Renting a car in Crete is the best way to explore this magnificent island.
Below is my complete guide on how to rent a car in Crete, covering:
- which type of car is best,
- best rental companies and reviews,
- tips on reducing costs,
- insurance recommendations,
- essentials to avoid any scam,
- rules and regulations,
I have tried listing everything you may need to know to enjoy a worry-free car hire experience.
Before my tips + photos, here are my favorites for Crete:
My favorite platform to rent a car in Crete: DiscoverCars
Fun activity: Quad excursion off the beaten path
Renting a car in Crete – Overview
Is it a good idea to rent a car in Crete?
It depends what kind of holiday you want.
But if you want to be able:
- To enjoy some of the hidden gems such as Xerokampos, Zakros, Triopetra beach…
- Visit a place early before the crowds, or after, such as Spinalonga island, or the pink beach of Elafonisi
- Be flexible to adapt to the weather
Then renting a car is the best option.
Absolutely essential tips – from my personal experiences
If you don’t want to read the entire article, here is a short summary of my top tips:
- Choose a car with a powerful enough motor: There are mountain roads and you keep turning and going up and down. Driving will be more enjoyable if you don’t choose the smallest engine
- Book early to get the best prices and the choice of cars
- Always check the car upon arrival and take pictures of anything you see (don’t forget the roof and under the bumper)
- I strongly recommend the insurance for gravel protection and broken glass; I 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
The booking platform I personally use
You will see a lot of mentions of Discovercars.com throughout this article.
This is the platform I personally use and one of the best customer-rated comparison sites on the market.
As soon as I decide on a destination and dates, I go check their deals and car types.
I have found some really good deals many times.
Plus, they have a practical coverage option at great price that will cover you in case of damage to the outside of the car.
A local option
If you are looking for a more local company.
Check out the local company Rental Center Crete – They have an excellent reputation and they include a zero-excess insurance policy (so you don’t have to worry) – Check out prices and available cars
Is it difficult to drive in Crete? Is it safe?
Driving in Crete is not difficult.
There are mountain roads with a lot of turns, but they are in good conditions overall.
So it is not “easy”, but nothing dangerous.
Just take your time, be careful with animals and enjoy the scenery.
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
Remember that the hundreds of thousands of people who did not have any issues driving in Crete, don’t take the time to write so on the Internet!
Check out my article about driving in Crete
#1 to 3 – How to rent a car in Crete – required elements
Tip 1 – License to rent a car in Crete / Greece
It is always better to have you International Driving Permit anywhere you travel out of the country.
This way you never wonder.
However, know that to be allowed to drive in Crete / Greece (for a short visit):
- EU citizen can use their EU license
- Visitors from outside of the EU must have and International Driving Permit on top of their valid driving license from their country
Tip 2 – Extra age requirements / years of driving
Official driving age in Greece is 17.
However, most car rental companies in Crete:
- will require you to be 21
- will require you to have held a license in your home country for a year or more,
- may add charges, if you are under 25,
- may add charges, if you are over a certain age.
On the platform Discovercars.com you can enter your age, to see any limitation in rental cars available and any additional fee.
Tip 3 – A credit card that can handle the hold charge
Remember that unless you have decided to purchase a full coverage insurance directly with the rental company, you will be asked for your credit card to hold a deposit. This amount s blocked on your account via your credit card (until you bring the car back without damages).
As it is on top of the payment, you may be hitting the limit of your credit card daily/weekly or monthly protection limit.
So be prepared! Your options are:
- Use a different credit card for the hold charge,
- Contact your bank prior to traveling to change your limits,
- Purchase a full coverage insurance with a 0 excess charge.
On the platform Discovercars.com:
- once you open one option, you can click on Rental Conditions, and you will see the Security Deposit amount.
- And if this is an issue for you, you can pre-select the amount you are willing to have blocked as security deposit in the filters
#4 & 5 – When and where to hire a car in Crete
Tip 4 – Best period
Crete is a very popular destination, especially in Summer.
So, if you want the choice of your vehicle types and good prices, it is better to rent your car as early as possible.
You won’t find last-minute deals in Summer. As soon as you have picked your dates, book the car!
Tip 5 – When and where
You can rent a car
- upon arrival at the airports
- and at ferry wharfs
- or from all major town centers.
The largest car rental hubs in Crete are:
- Crete Airport Heraklion – see car rental deals
- Heraklion port – see car rental deals
- Heraklion town – see car rental deals
- Chania town – see car rental deals
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.
#6 to 10 – What type of car to choose
Tip 6 – Recommendations for size of car / power
I know it depends on how many people are traveling and how much luggage you are traveling with.
But here are a few things to keep in mind when traveling in Crete:
The island has many mountains. There are lots of sinuous roads going up and down. None are very steep.
However, for a more comfortable driving experience, I recommend to avoid the smallest engine. This way you won’t have to change gear all the time.
I don’t have special recommendations. A narrower car might be easier for some to cross other vehicles on narrower roads. Plus, in some villages, the streets are narrow and you would feel more comfortable. However, I have seen other destinations where a narrow car is essential. This is not here.
Tip 7 – Transmission type – Manual vs Automatic
Most cars to rent in Crete have a manual transmission.
Rental companies have automatic cars, but they are often more expensive. And there are less of them, so book early.
On Discovercars.com, you can use the filter “Automatic transmission” on the left, if this is a must have for you.
On Rental Center Crete, you can also select the transmission on the left.
Tip 8 – Fuel choice – Diesel, Gas or electric
- Petrol is called “Benzine”
- Diesel is called “Diesel”
- Gas stations are called “Benzinadiko”
- See the concentration of electric car charging stations, where you are going in Crete on this website
Tip 9 – Is it useful to have a 4WD in Crete?
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.
Tip 10 – Consider vehicles with sleeping options
Another idea is to rent a vehicle in which you can sleep.
Overall, this could save you money compared to booking extra accommodations.
- Wild camping is not allowed near archaeological sites and protected areas. It is tolerated near the beaches, especially on the South Coast.
- There are 11 official camping sites in Crete
You can rent campers in Crete.
All my favorite locations are included (with GPS coordinates, map and tips) in my travel guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Crete road trip:
Plan your dream trip in Crete thanks to my guide
- 5 maps to easily plan your itinerary
- 60+ pre-selected locations
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
- Tips to make the most of your time
- 150+ original photos to help you choose
#11 to 17 – Best rental car companies in Crete – reviews
Tip 11 – Cost of car rental in Crete
To give you an idea, based on data from Discovercars.com, prices are around:
- There are big variations throughout the year – The average prices vary from 15 to 50 USD per day
- The cheapest prices are generally for when you travel in January and February
It is very easy to compare prices online on a single platform – but if comparing between sites, remember to check all hidden fees.
Tip 12 – Things to consider when choosing your car rental company
- First, of course, the company must have the type of car your needs
- Then, check out the cancellation fees
- Authorized milage – depending on what you are planning, have a look at unlimited or defined daily milage allowance
- The pickup location – some require a shuttle to the get to the rental area
Tip 13 – Best rated car rental companies in Crete – reviews
When reading reviews, don’t forget that on Tripadvisor or Google for example, anyone can write a review even if they have not used the company.
Plus, only the people who had issues write comments, most of the people without issues, don’t take the time to write that it went smoothly.
On the platform Discovercars.com, each rental company has a mark on 10 points. This is an average of the marks given by actual customers.
On the search page, you can select only the best rated ones:
Some of the best rated international rental car companies in Crete are:
- Optimo Rent
And if you are looking for local experts: check out the local company Rental Center Crete – They have an excellent reputation and they include a zero-excess insurance policy (so you don’t have to worry) – Check out prices and cars
Tip 14 – How to save money – cheap car rental in Crete
If keeping the cost down is your main concern, you should:
- Book very early
- Return the car where you picked it up
- Book a smaller car
- Pay attention to pick-up and drop-off times – Car hire is typically charged per 24-hour period
- Choose a rental without cancellation or with limited cancellation
- If renting for 6 days, check the price for 7 days – sometimes companies have a discount for 1 week rentals.
- Book with limited milage
Tip 15 – Check opening hours if picking a company not at an airport
If you are picking up your car at the airport, the companies are normally open as long as flights are arriving.
However, if you are renting a car from a town, especially a smaller one, they will have shorter opening hours (especially on weekends). This may mean that you have to rent for an extra day if you can’t drop off the car.
Tip 16 – Car rental scams in Crete
Crete has many of those very cheap local rental companies.
As in most country, if the price is very very low, then there must be conditions and tricks behind it.
Also some of them mat track where you go with the GPS and fine you if you go offroad.
Some agencies also have shady tactics, refusing some credit cards for the deposit so that you purchase the insurance or pay for an extra driver by using the credit card of someone else…
- Check the reputation of the company
- Have a copy of all the documents for your rental with all the conditions
- Read the fine print
- And, as everywhere, some companies do try to charge more for damages. My advice is to always take the time to check the car and take date pictures at pick-up and drop-off.
Tip 17 – Be careful if changing island
From Crete, you could also visit Santorini or head back to Mainland Greece.
However, that implies taking a ferry.
This is not allowed by most rental companies. And for others, there are fees included.
I don’t recommend it. Between the cost of the car in the ferry and the cost of dropping the car in another location far away, this would be expensive.
Better to return the car and hire another one at the next destination.
I don’t drink coffee
But I also like other drinks and sweets!
Do you like the free content you find on my blog? All my tips and practical information, without intrusive advertising…
#18 to 20 – Understanding Insurances
Tip 18 – Choose the types of insurance you need + requirements in Crete
Many levels of insurances are available. And their wording is often not very clear.
Here is a high-level overview of the different types of insurances – which are not really insurances, but waivers to limit your liability:
- Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – It limits the customer’s responsibility during the rental period and sets the maximum amount of money the customer will have to pay in case of damages –
- Theft Protection (TP) – this waiver limits your liability up to the vehicle’s deductible/excess amount in the event the car is stolen (proof required are a police report and the car keys). TP is frequently included in the car rental price.
- Third Party Liability (TPL) – also known as Supplemental Liability Insurance, Extended protection, liability protection… – it covers personal and material damages caused to other people’s cars, property and even medical expenses. They have different limits.
- and many others…
The mandatory insurance in Crete is Third party liability insurance is mandatory in Greece. It is included in the price of the rental car.
My other recommendation :
Either purchase of full insurance that covers gravel damage to the exterior or to the windscreens or buy the specific gravel insurance.
You will be driving along mountain roads with dry landscapes and rocks falling.
Tip 19 – 4 ways to purchase insurance
- Option no insurance – apart from the mandatory one, you don’t have to take extras. Just know that in case something happen, you can be liable for your entire deposit.
- Option 1 – Use your credit card insurance/ or your own car insurance
Many credit cards have some kind of coverage for rental cars. They all differ.
Similarly, your home car insurance can be covering you as well when renting a car.
You need to read all the fine prints to clearly understand what is covered or not.
- Option 2 – Purchase upon booking your rental car
When you book your rental car, you normally have the option to select the insurances you want. The deals are most of the time better than at the counter (I have seen 3 times less, once).
On direct websites, you get the dealer’s insurance, but on platforms, you get a special insurance created by the platform.
For example, on Discovercars.com, they have their own Full Coverage Waiver Insurance Option
Personally, this is what I used. I know I may already be covered by my credit card and all, but this just seems the easier route, more straightforward in case of an issue. Personal feeling.
- Option 3 – Choose a company that includes a zero-excess insurance policy by default such as Rental Center Crete – see prices
- Option 4 – At car rental
This is the more expensive option, but if you have not done it before, you could purchase it as you are paying.
- Option 5 – Travel Insurance
Get a travel insurance that include comprehensive car rental insurance with one of the classic insurance companies.
Tip 20 – Consider taking roadside assistance
Technically, it is not an insurance, but it is offered at the same time.
Conditions of coverage vary but they normally include:
- Loss or damage of car keys
- Keys locked inside the car
- Flat tire
- Rental car not starting
- Car out of fuel
If you are in a country you don’t know, traveling alone and not good at changing tires, this could be a great option.
This is something you can get at the counter when getting the car.
#21 to 23 – Extras
Tip 21 – Do I need GPS?
To navigate, a GPS can make your experience smoother. So that you can focus on the driving.
- Option 1 – Bring your own GPS
This is my favorite options. I know well how it works, plus I can pre-enter all my destinations which saves me a lot of time.
On my travel guide eBook you get the GPS coordinates of the carparks of all my favorite locations
- Option 2 – Use your phone
If you have a phone, don’t forget that the roaming charges abroad can be very expensive.
However, you can download a map beforehand, when you are connected to wifi, so that you can navigate without spending money.
Don’t forget the charger and your phone holder so that it is comfortable!
- Option 3 – Take the GPS extra
I don’t recommend it. I think this is a last resort if you don’t have your own or a good phone. I always find it very expensive.
Tip 22 – Additional driver charges
Decide beforehand whether or not you will need more than one driver.
If so, take this into account when comparing rental deals between companies.
Some companies have deals that has a free extra driver.
On the platform Discovercars.com, if there are any, it can be selected on the filters:
Tip 23 – Child safety seats rules in Crete / Greece
- Children aged under 12 must be seated in an appropriate car seat for their size
- From age 12 or size over 1.35m tall, children can wear an adult seat belt.
#24 to 31 – How to collect and return the car to avoid issues
Tip 24 – Check your vehicle at pick-up
For a worry-free exchange with the rental car company, I recommend you do a thorough check of the car before leaving the carpark.
Sometimes it is done with an agent. Sometimes they just give you a form with the state of the car before renting. Sometimes they tell you nothing…
Make sure all dents and scratches are noted, if not, make sure they add it.
Plus, for peace of mind, you can take pictures before leaving (like in every country).
Things to look for:
- Check all the exterior of the car for dent and scratches
- Don’t forget to check the roof!!!! It is often forgotten, but they might check it when you return
- Don’t forget under the bumper
- And don’t forget the back of the mirrors
- Check the interior for any damage
- Check the state of the tires
- Check the state of the fender (mud wing above the wheels)
- Make sure the spare tire is in place and in good condition
- Check that gas level and milage match the record
Tip 25 – Check the mandatory equipment is in the car
In Greece, the following pieces of equipment must be available in the car:
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit
- Non-expired fire extinguisher
Tip 26 – Ask about the management of tolls
N/A – There are no tolls in Crete.
Tip 27 – What to do in case of fine or tickets (speed / parking)
You are responsible for any parking tickets or driving fines that you receive during the rental period.
If you are aware of it right away, you can go and pay at the police station or online, as indicated.
But know that it can take up to 3 months for a fine to be reported to the car owner (the rental company). In that case, they will send you proof and charge you for it and maybe add an administrative fee for managing the fine.
Tip 28 – What if there is a problem with the car
Don’t lose your rental agreement.
On it, you will find the steps to take if you have a problem with your car.
Most use a breakdown assistance service and the number will be listed on the agreement.
Then you can contact the rental company to see how to car can be replaced.
Tip 29 – Don’t forget to manage your tank
More and more companies now have a system where you must bring back the car with the same level of fuel (not full to full tank but same to same).
This is very annoying, but it is easier for them to manage.
Therefore, you need to understand how much the car consumes and how many kilometers / miles you still have to do, if you don’t want to waste money.
Tip 30 – Drop off
For peace of mind, try dropping off the car during opening hours so that the car checks can all be made and validated.
If not possible, take pictures of the car before leaving it.
So don’t be stressed. If you have taken a reputable company, are respecting the rules, it should go very smoothly.
Tip 31 – What if you damaged the car
If your rental car gets damaged, the first thing to do is to contact the car rental agency.
- If your rental has only basic insurance, you will have to cover the damages up to your deductible amount.
- If you have purchased a full coverage with the rental company, check with them and it should be covered – same if you booked via Rental Center Crete, you should be covered.
- If you have purchased with Discovercars.com, contact them and provide all info (within 28 days of dropping off the car). They with refund you for charges and costs related to the damage, if warranted
- If you are using your own insurance, contact them and provide all info. They with refund you for charges and costs related to the damage, if warranted.
#32 to 36 – Get ready to drive in Crete
Below is a snapshot with the main things to know.
You can learn more on my article about driving in Crete.
Tip 32 – Understand the rules and conditions
- RIGHT SIDE – Driving is on the right side of the road
- Seatbelts are mandatory for all
- Alcohol limit is 0.05%
- Most villages have a 40km/h limit and a lot of narrow streets
- 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 I 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
- 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
Tip 33 – Watch videos
To get familiar with the driving you can watch videos of people road tripping in Crete.
Below is my short video to give you an idea of what it looks like:
Tip 34 – Know the potential dangers
The 2 main dangers on the roads of Crete are:
- The animals wandering freely
- The falling rocks
- and sometimes both combined…
Tip 35 – Plan your itinerary
It can be fun to go an adventure.
But if you want to see many locations on your road trip, better to plan ahead to balance your days and book accommodations.
Find all my favorite locations and tips in my travel guide eBook:
Plan your dream trip in Crete thanks to my guide
- 5 maps to easily plan your itinerary
- 60+ pre-selected locations
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
- Tips to make the most of your time
- 150+ original photos to help you choose
Where to stay in Crete?
- Chania, a charming town: See best rated accommodations
- Rethymno, history, beach and central location: See best rated options
- Heraklion, main city: See best rated options
- Palaiochora, for stunning scenery, away from crowds – See best rated options
- Mochlos, for a very quiet area: see best rated options
- For a sandy beach and some nightlife: Malia or Bali
Tip 36 – What to do in case of accident
In case there are people hurt or there is a conflict, the emergency number in Crete is 112.
The best order of actions is:
- contact emergency services
- contact the police
- contact your rental provider
Want to see more of the best Crete has to offer?
- 40 best landscapes in Crete (in pictures) – read article
- 20 best things to do in Crete – read article
- The 27 best beaches in Crete – read article
- The most beautiful archaeological sites – read article
- The most beautiful churches and monasteries in Crete – read article
- The best destinations in Crete, where to stay – read article
- Advice for planning your road trip in Crete and your itinerary – read article
- The most beautiful boat trips around Crete – read article
- Chania or Heraklion or Rethymno – where to go? – read article
And keep track of your own trip!
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