Are you considering renting a car in Puglia and exploring the region? However, you are not sure if this is the right thing to do. Don’t worry, I will do my best to answer all your questions and help you make the best choice based on your preferences and what exactly you want to do and see on your Puglia itinerary.
I’m writing this based on my experience, mainly because I hope you could learn from my mistakes and plan your vacation better. And that’s because I loved Puglia so much and think that anyone should have the chance to explore it properly.
It was my first time driving in Italy, even though it wasn’t my first time in the passenger’s seat, and if I can do it, almost anyone could.
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Renting a car in Puglia – tips & tricks
Why you should rent a car in Puglia
Renting a car in Puglia can be a great way to explore the region and take advantage of all it has to offer.
With a rental car, you will have the freedom and flexibility to go where you want when you want, making it easier to explore all that Puglia has to offer.
Plus, with access to public transport limited in some parts of the region, renting a car is often the only way of getting around easily.
Not only that but many attractions are located some distance away from each other so having your own transport makes sightseeing much more convenient.
With its stunning scenery and historic towns, renting a car gives you the perfect opportunity to discover why Puglia is such an amazing destination.
Do you need to rent a car in Puglia?
Of course, the region is served by public transportation that will take you to many of the places you might want to visit. However, you will need a lot of time to travel around, since options aren’t very frequent.
I personally know people who have visited Puglia without a car, but they’ve only scratched the surface.
Read also: How to get from Bari to Matera
After doing my research, and even though I had never driven in Italy, I decided it was worth taking the risk. There are so many villages within a 15-25 minute drive you could visit, that are otherwise hard to reach by public transportation.
Where to rent a car in Puglia
No matter where I am traveling to, my go-to place for car rentals is always Discover Cars.
It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good Cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change.
You will most likely land at Bari airport, and I strongly suggest you choose to pick up your car directly from there. That’s what we did and we drove directly to Alberobello, where we had booked our accommodation.
Our experience with renting a car in Puglia
I was traveling with a friend and we had planned to visit Puglia and the Amalfi Coast, thus we needed to rent a car. Traveling only within Puglia would have been possible without a car (not easy or fast, but possible), however, traveling to the other side of the peninsula and back, is very complicated.
Thus we rented a car online with plenty of time in advance, so that we could find not only the model we wanted (a small car, but more on that later) but also the smallest price.
However, we failed to have all the necessary documents at the car pick-up (I didn’t have a credit card, and my friend had one but didn’t have her driver’s license), thus we ended up renting a car directly at the airport. Not only did we receive a big car (streets in Italy are narrow, they park like crazy, thus having a small car is better), but we had to pay 3 times the reservation price.
Learn from my mistake and book ahead of time online, and make sure you have all your documents with you!
Driving in Puglia is not as challenging as driving in Sicily or on the Amalfi Coast, but if you are not used to people not following all the rules, this might prove to be tough on you. However, don’t expect much traffic in the small villages.
Locals tend not to follow certain rules when it comes to signaling or speed limit. They are also very impatient so we might have gotten into some traffic altercations here and there for driving too slow in their opinion.
However, when you pay attention to the road and especially to what others do in traffic, it is a small price to pay for traveling around Puglia.
We didn’t encounter any issues with finding parking spaces in all the villages we visited, and the fees weren’t high (around 2-3 EUR depending on the number of hours spent in one place). Just make sure to look for the machine and pay the fee.
Another thing to have in mind is you shouldn’t leave any valuables inside your car no matter where you park. Nothing ever happened to us, but I’ve heard and read about many unhappy stories.
Is it safe to drive in Puglia?
Yes, it is generally safe to drive in Puglia. The roads are well-maintained and the rules of the road are enforced with safety in mind.
However, like in any other location, there may be occasional cases of carelessness or negligence that can lead to accidents. It is always best to practice defensive driving and follow the rules while on the road to ensure a safe journey.
Is it easy to drive around Puglia?
As mentioned before, it is not a breeze, but it is not hard either. If you pay attention to the other drivers, but also to traffic signs you won’t have any problems.
What documents do you need to rent a car in Puglia?
In order to drive in Puglia and in Italy, you will need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). You will be asked for it once you pick up your car, thus make sure to have it ready on arrival.
Read more about how to obtain one here.
You will also need a credit card in the name of the person who made the reservation. All drivers should have their International Driver’s Permit (IDP) with them.
Moreover, you will need your ID and must be at least 21 or 25 years old (check that when making the booking).
Other tips for renting a car in Puglia – and driving around
1. Always buckle up – wearing a seatbelt is mandatory in Puglia and all of Italy. Be sure to keep your speed within the posted speed limit, as speeding tickets are common and heavy fines can be issued.
2. Be aware of traffic circles – Puglia has many roundabouts that require extra care when navigating them. Be sure to yield to traffic already in the circle, signal clearly when entering and exiting, and always use your turn signals.
3. Watch out for pedestrians – many roads have limited sidewalks or none at all. Always be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing the street, even if there are no crosswalks present. It is also important to take extra care when driving in busy city centers, as these areas can be more congested and pedestrians often cross the street unpredictably.
4. Be mindful of your surroundings – road conditions throughout Puglia can vary greatly, from well-maintained highways to winding mountain roads. It is important to stay alert and drive defensively at all times, as you may encounter unexpected obstacles or sudden changes in the terrain.
5. Respect local laws – driving under the influence is strictly prohibited and carries serious legal consequences. Additionally, it is important to remain aware of any potential traffic restrictions enforced by local authorities, such as reduced speed limits near schools or construction zones.
6. Know your route – having a good understanding of the local roads and landmarks is key to navigating Puglia safely. If you are unfamiliar with an area, be sure to plan your route ahead of time and keep an eye out for any helpful signage along the way.
7. Be prepared for heavy traffic – major cities in Puglia (especially Bari) often experience extremely high levels of traffic, particularly during peak hours. It can be helpful to plan extra time and anticipate potential delays when driving in these areas.
8. Be aware of toll roads – some highways and bridges in Puglia require a toll for use. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the relevant regulations and fees before taking any long-distance journeys, as these can quickly add up.
9. Familiarize yourself with parking regulations – cities and towns throughout Puglia typically have very strict rules governing the use of public parking spaces. Be sure to research the local guidelines in advance, as parking violations can incur significant fines.
10. Stay safe on the roads – above all, it is important to practice good driving habits and stay safe on the roads of Puglia. Be sure to drive with care, remain alert at all times, and always follow the rules of the road.
Where to stay in Puglia as a base with a car?
As mentioned before, we chose to stay in Alberobello.
For us, perfectly located to explore seaside cities such as Polignano a Mare or Monopoli, but also other smaller picturesque towns like Ostuni, Locorotondo, or Martina Franca.
Choosing to stay in either one of these places would be good.
Here are a few accommodation options to have in mind:
Masseria Le Cerase – a traditional white house with a stunning pool, perfectly located for daily trips to the sea or Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, or Ostuni.
Masseria Alchimia – enjoy the most authentic and fresh Italian breakfast, only a few kilometers away from Polignano a Mare, in a stylish and immaculate location.
Hotel Don Ferrante – who wouldn’t want to experience staying right in the walls of Monopoli? This 10-room boutique hotel will not only charm you with its design but also with the rooftop terrace and pool overlooking the blue.
Trullieu Guesthouse Alberobello – even though the Trullo guesthouse is located extremely close to Alberobello’s center, it is still hidden from all the noise and fuss. And it also has a free close-by parking space.
Furnirussi Tenuta – not only the rooms are spacious at this hotel, but they also have a big lake-like swimming pool.
Masseria Le Fabriche – a stone house in the middle of vineyards. You can easily imagine why this is a wine lover’s paradise destination. Explore also the nearby beach Conte d’Ayala.
How many days are enough in Puglia?
We spent 3 days in Puglia and it was for sure a too short vacation. If you can spend one week exploring Puglia that would be perfect in my opinion.
However, there are so many beautiful small villages and hidden beaches that you couldn’t possibly get bored even with more time on your hands.