The mythic Greek Island of Crete is a true sun-soaked jewel set in the Mediterranean Sea (well the Aegean to be precise). It is a classic, ‘evergreen’ travel destination that remains popular with families, romancing couples, old folks and backpackers alike. Basically, everybody loves Crete and with good reason too.
From idyllic beaches to quaint old towns to craggy mountainsides, Crete is pretty diverse. And guess what? It’s best explored on four wheels and makes for a perfect road trip destination. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for car rental in Crete.
I recently rented a car in Crete myself and was inspired to write this post to tell you all about the ins and outs of Crete car rental including what it costs, where to go and what you need to know. So strap on your seat belt and let me give you the lowdown on renting a car and road-tripping in Crete.
Rent a Car In Crete
- > 4 Seats
- > 5 Doors
- > From £18 per day
- > 5 Seats
- > 5 Doors
- > From £20
- > 5 Seats
- > 5 Doors
- > From £20
- > 5 Seats
- > 5 Doors
- > From £25
Taking a Road Trip in Crete
Believe me here, Crete is the PERFECT destination for a road trip and is best experienced this way. Basically, the main highway forms an almost perfect loop around the island with a few stunning crossings going through the island. This means that in 10 – 14 days you can cover the whole island by only driving 2 – 3 hours every other day (or you can do a half loop/zig-zag in 7) and you get to experience all/most that Crete has to offer, including some of the most beautiful places in Greece.
This means being able to easily access those otherwise hard-to-get-to get to places like the Hippy beach of Matala, random town and village lunch-lock stops, and the remote ancient churches which dot the landscape for no apparent reason!
Furthermore, many of the drives are absolutely stunning, the roads are well maintained (albeit winding in places) and for much of the year, traffic is pretty minimal meaning that driving in Crete is quite a pleasure (until you need to park inside the city but we will come to that).
On the other hand, if you don’t have your own vehicle then some places will prove near impossible to reach, and you will also lose quite a bit of time waiting for and riding on public buses which (while cheap) do get pretty few and far between once you exit the orbits of Chania (Xania) and Heraklion.
Basically, if you wanna see all the best places to visit in Crete in a shortish space of time, then driving is the way!
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Driving in Crete
So how is the driving in Crete? Well as it is in mainland Europe they drive on the right (ie the wrong) side of the road which is fine for you Americans but disorienting for us Brits. But what else do you need to know about the day-to-day realities of driving in Crete? Well, I shall tell you.
Driver’s License and ID
You will need a full driving licence before being allowed to rent a car in Crete. You do not necessarily need an international driver’s permit and this is especially true if you have an EU or UK driver’s licence. If you are travelling from elsewhere then it may make things smoother to get an IDP. You will also need to show them your passport.
Most rental companies will also only rent to drivers over the age of 21.
Roads and Driving Standards
Ok, the good news is that the roads in Crete are in good condition and are well-maintained. They are in much better condition than the roads in the UK anyway! The highways are immaculate, easy to follow and pretty direct and rarely get busy. I went in October (one of the best times of year to visit Greece) and often had entire highways to myself.
Some of the mountainous roads in the interior are seriously winding and there are some impressive climbs and descents. However it’s not like driving on the scary passes of the Himalayas or the Alps so don’t be nervous, as long as you drive sensibly you will be OK.
Driving standards in Greece are however a bit more ‘Mediterranean’ than some of you will be used to. It is normal to see people speeding, undertaking, using phones while driving and even riding motorbikes at full speed with no helmet. There are some traffic police and cameras dotted around but perhaps not enough of them.
Basically, Local drivers have a laid-back Mediterranean temperament but can sometimes be unpredictable. Always be alert and don’t try to join in with the hap-hazard driving standards!
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The good news about driving in Crete is that there is a lot of free, on-the-street parking to be had all over the island. We managed to park for free the entire time we were there and never had to pay. While there are paid parking lots at some beaches and in some parts of town, there is almost always a very easy workaround (such as parking the street behind the beach). I also question whether these paid parking lots are actually enforced by the way.
The bad(ish) news is that it can sometimes prove challenging to find on-the-street parking in busy towns and cities. Also, most city streets are narrow, one-way and are lined with parked cars, so your parallel parking game needs to be on point. If you come in high season then you may struggle to find a place to park near to your Airbnb or guest house if you are inside a city. We generally found somewhere to park within a block or two of where we were staying even when we were in busy parts of Chania and Agios Nickolas.
It’s always a good idea to check parking options at your accommodation in advance by dropping your host a message or by planning your Crete itinerary accordingly, for example, hiring a car once you leave the main city.
Car Rental in Crete
In this section, we will dive into the nitty gritty of renting a car in Crete. I will try to cover every relevant piece of information that you may possibly need.
How Much Does it Cost To Rent a Car Crete?
As you presumably know, there is no simple answer here. The price of car rental in Crete (like anywhere) depends on the type of car you want, your pick up and drop off locations and seasonality.
However, I found it to be pretty damn cheap. We rented a 4-door Fiat Panda in October (Chania airport) for around €20 per day (€23 with extra insurance) and then got a 2- door Fiat something-or-other (Chania airport again) for even less.
Had we taken a bigger or fancier car then we would have paid more and I suspect the price may also have been a good bit higher had we come in August. Having said this, for a popular holiday destination, Greece is generally pretty affordable across the board.
In order to find the best price, I had to check loads of different rental company websites and rental aggregators. Unfortunately, there is no single market-scoring car rental aggregator (no Skyscanner of cars) so it takes me an hour to shop around. That said, most of the prices were kinda similar so you probably can afford to just do a few searches and if the prices kind of align go for one (unless you think it’s worth spending an extra 30 minutes to save €2 – €3).
However, I recently discovered that booking.com actually now offers a car-rental function and the aggregator they use is very impressive. I highly recommend it and will definitely use it next time I need to rent a car. Have a look yourself by hitting the button below;
Note that many top car rental websites are actually third-party brokers who do not rent the cars themselves directly. For example, we rented our first Crete car through Discover Cars but the car was actually provided by a local provider who had a cabin just outside Chania airport.
We found that using brokers like Discover Cars often meant better prices than the rental companies were offering directly (very strange) although we did sense that the rental company kind of resented the fact that we had booked through Discover Cars when we got to their office.
Note that when you rent through a broker like Discover Cars, they will also provide you with enhanced insurance coverage for an additional amount. Generally, I would recommend taking the cover. However when you get to the rental office they may also try to sell you a cover to try and make a few more bucks at your expense, and they may also use semi-misleading sales tactics to try and drive this.
Most Crete car rental companies will also need a deposit from a credit card and we found that the range was €400 – €1k. You should get this back as long as you return the car in one piece although the lag period between safely returning the car and getting the refund can take up to 4 weeks which may potentially cause you to be in debit on your credit card. Some rental companies will offer to ‘waive’ the deposit if you purchase some form of enhanced cover from them.
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Navigation in Crete
In order to get around the beautiful island of Crete, you will need some form of navigation aid. I mean, you don’t want to accidentally drive past one of the best beaches in Greece because you took a wrong turn!
You could always unleash your ‘inner-nineties-dad’ and bust out that old dusty atlas/road map type thing but most modern travellers prefer to use a GPS. Most car rentals do not come with a GPS as standard but most (if not all) will provide one for an additional fee. However, we found that Crete car renters seem to make a good bit of profit on these little extras like GPS’s and the daily rate they quoted us was half the price of the car itself!
Therefore we just used our phones! Now, my girlfriend had an EU sim which meant data was included in her usual package, and she was able to connect and navigate us all over the island.
I have a post-Brexit UK sim and while it did have a limited EU data allowance, it just did not work very well and did not work at all in mountain areas.
Unless you have an EU sim, my advice is to get yourself a Greek eSim package and use your phone to navigate. Most modern phones are eSim compatible and the concept is simple – you find an eSim package you want, download it BEFORE you leave home and then activate it the moment you land in Greece. You can buy a 1 day, 1 week or 1 month package to suit your needs.
There are a fuck-ton of eSim providers out there at the moment and the choice can be overwhelming. However be warned, we have tried and tested LOADS of different eSim providers and can confirm that some are fly-by-night charlatans who offer poor network coverage and shoddy customer care. Others offer good service at high prices.
For a company that offers decent network coverage at a fair price, then check out OneSim’s eSim range. You can either go for their Greece package or their Eurozone package.
A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!
An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.Grab an eSIM!
Pick up/drop off location
Most car rental companies have a few locations dotted around the island, including most of the best places to stay in Crete.
Obviously, the bigger the rental company the more locations they will have. You will notice that Chania airport has around 5 rental desks inside the airport populated by the big names like Hertz, outside of baggage reclaims and then there are about 10 providers situated inside cabins 2 minutes walk from the airport exit. Heraklion boasts even more.
As such, the airports are a classic pick-up and drop-off location. However many providers have offices, or associates in city centres too.
Note that if you want to pick up your rental car in one place and then drop it in another, this will probably increase your quote exponentially. I am not sure why this is, but basically, it is a lot cheaper to pick up a car and drop it at the same place.
Depending on your itinerary, decide whether you want to pick up the car from the airport, ferry terminal, or elsewhere and then work out where you want to drop it off.
Fuel stations are pretty abundant along the main roads although they are few and far between once you get into the mountains.
As you know, petrol is currently very expensive on account of the ongoing war in Ukraine and of course price gouging by oil states. Still, it was a lot cheaper to fill our tank in Greece than it is in the UK. So, whilst this might not be the cheapest way to explore a Greek Island, it’s certainly budget-friendly.
Do remember to check whether your car needs petrol or diesel and remember that you need to fill the tank before you return the car or else face penalties (they will charge you to refill the tank plus ‘costs’ and take it from your deposit).
Driving a car in Crete without insurance is a criminal offence. Obviously, car rental companies are not in the practice of enabling criminal acts and so all car rental quotes do include at least some form of basic insurance. So, whilst Greece is pretty safe, you want to always air on the side of caution when renting a car overseas.
However, car rental insurance can be quite complex. It is always worth taking the time to check what kind of cover you have (ie, does it cover the rental vehicle, the ‘other’ vehicle if you’re in a crash, any associated medical costs etc) as well as who it is provided by. You also need to check whether the insurance offered covers you or the rental company and importantly, who will be responsible for making the claim in the event of an accident.
When you go to book online or at a car rental desk, the company/broker will offer to sell you insurance. What this means is that they are offering you an enhanced form of insurance over and above the standard package that generally lowers the excess amount you need to pay in the event of an accident and includes breakdown cover.
Even if you already have good car insurance back home, travel insurance for your trip or a credit card that includes “breakdown cover” you may find that all of these are null and void when it comes to car rental in Crete so my advice is to take the enhanced cover – it usually only costs a few bucks extra per day.
Right, before you drive off, do a thorough check of the vehicle for any existing damage. This includes dents, scuffs, scrapes and even excessive dirt. Check the mirror, wheel hubs and be sure to get inside the car to check that the glove box pops open and the windows wind up and down.
The car renter will probably do a “walk” around the car with you and make any damage on a sheet. Show them any damage you find (no matter how small) and ensure they record it. Also, take your own photographs too.
Unfortunately, car rental companies can be seriously unhelpful and downright obtuse if you want to make any changes to your booking after you depart. Sometimes this is because the car you are in is already booked for the next customer, but other times it’s ‘just because’.
For example, we decided to change our plans and extend our road trip, so we phoned up the car rental company to talk about an extension only to be told that we had to drive all the way back to their office in Chania to make a new contract for the same car!! We then asked if we could drop the car at the agreed time and date at their office in Heraklion, only to be told that the “fee” for that would be twice the price of the entire rental.
To be frank I have seldom ever encountered service as bad as this. We suspect the issue was that they were pissed that we had booked via Discover Cars and not taken their extra insurance cover. In the end, we had to drive back to Chania to return the car and then get a new one. We got our revenge by then booking our next car from the compact directly opposite their cabin! Yes, we are that sad!
So, be warned that trying to change your itinerary on the go, extend your rental time or change the location may prove to be impossible.
What Is The Best Car Rental in Crete?
Ok so there is no easy one-size-fits-all simple answer as to who is the best car rental company in Crete. They all fulfil basically the same function, they offer similar vehicles and the prices tend to be pretty close together too (with some wild outliers who are taking the piss).
We made our first booking through Discover Cars and found their website, prices and booking process to be good – although the agent they used (the people we actually rented the car from) proved to be obtuse.
At this time there is no single rental car Crete aggregator so you will have to look on Google, make a number of different searches on different websites, and compare deals. Alternatively, you can use the booking.com car-rental search platform which I have to say I am rather impressed with. Had I found it before my trip to Crete I could have saved an hour of searching and €6!!
And The Worst?
Ok, so let’s name and shame here, shall we? Well, we had a sub-optimal experience with OK Cars (ironic name!) Their deposit was high, we are still waiting on its return and they plumbed new depths of obtusity when we tried to alter our booking.
FAQs For Renting a Car in Crete
Final Thoughts on Renting a Car in Crete
In summary, while you can still have a great time in Crete without a vehicle, you will be limiting yourself and will be missing out on discovering the true magic that this blissful island has to share. Renting a car in Crete is not merely a mode of transportation here – it’s a ticket to an unforgettable Cretan adventure.
Hopefully, we gave you all the info and you now know all you need to know about how to rent a car in Crete.
Safe travels guys!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!