How to travel Sardinia on a budget

Sardinia has the reputation to be one of the more expensive places in Italy, a destination which can only be enjoyed by the rich and famous. But this is not necessarily true. With the exception of a few élite places, particularly around the Costa Smeralda, it is possible to have a fantastic holiday on the island without breaking the bank.

THE FIRST TIP is undoubtedly to avoid visiting Sardinia in July and August, when prices are at their highest.  Late spring (May/June) and autumn (September/October) are much cheaper, and still warm enough to enjoy the fabulous beaches.  Just be aware that in September and early October the sea water is warmer than in May and June.  An additional benefit of visiting Sardinia out of high season is that you won’t have to book ages in advance to find good accommodation and affordable ferries.

SECOND TIP: if you travel out of peak season, you will find plenty of free camper areas, parking areas and service areas in Sardinia.  Just make sure you make a good search prior to travelling and check if they are open, since many close down in winter. Since many campsites are closed, you might need to plan in advance when and where you want to empty your clear and gray waters.

Below: free parking in Alghero and on the Island of Sant’Antioco.

THIRD TIP: know your geography!!! If you are travelling with your campervan, motorhome or truck, you want to get the best deal on your ferry ticket!  But be aware that the best deal is not necessary the cheapest ticket, nor the ticket for the shortest route.  Sounds confusing?   Well, as a matter of fact, it can be! 

Let’s get a few facts straight first: 

Sardinia has 5 main ports clockwise: Olbia and Gulf of Aranci (both in the north east, and not far from one other), Arbatax – Tortolì (east), Cagliari (south) and Porto Torres (north west).  

Sardinia’s ports

The main connections from each port are:

Olbia:

Mainland Italy:  Civitavecchia, Genoa, Livorno, Piombino

Other countries:  Nice (France)

Gulf of Aranci: 

Mainland Italy:  Civitavecchia, Livorno, Piombino, Savona

Other countries:  Nice (France), Toulon (France), Bastia (Corsica, France), Porto Vecchio (Corsica, France)

Arbatax:

Mainland Italy: Civitavecchia, Genoa

Cagliari: 

Mainland Italy:  Civitavecchia, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Palermo

Porto Torres:

Mainland Italy:  Civitavecchia, Genoa

Other countries:  Nice (France), Toulon (France), Ajaccio (Corsica, France), Porto Vecchio (Corsica, France), Barcelona (Spain)

In our case, travelling from Munich, the closest port would have been Genoa.  However, ferries from Genoa to Sardinia were, at that time, rather pricey.  

I had found a great offer from Civitavecchia (around 230€) and a good offer from Livorno (282€).  Considering that Civitavecchia is farther away from Munich (it is around 250 km south of Livorno), it would have meant a 500 km longer drive.  For this reason, the ferry from Livorno worked out to be the best and cheapest option for us, taking into account the total cost of ferry + diesel + motorway tolls.

It is also well worth start monitoring ferry tickets several months in advance and wait to see if there are any special offers.  

If you are travelling on a low budget, you can save considerably by not booking the cabin.  You can opt for a passage on the deck (the cheapest option) or for a reclining chair (which is more comfortable and only slightly more expensive).

In our case, we paid 282€ for a return ticket for two passengers, a vehicle up to 9 metres and a 2-berth cabin.  The cost for the cabin was 60€ each way.  Had we not booked it, our ticket would have only costed 162€. 

FOURTH TIP: prioritize your itinerary!  Sardinia is not small, as a matter of fact, it is the second largest island in the Mediterranean.  From top to bottom, it is well over 250 km.  So, if you have booked your flight or ferry to Olbia and you only have one-week holiday, it makes more sense to visit the northern part of Sardinia.  On the other hand, if you have a flight or ferry to Cagliari, you’d better visit the southern part of the island.

If you want to do a full tour the island, we are talking about at least 800 km, therefore I would not recommend it for a one-week holiday.

Considering that the cost of petrol and diesel fuel in Italy is amongst the highest in Europe, a well-planned itinerary can help saving a considerable amount of money.  Which brings me to the next tip…

FIFTH TIP:  like in the rest of Italy, fuel prices in Sardinia vary from one filling station to another, hence it is worth regularly checking prices online or downloading an app.  Generally speaking, self-service terminals tend to have lower prices, and it is always a good idea to fill your tank before leaving for Sardinia.

SIXTH TIP:  avoid touristy restaurants.  This might apply to everywhere on the planet … but even more to Sardinia!  Sardinians (like all Italians) love their food, therefore they would not spend money in a restaurant which serves poor quality food.   So, when looking for a restaurant, always make sure to look out for local people eating there.  But bear in mind this might be tricky if you are used to having dinner at 6 or 7 pm, as it is far too early for Italians. 

SEVENTH TIP: stick to local and seasonal products.  Imported products or any fruits and vegetables which are not in season can be expensive and might not be worth the price.  Local markets tend to have better quality fruits and vegetables comparted to supermarkets, and they are great fun to visit. 

EIGHTH TIP:  Sardinian supermarkets cater to all wallets, and you can pick up delicious meats, cheeses and fruit, with fine wines (or beer!) to wash them down with, all without spending a fortune.  Bakeries are also a great place to buy a quick lunch. It is also common to meet local vendors on beaches and in areas where campervansand motorhomes stop for the night. We purchased different kind of Sardinian cheeses from local vendors, and they were delicious!

3 thoughts on “How to travel Sardinia on a budget

Add yours

  1. Sounds like a great trip, but definitely one worth investing a little planning time into. Helpful post, thanks for sharing!

    Like

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