If you are planning to rent a car in Catania for a road trip in Sicily or further afield, this post will walk you through the most important tips and things to know before you hit the road.
I have been to Sicily several times and always hired a car to drive around the island, including Catania. I also took the rented vehicle on a ferry when crossing the Strait of Messina to mainland Italy. Based on my experience renting a car in Catania Airport, I created this Catania rental car guide that includes practical tips such as:
- Where to get the best rates for car hire in Catania, Sicily.
- What to be aware of when hiring a car in Catania (including choosing the best car hire company).
- Required documents to hire a car in Catania.
- Tips for driving in Catania and parking in the city, and other useful practicalities.
If you are in a rush here are my 2 main tips for car rental in Catania, Sicily:
- You do not need a car to explore Catania, thus pick up your vehicle once you are ready to leave Catania and head on a road trip.
- For the best car hire rates, check Discovercars – a trusted car rental comparison website that I personally use to book my rides in Sicily, Italy. Here you will get great deals offered by major suppliers like Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, SIXT, and Thrifty, as well as very competitive rates from local companies such as Noleggiare, Maggiore, Sicily by Car, and many more. Make sure to also crosscheck with Rentalcars to confirm you are getting the best rate.
Disclaimer: This Rent a Car in Catania post contains affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). This helps to keep my blog running and growing by creating more awesome free content for you.
Everything you need to know before renting a car in Catania, Sicily
1. Is it worth renting a car in Catania, Sicily?
The decision whether or not you should be renting a car in Catania will be based on your travel plans and travel style. The below tips might be useful if you are still on the verge of “yes” or “no” to car rent Catania.
You won’t need to rent a car in Catania if
- Do not rent a car in Catania if you are only visiting the city which is perfectly walkable. You can also use city buses or taxis to tackle short distances around the city.
- If you are only going to nearby destinations and cities that are easily accessible by public transport (trains or buses), you might not need to drive in Catania. Those include main touristy towns and cities such as Syracuse, Taormina, Palermo, Noto, and Ragusa Ibla. Visiting Mount Etna is possible and even recommended by using tour guides.
DO hire a car in Catania if
- I strongly recommend renting a car in Catania if you are keen on exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations in Sicily. Smaller coastal towns and remote Sicily mountain villages are difficult to reach by public transport. You must have unlimited time to move around those places without a car.
- Also, if you prefer being independent of fixed public transport schedules (even for visiting popular places in Sicily).
- If you are traveling in a group of 2 or more, renting a vehicle might be more economical than buying single tickets for each traveler.
- If you are planning to explore mainland Italy, it is very easy to jump on a ferry even with a car. Visiting Calabria region which is connected to Sicily by a short ferry ride is also easier when you have your own wheels.
2. Is it difficult to drive in Catania, Sicily? Do I really need a car in Catania?
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily and is known for its hectic traffic just like the capital Palermo. Although driving in Catania does not compare to the madness of driving in Naples or the near-to-death experience of driving in Amalfi Coast, it still might be challenging for someone who is not yet used to the chaotic streets of a Sicilian city.
Moreover, as mentioned above, you do not need a car to explore the main attractions of Catania and be better off picking up your rental car once you are ready to leave the city.
The only reason that makes sense to drive in Catania is if you are planning to base yourself in a city and go on day trips. In this case, refer to the section at the end of the post for some important tips for driving in Catania and also where to park.
READ MORE: 21 Great Tips for Renting a Car and Driving in Sicily Stress-Free has insights on what it is like to drive in Sicily. My in-depth guide will give you some confidence and assurance that it is not all that bad, yet some things need to be taken into consideration before hitting the road.
3. Is it better to hire a car at Catania Airport or the city center?
Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) is the busiest airport on the island and one of the main entry points to Sicily for domestic and international travelers from UK, other European countries, and even US visitors. It is also a great jump-off point as well as a finish point for your Sicily road trip as you can easily pick up and drop off your rental car.
It is not only convenient renting a car at the airport but also cheaper, regardless of airport surcharges applied for car rentals. Renting a car at Catania Airport is no exception and by far better than renting a car in a city.
Based on my research, it is 30% to 80% cheaper to hire a car in Catania Airport compared to other locations in Catania, and even twice cheaper than in the city center (downtown Catania)! Moreover, you would avoid driving in traffic and mistakenly entering ZTL zones (more on that later in the post).
That being said, even if you are planning to visit the city first and pick up your rental car later, it is worth it to come back to the airport to pick up your rental car.
How to get from Catania City Center to Catania Airport
Catania Airport is located only 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) from the city center and is easy to reach by public transport. AMT Alibus shuttle costs only 4 EUR one way and runs approximately every 25 minutes between Catania city center and the airport. The bus operates daily from 4:40 AM and finishes its services late at midnight. The journey takes 25 minutes, and tickets can be bought directly from the driver (cash and card).
Alibus stops conveniently close to car rental offices in Catania Airport. Note that some of the rental desks are located outside the terminal, but still within walking distance.
Up-to-date timetable and route with all stops can be found on AMTS website.
READ MORE: Plan your road trip itinerary with my 2-week in Sicily road trip itinerary planner.
4. Cheap car rental in Catania- where to book?
Although you can hire a car in Catania airport upon arrival from one of the agency desks, or in the city center, the best practice to rent a car that you want and at a much better rate is by reserving in advance through a car comparison website. Also, by booking early you are guaranteed to get the vehicle you need and for the best rate available.
For the past years, I always use Discovercars to book a rental car in Italy. Over and over again I find the best deals on this particular car search website.
Before making a reservation payment, I also crosscheck with Rentalcars to see if I am getting the best deal. Rentalcars is the biggest car search aggregator on the market (yet their prices tend to be slightly higher lately).
Nonetheless, both car search websites provide a similarly easy booking experience with an intuitive user interface.
Why I like using Discovercars to rent a car not only in Catania but also elsewhere in Italy:
- Car rental rates are the lowest in the market with a wide choice of suppliers and vehicles.
- You can pick a car from well-known international brands such as Hertz, SIXT, Europcar, Budget, Dollar, Avis, etc., or go with a local supplier that usually has great deals. For example, Sicily by Car is a popular choice.
- Car rental prices are always better through Discovercars and Reantalcars than booking directly through a specific agency.
- Free booking cancelation of up to 48 hours to the rental date (refunded in reusable credit, or cash upon request). Full terms and conditions can be found HERE.
- Discovercars offers reasonably priced full insurance (an optional add-on when booking online).
- You can filter suppliers that do not require a deposit to book a car.
5. How much does it cost to rent a car in Catania, Sicily? Price comparison table
Car rental in Catania, Sicily is very affordable. During the peak of the summer season, you can find deals for smaller cars for around 25-30 EUR a day. While off-season it is a complete bargain to rent a car in Catania. off-season (late Autumn, Winter, and early Spring) you can expect to pay as low as 6-10 EUR a day for economy or mid-size car.
Renting a car in Sicily in general is cheaper than renting a car in mainland Italy.
Below is a price comparison table for car rental prices in Catania, Sicily during different times of the year. These are average day rates for different car sizes when hiring a car in Catania for 7 days. Prices for car hire in Catania, Sicily were compared using the Discovercars website.
*Note: manual transmission cars are usually cheaper in Sicily, Italy.
6. Book early to secure the best rates when traveling in the summer
May to September with peak months of June, July, and especially August are the most popular times to travel in Sicily. Hence, cars get booked out as well. Make sure to reserve your car in Catania early enough. Ideally, at least a month before your trip or even more if you already know your plans.
With both Discovercars and Rentalcars you have 48 hours free cancelation policy in case your plans change.
7. What type of car to rent in Catania for your Sicily road trip?
Book a small car that would fit all the passengers and luggage. Tiny windy roads in Sicily are not made for big SUVs. Therefore, you will find driving in Sicily much easier if you have a smaller car. Parking spots in Catania and other towns around Sicily are also often tiny, thus a FIAT500 or similar would be an advantage.
Electric cars in Sicily, Italy are increasing in popularity and currently are offered by Sicily by Car (you can filter them out on Discovercars). Electric vehicles are perfect if you plan short day trips from the city. However, they might not be suitable if you are planning on visiting remote locations where charging stations are not yet available.
Good to know: electric cars are not only environmentally friendly but are sometimes allowed to enter restricted traffic areas in Italy- ZTL zones (those rules vary across municipalities), and can benefit from free parking! Moreover, Enel X charging points are completely free.
8. Documents needed to rent a car in Catania, Sicily
These are the documents you need to have to hire a car in Catania, Sicily:
- A valid driving license that has been issued more than a year ago before the rental date (in rare occasions, a company may require a license that is older than 2 years). If your driving license is new, carry the old one to prove your driving experience.
- International Driving Permit (IDP) will be required if: a) the driver’s license is issued outside the EU; b) driver’s license is printed in the non-Latin alphabet.
- IDP MUST be accompanied by the ORIGINAL driving license;
- A credit card (or debit IF the supplier accepts it) on the main driver’s name (some rental companies require a credit card to be valid 3 months after drop off, make sure to check rental conditions).
- Passport or ID card;
- Car booking voucher.
9. Renting a car in Catania without a credit card
In case you do not have a credit card, it is possible to hire a car in Catania without one. On Discovercars, you can filter zero-deposit cars. For example, Locauto does not require a deposit, and Recordgo even has zero-deductible offers. The shortcoming is that the rental prices of zero-deposit cars are higher than the ones where you are asked to leave a deposit.
Another option is to look for companies that allow booking with a debit card. For example, Sicily by Car is one of those companies that accept debit cards under the main driver’s name as long as they have a chip, IBAN, and PIN. However there is a catch, you will have to buy additional insurance (called excess or full insurance) which might add up to around 20-25 EUR per day to your car rental.
10. Full insurance- do you need it?
The insurance that is already included in the rental price is called CDW (Coalition Damage Waiver). This waiver limits the customer’s responsibility in case of any damages occur to the rental car or if it was stolen. This responsibility is called deductible– the maximum amount of money you will have to pay in case of an incident. A deductible amount ranges significantly from company to company and starts at around 1000 EUR and can go up to 2000 EUR or even more.
Note that, CDW only covers the bodywork of the car and DOES NOT cover flat tires, cracked windshields, damaged headlights, lost keys, towing, engine, underbody, and roof.
To be fully protected, you can obtain Full Coverage (also called Excess Insurance) which waives the deductible amount. However, buying Excess Insurance over the counter through a car rental company is usually very expensive (starting at 20 EUR per day).
Yet, to have peace of mind during your road trip to Sicily, having full insurance is definitely necessary. I always get one, but not from the counter.
How to save money on full insurance for car rental in Catania, Sicily?
You have two options for affordable full insurance:
- If you are booking with Discovercars, they have a reasonably priced full coverage which costs around 5 EUR per day.
- You can also use an independent Excess Insurance provider such as Worldwideinsure or Rentalcover. Purchasing insurance from them costs much less than buying full insurance through a rental agency. I personally use Worldwideinsure and purchase a yearly policy since it comes as the best-priced option for multiple trips.
Tip: If you are a US citizen, check with your credit card company if they offer Excess Insurance coverage.
11. The best car rental companies in Catania Airport- how to pick one
When searching for car hire in Catania using Discovercars or Rentalcars, you are provided with a list of various rental companies. Although the ones offering the cheapest rates might look appealing, it is worth doing a little bit of research to confirm that they are safe to book with. That means picking a genuine company that doesn’t have a reputation using sneaky tactics to make extra bucks out of you.
Suppliers rating that you see on search aggregators’ website is provided based on a number of factors such as the efficiency of car rental agents, time spent to pick up and drop off the car, car condition, etc.
However, it is always worth spending a little more time reading reviews on Google Maps for a specific rental desk at your car hire destination. You can see if there are any serious complaints about agents working for the company you want to hire a car from in your location. In this case car hire in Catania.
Usually, you will see bad reviews for every company. Thus, use your judgment to see if there are any serious issues that are repeatedly reported. This would be an indication to stay away and pick a different supplier.
That said, sometimes it is better to pay a little more but choose a reputable company for peace of mind. Nonetheless, the more famous brand does not mean it will be much better than a smaller supplier.
When talking about rental companies in Catania, I read some terrible stories about people getting scammed with charges for damages they haven’t done or problems with roadside assistance, etc. And this was the case both for bigger and smaller companies. Yet some of the suppliers clearly had more good reviews and significantly fewer bad ones.
That said, some of the most reputable companies in Catania, Sicily are Europcar, Enterprice, Drivalia, SIXT, Sicily by Car.
My experience of booking cars in Sicily
The last time I traveled to Sicily, I used B-Rent services. Although it was not the highest rated out of all options available at that time, I had a smooth experience from start to finish. I booked through Discovercars.
Before I used to book through Rentalcars in Trapani and Palermo and used Budget services, the experience was also great.
12. Picking up your rental car in Catania airport and dropping it off in Palermo (or elsewhere)
You have the option to pick up your rental car in Catania and return it to a different location, for example, Palermo. It is a convenient service for those travelers who have return flights from a different destination or simply want to finish their road trip in a different location without a need to return to the original car pick-up point.
In this case, however, a one-way fee will be applied, the amount of which depends on the distance between pick-up and drop-off locations. You can compare price the difference on both Discovercars and Rentalcars by simply putting a different drop-off location (usually default search is a return to the same place). And then see what would be the price if you returned to the same place.
13. Rules of taking your rental car on a ferry or crossing the border with a Catania rental car
If you are planning to go to mainland Italy from Sicily or even abroad (Malta is a popular destination, for example), make sure the rental company allows you to take the car on a ferry as well as cross the border to a country you want to travel to. If it does, additional fees may also apply (every agency has different regulations).
I have checked car rentals in Catania that allow leaving Sicily and using a ferry are Locauto, Italy Car Rent, SIXT, Sicily by Car.
Based on my experience, ferry restriction is somewhat vague. I took a B-Rent car on a ferry between Sicily and Calabria without even knowing that this was not allowed. However, the risk is that if something happens to the car during the ferry trip or in mainland Italy, then you might be in trouble (not covered by your insurance policy). Thus, think twice if you are ready to take it or not.
14. Other important things to pay attention to when hiring a car in Catania, Sicily
Here is a checklist of the things to pay attention to when renting a car in Catania or anywhere else in Sicily, Italy. On Discovercars website, all those points are listed under Rental Conditions tab.
- Refundable security deposit– it varies greatly from company to company. Can be as low as 500 EUR and as high as 1500 EUR (sometimes even more). Make sure you have enough funds on your credit card.
- Deductible amount – a maximum amount of $ you would be obliged to pay from your pocket in case of an accident. This amount is usually equal to the security deposit amount.
- Check if you are booking a manual or an automatic car.
- Take note if it is petrol or diesel so you know what to fill up the tank with.
- Pick up and drop off the car during the rental desk business hours to avoid additional charges.
- Note what is the grace period to pick up and return your car in case you are late. Some companies are quite strict and if you are late to return, they may charge you for another day.
- Check the mileage policy- unlimited mileage is preferable. Unlike in Oman and UAE, where companies set mileage limits, in Italy and most of Europe it is usually unlimited.
- Check fuel policy– do you have to return a full tank or the same amount as you have received when picking up the vehicle.
- Young driver’s age– check the minimum age and the age brackets of the young driver as all companies have their own policies in terms of the age of a driver and charge additional fees for a newbie driver.
15. Picking up and returning your rental car at Catania Airport
Car rental companies in Catania Airport have their rental desks either inside the terminal or nearby. Cars are located in dedicated 2-level parking lots (under the roof and above), a walking distance from the rental desk. You will find the exact location of the car rental desk indicated clearly when booking with Discovercars.
Important! Upon pick up make sure to carefully inspect the car for possible scratches, take photos and videos, and mark them on the paper provided by the rental company. It is even useful to look at the roof if you can. I have read stories, particularly for Catania car rentals, that people were charged for scratches on the roof. It sounds ridiculous but that did happen.
Upon return make sure the agent is present to inspect the vehicle. Make sure that the agent also signs off the contract confirming that there are no complaints from the rental company side, so you do not get a surprise bill weeks later. Although I never left a car key in a box without an agent inspecting it in my presence, I read quite a few comments about people choosing to just leave the keys and not participating in the inspection process. As a result, they then got charged for scratches on their rental car.
16. Driving in Catania tips
Driving in Catania is more hectic than driving in the countryside or smaller towns of Sicily. However, if you have ever driven in Napoli, it will be okay.
- You can read more about what to expect from driving in Sicily in my post Everything you need to know to drive in Sicily stress-free.
Be aware of dreadful ZTL zones
Perhaps one of the most important things to pay attention to is ZTL zones– those are restricted traffic areas that can only be entered by residents who have a permit. I learned about ZTL the hard way when I drove into Orvieto (a town in Umbria) old town twice and got a few hundred euro fine later.
ZTLs are located in historic centers of Italy. Hence, you can find one in Catania’s old town as well. To give you an indication, Piazza Bellini is the center point.
Unfortunately, Google Maps will not warn you about the ZTL zones, and you must always look out for street signs (white circles with red outlines). When planning your route in Catania and Sicily, you can check for ZTL zones here. Below is a map illustrating the ZTL area in Catania, Sicily.
IMPORTANT: Electric vehicles in Catania’s ZTL zones are only permitted for the residents of Catania according to official transport authority AMTS.
17. Tips for parking in Catania, Sicily
Parking in Catania might be a bit of a task due to the large number of cars and limited spaces, especially free ones. Most of the parking spots in the city center area are either paid or reserved for residents. The paid parking is marked with blue lines, free parking (that is rare to find closer to the old town) is marked with white lines, and yellow is for unloading or reserved parking.
Paid parking timings in Catania
Paid parking timings in Catania are from 08:30 to 13:30 and then from 15:00 to 20:00.
Paid parking rates in Catania
One hour of parking on the street spot marked with blue lines costs 0.89 EUR. Half-day parking costs 2.9 EUR, according to AMTS.
If you decide to park in a paid parking spot, the payment is by an hour (or a fraction of an hour) and you can pay using a parkometer on the street (keeping some coins would be a good idea in case a credit card machine is out of order or not available). Also, you can use EasyPark app- perhaps the most convenient way to pay for street parking in Italy.
Free street parking is available at Catania Centrale train station which is only 13 minutes walk from Piazza Bellini.
Nite that, street parking in Catania is considered not the safest option due to the risk of getting your car accidentally scratched. Also, it is not advisable to park in dodgy-looking dark streets with little footfall due to the risk of a car being robbed if you leave stuff inside. Although, the statistics of car theft in Sicily got better over the years, however, Palermo and Catania are still the top places in Sicily where cars get stolen and robbed.
If you want to be on the safest side, secured garages are a safe option to park your car in Catania. Nonetheless, those might cost around 20 euros a day. There are plenty of guarded garages in Catania. A useful website to check the prices and book a spot online is Parkimeter.
You can also refer to the map below where I marked secured parking lots based on the best Google reviews.
Tip: if you are staying in Catania with your rental car, try to find accommodation that offers free parking! Check accommodation in Catania on Booking.
Top 5 tips for renting a car in Catania
Here are the main takeaways and tips for car hire in Catania and driving in Sicily:
- Driving in the city center of Catania is not recommended due to heavy traffic, and you are better off picking up the rental car once you are ready to leave the city.
- Hire and pick up your rental car at Catania Airport – it is cheaper and also easy even if you are staying in the city.
- You can find the best rates to rent a car in Catania on Discovercars website. Also, it is worth cross-checking with Rentalcars.
- Book a car in Catania a month or more ahead if you are planning your trip in late spring, summer, or early autumn.
- Driving in Sicily’s countryside is much easier than in the city. But make sure to rent a small vehicle to easily drive narrow streets and find suitable parking.
I hope you found car rental in Catania tips useful! Also, make sure to check my other related posts listed below to help you plan your Sicily trip.
More Sicily Travel Guides
- More about driving in Sicily: 21 Great Tips for Renting a Car in Sicily and Driving Stress-Free
- Planning a trip to Sicily and looking for a great itinerary? Then check my Epic Road Trip for 2-weeks in Sicily itinerary
- Before you go traveling to Sicily, also check my Essential Sicily Travel Tips.
- Get some more inspiration with 21 spectacular places to visit in Sicily – a list of wonderful must-sees for first-time visitors.
- How to visit Favignana island, Sicily: a perfect day trip or longer to Egadi archipelago from Trapani.
- Also, read a detailed guide to hiking Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve in West Sicily.
- Visit Gangi mountain town in Sicily hinterlands with my complete travel guide.
- Find The most beautiful small coastal towns and fishing villages in Sicily.
- Discover The most charming mountain towns in Sicily.
- Renting a car in Palermo, Sicily: everything you need to know
Sicily and Italy Travel Essentials & Useful Links
Here are links to essential travel resources and services I always use when organizing my trips.
I hope you are enjoying my free travel guides & tips. You may support my work by using any of the affiliate links on this post to plan your own trip at no extra cost to you, or just buy me a coffee so I can continue creating more useful content from my favorite coffee shop in town. Thanks!