Renting a car in Santorini is the best way to explore this magnificent country.
Below is my complete guide on how to rent a car in Santorini, covering:
- which type of car is best,
- tips on best rental companies and 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.
Renting a car in Santorini – Quick answer in 6 steps
I have made more than 40 road trips around the world with car rentals of all types. And I’ve rented several cars in different parts of Greece, including Santorini. Here’s a summary of my top tips:
1. Where to rent your car
Choose your destination and compare the prices on my favorite platform: DiscoverCars.com. It’s one of the best rated by users on Trustpilot! In Santorini, I have found some really deals times several times.
The places where you will have the most choice of cars are:
I recommend that you rent at the airport, to be able to get used to the car on the main roads around without the steep cliff road to get out of the port.
You can find good transfer between aiport and port – see details.
2. When to book your car
Book early to get the best prices and choice of cars.
3. Which car to choose
- Make sure you rent a small car. The streets in some areas are quite narrow
- The island is small, you don’t need a lot of power
4. Which rental company to choose
There is no single agency in the region that really stands out.
On the platform Discovercars.com, each rental company has a mark on 10 points. Our advice is to choose car hire companies that score above 8 (our price/service quality limit).
5. Decide on platform insurance
I’ve used the platform’s insurance several times and everything has worked out fine.
Advantage: cheaper than the hire company’s insurance, and an efficient way of getting reimbursed.
Disadvantage: an amount will be blocked on your credit card for the duration of the rental, and the hire company will still try to get you to buy theirs.
6. Check the car
Whatever the country, always check the car before you leave and take photos of any damage (including the roof and under the bumpers) – checklist further down the article.
Is it worth getting a car in Santorini?
It depends what kind of holiday you want.
If you are looking for a beach holiday in Perissa or Kamari, with just a few sightseeing moments, you can just book excursions or take a cab.
But if you want to be able:
- To enjoy some of the hidden gems such as Vlichada beach or Emporio village
- Visit a place early before the crowds and before the carparks are full such as the red beach
Then renting a car is the best option.Below are a few locations you could discover with your rental car:
Is it difficult to drive in Santorini? Is it safe?
A lot of people are reluctant to drive in Santorini, thinking it might not be safe.
There is no need to worry, it is not that difficult. I don’t know why it has such a bad reputation.
You might read horror stories on the Internet. But remember that all the hundreds of thousands of people who did not have any issues, did not write so!
Overall, roads are in correct conditions and distances are short (so you never drive for long).
The dangers are the people driving ATV/quad thinking rules don’t apply to them.
How to rent a car in Santorini – required elements
Tip 1 – License to rent a car in Santorini
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 Santorini / Greece (for a short stay):
- 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 Santorini:
- 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 is blocked on your account via your credit card and released once your return the car without any damage.
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
When and where to hire a car in Santorini
Tip 4 – Best period
Santorini 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 soon 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
There are several options to pick up your rental car:
- The airport – see car rental deals
Pro – it is quite well organized, it is easy to find your company, you will start driving on wide good road, giving you time to get acquainted with the car – it is easy to fill up the tank before giving it back
Cons – there is often a few euros more for the Airport
- The ferry port – see car rental deals
Pro – you don’t have to worry about finding your bus to Fira or other, you can start exploring right away
Con – you have to pay more to have it delivered there and the road up the cliff can be daunting for some – and the port is very chaotic
- The villages of Oia, Fira, Perissa or Kamari
Pro – you don’t have to rent a vehicle for the whole time you are on the island, you can pick it up for one or two days only
Cons – you have to find the rental office, they are scattered throughout the town, and it can be messy with long queues – you start driving the car in the traffic of the village
If you are staying in one of the cliff villages without a dedicated parking spot, you may want to do half of your trip with a rental car and half without, so that you don’t drive around looking for a place all the time.
My preference is the airport for 2 reasons:
- this is where you have the largest choices of rental companies and cars
- driving around the airport is easy. So you have time to get used to the car before the traffic, narrow roads or hairpin bends (if at the ferry port).
If you are arriving by ferry, you can book a transfer to the airport – see options and availabilities
What type of car to hire in Santorini
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 Santorini:
- Village roads are narrow, roads are not especially wide and distance are not long.
Therefore, I recommend however booking a small compact car – it will be easier to get around, cross path with large bus and park. And as you are not driving for a long time, comfort is not the main criteria, in my opinion.
- There are now long steep roads or fast roads,
Therefore, power is not an important criteria
Tip 7 – Transmission type – Manual vs Automatic
Most cars to rent in Santorini 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.
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 Santorini on this website
Tip 9 – Is it useful to have a 4WD?
Not at all. There are very little unpaved tracks.
Know that even if you have a 4WD, the insurance protection associated with the rental probably does not cover use of the car out of paved roads.
This is frequent in many countries. Read the fine print.
Tip 10 – Consider vehicles with sleeping options
From my research, I have not found any option on the island.
All my favorite locations are included (with GPS coordinates, map and tips) in my travel guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Santorini itinerary:
Plan your dream trip in Santorini thanks to my guide
- 6 maps to easily plan your itinerary
- 40+ pre-selected locations
- GPS + tips to make the most of your time
- Planning tips
- 90+ original photos to help you choose
Best rental car companies in Santorini
Tip 11 – Cost of car rental in Santorini
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 33 to 90 USD per day
- The cheapest prices are generally for when you travel in November / December / January / 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 Santorini – reviews
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.
Some of the best rated rental car companies in Santorini are:
- Global Rent a car
Don’t forget that on Tripadvisor or Google for example, anyone can write a review even if they have not used the company.
On the search page, you can select only the best rated ones:
Tip 14 – How to save money – cheap car rental in Santorini
If keeping the cost down is your main concern, you should:
- Book very early
- Avoid the months of July and August
- 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 – the island is very small
Tip 15 – Check opening hours
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 Santorini
There is no specific scam in Santorini, that I am aware of.
As in most country, if the price is very very low, then there must be conditions and tricks behind it.
And some companies do try to charge more for damages. My advice is to always take the time to check the car and take dated pictures at the pick-up location.
Tip 17 – Be careful if changing island
From Santorini, you could also visit Mykonos, Crete and many other island.
However, that implies taking a ferry.
This is not allowed by all rental companies. And for others, there are fees included.
I don’t think it is worth keeping a rental between islands.
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…
Tip 18 – Choose the types of insurance you need + requirements in Santorini
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 Santorini are:
- Third party liability insurance is mandatory in Greece. It is included in the price of the rental car.
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 – 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 4 – 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.
Tip 21 – Do I need a GPS ?
To navigate, a GPS can be useful.
- 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 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.
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
There are no tolls in Santorini.
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 company 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
- 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.
Get ready to drive in Santorini
Below is a snapshot with the main things to know.
You can learn more on my article about driving in Santorini.
Tip 32 – Understand the rules
- Driving is on the right side of the road
- Urban speed limit is 50km/h but often less – check the signage
- Minimum age to drive is 17, but often minimum age to rent is 21
- Alcohol limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood – but I always recommend not drinking at all if you are driving
- All must wear your seatbelt
- Emergency number is 112
Tip 33 – Driving a Quad
I don’t recommending renting a quad to get around Santorini.
But if you do, keep in mind to:
- Respect the classic driving rules
- Wear long sleeves and long pants, to avoid burns in case of accident
- Slow down a lot if it is windy, because you are less balanced
Tip 34 – Know the potential dangers
- Difficulties in villages
The most difficult roads are inside some of the villages
The oldest parts have narrow streets often without a sidewalk, so you are mixing with pedestrians. Just take your time.
Avoid driving in Oia around sunset!
People driving quads can be reckless
Local can get frustrated with you as they are familiar with the road. Just stop on the side as soon as you can to let them overtake you.
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 Santorini thanks to my guide
- 6 maps to easily plan your itinerary
- 40+ pre-selected locations
- GPS + tips to make the most of your time
- Planning tips
- 90+ original photos to help you choose
Where to stay in Santorini?
Tip 36 – What to do in case of accident
In case there are people hurt or there is a conflict, the emergency number in Santorini 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 Santorini has to offer?
- My Top 10 best things to do in Santorini – read article
- 25 inspiring pictures of the best Santorini landscapes to capture – read article
- The best beaches in Santorini – read article
- My selection of the most amazing boat tours around Santorini – read article
- The best places to stay in Santorini – read article
- The best things to do in Oia – read article
- My Santorini itinerary suggestions for 1, 2, 3 days or more – read article
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