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Sardinia is an unspoilt island that lies in the Mediterranean Sea to the west of the Italian peninsula. For culture buffs, sunseekers and those who enjoy pristine vistas Sardinia is an idyllic holiday destination. The island’s fascinating 1,800km-long shoreline and charming mountain regions and towns inland are within driving distance of the capital, Cagliari, and other principal urban centres including Alghero and Oristano when using a self-drive car.
Who to Book With
International car hire firms such as Budget and Avis maintain a presence on Sardinia. These are complemented by national supplier Maggiore, an associate of National, and local companies including Alghero and Aigua. Hire offices are located in the island’s three international airports and in the principal tourism towns and resorts. Hirers wishing to get the best rates can reserve their vehicles online from both the international and some of the local suppliers.
Best Time to go
Any time between spring and early autumn is a good time to visit Sardinia. From May onwards the sea is warm enough for swimming. Temperatures peak at around 29°C in July and August, although cool sea breezes render the heat bearable. The winter months tend to be wet. There is frequent snowfall in the mountainous interior at this time and roads are slippery.
Need to Know Essentials
People picking up rental cars in Sardinia will need the following the items before the rental company will release the vehicle:
- A valid driver’s license with a photo (if using an older license without a photograph it is a good idea to get an International Driving Permit)
- Passport or other photo ID
- The printed voucher confirming the rental
- The bank or credit card used to confirm the booking
Cagliari and the other main Sardinian towns are not the easiest places in the world to drive around. The streets of the historic cities were laid before the motor car was invented and are narrow. This makes them difficult to drive down and there are also very few streetside parking spaces. A multi-storey car park in Cagliari charges €1.20 per hour. When visiting other towns it is easier to park on the outskirts and make the short walk into their centres.
Due to the relatively small size of towns and resorts people renting vehicles will soon discover that it does not take long to leave them behind and hit the open road. Sardinia does not have any true motorways but does have a system of well-maintained dual carriageway roads (superstrade) that link the north and south of the elongated island as well as coastal areas.
The SS131 runs through the spine of Sardinia connecting Sassari and Cagliari. Secondary roads in the mountains are bendy and have steep inclines. Drivers should be careful on these roads and keep to the indicated speed limits. Speed traps are common. In wet weather, speed limits on superstrade are reduced to 90kph. Motorists need to keep dipped headlights on in rural districts during the daytime.
ARST is Sardinia’s public transport company and operates around 200 buses on urban and suburban routes. ARST is also responsible for running the island’s narrow-gauge rail network, the Green Train tourism routes and each of the suburban transport lines in Sassari and Cagliari. Buses travel between the main towns. In remote locations, services are either infrequent or non-existent and car hire is a better option for exploring.
People using public transport on Sardinia normally buy their tickets prior to travel and get them stamped when they board. Tickets can be bought at ticket offices, cafés and newsagents’ kiosks. Weekly tourist tickets offering unlimited travel on buses are available between 1 June and 30 September. These are €45 and can only be bought at designated offices in towns. The tickets are also available with validity of 14, 21 and 28 days.
Train services on Sardinia link the north and south, and Oristano and Iglesias on the west coast. The nearest train station to the east coast is Nuoro. Sardinian trains are not noted for their punctuality. On journeys involving changes of train there are often long waits for the connecting service. It is worth taking a trip on the Green Train (Trenino Verde) as it travels slowly through pristine landscapes not accessible by road.
The bus network on Sardinia is comprehensive and covers a good part of the island. It is let down by the fact that some rural routes offer infrequent services and many do not run on Sunday. Sassari and Cagliari both have one modern light-railway line apiece that links their centres to their suburbs.
Taxi stands are found in all of the resorts and towns. In Cagliari alone there are 20 stands. Cooperativa Radiotaxi 4 Mori is one of the main operators here and takes bookings via telephone.
There are abundant opportunities for sightseeing in Sardinia. The Palazzo d’Albis in Alghero and the Giovanni Antonio Sanna Museum in Sassari are noted urban tourist draws. With a car rental there are some lovely drives to tourist attractions such as Budoni, Tharros and Gennargentu National Park.
Budoni - This is a northeast coastal town at the heart of magnificent beaches and vistas. The beaches are rarely crowded and the crystal clear sea here offers great swimming and snorkelling.
Gennargentu National Park - A great place to visit, full of wild landscapes where wildlife such as Mediterranean monk seals, eagles and Peregrine falcons are common sightings. Activities that can be enjoyed here include peak-climbs and hiking. In winter, provided there is adequate snow cover, skiing is an option.
Tharros - This is an archaeological delight on the west coast. Corinthian columns and other ancient ruins sit on a headland in Oristano Bay and provide a striking contrast to the dazzling white beaches on either side.
Aquadream Amusement Park - This offers fun for the whole family. Water slides, chutes and pools together with courts for sports such as basket volante, kiddies’ play areas and diverse dining outlets will easily keep visitors amused for hours at a time.