Flights into Palermo from mainland Italy or directly from the U.K. arrive at Palermo's airport, Punta Raisi Falcone-Borsellino, which lies 31km (19 miles) west of Palermo. The number to call for general airport information is tel. 091-7020111; for real-time flight times and other information log on to www.gesap.it.
Birgi Airport in Trapani, lying southwest, has become an alternative hub for reaching Palermo.
From the airport, Prestia and Comandé coach service (www.prestiaecomande.it) to the Politeama and Piazza Giulio Cesare (central train station) will cost 5.80€. The Trinacria Express train (www.trenitalia.it) runs to the central station from arrivals and costs 5.50€; tickets must be purchased before boarding. In fact, if there is no way to purchase a ticket -- if the vending machine is out of order or the ticket office is closed -- forgo using the train and take the bus instead. You'll be fined at least 52€ for not having a ticket. A taxi is by far the fastest way of getting into town, but also the most expensive -- expect to pay at least 35€ to get to the city center if pre-booked; otherwise make sure to negotiate a price with the driver beforehand to avoid nasty surprises later on. To book a taxi call tel. 091-513311, or visit www.autoradiotaxi.it. If you want the freedom of getting around by yourself -- even if the experience can be hair-raising at times -- you can rent a car at the airport with any of the well-known companies and drive into the city. If you can, arrange rental before arriving -- it saves time and rates are somewhat cheaper.
Palermo is well linked to and from Italy as well as to most major cities on the island. All major trains arrive at Palermo's main terminal, Stazione Centrale, at Piazza Giulio Cesare (tel. 892021; www.trenitalia.it). The ticket and information office operates from 6:45am to 8:40pm, while automatic ticket-vending machines can be found near the entrance. The luggage deposit is located on the right facing the tracks.
Arriving from Catania takes at least 3 1/2 hours; not all services from here are direct -- somewhere along the way you'll have to change trains; trains cost between 15€ one way and 32€ for the InterCity. From Messina, expect a 3-hour ride costing between 12€ one way and 25€ for the InterCity. From Trapani, for 7.40€, the train takes about 2 1/2 hours, with frequent service throughout the day. From Agrigento it's a 2-hour ride through the countryside and costs 8€. If you don't mind spending time on trains (and love the so-called scenic routes), then the ride from Syracuse is for you -- you'll get there in anywhere from 4 1/2 to 7 hours; trains cost between 15€ one way and 32€ for the InterCity.
There are also direct rail links from major Italian cities -- from Rome it's at least 12 hours, with both daily and overnight service and costs between 52€ to 101€ one way. From Naples expect to travel 9 hours. For those willing to ride to Palermo all the way from Milan, allow anywhere between 15 and 20 hours.
Buses that run from the mainland to Palermo arrive in Via Balsamo, adjacent to the Central Station, but unless you're willing to sit immobilized for endless hours -- not to mention risking thrombosis -- I discourage it: The ride is long, boring, and not for those prone to car sickness. SAIS runs two buses daily from Rome (costing 44€) and one from Naples, with connecting buses from northern cities operated by the same company. For information, call tel. 091-6166028, or visit www.saistrasporti.it.
Bus travel is a good option for trips around Sicily, as it reaches some places trains don't. There are convenient links to major cities by SAIS . From Messina, it takes 3 1/4 hours and costs 15€ to reach Palermo; from Catania, 2 1/2 hours with no stops along the way, and costs 14.20€. Segesta (tel. 091-6167919; www.segesta.it) also has links from Trapani in about 2 hours, costing around 9€. Cuffaro (tel. 091-6161510; www.cuffaro.info) runs between Palermo and Agrigento in 2 1/2 hours. For the long haul from Syracuse, Interbus (tel. 091-6167919; www.interbus.it) will get you there in 3 1/2 hours. All these lines also have Via Balsamo as their final destination.
Three autostrade (superhighways) are linked to Palermo: the A19 from Catania, running inland; the coastal A20 from Messina; and the A29 from Mazara del Vallo, in the southwest. Except for certain points, they are free of charge. In addition, there are also national roadways linked to Palermo: The SS113 from Trapani (eastbound) or Messina (westbound), the SS121 from Catania and central Sicily, and the SS189 from Agrigento. If you are up to driving to Palermo from the mainland, you'll have to load your car onto a ferry and cross the Straits of Messina at either Villa San Giovanni or Reggio Calabria. Cars cost about 28€ and passengers are extra. Trenitalia (tel. 892021; www.trenitalia.it) and Caronte & Tourist (tel. 800-627414; www.carontetourist.it) offer service from Villa San Giovanni, while Meridiano Lines (tel. 0965-810414; www.meridianolines.it) operates from Reggio Calabria.
Once the 20-minute crossing is over and the ferry is docked in Messina, it's far from over: Be prepared to drive about 3 more hours to Palermo on the A20 autostrada. Don't say you weren't warned.
A viable option if you don't want to drive down the perilous, oft-roadwork-burdened Salerno-Reggio Calabria portion of the A1 highway, boat crossings to Palermo from Naples are provided by SNAV (tel. 081-4285555; www.snav.it) and Tirrenia Lines (tel. 892123 toll-free in Italy, or 02-26302803; www.tirrenia.it), while Grimaldi Lines (tel. 081-496444; www.grimaldi-lines.com) offers a service a few times a week from Salerno. The ferry trip takes 11 hours and prices start from 40€. SNAV also offers a ferry service three times a week from Civitavecchia, near Rome. Grandi Navi Veloci (tel. 010-2094591; www.gnv.it) also operates ships from Civitavecchia as well as from Genoa and Livorno, with prices starting from around 36€. Scheduled times may vary due to weather conditions, so always call to confirm departure.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.