Why Rick Steves Says To Avoid Taking The Bus On A Trip To The Amalfi Coast

"The Amalfi Coast offers one of the world's great bus rides." Those are author and European travel expert Rick Steves' words, not ours, written in an article on his website. So why does America's most famous traveler recommend avoiding the bus ride he praises so highly? 

The Amalfi Drive from Sorrento to Salerno is fabled for offering utterly spectacular views, from breathtaking overlooks to quaint villages and strips of golden sand lapped by glistening waters. One of the greatest pleasures of driving the 37-mile coastal road is the ability to stop off wherever you want to soak in the views. Unfortunately, that's not something you can do if you take the bus.

On the bus, you're bound by the scheduled stops, destined to gaze out of the window and snap a quick photo as you whizz (or often crawl) past gorgeous viewpoints — the traffic jams are as legendary as the views on the Amalfi Coast. The ability to make unplanned stops whenever you want and explore at your own pace is why Rick Steves recommends not taking the bus on the Amalfi Coast. Instead, Steves suggests hiring a private driver as the best way to discover the coast's highlights.

Bus versus private driver on the Amalfi Coast

Rick Steves writes that you have two main choices when exploring the Amalfi Coast: the bus or a private driver. Let's talk about the bus first, as it does have at least one advantage. There are two main bus routes along the coast run by Sita Sud: one from Sorrento to Amalfi via Positano and the other from Amalfi to Salerno, which passes through Maiori, a hidden gem on the Amalfi Coast

The best thing about the bus is that it's cheap. You can get unlimited rides between Sorrento and Salerno in a 24-hour period for a little over $10. The buses stop in many of the Amalfi Coast's small towns and villages, but you can't simply hop out for a quick photo at will (or to settle your stomach after those windy roads). If you get off the bus, you might be waiting a while for the next one to arrive as traffic often delays the arrival of buses. 

With a private driver, you can plan your own route and make unplanned stops wherever you wish. You also won't need to wait around when you're ready to go to your next stop. Ever the budget traveler, Steves recognizes that a private driver is pricey. However, he reasons that you'll save time over waiting on the bus and, with a local driver, you can learn about the area. There are plenty of driver recommendations and reviews on Tripadvisor; search something like "private driver Amalfi Coast Tripadvisor" to find them.

Other ways to explore the Amalfi Coast

So, how about driving a rental car in this beautiful part of Italy? This is one of the top questions in Tripadvisor's Amalfi Coast forum. Their answer, like ours, is don't do it. One reason is that the narrow road's curves and precipitous drops are the stuff of legend, and it can be hard to stay focused on the road when taking in the views. Being behind the wheel is more hair-raising than breathtaking. On top of that, finding a parking space is like winning the lottery. And you might actually need to win the lottery to pay for it, as spaces can cost over $10 per hour. 

One of the most pleasant ways to explore the Amalfi Coast is by ferry. Travelmar ferries run from Positano to Salerno, making stops at smaller towns along the way, including Amalfi and Maiori. (This town is the best place to base yourself on the Amalfi Coast if you hate stairs!) The views from the ferry are gorgeous, offering a different perspective of the towns than you can get on land. Plus, you get to skip the traffic jams. The Amalfi Coast ferries only run in the high season and are subject to weather conditions. The ferries are pricier than the bus (though much cheaper than a private driver), with a ticket from Positano to Amalfi costing a little over $10.