Renting a car in Crete: 14 essentials tips (2023)

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
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

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!

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

When and where to hire a car in Crete

Tip 2 – 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!

What type of car to choose

Tip 3 – 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 4 – 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.

Tip 5 – Is it useful to have a 4WD in Crete?

No! 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.

Car companies in Crete

Tip 6 – 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.


Tip 7 – 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.
  • 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 8 – 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.

How to collect and return the car to avoid issues

Tip 9 – 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 10 – 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 11 – 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 12 – 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.

Get ready to drive in Crete

Tip 13 – 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 14 – 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.

Copyright 2023 © Romanos Car Rentals