Driving in Corsica


Driving in Corsica

Driving is one of the best ways to explore the hidden corners of this island, specially those located along the coast. The scenery in Corsica constantly changes. At every turn there’s some awesome shot waiting to be photographed: a mountain, a stream, a secluded beach, a farm, a vineyard… I just want to stop at every bend on the road and take photos but unfortunately, that’s not always possible or practical. For every photo I’ve taken there are a dozen others I’ve missed.

Driving in Corsica - Clearly Marked Signs

Clearly Marked Signs

It’s almost impossible to get lost while driving in Corsica. There’s usually only one major highway connecting all the main cities and villages and only one way to reach most popular destinations. Clearly written signs are displayed everywhere.

Round points are conveniently located on most major intersections and highways are marked with distinct signs. People are often friendly and if you ask for directions they’ll help you out. (If you don’t speak French just point in your guide book or map and they’ll tell you “Toute droit, toute droit” (straight ahead, straight ahead).

I bought a detailed Michelin map of Corsica three years ago and I never use it because I have a difficult time reading it while I drive. I normally get around using only the free map published by the Corsica Tourist Office.

The most challenging highway I’ve seen in Corsica so far is the narrow stretch of D81 between Porto and Galeria. There are no businesses or homes nearby and no place to stop. Apart from this segment of D81, I enjoy the great views and the freedom of exploring Corsica by car (when I’m not hiking).

One thing to watch for are the hairpin bends that sometimes prevent one from spotting oncoming traffic. This factor, combined with the presence of farm animals on the road can make driving a bit interesting. Many roads are narrow and built alongside precipices, sometimes with no guard rails. The best way to handle these conditions is to just let impatient drivers overtake you, proceed at a safe speed and blow your horn to announce your presence.

Driving in Corsica - Renting a Car

Pay for Parking

The towns in Corsica were not designed for cars. In fact, many of the roads on the island were built around the time of WWII, when families in small towns still owned a mule or donkey to farm their land and to carry food and supplies. For this reason, finding a parking place in Corsica can be a nightmare. For me the most difficult thing about having a car in Corsica is parallel parking, particularly in downtown Bastia and Ajaccio.

After scratching a rental car in downtown Bastia I learned my lesson: Pay for Parking.

Renault Clio

I love driving a Renault Clio. This little car hugs the road like a race car and it’s a joy to ride. The Clio is so fuel efficient that the first time I drove one I thought the fuel gage wasn’t working properly.

Of course, if you’re traveling with a group then you’ll need something bigger. The Renault Megane, has enough room for 4-5 people and plenty of space for luggage. When driving through the Bavella Mountains though, the Megane seemed to struggle at times. Other than that, the Renault Megane, like the Clio, is an excellent car.

When you rent a car you usually don’t get to choose the make or model though, just the size. I just happen to get a Renault Clio almost every time I rent a car in Corsica and I’m delighted with it.

Renting a Car

If you live in Europe and arrive by ferry with your own car you can skip this part. If you plan to rent car, Auto Europe will probably offer you the best deal in car rentals along with the peace of mind of knowing that your credit card will be charged in your country’s currency.

Auto Europe guarantees the lowest rates in the industry and they offer 24/7 Customer Service. (They are wholesalers and are able to negotiate low rates because of their size and business volume. If you find a better rate with another agency, you can call them and they’ll try to match the rate to keep your business).

I like the convenience of dealing with Auto Europe when traveling to Corsica. They have numerous agencies located throughout the island and I can pick up my car in downtown Ajaccio and drop it at any airport or town I choose, without paying any surcharges. When changing a reservation, it’s good to know that I can reach an agent 24/7 through a toll free number.

Auto Europe has contracts with several rental agencies in Europe. Europcar just happens to be one of the largest ones in Corsica but they also do business with Avis and Hertz.

What if decide to rent a car after I arrive in Corsica?

Not a problem. If you don’t have the reservation number for the Auto Europe office in your country, just head to the nearest cyber cafe or Internet shop. (Look for the ‘@’ sign or ask anyone or the local tourist office and they’ll tell you where is the nearest one).

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