy if not Europe - make the most of your time in them
  • Sicily has amazing nature, and we don't just mean beaches — there's also Mount Etna, Madonie Nature Park, and Lo Zingaro Reserve!
  • Inhabited since antiquity, Sicily has a wealth of historical sites scattered all over the island
  • March is a great time to visit - the weather is getting warm, but the prices remain quite low!
  • Even more so than on the mainland, Sicily has very few services operating on Sundays.
  • Everybody speaks Italian, and many people in the service industry also know English, but keep in mind that Sicilians have their own native language - Sicilian.

Your Guide to Traveling Around Sicily with a Rental Car

By Aleksandrs Buraks | Updated April 12, 2022
  • Palermo and Catania, the two largest cities of Sicily, are among the most fascinating in all of Italy if not Europe - make the most of your time in them
  • Sicily has amazing nature, and we don't just mean beaches — there's also Mount Etna, Madonie Nature Park, and Lo Zingaro Reserve!
  • Inhabited since antiquity, Sicily has a wealth of historical sites scattered all over the island
  • March is a great time to visit - the weather is getting warm, but the prices remain quite low!
  • Even more so than on the mainland, Sicily has very few services operating on Sundays.
  • Everybody speaks Italian, and many people in the service industry also know English, but keep in mind that Sicilians have their own native language - Sicilian.

Why should you rent a car in Sicily?

The island of Sicily is one of the most fascinating travel destinations in Europe. Culturally distinct from mainland Italy, it is a proud and unique place. From ancient sites to seriously impressive beaches, delicious cuisine to amazing hospitality, cultured cities to Europe's highest volcano, it has everything for a holiday to remember. Getting a rental car is the best way to see everything that this island has to offer and explore it on your own terms.

When should you go to Sicily?

Sicily has a typically Mediterranean climate with long, very hot, and dry summers and mild, humid winters. The island gets the most visitors in July and August as this is the time when most Italians (including those from the mainland) take their yearly vacations. Some Sicilian coastal towns and villages can see their populations grow tenfold during these months. While Sicily is a great place to visit in the summer months, keep in mind that the weather can get really, really hot — the average high temperature in Catania is 32 °C (89 °F) in August and can approach 40 °C (104 °F) some days. If the heat gets so unbearable that even the sea cannot comfort you, escaping to the mountains in the inland parts of the island can help you cool off.

Spring and autumn months can also be a great time to visit — the weather will still be pleasantly warm. Many travelers find the sea perfectly good for swimming even as late as the end of October. If the beach is not your main attraction, the big cities and many historical sites can be nice to enjoy even in the winter months as the weather is mild, but the crowds are much smaller and prices for things like rental cars and accommodation are much lower. The average high temperature is about 15.5 °C (60 °F) in Sicily in January, the coolest month of the year.

Now that you've decided when to travel to Sicily, check out our prices for the dates you have chosen!

Where should you pick up a car in Sicily?

Most visitors to Sicily choose to pick up a rental car at one of the island's international airports — Catania Airport, Palermo Airport, Trapani Airport, or Comiso Airport. Well connected, the airports provide plenty of links with destinations in the rest of Italy and Europe, as well as countries like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Plenty of low-cost airlines fly to and from Sicily, including easyJet, Ryanair, Volotea, and Vueling.

In addition to airports, it is also possible to pick up or drop off a car at car rental company offices in city centers, international hotels, and other locations.

Many car rental companies permit one-way rentals, usually for an extra fee. It's quite popular for travelers to pick up a car at Palermo after arriving in Sicily and later drop it off at Catania at the end of their trip (or vice versa) without the need to return to their point of entry.

Can I take a rental car to mainland Italy?

Many car rental companies permit one-way rentals between Sicily and mainland Italy. There are frequent year-round ferries between Villa San Giovanni in the mainland region of Calabria and Messina in Sicily. You'll have to buy a separate ticket for your rental car and the variability of ticket prices is quite large between different ferry companies, so do your research in advance.

It is also possible to take a longer ferry trip between Sicily and destinations like Naples, Rome, and the island of Sardinia. Most ferry companies permit bringing a rental car onboard, but the car rental company likely will not, and those that do may charge enormous fees for this. It may be a better idea to rent separate cars and take the ferry as a foot passenger.

How safe is Sicily for travelers?

The biggest safety issue in many travelers' minds when it comes to Sicily is the island's infamous mafia. While organized crime is not just the stuff of legends and continues to exist in Sicily and elsewhere, it's important not to associate all locals with the mafia. Many Sicilians have suffered from organized crime and might find any jokes about the issue in poor taste. Some of the largest anti-mafia initiatives in Italy have also been led by Sicilians, often at great personal risk and peril. What's even more important for a foreign visitor to remember is that individual travelers are never targeted by the mafia and you are not putting yourself at significant risk by simply visiting the island.

The possibility of a road accident is a danger that's a lot more real in Sicily. The driving is a lot more aggressive in Italy than in many other European countries and the number of reckless drivers is unfortunately fairly high. Most travelers who visit Sicily with a car do so without any issue and have a great time because the number of polite drivers is still much higher than those who drive dangerously. But it's a good idea to acclimate yourself to local driving by choosing not to drive during the peak hours during the first couple of days after your arrival on the island.

Petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur in Sicily, especially in Palermo, Catania, and near popular tourist attractions. Keep a close eye on your belongings and do not hesitate to request help if you need it or feel unsafe. The general emergency phone number in Sicily, just like elsewhere in Italy and the EU, is 112.

What languages are spoken in Sicily?

There are two dominant languages in Sicily. As elsewhere in the country, Italian is Sicily's main language of business and virtually everyone understands it. The native tongue of Sicily, however, is Sicilian, a language closely related to, but not mutually intelligible with Italian. Sicilian is by no means an extinct language and is, in fact, the native tongue of most locals. Learning some phrases in either Italian or Sicilian can be very useful to get around the island.

The knowledge of English is not very high in Sicily. Even in the big cities like Palermo and Catania and among the people working in services, knowing English is rather an exception than the norm - and in smaller towns and villages, you can be hard-pressed to find anyone who knows English at all. This doesn't mean it's impossible to communicate with locals - most people will know at least some English words and will try to make sure you are properly understood — but rather that communication can simply require more patience in Sicily.

Like other Italians, many Sicilians learn French as a foreign language in school. Despite this, and although French can sometimes be useful when traveling in Sicily, the overall level of l knowledge of it is not especially high.
Three under-the-radar destinations to visit in Sicily:
Agrigento. Capital of the province of the same name, Agrigento holds a rather odd record - its modern population is several times smaller than what it used to be 2,500 years ago. Back in those ancient days, it was known as Akragas and was an important and wealthy Greek colony. This legendary heritage survives to the present day via the Valley of the Temples, an archaeological complex of impressive Doric structures that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Otherwise, Agrigento is a lovely town with a laid-back atmosphere, interesting medieval architecture, and a number of beautiful nearby beaches. The southern part of Sicily where Agrigento is located is generally a lot less developed and discovered than the north - expect fewer tourists, more authenticity, and a lot of genuine cordiality.

Enna. If the south of Sicily is less explored, it is doubly true for the inland parts of the island - including the town and province of Enna (or Castrugiuvanni, as it's known in Sicilian). That doesn't mean there's nothing to see there - in fact, located at the height of 930 m (3,050 ft), the town is the highest provincial capital in Italy and offers truly amazing views of the rest of the island below. In addition to spectacular viewpoints (and winding mountain roads), Enna is also home to quaint villages, the impressive Lombardia Castle, and delicious local cuisine. Some viewing platforms and parts of Old Enna can only be accessed on foot, but you can find a place to park and enjoy this scenic town at a more leisurely pace.

Gorges of Alcantara. Meaning 'the arch' in Arabic, the language from which it got its name, the Alcantara River flows for 52 km (32 mi) from Nebrodi Mountains past Mount Etna and towards the eastern coast of Sicily where it empties into the Mediterranean sea. Although the river is not that long, its middle section is home to one of the most impressive natural wonders of the island - the gorges of Alcantara. Made up of eroded black lava, this picturesque and otherworldly place is home to impressive views, long hiking trails, and a geological and botanical park. Trout and carp swim in the river, olive and chestnut trees grow in the nearby valleys, and you might even get to spot a kingfisher or a wild cat. Despite being located near the coast, roughly halfway between Catania and Messina, this is a true off-the-beaten-track destination - even some native Sicilians don't know about it.
What are the best places to rent a car in Sicily?
Known for its long and pristine coastline, but also ancient sites, bustling cities, and scenic nature areas, Sicily punches above its size when it comes to memorable travel experiences.

Palermo, its largest city, might seem noisy for some, but at the same time has so much notable architecture that you don't even need to come up with a list of landmarks - if you're walking in the city center, there will be something to admire after every couple of hundred of meters (and that's not to mention other points of interest, such as the excellent Anti Mafia Museum).
Similar things can be said about Catania, the largest city on the southeastern coast - primarily known for the beach resorts that surround it, it has its own list of stunning sites dating back for hundreds and even thousands of years. On top of that, Catania is also a gateway to Mount Etna, an active volcano and the highest point of Sicily.

Lesser known, but just as interesting is the Madonie Regional Nature Park, the right place to enjoy the primordial landscapes characteristic to the island. The park can be accessed from the city of Cefalu, itself one of the most underrated destinations of Sicily. Meanwhile, lovers of history will enjoy Hellenic, Roman, and medieval sites that can be found in Syracuse in the southeast and Erice in the northwest.
What about filling up in Sicily?
The road network is extensive in Sicily, but the population is rather unevenly distributed and mostly centered around the coasts and largest cities. Because of that, it's probably a good idea to look up the nearest gas stations and their working hours if you plan to explore the island's interior.

Services are extremely limited in Sicily on Sundays, especially during the winter months - this also includes many gas stations that have reduced working hours or are completely closed for the seventh day of the week.

Prices at Sicilian gas stations are shown per liter (1 liter = 0.26 US gallons).
How expensive is gas in Sicily?
As of April 2022, the average price of gas in Italy is €1.83 per liter (or €6.92 per gallon).
How much does a rental car in Sicily cost?
Most people visit Sicily either during the summer months or around Christmas - consequently, it's the first three months of the year that are by far the cheapest for renting a car. On average, a daily rent costs just €23 in March, but €49 in July and €69 in December.
Which car rental company in Sicily offers the lowest rates? What are some tricks for getting a better deal?
While there are many cheap car rental companies in Sicily, keep in mind that the cheapest price doesn't always equal the best deal. The price of the rental is influenced by many different factors including the location of the pick-up and drop-off of the car, how early in advance you book the vehicle, and whether you get a car with an automatic or manual transmission (manual will almost definitely be cheaper).
Which car rental supplier is best for you? Are the rental conditions important?
Price is obviously a huge factor when choosing a rental car, but it shouldn't be your only concern — often, for a couple of euros more, you can find a much better overall deal. Instead, try to look for a company that offers both a good price and has a good rating from previous travelers.

Also, make sure you are familiar with the rental conditions! Different rental car suppliers will have different conditions. The rental conditions can influence the final price of the car and are important to be aware of in general.

You can find the rental conditions when searching for a rental car on our website.
What else should you keep in mind when renting a car?
Some of the most important things when picking up a rental car is knowing your rental car supplier's fuel and mileage policies along with its driver requirements.

Mileage policy :
A rental supplier's mileage policy is the maximum permitted distance that you are allowed to travel per day (or sometimes per week) with your rental car. Once you exceed the permitted distance, you will be required to pay an extra fee for every additional kilometer you drive. There might also be the maximum permitted mileage for the whole of the rental period.

Different rental car suppliers have different mileage rules. It's important to know about them before booking your car, especially if you plan to drive a lot or travel long distances during your trip.

You can find the supplier's mileage policy in their rental conditions:
Fuel policy:
Different car rental companies have different policies when it comes to fuel. Some of the most popular ones are:
  • Full-to-full
    You are given a car with a full tank of fuel and are expected to also return it with a full tank which means that you need to fill up the tank right before dropping off the car.
  • Same-to-same
    You are given a car with a certain amount of fuel and are expected to return the car with the same amount.
  • Full-to-empty
    You pay in advance for a full tank of fuel when picking up a car and are allowed to return the car with an empty tank; in these cases, you may or may not be compensated if you return a car with some fuel left in the tank.
Driver requirements:
Different rental car companies will have different requirements for drivers. These may include:
  • The minimum and maximum age of the driver
  • A potential young or senior driver extra fee for drivers under or over a certain age (e.g. 25 or 65 years old)
  • Driving experience (e.g., at least two years)
  • A credit card in the name of the main driver
  • An international driver's license (might not apply to driver's licenses that are in Latin alphabet)
The same as with mileage and fuel policies, the driver requirements of each car rental supplier be found on their rental conditions page.

Check our comprehensive Help Center to learn more about mileage, fuel, and driver requirements, as well as other important questions.
How can I choose the right insurance for my rental car?
Choosing the right insurance is very important as it will protect you in case anything goes wrong during your rental period. If you have your own personal insurance, it may or may not cover your rental car — you should ask your insurance carrier to find out.

We strongly recommend you choose our own Full Coverage. Not only does it come at a reasonable price and covers most potential scenarios, but it will also give you clarity and peace of mind as you will have 24/7 support from our team for any issue that you might have.

Check the Insurance section of our Help Center to learn more about choosing the right insurance and everything related to it.
What type of rental car is the cheapest in Sicily?
Small cars are by far the cheapest in Sicily - they cost, on average, just €47 per day (and much cheaper individual deals can be found, especially during the low tourist season when you can find cars for just €10 per day. Getting a small car is fine to explore most of the island and is even preferable in cities that are known for their centuries-old layout and have plenty of narrow streets.

Medium cars are also quite cheaper, with an average price of €55 per day. Large cars cost € 96 per day and SUVs come for €133 per day. On average, rental cars in Sicily are cheaper than both on the Italian mainland and on the island of Sardinia.
Which is the best car rental company in Sicily?
Customer Rating - 9.1
Customer Rating - 9.1
Customer Rating - 8.8
Customer Rating - 8.7
Customer Rating - 8.7
Customer Rating - 8.6
What is the process of picking up and dropping off a rental car like?
To pick up a rental car, you'll need to have your booking confirmation voucher, passport, driver's license, a credit card on the main driver's name, and all the other necessary documents.

When making the reservation, you will see your rental car's pickup location, of which there are many types. Since most travelers tend to pick up their rental cars at the airport, we'll mainly focus on the pickup locations in or near the airport. These are the most popular pickup location types:

  • Meet & Greet. With this type of pickup location, you'll be met by an employee of the car rental company in the arrivals hall of the airport which you normally enter right after leaving the baggage claim area. The employee will usually have a printed sign with your name on it. The employee will take you to the company's office to proceed with signing the rental contract and collecting the car's keys.
  • In the terminal. In this case, you will have to find your rental car company's desk yourself. The desk will be usually located in the arrivals hall. Once you've found the desk, you can present your documents and continue with the pickup procedure. Do keep in mind that you might have to wait in line.
  • Shuttle bus. In certain cases, the car rental company's desk might be located outside the airport's terminal. Sometimes you can reach it on foot, but in most cases, you need to take a shuttle bus. For this, you'll need to find the shuttle bus stop inside the airport, the location of which will be given to you when making the booking. Sometimes, the shuttle bus is shared by multiple car rental companies while others have their own shuttle service just for them. Look for the name and the logo of your rental company to make sure you take the right shuttle bus.
  • Delivery service. This type of pick-up is similar to Meet & Greet but takes even less time to complete as you won't need to go to the car provider's office to sign the agreement.
  • Car rental center. This means that your car rental company shares its location with other companies. The car rental center is located in the arrivals hall, in another part of the terminal, or in a separate building next to the terminal.
  • Outside terminal. This pick-up location means that your car rental company has an individual desk located outside the airport's terminal, but within the larger airport complex, that can usually be reached on foot

At the pickup location: After the car rental company checks your documents and make sure you have enough deposit on your credit card, you will receive the car's keys and be taken to the rental car which will usually be parked in a nearby parking lot.

Inspect the car: Upon picking up the car, you will have to sign a document called the check-out form. If your rental car has any scratches or other types of damage, they should be listed on the form. Inspect the car carefully — if it has any scratches or other issues that are not listed, make sure to point them out to the employee before signing the check-out form. The form will also list the mileage and the amount of fuel the car has at the pickup time.

Take photos: It is generally a very good idea to take photos of the car before picking it up, preferably from multiple angles and including the inside of the car with the odometer showing the previous mileage on the car and of the amount of fuel in the tank (read more about fuel on our Fuel Policy section above). The photos should have a timestamp to show the date and time when they were taken; most pictures taken with mobile and digital cameras have them.

Find out the drop-off location: Before leaving with the car, make sure you find out the exact drop-off location and the directions to get there. While it will often be the same as the pickup location, it might also be in a completely different part of the airport (this is especially the case with the larger airports that have multiple terminals).

Returning the car: When dropping off the car at the end of your trip, carefully check the vehicle in the presence of an employee of the rental company. If any new scratches or damages are found, the company employee should point them out in your presence. If there are none, the car's check-in form should state that the car has been returned in the same condition. The same applies to the cleanliness of the car (if you return a car that is not clean, the company might later charge an extra cleaning fee). Make sure to check the car's trunk and the glove compartment to avoid leaving any personal belongings in the vehicle.
Can I add extras for the rental car when booking?
You might also want to add some extras for your rental car such as a GPS system, a child's seat, second-driver permission (if you're traveling with a friend or a family member who can and wants to drive). If you plan to drive in the Alps or Pyrenees, snow chains might be useful or even necessary during winter. Be sure to search for them in advance and add them before making the booking. Not every rental car supplier will have all of these extras available. Adding extras will influence the final price of a car and different car rental companies offer them for different prices.
What are the traffic rules in Sicily?
  • Sicily drives on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Proof of insurance and the car's documentation need to be in it whenever you're driving.
  • When driving, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
  • The use of the mobile phone while driving is only permitted with a hands-free system that has a loudspeaker and a fixed microphone.
  • All travelers from outside the European Union are required to show an International Driving Permit. Not having one can lead to the rental company refusing to provide you a car and the loss of any payment made.
  • The nationwide emergency number, like elsewhere in the Euroopean Union, is 112.

What are the speed limits in Sicily?
Are there speed cameras in Sicily?
Yes, there are speed cameras in use in Sicily, especially on the main highways, as well as some in the largest cities. If you're caught speeding, a fine will be sent to your car rental company which may add an additional processing fee on top of that.
What are the drunk driving laws in Sicily?
The drunk driving limits are 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.00% for novice drivers. The tolerance for drunk driving is low and the fines are steep, potentially including even a license loss or imprisonment.
Are there toll roads in Sicily?
There are two toll roads in Sicily — the A18 between Catania and Messina and the A20 between Palermo and Messina. The A19 between Palermo and Catania is not tolled and neither is the A29 nor the highway between Catania and Siracusa.

The toll gates accept credit cards, cash, or payment via the Telepass system. That being said, most rental companies in Siciliy do not provide Telepass transponders with their cars (check the rental conditions and information in advance). Getting your own Telepass account as a tourist is not possible since you register via the car license plate; therefore, most tourists pay the toll either in cash or by card.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.

Related Posts