From my experiences using public transport to navigate my way through the island, I can sum the rail and bus network like this:
Travelling by train is very reliable with trains leaving on time and arriving within ten minutes or so of the scheduled arrival time, but the network is limited. The mainline links Cagliari via Oristano to Ozieri-Chilvani, before branching off to Sassari & Porto Torres in the northwest or Olbia in the northeast.
When it comes to travelling by bus and coach, the routes are extensive covering almost every town, but I have found the schedules to be unreliable, some cities are restricted to one or two buses a day, and occasionally there are no buses during the school holidays.
Travelling By Train In Sardinia
The train network is pretty good; the trains connect most of the larger towns, from where the bus networks link up the rest of the island if you need to travel to another town or village.
Sardinian Train Operators
The trains linking Cagliari to nearby Iglesias and Carbonia are frequent, as is the route in the north that connects Sassari and Alghero.
Is Train Travel Expensive?
I have put the prices below, for traveling across the rain network. You may be able to find lower rates by booking further in advance or looking for an offer. The fares can be surprisingly cheap the longest journey possible is from Cagliari to Oblia in the northeast, its a 3 hour 30 minutes journey only costing €18. All train fares are calculated by the distance traveled.
Chance Of Delays?
Traveling by train can sometimes be slow, a there is the chance of delays. Because some parts of the rail network only have one track, meaning that if an opposing train is delayed, it can have knock-on effects on other journeys.
Where Can I Find Train Schedules?
You can head to the Trenitalia website or use a travel app on your phone. The schedules can also be found on boards at every station or at local tourist information shops.
How To Buy Tickets?
Buying Tickets Online
You can purchase your tickets online on the Trenitalia website (you can change the language to English, German or French) You can also buy tickets on popular travelling apps like trainline.com or olio.com (GoEuro.) Buying online will give you the option of purchasing a flexible ticket.
Buying Tickets At The Station
Tickets can also be purchased at stations either in person or at machines. At some smaller stations, tickets can also be bought from a tobacconist.
Validating Paper Tickets
In Italy and Sardinia, if you buy a paper ticket, it’s essential to get it validated. There are small machines located around the station that punch and date your ticket. Usually, they can be found by the side of the doors leading on to the platform.
If you didn’t have time to buy a ticket without missing your train, then you can buy on board with the conductor, but not there will be an extra charge.
Find A Window Seat And Take In The Countryside
I have enjoyed all of my train rides through Sardinia, its nice to sit back and look out at the beautiful landscape, as it goes by. There are also many chances to spot Nuraghi through the window. The trains can get quite full during school runs, in the early morning and late afternoon.
ARST Train Journeys
Macomer - Tirso - Nuoro Journey time: 1 hour 20 minutes (59.31km) Price: €4.30 View PDF Schedule
Sassari - Sorso
Journey time: 37 minutes (10 km)
Sassari - Alghero Journey time: 1 hour 5 minutes (30 km) Price: €3.10 View PDF Schedule Updated 7th April 2019
Sassari - Nulvi
Journey time: 1 hour 50 minutes (35 km)
Monserrato - Isili Journey time: 2 hours 5 minutes (70 km) Price: €6.10 View PDF Schedule Updated 24th June 2019
Trenitalia Train Journeys
Cagliari - Olbia Journey time: 3 hours 30 minutes (275 km) Price: €18
Cagliari - Sassari - Porto Torres
Journey time: 3 hours 40 minutes (235 km)
Cagliari - Sassari
Journey time: 3 hours 15 minutes (215 km)
Cagliari - Iglesias
Journey time: An hour (57 km)
Cagliari - Carbonia
Journey time: 1 hour 5 minutes (65 km)
Italian Phrases That May Be Helpful
- Dov’e la stazione dei treni? – Where is the train station?
- Dove si comprano i biglietti? – Where can I buy ticket?
- Un biglietto per (Alghero), per favore? – A ticket for alghero, please?
- Vorrei comprare un biglietto per (Sassari), per favore. – I would like to buy a ticket to (Sassari), please.
- Dov’e il binario (uno)? – Where is platform one?
- Il treno è in ritardo. – The train is late.
- C’è un ritardo di (cinque) minuti. – There is a 5-minute delay.
- Qual è la prossima fermata? – What is the next stop?
- È questo il treno per…? – Is this the train for…?
- Sola andata – Oneway
- Andata e ritorno – Both ways
- Regionale – Local trains
Traveling By Bus In Sardinia
ARST is the public transport company that connects Sardinia towns and villages together.
Where Can I Find Timetables?
You can see the timetable at the bus stations and usually at bus stops.
Alternatively, an extensive list of bus routes in Sardinia can be found on the ARST website, it allows you to download the timetables as a PDF. It can be a difficult website to navigate. I recommend using the search below if you are looking for bus times in Sardinia.
This search works for regional bus services, urban buses, and airport buses.
Is Traveling By Bus Expensive In Sardinia?
The fares are reasonable, only slightly more expensive than train fares at the same distance. Short trips can be as little as €1.30, whereas journeys the length of the island are just under €20.
Where To Buy Bus Tickets?
You can buy tickets at bus stations prior to travel. In smaller towns, you should be able to buy a ticket from the local tobacconist or bar. In most cases, you should be able to buy a ticket with the drive, but the best practice is to buy them before boarding.
Limited Routes On Sundays
On Sundays and during holidays the bus services are cut back, meaning there could only be one or two services on this day or none at all. It is easy to get stranded in Sardinia when traveling on a Sunday, especially when traveling to smaller towns inland. Make sure that you check the times online before traveling.
Tourist Bus Pass
A tourist bus pass can be purchased by non-resident visitors, from 1st June to the 30th September. This pass will permit access to all ARST services excluding the Green Tourist Train. There are four types of passes, for different durations.
- A 7-day pass is €45
- A 14-day pass is €70
- A 21-day pass is €100
- A 28-day pass is €130
These tickets can be purchased in any ARST ticket office (Cagliari, Sassari, Oristano, Nuoro, Olbia, Lanusei, Guspini, Iglesias).
Italian Phrases That May Be Helpful
- Dov’e la fermata di autobus più vicina? – Where’s the nearest bus stop?
- Quale autobus devo prendere per raggiungere l’ aereoporto? – Which bus do I take to get to the airport?
- Quanto frequenti sono gli autobus? – How frequent are the buses?
- Quando c’è l’ultimo autobus? – When is the last bus?
- Ho perso l’ultimo autobus? – Have I missed the last bus?
- Ci sono posti liberi? – Are there any free seats?
- Questo posto è occupato. – This seat is taken.
- Qual è la prossima fermata? – What is the next stop?
If the public transport network of Sardinia doesn’t seem viable for you. Then you should look at renting a car. You can read my guide to renting a car here.
Navigating Sardinia: 10 Insider Tips for Using Public Transport
When it comes to exploring the captivating island of Sardinia, public transport can be a reliable and cost-effective way to get around. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-timer, here are 10 valuable insights to help you make the most of Sardinia’s public transportation system.
1. Diverse Options, Seamless Connections:
Sardinia offers a mix of transportation options, including buses, trains, and ferries. The key is to plan your routes in advance to ensure smooth connections between different modes of transport.
2. Buses: The Island’s Lifeline:
Buses are the backbone of Sardinia’s public transport network. They connect cities, towns, and even the most remote villages. Keep an eye on schedules, as they might vary based on the route and the time of year.
3. Trains for Scenic Journeys:
Sardinia’s rail network might not be extensive, but it offers scenic routes that showcase the island’s beauty. Trains are a fantastic way to enjoy the picturesque landscapes while traveling between major cities.
4. Pre-Book Tickets for Peace of Mind:
If you’re planning to explore multiple destinations, consider pre-booking tickets online or at station kiosks. This not only saves time but also ensures you have a seat, especially during peak seasons.
5. Cash vs. Cards: Be Prepared:
While larger towns and cities generally accept credit and debit cards, it’s a good idea to carry some cash for smaller businesses and rural areas where card payments might not be as common.
6. Respect the Siesta: Afternoon Breaks:
Sardinians value their siesta time, and you might find some shops and transport services closed during the afternoon hours. Plan your travel accordingly to avoid any inconvenience.
7. Language Matters:
While many locals speak Italian, some areas might have their own dialects. Learning a few basic Italian phrases can go a long way in making your interactions smoother.
8. Summer Rush: Plan Ahead:
During the summer months, Sardinia attracts a surge of tourists. Public transport services can get busier, so plan your journeys in advance and consider booking tickets early.
9. Ferries: Island Hopping Adventures:
If you’re looking to explore Sardinia’s enchanting neighboring islands, ferries are your go-to option. From bustling cities to secluded paradises, ferries provide a gateway to diverse experiences.
10. Embrace the Local Pace:
Public transport in Sardinia operates at a relaxed pace, aligning with the island’s laid-back lifestyle. Embrace this leisurely rhythm, and you’ll discover a more authentic side of Sardinia.
As you traverse Sardinia’s charming landscapes and vibrant towns using its public transport system, these tips will help you navigate with ease and make the most of your island adventure. From buses to ferries, each journey offers a chance to immerse yourself in the island’s unique charm.