Cycling Strada Panoramica, Villasimius, Sardinia Cycling Strada Panoramica, Villasimius – Image courtesy of www.bikegreen.eu

How to get around Sardinia

Hiring a car or motorcycle provides the most freedom to explore Sardinia's rural villages, mountainous hinterland and mainly uncrowded beaches.

The public bus and train system offers a fairly inexpensive way to get around the island's more popular regions, but elsewhere public transport can be time-consuming and difficult. Services also slow to a trickle during the low season.

Taxis are available but expensive. Bikes are available for hire in the main tourist areas.


Transport options in Sardinia

Driving in Sardinia is reasonably stress-free and local drivers are typically courteous. Traffic is only a concern during the height of summer and in the main towns, such as Cagliari, Sassari and Olbia.

In addition to the major roads a network of smaller strade provinciali (provincial roads), marked as P or SP on maps, provide access to many small towns and villages as well as scenic views and beaches, some of which are only accessible by dirt tracks.


Sea: Boat tours, which generally operate from April to October, are an excellent way to see Sardinia’s more inaccessible coastal highlights.

Popular sea trips include those from the ports of Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese along the Golfo di Orosei, and from Palau around the islands of the Maddalena archipelago.

Other trips can be had from Porto San Paolo, south of Olbia, around Isola Tavolara and the nearby coast. From Alghero you can take boat trips up to Capo Caccia and the Grotta di Nettuno, and from the Sinis Peninsula to Isola di Mal di Ventre.

Most sea trips are by motorboats or small ferries, but sailing vessels are also available.

Delcomar ferry connects Palau with the Isola di La Maddalena, Porto Torres with Asinara, and Portovesme with Carloforte (Isola di San Pietro) and Calasetta (Isola di Sant'Antioco). In summer services run every 30 minutes and cost €3.70 to €4.20 for the 15-minute crossing (depending on date and time of travel.


On land

Most roads in the coastal areas of Sardinia are reasonably well maintained but are often narrow and winding; many other's are unpaved. Agriturismi (farmstays), prehistoric sites and beaches are often only accessible by dirt tracks.

The SS131 (known locally as Carlo Felice) is Sardinia's principal highway and runs from Cagliari to Porto Torres via Oristano, Macomer and Sassari.

In summer, traffic jams are virtually guaranteed along many roads, especially those between Olbia and Santa Teresa di Gallura.

Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left. You give way to cars entering an intersection from the right. Front and rear seatbelts are compulsory in cars, as are helmets on two-wheeled vehicles.

Random breath tests are common and penalties can be severe. The blood-alcohol limit is 0.05%.

When using a dual carriageway, drivers are obliged to keep headlights switched on day and night. However, there is no daytime lights-on requirement for motorcycles.

On a motorcycle you can enter restricted traffic areas in cities and towns without any problems. Also traffic police generally turn a blind eye to motorcycles or scooters parked on footpaths.

Speed limits on main highways are 110kph (68mph), on secondary highways 90kph (55mph), and in built-up areas 50kph (31mph).

Speeding fines follow EU standards and are proportionate to the number of kilometres you are driving over the limit.

Car hire: All the major international car hire agencies have offices at the airports, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Italy By Car and Maggiore. You'll also find agencies in some of the main cities and in most coastal resorts.

It is always cheaper to arrange and book car hire before you arrive in Sardinia. To hire, you’ll need a credit card and a valid driving licence.

Age restrictions vary from agency to agency, but generally you’ll need to be 21 or over. If you’re under 25, you’ll probably have to pay a supplement in addition to the usual rates.

In popular tourist destinations such as Santa Teresa di Gallura and Alghero rental outlets offer motorcycles and scooters. Many agencies require you to leave a sizeable deposit for the motorcycle and you could be responsible for reimbursing the cost of the bike if it is stolen.

All EU driving licences are recognised in Sardinia. Holders of non-EU licences are officially required to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an Italian translation of their home-country licence, though this policy is rarely enforced.

No licence is required to ride a scooter under 50cc, but you must be 14 or over and you can’t carry passengers. To ride a scooter up to 125cc, you must be 16 or over and have a licence (a car driving licence will do). For motorcycles over 125cc you must be 18 or over and have a motorcycle licence.

Taxi: Taxis are available in all the main towns and cities, but can be expensive.

Bus: Azienda Regionale Sarda Trasporti (ARST) operates the majority of local and long-distance buses. Services are generally frequent on weekdays, but are minimal on Sunday and public holidays.

In smaller towns and villages there is usually a fermata (stop) for intercity buses, but it's not always in an immediately apparent location.

Tickets are usually bought prior to boarding at stations, designated bars, tabacchi (tobacconists) or newsstands near the bus stop. On some services you can buy tickets on board, but they'll cost slightly more.

You can also buy e-tickets using the app, DropTicket. E-tickets must be validated in the app before the start of the journey. You can calculate prices using the interface: www.sardegnamobilita.it/tariffeapp.

Tourist offices in bigger towns usually provide timetables for their area.

A special tourist bus ticket pass can be purchased from June to September at large city bus stations. It allows access to all ARST services except Il Trenino Verde, and is valid for 7/14/21/28 days and costs €45/70/100/130.

For timetables, visit ARST (www.arst.sardegna.it).

Train: In most cases buses are preferable to trains: Sardinia's rail network, though inexpensive, is limited and on some routes a bus is quicker. You will find train orari (timetables) posted on station noticeboards. Partenze (departures) and arrivi (arrivals) are clearly indicated.

Services are much reduced on Sunday and public holidays: look out for feriale (Monday to Saturday) and festivo (Sunday and holidays only).

Trains in Sardinia stop at every village along the route, so don't expect to get anywhere fast. Some trains offer 1st and 2nd class, but there’s not much difference between them.

It is not worth buying a Eurail or InterRail pass if you are only travelling in Sardinia.

Italy's state-run train company Trenitalia runs the bulk of Sardinia's limited network. The main Trenitalia line runs from Cagliari to Oristano, then on to Chilivano-Ozieri where it branches northwest to Sassari and northeast to Olbia. See Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for timetables.

ARST operates a network of private servizi ferroviari (narrow-gauge railways), including the Trenino Verde.

Bicycle: Cycling is a great way to explore Sardinia – the roads are rarely busy outside of high summer and the scenery is magnificent. Although the hilly (and sometimes mountainous) terrain may prove challenging at times.

Bike hire is available in most major towns and resorts, including Alghero, Santa Teresa di Gallura, La Maddalena, Palau and Olbia. Rates range from around €12 per day to as much as €30 for mountain bikes.

Bikes can be taken on regional trains, but you'll need to buy a separate 24-hour ticket (€3.50). You can take bikes on ferries to Sardinia for a small fee, usually €3 to €10.

Note: You cannot cycle on the SS131, Sardinia's principal road, which runs from Cagliari to Porto Torres.


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Latest update: How to get around Sardinia: 12 June, 2020


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