Public Transportation in Sicily
Getting to and around the cities
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Getting around the more travelled parts of Sicily with trains and buses is reasonably simple, and it's easy enough to find a ferry departure at Milazzo for the Lipari islands, or from Palermo for mainland Italy. Here's a concise general guide to get you started.
These depart every 30 minutes. Fares to Palermo or Catania (from their respective airports) are about 5 euros. (Taxis are not generally recommended as you may be grossly overcharged.) In Catania, the buses for the local airport, Taormina, Palermo and other points depart from a station directly across the large square in front of the train station. In Palermo, these buses depart from Via Balsamo off the station square. In Palermo there's also a train that serves the route between the Palermo airport and that city's main train station, departing every 40 minutes or so.
Our Sicily airports page includes details regarding Sicily's principal airports (Catania, Palermo, Trapani), with links to the airport websites and Google Maps.
Finding Trains and Buses
In Palermo, Catania and most other large cities you'll find bus stations near the main railway stations, as we've mentioned above. The blue buses provide service between cities, while the orange ones provide local service. Bus connections can be tricky to plan but train service offers more efficiency:
Trenitalia railway schedules and ticket purchasing procedures can be consulted online. The English section is useful. (When using the destination features, remember to use Italian names for certain cities, Siracusa instead of Syracuse, and that some cities have more than one station.)
Ships, Hydrofoils and Ferries
Several services can get you to the Italian or African mainland or the smaller islands. Tirrenia is the most important ship operator servicing Sicily, with daily departures to Lipari, Naples, Genoa, Tunis and Sardinia. The bilingual site provides schedules and useful ticket information. Snav has faster ships and a fleet of hydrofoils (service is only seasonal and their site has no English text). Or try Siremar. For travel to Malta, check out Virtu Ferries.
Train and Bus Tickets
Shops that sell cigarettes or newspapers often sell bus tickets. Train tickets may be purchased online or at a station. For trains, it is necessary to "cancel" (stamp) your ticket in one of the small orange ticket machines at the station near the platforms immediately before boarding.
Tickets for the blue "long distance" buses may be cancelled aboard by the driver before departure. Tickets for the orange local buses, priced at slightly over one euro and normally valid for 90 or 120 minutes (though there are also full-day tickets), must be canceled immediately upon boarding the bus in one of the orange machines near the entrance of the vehicle.
If the the infamous "bus ticket checkers" catch you riding a local (city) bus with a ticket that has not been validated (date stamped by a machine) you will immediately be fined about fifty euros. The personnel rarely speak English. They get paid a "bounty" (incentive commission) of about ten euros for each fine collected.