Car hire in Puglia can be an exciting part of your trip to Italy. You will be able to experience much more than with public transport.
But I totally get it. The whole hiring process can be so intimidating.
From understanding insurance policies to avoiding scams and from choosing the right vehicle to knowing local driving behaviour, there is a lot to consider.
In this guide, I'll take you through the 25 essential things you need to know about renting a car in Puglia, helping you avoid potential headaches and ensure a smooth, enjoyable, scam-free trip.
Whether you're visiting for the stunning architecture, delicious cuisine or the warm Mediterranean sun, these tips will help you make the most of itTrip to Apulia.
- 1 Driving license requirements
- 2 Driver side
- 3 Car rental and rental terms you need to know
- 4 Insurance for car hire in Puglia
- 5 The size of the rental car in Puglia
- 6 Type of roads in Puglia
- 7 Speed limits
- 8 tolls in Puglia
- 9 GPS and navigation systems – How to drive in Puglia
- 10 Avoid ZTL areas
- 11 Parking in Puglia
- 12 gas stations and fuel
- 13 Safety belts
- 14 Drinking and driving
- 15 Safety of children and car seats
- 16 Tips for driving and safety
- 17 Roadside assistance and emergency numbers
- 18 Public transport versus car hire in Puglia
- 19 9 scams to avoid when renting a car in Puglia
- 20 amazing scenic routes you must experience in Puglia
Driving license requirements
Understanding the type of driving license required to rent a car in Puglia is vital.
EU and UK residents only need a standard driving license to rent a car in Puglia. Just show it to the rental office and you're good to go!
Non-EU travelers, however, also need their regular permit and permitInternational Driving Permit (IDP) for Italy. The IDP serves as a language translation guide for global license recognition.
To obtain an IDP, contact your local automobile manufacturer.
For the US, Canada and Australia, you can apply for an IDP nearbyAmerican Automobile Association (AAA)position,Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)IAustralian Automobile Association, this is.
Online applications are available and the IDP is delivered in a few days. The process is simple and the price ranges between $20 and $40.
Having the right license isn't just a matter of legality. it is also for your safety.
Also, no one wants to start their vacation with fines, or even worse, legal trouble, because they don't have the proper permit.
Although some companies can rent a car in Puglia even without an IDP (and without a European license), insurance issues can arise when necessary. Therefore, IDP is highly recommended.
The driver's side
This part is not relevant for those who know how to drive on the right (go straight to the next session).
For those used to driving on the left, there may be a bit of a learning curve at first. However, trust me, it won't take long to adjust.
Here are two quick tips:
- Follow other cars as a reference for the first few days of driving on the "wrong" side.
- If you are not sure which way to drive, stop and wait for other cars. You're probably on the wrong side.
Considering an automatic car can reduce anxiety and make the transition to right-hand drive easier.
However, automatic cars tend to be more expensive to rent in Puglia and options can be limited.
Regardless of your choice, manual or automatic, you'll conquer the winding roads of Apulia in no time.
And trust me, the amazing views you'll experience will make every moment of adjustment worth it.
My advice for adjusting to driving on the right is to plan your route in advance. Familiarize yourself with the general layout of the roads and any major intersections you may encounter. Using a GPS app like Google Maps helps a lot.
Car rental and rental terms you need to know
The terms and conditions may seem tedious, but it is important to review them before booking a car and starting your journey.
TheThe minimum age to rent a car in Puglia is generally 21 years, although this may vary between rental companies. If you're under 25, expect a "young driver surcharge".
And now for the car itself.
The options are usually different. From compact, eco-friendly cars perfect for city exploration to larger, more rugged vehicles for off-road adventures, you've got a wide range to choose from.
However, popular car models tend to book up quickly, especially during peak season. It is therefore recommended to book in advance, especially if you are visiting Puglia in July and August.
The terms and conditions of the rental agreement may not be the most exciting read, but they are worth reviewing.
Search for key terms such as 'additional driver', 'fuel policy' and 'mileage limit'.
An "extra driver" charge applies if you want to share driving responsibilities, a "fuel policy" indicates whether you must return the car with a full tank, and a "mileage limit" states the mileage limit.
If you plan to leave your car elsewhere, expect additional costs.
Check for hidden fees such as cleaning fees, late return fees or toll fees.
Also, be sure of the "overinsurance" clause. It sets the maximum amount you have to pay if the car is damaged. You can often reduce this amount by paying additional daily insurance.
Finally, you don't want to incur unnecessary cleaning costs. Keep it nice and tidy and you should have no problem.
Here is a short table summarizing most of the terms.
|The rental aspect||Description|
|Age requirement for rental||The minimum age to rent a car in Italy is generally 21, with some companies requiring a minimum age of 23 or 25.|
|Driving license requirements||EU driving licenses are accepted. Non-EU license holders may need an International Driving Permit (IDP).|
|Insurance coverage||It usually includes collision damage (CDW) and theft protection (TP). Full insurance is strongly recommended.|
|Fuel policy||Usually "full to full": pick up the car with a full tank and return full to avoid refueling costs.|
|Additional charges||Possible charges include young driver charges (usually for drivers under 25), additional equipment (eg GPS, child seats) and additional driver charges.|
|Cancellation policy||Most companies offer free cancellation up to 24-48 hours before the pick-up time. cancellations within this period may incur charges.|
|Penalties for late returns/exchanges||Late returns may result in additional daily charges and possible penalties. changes to reservations may result in additional charges or changes in rental rates.|
I usually rent cars fromDiscoverCars, an aggregator site that works like AirBnb for cars with rental agency reviews submitted by real customers. Any score above 7/10 is a good indicator of service quality (including the absence of fraud).
DiscoverCarsalso compares prices online providing the best deals from global companies as well as local rental agencies.
Check car prices in Puglia
Here are my two biggest tips
- take pictures of the car, each side + top and interior (lights or broken seats will be charged if there is no pre-existing damage)
- Check your car for a spare tire, a yellow road vest and a warning triangle. are mandatory in Italy
Car rental insurance in Puglia
Insurance is a key part of car hire anywhere in the world and Puglia is no exception.
|Type of insurance||The best for||Advantages||Against||Estimated price (per day)|
|Liability insurance against third parties||Liability coverage other than car rental||It covers damage to other vehicles, property or people||It does not cover damage to the rental car itself||Usually included in the rental price|
|CDW/LDW||Basic car rental protection||It covers damage to the rented car||High discount? it does not cover other vehicles, property or people||15-25 €|
|Zero Overkill/Super CDW/Full insurance||Comprehensive coverage with minimal out-of-pocket costs||Reduces or eliminates the CDW/LDW discount||Additional charge. not available from all rental companies||10-20 €|
|SLI/Excess Liability Insurance||Additional protection beyond basic third party liability||Increases the coverage limit for third party liability||Additional charge. it may be unnecessary for some||10-20 €|
|PAI||Medical expenses and personal accident coverage||It covers medical expenses and personal accident compensation||It may be unnecessary if you have travel insurance||5-10 €|
Standard insurance usually covers liability, theft and collision damage. However, it often includes an additional (deductible) fee that you are responsible for paying in the event of a claim.
To avoid this, many people choose to take out additional insurance such as excess collision damage waiver (SCDW) or zero excess insurance (also known as comprehensive insurance). They will cover the excess so you don't have to pay anything in the event of an accident. It is very practical when you haveitinerary of 7-10 days in Apuliaand you don't want to waste time on potential problems like minor damages.
However, please note that comprehensive insurance may not cover the interior of the car. Avoid, for example, sitting wet after swimming in the sea. This can easily leave a white halo on the seats.
My advice:Get full insurance (no excess) when you book your car atDiscoverCars. It costs less than 8 euros/day, a real opportunity for a carefree experience!
The size of the rental car in Puglia
When renting a car in Puglia, it's important to choose the right size vehicle for your travel needs.
Compact cars like the Peugeot 108, Opel Karl and Fiat Panda are usually at the smaller end of the range, ideal for navigating the narrow streets of historic Apulian towns like Ostuni or Locorotondo and for easy parking in tight spaces. However, these compact vehicles may not be suitable if you are carrying a large amount of luggage or if you are a tall person.
Then you have your economy and compact cars. They are slightly larger and offer more space in the trunk, ideal if you plan to buy souvenirs or local products in the famous markets of the area. They are still relatively small, which makes them suitable for maneuvering on the roads of Puglia.
For family or group travel, or if you just like more space, full-size cars are the way to go. These vehicles offer more legroom and boot space, making them a comfortable choice for longer journeys such as driving from Bari to Lecce.
If you're looking for luxury and comfort, consider high-end cars like BMW and Mercedes. It is perfect if you are on a business trip or want to have fun during your vacation.
Finally, you also have the option of renting an SUV.
They are ideal if you plan to drive on unspoilt roads or want to explore the Apulian landscape. However, keep in mind that finding parking for these larger vehicles can be difficult, especially in busier city centers.
Where do you decide to stay in Puglia?it can also affect your choice of car size.
If you're in a busy city like Bari or Lecce, a compact car might be the best option.
On the other hand, if you live in a smaller city orplans to visit Puglia extensively, a larger vehicle may be more practical.
|Car size||The best for||Advantages||Against||Average rental price per day|
|Compact/Economical||Solo travelers or couples||Fuel saving, easy maneuvering, lower rental costs||Limited luggage space, less comfortable for long journeys||20 € – 45 €|
|Midsize/Limousine||Small families, longer trips||More spacious, more comfortable, with a good size-price ratio||The higher the rental cost, the harder it is to park in tight spaces||45 € – 70 €|
|SUV||Large families, exploring rural areas||Comfortable, spacious, good ground clearance||Higher rental and fuel costs, harder to maneuver||70 € – 100 €|
|Luxury/Premium||Special occasions, those looking for a luxurious experience||Stylish, comfortable, premium features||Expensive rental and fuel costs, harder to park||100€ – 200€+|
Type of roads in Puglia
Puglia's road network is as diverse as its stunning landscapes, ranging from modern motorways to charming country lanes.
TheAutostradait is the main traffic artery in the area with a toll collection system. This road offers the fastest way to get from one place to another, usually with smooth asphalt and clear signs. Unfortunately, there is only one Hway and it only covers a few cities/towns/regions. You can easily drive from the Gargano border (in the north of Puglia) to Bari and up to Taranto and that's about it.
TheHighwayis a two-lane road that connects the south of the area. It is very similar to the Hway, but not as well maintained. But the advantage is that it is free. The Superstrada is categorized as aHighway.
Then you haveState Roads (SS)that is, state roads. They are shorter than highways and are often single lane. They can take you through some of Puglia's most picturesque landscapes, but they can also present challenges with tighter turns and slower speed limits.
They are even smallerProvincial Roads (SP), i.e. country roads. These local roads may vary in quality. Some are well maintained, while others are worse. However, they offer the opportunity to discover Puglia's hidden gems off the beaten track.
Driving in urban areas can be difficult due to narrow roads, especially in older cities. In addition, some city centers have ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) areas where driving is restricted.
Finally, rural and mountain roads tend to be narrow, winding and sometimes unpaved. These routes are best driven by an SUV or car with good ground clearance. These roads offer some of the most scenic routes in Puglia, taking you through olive groves and vineyards.
In short, this is a table of standard speed limits.
|Street type||Maximum speed (km/h)||Top speed (mph)|
|Non urban roads||90||56|
I want to add one simple thing. Don't drive over the limit for your safety, but also because there are a lot of themSpeed cameras(speed cameras) in the area and a lot of police, especially in the summer, who control the speed of cars.
Don't be fooled by locals who drive over the limit. There is no point in competing on public roads.
Tolls in Puglia
Most of the area is toll free which is great.
The A14 motorway is the only toll road in Puglia and connects the region with other parts of Italy.
This road runs from Bologna in the north to Taranto in the south, passing important Apulian cities such as Bari and Foggia.
It is a modern highway maintainedMotorways to Italy.
When you enter the toll booth, you will get the ticket from the machine. Keep this map safe as you will need to show it when you exit the motorway to calculate the toll.
Charges depend on how far you drive on the motorway. You can pay the toll by credit card or cash.
To give you an idea of the cost, here is a summary of the toll table in and out of Puglia with the main exits:
|Toll road||Ruta||Distance (km)||Distance (miles)||Travel time (motorway)||Travel time (without motorway)||charge|
|A14||Milan to Bari||775||482||7 hours 30 minutes||10 hours 30 minutes||55,00 €|
|A14||Lip - Barry||413||257||4 hours 30 minutes||6 hours 15 minutes||30,00 €|
|A14||Bari do Taranto||92||57||1 hour 10 minutes||1 hour 40 minutes||5,00 €|
|A14||Bari do Poggio Imperiale||150||93||1 hour 45 minutes||2 hours 30 minutes||9,00 €|
These costs are approximate only and may vary depending on your departure station (distance traveled) and any changes during the year.
You should check back for the most up-to-date informationAutostrade website in Italyor use a navigation app like Google Maps that includes toll information.
GPS and navigation systems - How to drive in Puglia
Sailing in Puglia can be an adventure in itself, with winding roads and picturesque landscapes waiting to be explored. Using a GPS or navigation system can make this experience much easier.
While most rental cars in Puglia are equipped with a GPS system, it's always a good idea to double check when booking your vehicle. If not, you can always pay extra for it.
However, based on my experience, I recommend using Google Maps or Waze. The maps on the rental GPS are usually outdated, at least most of the time.
Just be aware that they use data from your data plan, so make sure you have a roaming contract or buy a local SIM card, which is usually cheap.
You can always download maps and use GPS offline.
The internet connection helps with traffic and real-time information such as traffic accidents or road closures.
|google maps||Free, comprehensive, easy-to-use offline maps are available||Requires a data connection for real-time updates and route changes||More feature-rich and flexible than most car systems|
|Waze||Real-time user updates, integration with music apps, route suggestions to avoid traffic||Requires a continuous data connection, less expensive in rural areas||Better at avoiding traffic than in-car systems, but less reliable in remote locations|
|Sygic||Offline maps, premium features, heads-up display||One time payment required, occasional inaccuracies of ticket||More advanced features than car systems, but at an additional cost|
|Navigation in the car||No data connection required, always available||Less feature-rich, map updates may be less frequent and search capabilities limited||More practical in some cases, but smartphone apps generally offer a better experience|
Still calculating your stay?
look thisThe ultimate guide to where to stay in Puglia.
Avoid ZTL areas
ZTL stands for "Zona Traffico Limitato" or Limited Traffic Zone. These zones are common in many Italian cities, including some in Puglia, such as Bari and Lecce, to reduce congestion and pollution.
You cannot drive inside the ZTL or you will likely be fined (most ZTLs have cameras). Be sure to check local regulations and signs for these zones, as sometimes they may only apply at certain times or on certain days.
If your property is within the ZTL, please contact them first. They may be able to arrange a temporary permit for you to unload your luggage or even park inside.
Here below is a typical ZTL badge
Parking u Pugliji
Parking in Puglia depends on the location. In larger cities like Bari or Lecce, parking can be more of a challenge, especially in the city centers.
Look out for paid parking zones, marked with blue lines, and don't forget to buy a ticket at the nearby parking machine.
In smaller towns and rural areas, parking is generally easier and often free.
However, it is important to check for signs of restrictions.
White lines indicate free parking, blue lines are paid areas and yellow lines are reserved for disabled drivers, residents or delivery vehicles.
Download the EasyPark app on your mobile and you will only pay for the time you park your car. No more stress about reducing or extending parking time.
|Type of parking||Description||Typical cost|
|Free street parking||Parking with a white border, free||Free|
|Paid parking on the street||Parking spaces with blue lines, payment required (usually via parking meter or mobile app)||€1 – €3 per hour (depending on the area)|
|Street parking is available||Parking spaces with yellow lines, reserved for disabled people (with the appropriate permit)||Free for eligible individuals|
|ZTL (restricted traffic zone)||Restricted traffic areas, usually in historic city centers. penalties for unauthorized entry||Penalties for unauthorized entry|
|Private parking||Paid parking lots or garages, often run by private companies||€10 – €25 per day (depending on the area)|
|Hotel parking||Parking offered by hotels may be included in the room rate or charged separately||€0 - €20 per day (depending on the hotel)|
IMPORTANT TIP: Never leave anything visible in the car, not even a jacket or bag. Thieves may think there's a wallet inside.
If you have to leave something in the car, put it in the trunk, but don't do it when you arrive. Get organized and do it before you get to the parking lot. Basically, leave the car as if there is nothing inside.
Petrol and fuel stations
Gas stations in Puglia are many and you will find both self-service and full-service. Note that many self-service stations are closed on Sundays, but automated pumps accept credit cards and are available 24 hours a day.
When you rent a car, check if it uses petrol (full) or diesel (diesel). It is usually written on the cap. Don't fill it with the wrong fluid, it can be expensive to fix the mistake.
Gas stations offer 2 types of services:
- It is served: they come to help you with the gas. They fill the tank and you can pay directly to the person providing the service. You don't have to get out of the car.
- Super Market: do everything yourself and save about 10% on the fuel price
Seat belts are mandatory in Italy, both in the front and back seats. Children under 12 years of age or shorter than 150 cm must use an appropriate child seat.
In Puglia you may see some people and children who do not follow these rules, however, do not be tempted to do the same for your safety and a healthy penalty if you are stopped by the police.
It is also worth noting thatillegal driving in flip flops. This may seem like an unusual law, but it is taken seriously in Italy and can lead to fines if broken.
Drinking and driving
The legal blood alcohol content limit in Italy is 0.05%. This is lower than in most countries in the world.
For example, you are likely to exceed the limit after the second glass of wine or beer (if you are not eating).
If your driving license is more than 3 years old, do not drink any alcohol because the limit drops to 0%.
Penalties for drink driving are severe in Italy, including large fines, driving bans and prison terms in serious cases.
So drink driving is not a real option.
If you plan to visit a winery, it might be a good idea to join an organized experience for a carefree time or arrange a guide who should limit your drinking
Child safety and car seats
Italian law requires all children under the age of 12 or shorter than 150cm to use an appropriate child safety seat.
Child seats must be EU approved and children under the age of 4 cannot travel unless they are in a child seat.
Most car rental companies in Puglia offer child seats as an extra, but it's a good idea to book them in advance to ensure availability.
|Club||Weight range||Height Range (Approx.)||Type of car seat|
|0||Do 10 kg (22 lbs)||From birth to 1.5 years||Rear-facing trunk|
|0+||Weight 13 kg (29 lb)||From birth to 2.5 years||Rear-facing trunk|
|1||9-18 kg (20-40 lbs)||1.5 to 4 years old||Forward-facing or rear-facing child seat with belt|
|2||15-25 kg (33-55 lb)||4 to 6 years old||Seat with high back and safety belt|
|3||22-36 kg (48-79 lbs)||6 to 12 years old||High back seat or cushion with belt|
Driving and safety tips
The roads in Puglia are generally well maintained, but you may encounter some difficult driving situations, especially on smaller roads or in rural areas. Here are some tips for safe driving in Puglia:
- Always yield to vehicles coming from the right unless otherwise indicated.
- Watch out for scooters and motorbikes that can sometimes appear out of nowhere. There are many scooters in Puglia!
- Use your horn sparingly and only to alert other drivers of your presence.
- Observe the speed limit. Please note that they may change depending on weather conditions.
- Never drive or talk on a cell phone
As I mentioned before, locals may not follow all the driving rules, like talking on your cell phone while driving, but don't assume you can. Healthy punishments are always around the corner.
Roadside assistance and emergency numbers
The rental company will probably give you a phone number to call in case of roadside assistance.
Here's a full table of other useful numbers, including ACI (Automobile Club d'Italia), Italy's official roadside assistance.
|European state of emergency||112|
|Roadside Assistance (ACI)||803116|
Public transport vs car rental in Puglia
Puglia has a decent network of trains and buses connecting most towns and cities.
You can easily navigate from A to B if they are major destinations, but this may take double or triple the time you need with your car.
If they are not the main destinations, then you will have a hard time finding your way.
Public transport can be a good option if you are staying in a city like Bari or Lecce and planning day trips.
It is also a great choice if you plan to spend most of your time on a beach, for example, Gallipoli.
What you will miss is the beautiful scenery and the stops along the way in small villages where you will experience more than just local life.
Below is a table comparing the pros and cons of the two options
|Public Transportation||Car rental in Puglia|
|Limited to itineraries and routes||The freedom to wander Apulia at your own pace|
|Multiple transfers may be required||Direct travel|
|Often with people||Private and comfortable|
|Cheap||Higher cost upfront, but potential savings if two or more people travel|
|Possibly slower||It may be faster, depending on the routes|
|Limited late night options||Available 24/7|
|Distant attractions may not be accessible||Access to all areas of Apulia|
|Environmentally acceptable||More carbon footprint|
|Don't worry about parking||Parking needs management|
|No stress while driving||Driving on unfamiliar roads can be stressful|
9 scams to avoid when renting a car in Puglia
"No car available" scam.: Some rental companies may claim that the car you reserved is not available and will offer you a more expensive one. Always insist on your reserved car or equivalent, and if they refuse, consider taking your business elsewhere.
Excessive insurance: Rental companies often try to sell their own expensive insurance policies. Before you go, make sure your credit card or individual car insurance policy covers the rental car, and if so, you can politely decline the rental company's offer. Also consider full insurance (no excess) with DiscoverCars for less than €8/day. A real opportunity for a worry-free experience.
Hidden charges: Always read the fine print to understand any fees associated with the lease. Some companies may charge extra for satellite radio, GPS, and more. Just discard them if they are not needed
Claims fraud: Some rental companies may charge you for damage you did not cause. Always inspect the vehicle before leaving the parking lot and take pictures of any previous damage and all sides of the car. I also suggest taking photos from the inside.
Fuel policy fraud: Some companies will charge you for a full tank of gas and ask you to return the car empty, but it is almost impossible to return the car completely empty. A better option is a full-to-full policy where you return the car with the same amount of gas it had when you picked it up.
Expensive return fees: this isn't really a scam, but more of a warning that you should expect high return fees elsewhere. Try to always close the loop and leave the car where you picked it up
Fees for additional drivers:Again, more of a warning than a scam. Some companies will charge you additional fees for each additional driver. Always check the company's policy on this before renting.
Tire and windshield cover: Some rental companies may try to sell you separate tire and windshield coverage. Check your insurance policy to see if these parts are covered to avoid paying unnecessary insurance. Full insurance (no excess) with DiscoverCars usually covers this too (check at booking stage).
GPS rental scam: Some rental companies may insist that you rent their own GPS system. However, you can usually use your smartphone's GPS, which is much cheaper and often more reliable. Just be sure to download offline maps before your trip to avoid using up too much data.
Amazing scenic routes to experience in Puglia
Coastal drive from Bari to Leuka: This scenic route takes you along Puglia's Adriatic coast, passing historic seaside towns such as Polignano a Mare and Monopoli, the stunning town of Ostuni and the picturesque Trulli houses of Alberobello before ending up at Puglia's southernmost point, Santa Maria di Leuca.
Dolina Itrias: This route takes you to the heart of Puglia, famous for its ancient olive groves and Trulli houses. Start in Martina Franca and head towards Locorotondo and Cisternino, before finishing in Alberobello.
Gargano Peninsula: Start from the fishing village of Rodi Garganico and drive along the coast to Peschici and Vieste. The route offers beautiful views of the Adriatic Sea and the rugged cliffs of the Gargano National Park.
Salento room: Start in Lecce, known as the 'Florence of the South', and head south to Otranto, then west to Santa Maria di Leuca, before heading north to Gallipoli. This trail showcases the diverse beauty of the Salento region, from baroque architecture to beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea.