I really think the best way to discover Crete is to tour the island by car. There are so many wonderful landscapes to discover! Below is my guide to help you rent a car in Crete and get ready to be driving in Crete with video and photos. Don't worry, it is not as difficult as some people write!
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Driving in Crete - Video
Crete is a great destination to go on a road trip! Let's start with a short video that shows you what it looks like to be driving in Crete: high speed roads, sinuous mountain roads, villages, cities and the biggest distraction of all while driving: the scenery ! 🙂
How difficult is it to drive in Crete? Short Answer
You sometimes read online that driving in Crete is not easy.
Well first of all, remember that only the few who has issues write about their experience and all the people who had no issues don' take the time to share their 'I had no issues' trip.
I think it is not difficult.
If you don't want to read the whole article, below are few essentials to know:
- RIGHT SIDE - Driving is on the right side of the road applying Greek driving rules
- TAKE YOUR TIME - It sure is not a country where you will be driving at high speed, but who would like to with such beautiful landscapes!
- WINDING ROADS - Crete has a few "high speed" roads. But most roads are sinuous, around (up and down) the mountains
- STATUS OF ROADS - Generally we have found the roads in good conditions, even off the beaten path. Only a few of them were narrow with no railing and lines.
- MAIN THING TO KNOW - The most important is to understand that: when you are on a fast road, you are supposed to drive halfway on the emergency lane (which is quite wide) to let other cars overtake you - if you receive headlight flashing, they want you to do just that
- MAIN DANGER - The main danger I have found were the animals on the mountain roads. Don't drive too fast, they can appear at any turn.
- DRIVING IN SUMMER - Considering the Summer crowds, it does get harder during July and August, especially when crossing path with big coaches
- DRIVING IN WINTER - Yes, Crete is a generally warm country. However because of the mountains, you can have snow and ice on the plateaus in Winter
More details further in the article.
How to rent a car in Crete
Below are my tips to help you rent your car in Crete.
Where to rent a car in Crete
You can rent a car
- upon arrival at the airports
- and at ferry wharfs
- or from all major town centers.
In any case, if traveling during Summer or school holidays, always book your car early!
Car hire in Crete - Which company?
Most major international brands are available in Crete.
But there are also many many many local brands. Arriving at Heraklion airport, it is quite impressive to see the carpark with all the booths!!!
If you are using a well-known brand, you can expect certain standard.
It is harder to know what to expect with lesser known local brands. But they have some good ones and there are plenty of reviews online.
If you are using a local one without much knowledge about them, I recommend to pick one with comprehensive full insurance so as to avoid any bad surprises. We used a local one.
For international brands, you can compare prices and book on rentalcars.com
Car rental in Crete - Which type of car?
I have a few points you should keep in mind when choosing your car:
- Motor - Choose a car with a good motor: you keep turning and going up and down, so a car that can stay stable without you changing gear all the time is really more enjoyable
- Manual - Note that in Greece, most vehicles are manual. If you want automatic you have to specify it and pay extra
- 4WD? - Most points of interest in Crete are reachable by paved roads. Few isolated gorges and beaches are accessible only by dirt path. You could rent a 4WD but know that rental companies' insurances normally do not cover offroad driving.
Crete car rental tips
- Petrol - Bring back your car with the agreed level of fuel in the tank to avoid paying extra
- Photos - Like everywhere you rent a car, it is advised to take photos of scratches upon car pick up and return.
- Insurance - I strongly recommend the insurance for gravel protection and broken glass; We saw a lot of rocks on the side of the road since they don't use many nets to stop them from falling on the road
Driving rules in Crete (Greece)
General rules for driving in Crete
- Driving is on the right side of the road
- Greek rules apply
- Minimum driving age is 18, but some rental company may ask for drivers to be older
- European need their own country's license, others will need their International Driving Permit
- Seatbelts are mandatory for all
- Alcohol limit is 0.05%
- Speed limits are well indicate in red circle. Most of the time you really don't need them because you can't really drive fast on those sinuous roads.
- Most villages have a 40km/h limit and a lot of narrow streets
- Priorities - In towns, vehicles coming from the right have priority ( when there are no signs)
Crete road signs
- Road signs are quite clear. Although there are not enough speed limit signs, and you are not always sure how fast you can drive.
- Town names are written using both and using the greek and latin alphabets.
- You can find all the road sign pictograms here
Specificity about driving in Crete - overtaking
This is the main thing you should be aware of before driving in Crete!
There is an unwritten rule that on large roads with emergency lanes, you have to drive halfway over it to give space and let other cars overtake you.
As you can see on the picture above, we are driving on the side, to let the grey road overtake.
Sometimes it creates strange situation when it is happening on each side and you get 4 cars lined up on a 2 lane roads... but it generally work without any issue.
If someone is flashing his headlight at you, it probably means that you have to move over.
How to facilitate driving in Crete
I strongly recommend the use of a GPS so that you can focus on the roads and on the scenery.
You can find the GPS coordinates of all the best places to see in Crete in my eBook:
- 5 easy-to-plan Maps
- 60+ Scenic locations for your itinerary
- 16+ extra photo stops and places to see
- Planning info to make the most of your time
- GPS coordinates for peace of mind
- 150+ original photos to help you select where to go
Road Conditions in Crete - Is driving in Crete Difficult?
Ok. Now we are arriving at the big question everyone is wondering.
How difficult is it to drive in Crete?
You can read a lot of stories online of people who got scared.
The fact is that Crete has several mountain ranges. So, yes, you have mountain roads. But all the millions of people who had no problem driving around Crete don't write on the Internet that all went well...
Types of roads in Crete
Along the North Coast of Crete, you have a main road from Kissamos to Sitia.
This is a 'high speed road' with speed limits varying, generally around 90km/h.
Most of that road is quite wide, with emergency lanes on each side.
Then you have the roads in the mountains.
I was quite impressed, because most of them are in very good conditions: wide, well paved, with lines.
The only problems are the animals as well as the rocks falling (see the danger section further in the article).
Some mountain road conditions
Of course, you can still find a few isolated mountain roads that are not as good. But on those, there is no traffic, so you have the time to drive slow and you won't be scared crossing path with other cars.
Driving in Towns and villages
Driving in the Cretan towns
Driving in towns is not too bad compared other countries.
Traffic can be more complex around old towns where cars are not allowed in all the streets at all hours of day.
Nothing special to be aware of.
Driving in Cretan villages
At the end, the places where I thought driving was the most difficult were the villages.
Most of them have very narrow streets and blind corner where you can't cross path with another car.
Make sure you drive quite slowly and use the mirrors whenever there is one.
Dangers on the Cretan roads
Except for the overtaking strange rules I have mentioned earlier, there are 2 main dangers on the Cretan roads:
1. The animals
There are a lot of animals wandering around the mountain roads. We saw some everyday (and I took way too many pictures of them to be able to show you).
Sometimes it is just one or 2, and other times it is a large group.
It is clearly their domain and they do not get scared by car.
So always be careful, don't drive too fast, and slow down at turns.
2. Falling rocks
The other danger on the mountain roads are falling rocks.
We hardly saw any nets on the side of mountains. So there were a lots of rocks on the side of roads.
Carparks in Crete
Most attractions have free carparks.
A few beaches have private carparks for a fee (normally covering the whole day).
In shoulder seasons, there is always space. But in the heat of Summer, you may have difficult parking near famous beaches or attractions.
Want to see more of CRETE?
Ready to drive in Crete?
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