Rent a Car in Sardinia – How to Do It And Why You Should

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

For as beautiful as Sardinia is, as pristine its beaches are, and as crystal clear its waters look, when it comes to public transport, the best definition for the island is wild. And unorganized. This is why we recommend renting a car in Sardinia to better enjoy your holiday on the Italian island.

Read on to find out why you should rent a car in Sardinia and the benefits coming from this investment. We are also going to tell you what to check before signing the contract and what are the best car rentals in Sardinia.

Image: Rent a car in Sardinia, Angela Corrias from Sardinia Revealed

Why you should rent a car in Sardinia

Lack of public transport

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, Sardinia is a truly beautiful island, but public transport is next to non-existent. Whether you want to travel inside the cities or in the surroundings, you will very likely need a car in order to see more places. While in Cagliari, the public buses serve the city quite well and especially in the city center you are better off without a car, in the rest of the island a car rental is necessary.

Discover hidden gems

If you rent a car in Sardinia you have more chances to discover its hidden gems out of the cities. Places like Barbagia in Nuoro province can really make your trip unforgettable, but to explore this area and many other places to visit in Sardinia, you will need your car. The same for places in Oristano province like the lovely Seneghe and its mountains, Ghilarza and its old dam, Sedilo and its July Ardia festival, or the lovely S’Archittu beach.

Stop wherever you want

Villages and towns are quite far from each other and it’s not unusual to find archaeological sites, restaurants, and agriturismi along the way. If you are driving your own rental car in Sardinia, you can stop in the middle of nowhere and enjoy a traditional lunch or the best light for your photo. By renting a car in Sardinia you can drive along the spectacular coastal roads and stop wherever you want for great views, unforgettable sunsets and to snap perfect postcard pictures.

Click here for prices and car rental places

Benefits of renting a car in Sardinia

You can travel at any time

In the morning, you don’t need to wait for your bus or train time to leave your hotel room or homestay. Since you are traveling more independently, you can leave and come back whenever you like without following public transport timetables, which are often not so user-friendly.

You can set your own route

By renting a car in Sardinia you can decide your own route without sticking to the few areas reached by public transport. You can visit more places, explore little villages and areas where buses don’t stop, have lunch or dinner at a countryside restaurant or agriturismo that are often out of the cities, or just stop the car to take a picture in the wild.

You can go shopping

While you might not add too much luggage if you are traveling by plane, you might need to do some grocery shopping during your stay, especially if you are renting a house and you are staying for a couple of weeks.

If you rent a car in Sardinia it’s easier as you can buy most of your shopping in one go instead of going multiple times and you can buy heavy stuff such as water bottles. Plus, if you prefer going to a large shopping center to find everything in one place, these are often outside of the city and either the buses don’t reach there or you need to wait for a long time before catching one.

You can stay out as much as you want

When you are visiting a new town or a landmark, especially if out of the city or in the countryside like many Nuragic sites, you can stay as long as you like, even after dark to enjoy a sunset in the wild or have a dinner at a little restaurant on the road. Since you are not bound to the seldom public transport timetable, you can enjoy your Sardinia holiday on your terms.

Image: Panoramic roads are worth a car hire in Sardinia.

Where to rent a car in Sardinia

Sardinia is connected to many European capitals and top cities by several daily flights, so you can easily rent a car at any airport in Sardinia right after landing. Plus, often renting a car from the airport will have cheaper rates.

Cagliari Airport car rental

Cagliari is the island’s capital and its Cagliari Elmas airport is by far one of the most popular in Sardinia. Apart from visiting the beautiful city, exploring its historic sites, and enjoying its delicious restaurants, tourists love the beaches in Cagliari province, such as Costa Rei, Villasimius, Teulada, Pula, Chia, and the same Poetto.

If this is your type of holiday, renting a car at Cagliari airport is really recommended. From Cagliari driving to Oristano is not too far. Also to get around Sardinia’s beautiful towns in Oristano province you need a car so you can visit places like the Nuraghe Losa Nuragic complex, Santa Cristina sacred well, San Leonardo, and Parco della Giara in the nearby province of the Medio Campidano.

Click here to check the prices from Cagliari airport

Olbia Airport car rental

The airport of Olbia is also a pretty busy hub, more so in the summer months when the island is packed with tourists from all over Europe and the world. The city is famous for being close to Porto Cervo and the Emerald Coast (Coast Smeralda) as well as other beaches along the eastern coast such as San Teodoro, Orosei, Cala Liberotto, and Cala Gonone.

Beaches are not the only thing to do in Olbia province: some great places to visit in Olbia’s surroundings are Cabu Abbas Nuragic complex, Sa Testa sacred well, Golfo Aranci seafaring village, and to do this you really need to rent a car at Olbia airport.

Click here to check the prices from Olbia airport

Alghero Fertilia Airport car rental

This is the third airport in Sardinia and in summer very popular. It’s another great place to rent a car in Sardinia because from here you can travel north towards the islands of La Maddalena and Caprera and towards the eastern coast of the touristy VIP Costa Smeralda as well as southward along Sardinia’s beautiful western coast.

If you rent a car from Alghero Fertilia airport you can also visit the nearby city of Sassari and its surroundings to see places like the Saccargia Basilica and Monte d’Accoddi archaeological site.

Click here to check the prices from Alghero airport

How to rent a car in Sardinia – Tips when choosing a car rental in Sardinia

  • Pick the perfect car for your needs. After checking the best car rentals in Sardinia, pick the car according to your travel needs. Are you a big family? Do you need some extra space for luggage and daily grocery shopping? Do they have your favorite companies?
  • Check the conditions of your car. Before leaving the car rental, make sure you have checked every little inch of your car. Does it have a dent? Tell the company so they mark it down. Is something broken or worn-out inside or on the body of the car? Are the headlights perfectly functioning? Are the tires with the right pressure? When we traveled to Trentino-Alto Adige in northern Italy, we made a video of the car before taking it to avoid eventual rental agency claims that there was a new scratch. It turned out to be a great idea because when we returned it and the agency checked the car, they noticed a tiny, next to invisible scratch that we hadn’t even seen when we took it. Thankfully, we watched the video we made on the first day and the scratch was already there!
  • Make sure the insurance is included. Sardinia is pretty safe, but you never know. Before renting a car at a Sardinia airport, check if the insurance is included and what are the terms. Does it cover theft or minor dents?
  • Inquire about the terms and conditions. When checking the prices of your favorite car rental in Sardinia, make sure you double-check also their terms and conditions. By what time do you need to drop your car off? Can you drop it in a different place from where you rented it? Do you need to give it back with a full tank? If you can’t find a petrol station to fill your car’s tank, what is the fine?
  • Inquire about parking space. Sometimes hotels have their own parking lot, especially 4 and 5-star accommodations. When they don’t, however, you can check if in the city there are private parking spaces or where you can park just on the street. Sardinia is underpopulated, but somehow cars are many so ask your hotel for tips on where to park. Usually, the main streets are busy, but you can find a space for your car in the side alleys.
  • Inquire about local rules. Very likely your car will have a satellite navigator but do double-check if there are new detours, especially in case of local festivals. Also, always check out the speed limit on the local streets and highways, Sardinia has a lot of country roads!
  • Don’t be late when returning the car. First of all, you need to consider some time to give it back because you will be asked to return it with a full tank and once in the agency, they will take their time to check if there is anything wrong. So if you have a plane or a train to catch, make time for all of this. Second, check your contract and see what time your car hire in Sardinia is valid until before it slips onto the next day and you’ll be charged extra.
Image: Animals have the right of way is something to know when renting a car in Sardinia.

Tips for driving in Sardinia

  • Check your route. In Sardinia, road direction signs are not very revealing. This sometimes leads to some confusion. I suggest you study your itinerary before getting on the road and make a note of some direction.
  • If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask. Even though I myself often use Google Maps, sometimes it gives the wrong direction or makes you do a longer road.
  • Roads are narrow and bendy. Yes, if you are renting a car in Sardinia, be prepared for some pretty narrow and bendy roads, both inland and along the coast. Try to take them slowly and avoid overtaking because often they are 2-way roads and you might find trucks. Plus, if the truck drivers are locals who know the road, they will be racing it!
  • Animals have the right of way. Sooner or later, driving in Sardinia you will end up on some countryside roads and herds crossing them. Take it slowly because cows and sheep are unlikely to speed up their pace to give you the right of way and herds can be pretty large. This is pretty much one of the first things to know if you want to rent a car in Sardinia.
  • Watch the parking signs. Even the white-line parking sometimes has a time limit, so make sure you check the sign to see how long you can stay. In cities, it’s usually an hour, while in touristy sea resorts the parking lines are often blue (paid) and the white ones allow for only 10 to 15 minutes. If you are staying a month, it might be worth it to purchase the monthly parking ticket. Ask the staff who check the tickets.

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