Driving in Sardinia, on the whole, is hassle-free, local drivers are courteous, traffic is confined only to the significant towns and driving culture isn’t like that which you find in Naples or Rome. However, there are a few key things to take note of when driving in Sardinia to ensure safe and enjoyable driving.
Driving with confidence
Obviously, don’t drive in a way that is dangerous to yourselves or other roads users. Most drivers on the island are courteous, but they may interpret hesitations, to mean that you are not going, and they will drive around you. You should try to drive assertively, with confidence and make your intentions visible to other road users, using indicators and positioning yourself correctly.
Fold in your side-mirrors when parking
It can be frustrating to return to your car to see the side mirrors damaged or even on the ground. Sardinia and Italy, in general, has many narrow streets, especially in historic areas. So before leaving, make sure that the side mirrors are tucked in as there will be other vehicles that travel by and with the limited space its sure to be a tight squeeze.
Be aware of Restricted Traffic Zones (ZTL – Zona a Traffico Limitato)
In the cities of Alghero, Cagliari, Nuoro, Pula, and Sassari, there exists a restricted traffic zone. These zones are in place all across Italy, to create traffic-free areas in historical centers across the country, you will be aware of this if you have visited other cities on the mainland with a car. If you accidentally find your way into the zone, you will automatically be sent a ticket. The zones are monitored with cameras and tickets are issued on the spot, if the car is rented, then you will be billed by the rental company If you are unaware of this you could find yourself following vehicles into the zone that are locals with passes or emergency vehicles, leading to a fine. This is usually between 50-80 Euros, depending on the city.
If you can avoid driving into historical centers in Sardinia cities, then these zones will not be a problem for you, there are many opportunities to take a bus or taxi into the center. If you have a hotel booked in central Cagliari, ask Cagliari, ask your hotel if there are any zones in place on the way to the hotel and which hours they are in operation.
Restricted traffic zones are active in 6 historical centers across Sardinia. Click on the link below to view a map of the zone for each city.
Road signs are not always accurate
The road signs across Sardinia are not still the most reliable. Neither are they often directing you along the most efficient or direct routes. It’s essential to take a road map with you or a Sat Nav if you ever become lost. Although becoming lost in Sardinia often leaves you with some magical surprises if you are willing to venture down the little roads that often lead to small villages and historical sites or a dead end.
Don’t get too close to the car in front
Keeping a reasonable distance between yourself and the vehicle in front is a practice you must do in any country that you drive in. But especially in Sardinia and Italy. Italian drivers like to concentrate on what’s in front rather than checking the mirrors, but this can lead to a dangerous situation when accompanied by not using indicators. You need time to react if the vehicle in front decides to turn without giving warning, keeping a distance will reduce any risk. Also, cars may slow down or in some cases even stop, give yourself space and time to maneuver safely if this ever happens.
Allow vehicles to overtake you if they are speeding
Sardinians may disregard speed limits on roads they are familiar with, they are impatient and its best just to let them pass. When being overtaken keep as far right as possible and not accelerate.
Parking in Sardinia
In the larger towns of Sardinia and at famous beaches you may have to pay for parking. Parking typically costs 0.50 euro an hour from 9 am to 1 pm, then again from 4 pm to 8 pm, parking is free on Sundays and public holidays. If there are blue lines on the road, it indicates that you must pay for parking or met the time restrictions, which will be shown on a sign. If there are no lines and no parking sign, then you can assume the parking is free. When paying you will need to use the meter indicated by a sign, but at other parking lots and especially at beaches there may be an official parking attendant in uniform, sitting under an umbrella who will issue tickets.
Some parking areas will need you to use a timing disk to display which time you arrived. Rented cars will come with one, but if you don’t have one, you can buy from a tobacconist.
Bending and steep roads
Some routes in Sardinia, are filled with curves at every stage, this can make for enjoyable driving while you pass through the beautiful countryside or down a coastal road. But it is essential to pay attention to what is in front and be ready to use your car horn if necessary. Many Sardinians like to go on afternoon walks or runs to the neighboring villages, so you need to pay attention to people walking in the opposite direction. In the mountainous regions, you will face steep roads.
Speed limits in Sardinia
Dipped Headlights on outside of towns
In Sardinia, it is mandatory to have dropped headlights on during the day, outside built-up areas, and in poor visibility.