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Do we dare pick up rental car in Palermo? Has anyone actually done this?

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Jan 11th, 2013, 04:53 PM
  #1
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Do we dare pick up rental car in Palermo? Has anyone actually done this?

Everyone, especially on TripAdvisor forum, says to avoid city pick up and use the Palermo airport pick up, especially since our first stop with the rental car is Scopello. We would like to save time and it also saves about $60 to rent downtown instead of airport.

We will be picking up car on a Monday, mid-morning, in May. The rental locations downtown are Hertz (near Politeama) or Europcar (rail station). We are staying at Palazzo Pantaleo, closer to Politeama, but either downtown rental place would be more convenient than going to the airport.

Would love to hear from folks who may have actually picked up rental car downtown to see if it’s really true that we should not only avoid doing this -- due to lack of signage, one-way’s and crazy drivers -- but that it may be more time-consuming than taking the airport bus and picking up car at airport.
Appreciate the advice!
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Jan 11th, 2013, 05:16 PM
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It would help to know where else you've driven in Italy, especially which Italian cities you have driven in.

You might also ask your hotel.

I think it is an illusion you are going to save time renting the car in the city because Palermo traffic in mid morning is like Manhattan traffic in mid-morning. And from the pick up point closest to your hotel, you really have no choice but to spend a lot of time crossing the middle of the city, before you get to main "highway". The highway is multi-lane urban road (except the "lanes" are invisible or disobyed) with everybody zigzagging to jockey for space and buses and trucks stopping all over the place to deliver or pick up things.

Has anybody told you that Sicilians don't look both ways -- or in any direction -- before they enter an intersection, running a stop sign in the process?

Are you spending the night in Scopello by any chance? Were it me, I would get a taxi to Scopello and then rent the car at the airport when you need it.

Otherwise, live large: Take a taxi to the airport and pick up the rental car. Find some other way to economize. (You really don't need that ceramic Sicilian head lamp) and street food and pizza is great in Sicily.
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Jan 11th, 2013, 05:44 PM
  #3
kja
 
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I rented a car in Palermo just a mile or so from an on-ramp to a major highway. That mile or so took quite a while because there was a LOT of traffic, but once I reached the highway, it was "clear sailing" - or as clear as it gets in Sicily. (As goldenautumn says, the drivers there can do some crazy things!) I'm pretty sure it was a Europcar location very close to a train stop (NOT the main train station).

Hope that helps!
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Jan 11th, 2013, 06:26 PM
  #4
 
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I picked up a car in Palermo. We had no problems reaching the main road around Palermo, but we had problems finding the road from there leading to Monreale. Driving out is less of a problem than driving in. To ease worries, one could print out a detailed Google map (or viamichelin) that starts from the rental agency (address known ahead of time) to the first destination.
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Jan 12th, 2013, 05:14 AM
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I did it, no problem. I can't recall which agency we used but we were staying at the Hotel Joli and it was just a few blocks walk to get the car. I remember another car agency on the same street. I just had the map that the car rental agency gave us and their directions but I remember thinking "I can't believe so many people make such a fuss about this". I will add that while I live in a rural area now, I grew up and learned to dive in the New York area so city driving doesn't scare me.

I would get the address of the agencies you are considering and look on google maps to see how close to the highway they are. As I said, ours was just a short drive, a few blocks or so. I think driving out was a whole lot easier than trying to drive IN to the city, looking for an address and all. There were signs to the highway. And driving in the rest of Sicily was a breeze (my husband did most of it, except for Palermo).

Here's my trip report, but I just skimmed it and I don't see that I mentioned which agency it was. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-and-switz.cfm
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Jan 12th, 2013, 05:40 AM
  #6
 
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We rented a car in Palermo and had no difficulty getting out of town to the South. We were quite apprehensive but it turned out to be an easy exit from Palermo. We had a good map, marked by the rental office, which helped a lot.

We didn't find the driving to be especially more difficult than the rest of Italy. In fact, we found less traffic most places. We did find that there are a lot of dogs running loose everywhere and they dart out in the road unexpectedly so it is good to be on the lookout.
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Jan 12th, 2013, 06:53 AM
  #7
 
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I think people make good points about driving out being simpler than driving in, and whether you are accustomed to negotiating your space in a busy city like NYC with aggressive drivers (or have driven in other Italian cites). How much traffic or risk-taking drivers you encounter in Palermo or elsewhere in Sicily may be a matter of luck, but despite a few trip reports of breezy driving experiences, be prepared for encountering a driving culture fundamentally different.

You might want to watch a few YouTube videos of driving in Palermo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzx4olZvRlw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...tuA0slXiU&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=KRP51RPu_tk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KK5-S2yRY8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCkHr3bOjaA
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Jan 12th, 2013, 08:50 AM
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To ease worries, one could print out a detailed Google map (or viamichelin) that starts from the rental agency (address known ahead of time) to the first destination.>>

GPS might also help.


GA - your clips are fun - i love the crucifix hanging from the taxi-driver's rear view mirror. Actually i was expecting something worse - compared to Sri lanka [where admittedly we weren't driving] it seemed positively tame.
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Jan 12th, 2013, 09:21 AM
  #9
 
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I agree with the admonition not to believe the scare stories. I was there about 6 years ago; at that time, Avis had an office near the sea, within walking distance from Hotel Joli. Not a problem to leave the city from that office by car. But negotiating the tangle of one-way streets within the city took some patience. Next time I will bring luggage to rental office, rather than return to retrieve luggage after renting the car.
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Jan 12th, 2013, 11:00 AM
  #10
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WOW. thanks everyone. I agree easier to pick up than to drop off car. I have memories from years ago trying to return a car in Rome -- not fun. In Sicily, our first stop is Scopello to drop our luggage at Pensione Tranchino and spend the afternoon in Erice. There does not seem to be a rental car alternative other than Palermo city or airport -- but if anyone has any other ideas knowing the direction we are going bring them on! I'll have my husband look at the youtube clips and he can decide!
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Jan 12th, 2013, 08:29 PM
  #11
kja
 
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> There does not seem to be a rental car alternative other than Palermo city or airport

The Europcar rental office from which I picked up my car is still listed on Europcar's web site:

PIAZZA MATTEO BOIARDO
C/O STAZIONE FS NOTARBARTOLO
90144 PALERMO

http://www.europcar.com/car-rental-ITALY-PALERMO.html

This is A train station, not THE MAIN train station in Palermo. You can reach it by train from the main train station.

It is only a mile or so to the expressways.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 05:47 AM
  #12
 
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This is not the Avis I rented from, but look how close this AVIS location (Via Tiziano) is to the highway leading west..

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q...italy&ie=UTF-8
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Jan 13th, 2013, 03:15 PM
  #13
Ian
 
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>I agree with the admonition not to believe the scare stories.

^^^^^ this.

We drove into Palmero from Segesta to the Hilton on a Saturday afternoon. Very busy & hectic but our GPS led us right to the hotel. The next day - Sunday - I drove again to drop the car on Francesco Crispi near the port filling it up with diesel along the way. The hardest part was getting a break in the traffic to turn out of the hotel.

Ian
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Jan 13th, 2013, 07:41 PM
  #14
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Kja, thank you so much for pointing out that this is not THE central rail station, it's A station. I missed that! And it looks like it would be pretty easy to get on the E90 from there.
Not too far from the Avis location ekscrunchy pointed out.
I asked the proprietor at Palazzo Pantaleo (our B and B in Palermo) and he said that the Hertz location on Via Messina would be easy because one doesn't have to cross the old city to go west, but that he could also understand picking up at the airport. So still no consensus on this one! (he actually suggested picking up rental car downtown, driving to Monreale and then driving to Scopello.....?????)
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Jan 13th, 2013, 08:22 PM
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I don't think anybody on TripAdvisor was trying to "scare" alison, although I admit I don't know how people put it to her. I think people don't like to advise people to drive in Palermo or Naples without knowing if they can handle the intensity of traffic and the lack of clear rules -- or even if they can drive a stick shift! People would feel badly if they told somebody "piece of cake" and then they got into an accident.

I hope one thing everybody can agree on is: Comprehensive car insurance as part of your rental contract.

I don't disbelieve the individual stories of not experiencing problems, and I don't think a tourist driver is in much danger of getting injured in a traffic accident in Palermo. Truth is that traffic seldom moves fast enough in Palermo to cause anything worse than fender benders and scraped paint.

But it can turn into a stress test for the unlucky tourists who wind up in a traffic jam in the city, which is unpredictable. It is actually not the norm in other parts of Italy for drivers to scream at each other as they will in Palermo (or Naples), and to generally drive when traffic is intense as kind of a game of "chicken", meaning, they will keep moving at some speed and force you deal with their refusal to yield. Problem is, when you stop and yield, everybody behind you honks and blows up!

So if you don't have a problem, you don't have a problem. But if you do start to have problems, you really need to keep your cool and so does whomever who is in the car with you. No fun if you two start screaming at each other. We've experienced on Fodor's before that people who offer lots of reassurances about the ease of driving places turn out not be the drivers. Their poor spouse is. I'm sure there are also some people who tell you not to drive because they were scared to death as passengers, although the driver was OK behind the wheel.

So it's prep thing with your husband and if the two of you both sign on to the idea of picking up the car in town, having heard the warnings and the reassurances and viewed the videos, then just make a pact that whatever happens -- wrong turns, traffic jams, screaming Sicilians, cars within a paint coat of yours -- you'll be having a great time.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 08:30 PM
  #16
 
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Actually, Monreale is a stupendous place. Maybe once your host learned you weren't planning to go to the airport to pick up the car, he figured so long as you'd have a car leaving town for Scopello, you shouldn't miss seeing Monreale "on the way." It would be one way to go if you didn't hug the coast.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 08:36 PM
  #17
 
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This is funny, but it actually has a lot of truth in it.

http://siciliamo.blogspot.it/2007/03...riving-in.html
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Jan 13th, 2013, 08:53 PM
  #18
kja
 
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> it looks like it would be pretty easy to get on the E90 from there. Not too far from the Avis location ekscrunchy pointed out.

Exactly. In fact, if you pan out from ekscrunchy's map just a bit, you'll see the local (not main!) train station a bit to the right.

> I think people don't like to advise people to drive in Palermo ... without knowing if they can handle the intensity of traffic and the lack of clear rules

It can definitely be stressful! My strategy in Sicily - and in several other locations - has been to drive as defensively as possible. If that meant pulling off to the side to let others pass, I did. If there was no shoulder, and it was clear that someone was going to pass me no matter what, I pulled as far to the right as I could, gradually slowed as much as I could (using brakes occasionally for whatever value they had as a signal), and tried to identify every option I had to avoid being struck from behind or minimize the consequences if my efforts failed. And I reminded myself that my goal was to get wherever I was going alive, not to get there quickly.

I hope none of us needs to learn first hand what happens when defensive driving fails!

> he ... suggested ... driving to Monreale

There is a reason we are all encouraging you to get there! And it is extemely easy to visit by bus from town.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 09:07 PM
  #19
 
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Final thought:

You can always change your mind. Book the car for the nearest pick up, and when you get to Palermo, make an assessment based on your own observations. If your mind liketh anything not, just walk into the rental office and ask them to switch the pick up to the airport.
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