If you’re planning to knock off all the fun things to do in Crete, renting a car is a great option. Car rentals in Crete give you the freedom and flexibility to travel how and when you want and allow you to visit parts of this fantastic country that are difficult to reach. We’ve rented a car in Greece a few times and love being able to do what we want when we want.
Public transport can only get you so far, and there are many fabulous Crete beaches to explore and mountainside towns to see. But what do you need to know if you’re considering renting a car in Crete?
Car Rental Crete Tips
What Do You Need to Rent a Car in Crete?
For a car rental in Crete, you need a standard International driver’s license (A valid US license works). If your license is not in English or Greek, have a translation just in case. It would help if you also were prepared to hand over your passport. An international driver’s permit is not mandatory, but it doesn’t hurt to have it if asked.
Most car rental companies on Crete will require you to be 21 and hold a license in your home country for a year. If you are under 25, you may face additional charges. It’s best to read all the fine print of your booking before you get to Crete.
You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car in Crete
Can you get a car rental Crete without a credit card? The short answer is – no. You cannot pay for your car rental Crete with cash, so plan on throwing down your credit card for the charges. Many will carry car insurance if you have a US travel credit card, so you don’t have to pay excess charges. More on that later.
Expect a Hold Charge on Your Credit Card for a car rental in crete
The other reason you need a credit card is the excess charge – or hold a charge. Every one of our forty or so rental cars has put a hold on our credit card for the rental period. Holds can range anywhere from a few hundred euros to €1000+ in some countries. The “excess charge,” as it is called, is typically stated in your reservation details, but it is easy to miss.
We know that they must put this hold on our card, but it can be a huge shocker if you are unsuspecting and end up exceeding your credit card credit limit. These excess charges are for scenarios where you disappear with the car and are never seen again or get in a crash and refuse to pay.
do I need car insurance to rent a car in Crete?
Do you need to add car insurance to your rental? Many Greek car rental companies will try and convince you to add it on, and if you want to be safe and have peace of mind, it’s not a terrible idea, but I’m going, to be honest – we never do.
Why don’t we add on car insurance? As mentioned above, if you have a US credit card or equivalent in another country, you may already have CDW (collision damage waiver) insurance for rental car coverage, and don’t know!
It’s worth checking your documentation and calling your credit card to find out. It’s even worth considering signing up for a new credit card that does offer this, so you don’t have to pay for ridiculous car rental insurance.
Bringing me to my next point – credit cards with primary rental insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my favorite travel credit card for many reasons, but the primary rental insurance is one of its best perks (including Priority Pass membership). When you put your car hire on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you get primary rental car coverage around the world for up to $75,000.
That works out great for us since we are nomadic. Car rental companies in Crete and worldwide are notorious for scaring customers and upselling all their insurance packages. You need to make sure if you need it or not before falling victim to their trap. Call your credit card company and always find out before you get to Greece.
If you don’t have a credit card that covers rental car insurance, it may be worth adding it to your package. That way, you won’t be stuck paying for a car hire out of pocket if there is an accident.
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The Cost of a Car Rental Crete
It’s now so easy to compare rental car prices online. You’ll find most of the big rental car companies have rates that end up being pretty close to one another; they keep an eye on the competitor’s prices, so they remain competitive themselves. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a little shopping around.
Be careful when looking online, as rental companies use tricks to make prices look lower than they are. The main way they do this is by using a ‘from’ price, with the actual amount you’ll pay only revealed when you’re further into the booking process, and they reckon you won’t bother giving up and going elsewhere.
Another trick they have is to show the price excluding tax, which means you’ll have something in the region of a further 20% to add to the headline price on show.
Needless to say, the cost of a smaller car will be lower than renting a larger one. The fewer add-ons (extra drivers, GPS, etc.) you require, the cheaper it will be too. I also find that the small, no-name companies will try and rip you off in their fine print – so make sure and read all the details before booking!
Booking a Rental Car in Crete
Nowadays, booking a rental car in Greece is straightforward before arriving in the country. We think the benefits of doing this are huge. Not only are you ‘guaranteed’ the vehicle you’ve opted for, reducing stress levels, but you’ll be charged less for renting that same vehicle simply because you’ve pre-booked. Walking up and trying to book a car is one of the worst things you can do for your wallet.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to pre-book, don’t worry! Rental agencies rarely run out of vehicles (and if they do, you can pop next door to a competitor). However, it might mean there’s less choice – something worth bearing in mind if you have specific requirements, such as an automatic (less common rental in Greece).
You’ll also be charged a higher rate for exactly the same vehicle, and you’ll end up spending more time at the desk of the rental company rather than enjoying the start of your vacation. I always warn people to book a car rental at least 24 hours in advance. You can see all my additional tips on renting a car abroad here.
Where to Pick Up Your Rental Car in Crete
If you’re flying straight into Crete, renting your car at the airport is best. Either Heraklion Airport (HER) or Chania Airport (CHQ) have car rental choices. Renting your car at the airport saves you time if you are flying on and off the island. It’s also easy to rent a car in Heraklion, and always nice to fly to a destination and pick up a car rather than going into Heraklion city center.
An airport pick-up is the best place to pick up your vehicle because it saves you the time and expense of getting into the city center without your own transport (and probably some heavy luggage too). Even if there is an airport surcharge from the rental agency, it can still be worth renting from there.
That being said, Heraklion city center also has rental car offices and there are car rental Crete businesses at the Heraklion Port. This is a good option for those who take the ferry and don’t need to go to the airport.
Opt for a Return Rental
One way rentals almost always cost more, even in the same city. To save money, you should try and pick up and drop off your car at the same location.
Choose the Right Crete Rental Car
Size of a Car Rental in Crete
You’ll want to opt for a smaller car when renting a car in Crete. Why’s that? Greek roads are narrow, and most cars are tiny too. In some places, routes even narrow down to a single twisting lane for both directions of traffic. In this case, you’ll find ‘passing places’ in which to pass each other.
Style of Car Rental Crete
Another thing you should consider when deciding on what rental car type to opt for is how many people and how much luggage you’ll have. Two-door cars are great for getting about (and easy to park) but don’t offer much leg room in the back if those seats are going to be used, and also have less space in the trunk for luggage.
It’s best to keep in mind your needs with Greek car rentals. Families of three or four might have difficulty fitting themselves and all their hard side luggage in a small car.
Finally, you’ll have the option of a manual or automatic transmission vehicle. Manuals are by far the most common vehicles driven in Greece – it’s where Cameron was forced to learn and drive a stick many years ago. You’ll have a more extensive choice if you’re happy to drive a manual car on Crete.
Manuals also tend to be cheaper to rent as a result. However, if you’re not comfortable driving a manual transmission and shifting gears yourself, automatics are available too. Make sure you make this preference absolutely clear when booking because each car lot has only a few automatic available.
Fuel Choices on Crete
When picking up your rental car in Greece, you need to know what fuel your car requires. Diesel and Unleaded are not interchangeable. There will often be a sticker near the gas cap on rental cars to remind you of the fuel type.
You need to return your rental car with the same amount of fuel you were given. Please don’t show up less as the rental car agency will charge you to fill it back at an astronomical rate.
Gas stations can be few and far between on Crete, and many do not stay open at all hours. Unless you’re in Heraklion, don’t plan on filling up at midnight.
Gas is costly in Crete. At the time of writing, it’s about €1.63 per liter. Both gas and diesel are sold by the liter, and gas stations are generally self-service. You may have a problem paying with credit cards around Crete, so make sure you have cash to pay for gas.
Opt For Navigation for your car rental crete
GPS is brilliant for when you’re driving along unknown roads, there’s no doubt about it in our opinion. Having a GPS kit (generally referred to as Satellite Navigation or SatNav) focus on navigation means you can concentrate on driving without reading every road sign you pass.
Navigation systems are also useful because they can provide alternative routes, should they be needed, to take you around congestion hotspots. The most modern versions will indicate the road’s speed limit too.
That’s not to say you need to get the GPS add-on with a rental car. If you have a cell phone with a local SIM contract, you’ll be able to access the data network, which means you can use smartphone navigation apps such as Google Maps.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a local SIM contract and don’t want to spend lots of cash on international roaming, you can download a Google Map to your phone while in WiFi. If you forget to do this, you might have to wait until you get to your hotel and use their WiFi to download a map.
Using a cell phone when driving in Greece is not permitted to make calls or send/receive SMS text messages. You can use your smartphone for navigation purposes, but it must be hands-free only (such as safely stowed on the windscreen), and you must not program navigation while the vehicle’s engine is running. We personally like to travel with a phone mount for our rentals around the world. However, if I’m honest, you’ll see many Greeks driving erratically, and police are few and far between.
Inspect Your Car Rental in Crete
The rental car agent will often ask if you’d like them to show you around the vehicle or whether you’re happy to do it yourself. Before driving off the lot, you need to go over your Greek rental car. If they don’t show you around, do a thorough inspection yourself and note anything and everything.
The agent will generally start with the outside of the vehicle, pointing out any bumps or scratches that already exist, make sure all the damages are noted. This will also assure you of the roadworthiness of the vehicle.
On the inside of the vehicle, ensure you know how to operate the headlights, indicator lights, and hazard lights before leaving the parking bay. You should also know the location of the windscreen wipers, as well as the horn. Make sure you know how to alter the position of the driver’s seat, how the parking brake works (is it a traditional manual one you pull up or a newer electronic one), and how to engage reverse gear (which often requires you to push a button of some sort first). They will also help you set up the GPS if you’ve opted for one.
Remember that if you’re not happy with anything you see, you should insist on an alternative vehicle if you find cigarette burns, broken mirrors, or windshield cracks; these need to be noted before leaving the parking lot. Otherwise, you could be charged for the damages once you return the rental.
Distances and Speeds on Crete
Distances and speeds are measured in kilometers in Greece. The speed limit is usually signposted on each new stretch of road or change in speed. In the cities, the speed limit is usually slow at 50 km/hr. Open roads speed up to 80km/hr, and highways are usually 100 km/hr, but keep your eyes on the signs.
In Greece, vehicles drive on the right side of the way. The passing lane is the middle lane. It’s worth noting that speed limits are limits, not targets; only drive as fast as feels safe.
I found the Cretian locals driving insanely fast and careless on scary roads. Don’t follow their lead and try and stay out of their way.
Should I rent a car in crete?
If it’s your first time driving in a foreign country, Crete may make your head spin. Drivers drive fast and carelessly, the roads are winding, slippery and full of potholes.
That being said if you take the necessary precautions, you’ll have an enjoyable time driving in Crete and be able to get to all these attractions easier. A few things to remember:
- Always be aware of everything going on around you.
- Be alert for rockslides and rocks in the road.
- Watch out for people driving on the wrong side of the road – I’m serious!
- Many roads have a shoulder lane, and if you are driving slow, you should (and are expected) to drive in it. This allows for those fast drivers to pass you. You’ll get a lot of angry stares and honks if you don’t! You’ll catch on soon if you aren’t practicing this unspoken rule. Drivers behind you will soon start to flash their lights at you, signaling you to move over.
- Look both ways before crossing the road. Just because a light turns red doesn’t mean a driver will stop.
- Watch out for goats, sheep, and pigs in the middle of the mountain roads.
- Many of the roads in Crete are hairpin bends on mountain roads. The scariest one we drove on was down to Stefanou Beach. Take these roads slowly. The GPS usually doesn’t accommodate these roads, which can mean travel times take longer.
- Wear your seatbelt! This should go without saying, but wear your seatbelt at all times.
Scooters and Mopeds on Crete
It’s important to watch out for locals and tourists driving scooters and mopeds around Crete. A motorbike is a fun way to drive around Crete; you’ll find them everywhere.
Remember, they should be treated with the same respect that you treat a car. The mopeds drive erratically, so don’t be surprised if they suddenly pull out in front of you!
Should You Rent a Car in Crete?
You have two good options to get around Crete. A moped or a rental car. Public transport is not great on the island, and you’ll need something to get to all the awesome beaches and towns.
Although people drive a bit crazy, a rental car is the best way to get around. We were able to make the most out of our time in Crete and see so much! I highly recommend having one!
What to Pack for Greece?
Spending a summer on one of the many Greek islands? Lucky you. You may be wondering just what to pack for Greece. The islands are beautiful, swarming with history, and are populated with some of the friendliest people in the world.
READ MORE GREECE TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on renting a car in Crete. Hopefully, you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Greece!
- When is the Best Time to Visit Greece
- The Best Things to do in Corfu
- The Best Things to do in Milos
- The Best Things to do in Rhodes
- The Best Things to do in Paros
- The Best Things to do in Naxos
- The Best Things to do in Santorini
- The Best Things to do in Mykonos
Greek Travel Planning Resources
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
- Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning, check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
- Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Cars to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect us from injury, theft, or a canceled trip. We use HeyMondo for our insurance needs.
- Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.