Sicily – a destination for the independent traveller?

Travelling in Sicily as a backpacker or independent traveler, is not an easy task, and certainly more complicated than you might expect. In terms of eating out, accommodation and transport certainly Sicily is not the most travel-friendly of places in Europe. Despite being one of the most beautiful and typical destinations of Italy, with a super friendly, helpful people, and boasting one of the best regional cuisines in the whole of the country; Sicily still struggles to meet the preferences of independent travellers for the following reasons:

The hurdles you need to overcome 

Public transport: Unfortunately, travelling by public transport is a difficult experience and it is not always pleasant. Even though Sicily was one of the first Italian regions to have the railways. More than a century later, the rail network has remained pretty much the same, with old, dirty trains which are often late, which make travelling on them inconvenient nor practical.

Accommodation: There are only a handful of hostels, primarily located in the cities such as Palermo, Catania and Syracuse. Other options are mainly B&B’s or guest houses that of course have higher prices than hostels. Furthermore, in a lot of cases you will not find the receptions staffed: there is just a phone number to call, which is not always easy when you are a foreign traveler, who does not speak Italian and does not have a national sim card. If you are traveling in summer (or in the high season) prices skyrocket: it is hard to find a double room  for less 100 euros per night. There are campsites, but often they are difficult to reach without your own transport.

Tourist Attractions are expensive: everything has an entry fee.  There are even fee’s to access nature reserves, such as the Zingaro Nature Reserve near Trapani. One of the most well known tourist sites is the Valley of the Temples just outside the city of Agrigento, which costs € 11 per person. Then there are the museums, like the Palace of Normanni in Palermo, which costs € 7 per person and many others ..

Food: It is true that there are tourist menus advertised everywhere, which are cheaper than traditional menus, but it’s also true that the quality and quantity of the served food, is poor. A tourist menu does will not be cheaper than € 15 with a first course, a main course (meat) and coffee. If you would like a fish menu  the prices start at € 25; on top of that, there is the service charge, which is a minimum of €2 per person. If you want to save money you can find pizzerias everywhere, but you can’t eat pizza every day!


Practical advice:

Where to eat: Avoid restaurants with tourist menus for the reasons mentioned above. It is better to opt for a pizzeria or restaurant and order individual dishes: the portions are more substantial and the quality much higher.

Where to find accommodation: B&B or rooms for rent. Try to book online in advance on or other accommodation search engines. If you go  directly to the hotel/B&B reception, you can end up paying 30-40% more. In addition, many B&B’s don’t not staff on site, which means that you will have to call a mobile number and hope that someone will turn up within a reasonable amount of time. It is advised to book in advance in order to be sure to find staff on site.

Transport: the best way to explore the island is by car but it can be costly for solo travellers. The easiest and most economical way to travel is with another person or a group of friends then the vehicle hire costs decrease. We would even recommend hiring a camper van or taking camping equipement, as this can help to decrease your accommodation costs. If you are traveling alone, use public transport  you may be disappointed .. Public buses are good enough to travel between points, but you will need a lot of patience as they don’t go everywhere and are very infrequent.

So to sum up Sicily doesn’t score top marks for the independent traveller – however it is still worth a visit, just follow the advice above and make sure you visit some of the following places we’ve highlighted in an early post, you won’t be disappointed.

1 thought on “Sicily – a destination for the independent traveller?”

  1. Sicily reveals itself slowly, you need time to ramble. When I first began going there, the temple sites were open to the winds and vandals, roamed by packs of wild dogs. I am happy to pay an entrance fee if it means that these world heritage sites are now protected and maintained, and there are some visitor services (like a washroom) on site. Agriturismo is a great way to find reasonable accommodation in rural surroundings. In several places, we encountered young idealists who had bought ‘confiscated from mafia’ properties cheaply from the government and were running them as agriturismi. We stayed at one in the Madonie mountains, near a grove of 1,000 year old oaks and an ancient healing shrine.

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