Getting Around Sardinia
The best way to get around Sardinia is by car. It's the easiest way to hit the places on your itinerary, though it's not the cheapest option. Using public transportation will save you some cash, but the trains and buses aren't the most reliable or efficient ways of traveling around the island. And the only way to reach some islands like La Maddalena, for instance, is by hopping aboard a ferry.
To get to Sardinia, most travelers fly from Italian or European cities into one of Sardinia's three main airports, located on the outskirts of Cagliari, Olbia and Alghero. A variety of domestic flights transport visitors between the mainland's airports, including Rome, Milan, Naples, Bari, Bologna, Turin, Venice and Verona. If you'd rather take the ferry, there are several routes available from cities like Naples, Palermo, Genoa, Livorno and Civitavecchia (outside of Rome). There are also ferries from mainland France and Spain to Sardinia, but these sailings can take as long as 12 hours. Grandi Navi Veloci, Moby Lines and Tirrenia are the three principal ferry operators offering regular service between mainland Italy and Sardinia. There are multiple arrival ports in Sardinia, including in the north, along the east coast and in the south.
Renting your own set of wheels means you can explore Sardinia on your own timetable, but that's not to say there won't be a few challenges. First, car rentals are expensive, starting around $150 for a week, but you can find them at each of the island's three main airports. What's more, fuel is pricey in Italy, and finding parking can be challenging too. Still, a car allows you to get where you want to when you want to – just make sure you have a valid driver's license and an international driving permit . And remember: speed limits are listed in kilometers. You'll also want to keep your eyes peeled for motor scooters, which are known to weave in and out of traffic.
Most of Sardinia is connected by an extensive network of bus routes. Still, the bus schedules can be confusing, and most of the bus operators run reduced hours and routes on Sundays, which might be inconvenient or frustrating to some travelers. Azienda Regionale Sarda Trasporti, or ARST, is the main regional bus company, and it travels local and long-distance routes in Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari, Nuoro and Olbia. Visitors can purchase tickets at bus stations, called autostazione , but they can also buy them at bars and tabacchi (tobacco shops). If travelers are running short on time, they can buy tickets once they've boarded the bus, but ARST will tack on an additional fee.
Trenitalia operates Sardinia's network of trains, which connect the island's main towns, including Cagliari, Iglesias, Carbonia, Oristano, Sassari, Porto Torres and Olbia. The trains tend to be punctual, and travelers can purchase their tickets easily online, by phone or at the train stations. Visitors can also purchase them on board from the train conductor, though they'll be charged an additional fee for doing so.
The only way to reach islands like La Maddalena or San Pietro is via ferry. Declomar provides ferry service for passengers as well as their vehicles between Palau (on the island's northern tip) and La Maddalena at least once every hour – and more frequently from mid-June to mid-September. Fares will vary by departure and arrival port, but you can expect to pay less than 10 euros (around $12) per adult and 10 to 24 euros more if you're bringing along your vehicle. For a list of routes and timetables, consult the Sardegna booking website.
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