There are domestic flights from Palermo to the Pélagie Islands (Lampedusa and Linosa), and from Trapani to the island of Pantelleria. The flights last about 30 minutes.
All major Sicilian cities such as Palermo, Catania, Messina, Syracuse, Agrigento, Taormina, and Trapani have good rail links. A single ticket can be bought up to 2 months before scheduled travel. Eurail passes are honored on trains around the island, but don't waste money on a first-class pass if you intend on using it just in Sicily -- few trains have first-class carriages.
Trains are operated by Trenitalia (or Ferrovie dello Stato (FS)), the Italian State Railways (tel. 892021 from Italy; from other countries tel. 06-68475475; www.trenitalia.com). Train fares are generally very affordable. Children ages 4 to 11 receive a discount of 50% off the adult fare, and children 3 and younger travel free with a parent. Second-class travel usually costs about two-thirds the price of an equivalent first-class trip.
InterCity trains (designated IC on train schedules) are modern, air-conditioned, limited-stop trains and you have to pay an often heavy supplement; a second-class IC ticket can provide a first-class experience. In Sicily, ICs run only between Messina and Palermo and Messina and Catania.
Slower Sicilian trains -- called Diretto, Espresso, and Interregionale -- stop at major towns or cities. A Regionale train (sometimes known as the Locale), stops in every hamlet and takes forever, but some experienced travelers insist that it's part of the charm.
For fares, visit www.trenitalia.it; it's also important to check if your ticket also requires paying a supplement for express or InterCity trains. Prices are also determined by the route -- for example, from Palermo to Catania it will be cheaper cutting inland via Caltanissetta/Enna than from Messina. A trip to Syracuse from Palermo will cost a minimum of 14.30€ to a maximum of 27.05€. If you're under the age of 26 or over 60 and plan to use the train extensively you might want to consider purchasing a Carta Verde or a Carta Argento. The Carta Verde is available to youths between 12 and 26 years of age at the price of 40€. It offers a 10% discount on all national trains (including couchettes) and up to 25% off international travel. The Carta Argento, designed for senior travelers, costs 30€ (free for travelers over 75) and offers a 15% discount on all trains and up to 25% off international travel.
Buses are becoming the travel means of choice in Sicily, as numerous train stations on the island are closing due to downsizing and general lack of interest by the regional government. Bus fares are generally less than train tickets and are even cheaper when a round trip ticket is bought.
AST (tel. 848-000323; www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it) has the largest network on the island. SAIS (tel. 091-616028 in Palermo, or 095-536168 in Catania; www.saisautolinee.it), offers a service from Palermo to Messina, Enna, Catania, and Syracuse. Cuffaro (tel. 091-6161510; www.cuffaro.info) links Palermo in the north with Agrigento in the south. Interbus (tel. 094-2625301; www.interbus.it) has service between the cities of Catania, Messina, Taormina, and Syracuse. Salemi (tel. 092-3981120; www.autoservizisalemi.it) links Palermo to western Sicily (Trapani and Marsala). For all bus links, visit www.regione.sicilia.it/turismo/trasporti. In large cities, most buses stop at the main train station.
Sundays have a reduced service, and the bus can be packed with students traveling back to the big cities. Holidays often have a reduced service or don't operate at all.
Tickets for intercity services are most often purchased right on the bus. However, in some instances, for example, from Palermo to Trapani or vice versa, you have to book a ticket in advance at one of the local bus offices. Note: both tickets bought on-board and booked tickets are non-refundable.
Tickets for city buses are bought before boarding at ticket booths, tabacchi (tobacco shops), and newsagents, and must be validated once you get on, or else you'll be fined up to 60€ if stopped by a bus controller. If the validating machine is not working, notify the driver immediately. Most city buses charge from 1€ to 1.30€ for a ticket that is valid for only 60 to 90 minutes.
In Palermo and Catania you can purchase a 24-hour bus ticket that can save you money if you plan to use the bus network extensively.
For U.K. and European drivers, full driving licenses are valid for Sicily. U.S. and Canadian drivers are required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive a rented or private car in Italy. You can apply for an IDP at any AAA or CAA branch. You must be at least 18 and have two 2*2-inch (4cm x 5cm) photos and a photocopy of your U.S. driver's license with your AAA application form. Remember that an International Driver's License is valid only if physically accompanied by your original driver's license and only if signed on the back. To find the AAA office nearest you, call tel. 800/222-4357, or go to www.aaa.com. In Canada, you can get the location of the Canadian Automobile Association office closest to you by calling tel. 800/267-8713 or going to www.caa.ca.
Rentals -- Many of the loveliest parts of Sicily are only reachable by car. Be prepared however to experience some of the most aggressive and daredevil maneuvers in the western world. Sicilian drivers have road rules of their own, and everyone has the right of way.
To rent a car in Sicily, a driver must have a valid driver's license, a valid passport, and must be (in most cases) more than 25 years old. Insurance is compulsory, though any reputable rental firm will arrange it in advance before you're even given the keys. It is generally cheaper to make arrangements for car rentals before you leave home. Of course, you can also rent a car once you arrive in Sicily, although the rates will be higher. The price can vary greatly depending on the vehicle, the average rental on the island costs from 80€ to 120€ per day, cheaper if rented weekly or longer.
The main rental agencies in Sicily include Avis (tel. 800/331-1212; www.avis.com) and Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131; www.hertz.com). Other firms are Auto Europe (tel. 800/223-5555; www.autoeurope.com), Europe by Car (tel. 888/223-1516 or 212/581-3040; www.europebycar.com), Kemwel Holiday Auto (tel. 800/678-0678; www.kemwel.com), and Dollar (tel. 1800-800-3665; www.dollar.com).
Internet resources can make comparison shopping cheaper. Expedia (www.expedia.com) and Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) help you compare prices and make reservations.
Fuel -- Benzina (gasoline/petrol) is expensive in Sicily. In today's uncertain economy, prices can change from week to week, even day to day. Gas stations on the autostrade are open 24 hours, but stations on regular roads are rarely open on Sunday; also, many close from noon to 3pm for lunch, and most shut down after 7pm. Almost all stations have self-service. Make sure the pump registers zero before an attendant starts refilling your tank. A popular scam in Sicily is to fill your tank before resetting the meter, so you pay not only your bill but also the charges run up by the previous motorist.
Driving Rules -- Driving is on the right; passing is on the left. In cities and towns, the speed limit is 50 kmph (31 mph). For all cars and motor vehicles on main roads and local roads, the limit is 90 kmph (56 mph). For the autostrade, the limit is 130 kmph (81 mph). Use the left lane only for passing. If a driver zooms up behind you on the autostrada with his or her lights on (or honking away), that's your sign to get out of the way. Use of seat belts is compulsory and using a cell phone while driving is illegal. Don't be surprised to see children sitting in the front seat or in the laps of their parents when driving -- child seats are considered by most here to be "unnecessary."
Breakdowns & Assistance -- The Automobile Club Italiano (ACI) does not offer free roadside emergency help to stranded motorists in Sicily. Members have discounts and in some cases protection packages that include free assistance. If you call the ACI emergency number (tel. 803116) in the event of a breakdown, you must pay a minimum of 110€, plus another 45€ to have your car towed to the nearest garage, plus tax and 1€ per kilometer. So getting stranded in Sicily has a serious cost. Not only that, but 20% is added to the bill between 10pm and 6am and on Saturday and Sunday. ACI offices are at Via delle Alpi 6, in Palermo (tel. 091-300468; www.aci.it), and at Via Sabotino 1, in Catania (tel. 095-533380).
Sicilian Roads -- The autostrade are not as extensive on Sicily as they are on the Italian mainland. The most traveled route is the A19 between Palermo and Catania, a convenient link between the island's two major cities. The other oft-traveled route is the A20 going between Palermo and Messina. The A18 links Messina and Catania on the eastern coast, whereas the A29 goes from Palermo to Mazara del Vallo to the south, with a detour to Trapani.
Sicily has nowhere near the burdensome tolls of mainland Italy, but there are some: For example, taking the autostrada from Messina to Catania costs 4.50€, while from Cefalù to Palermo the cost is .80€. Unless you're traveling from city to city, you'll use the state roads, or Strade statali, single-lane, and toll-free routes. To reach remote villages, you'll sometimes find yourself going along a country lane and watching out for goats. These are the bona-fide scenic routes, with roads sometimes just steps away from the shore.
Taxi rates vary from town to town, but in general are very pricey. In most cities, the meter begins at 3.50€, and then charges you 2.50€ for the first 154m (505ft.), plus another .85€ per kilometer thereafter. There are supplements of 2€ from 10pm to 7am, Sundays and on holidays. Depending on the size of the taxi, four or as many as five passengers are allowed. Taxis are found at all airport arrival terminals; always ask how much the tariff to your destination is -- there are normally flat fees from the airport to the city. In some cities, taxis can be called. When you reserve by phone, the taxi meter goes on when the cabbie pulls out of his station. In Sicily, taxis rarely stop if hailed on the street. Although most taxi drivers are honest and hard-working, you will occasionally encounter an unscrupulous bad apple: If the front seat is inclined forward so as to block the vision of the meter, ask the driver to pull it up.
Most Sicilian cities have bike-rental firms; otherwise, your hotel might help you make arrangements for one. Rentals in cities start at 10€ a day or 60€ a week. Even though helmets and lights are not legally required, it is prudent to have them, especially in a city like Palermo, where bike lanes are virtually non-existent. It is forbidden to bike along the autostrade. Bikes are transported free on Sicilian ferries, but you must pay to carry them on most trains. Fast trains generally do not allow bikes, although conductors on IC trains let you put a bike in the baggage train for an extra 5€. Most regional and local trains allow bike transport. Check www.trenitalia.it for more information about bicycle transport.