If mobility is a problem, visiting Crete will present serious challenges. Most hotels, ferries, museums and sites are not wheelchair accessible, and narrow streets, steep curbs and parked cars make getting around difficult. Newly built hotels are required to be more accessible to people with disabilities by having lifts and rooms with extra-wide doors and spacious bathrooms. People who have visual or hearing impairments are rarely catered to. Assume nothing.
Of the bigger cities, Rethymno has the best accessibility rating. Many of its beaches are wheelchair accessible, as is much of the old quarter, the Venetian Harbour and the waterfront promenade.
For full trip planning, consider Eria Travel (www.eria-travel.gr), a travel agency for people with disabilities. Staff can help you find accommodation, adapted transportation and medical support, as well as arranging excursions and activities. The company also operates the Eria Resort in Maleme in western Crete that is one of the few in Greece customised to disabled travellers' needs.
For additional help, download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Gentle bargaining is acceptable in flea markets and other markets, but elsewhere you are expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Crete is generally a safe, friendly and hospitable place. Thefts, especially, are more likely to be committed by other tourists than locals. Still, as with anywhere, it pays to follow a few simple precautions:
- Keep track of your possessions in bus stations, markets and other crowded areas.
- Lock your rental car and hotel rooms.
- Put valuables in the room or hotel safe.
- Watch out for adulterated drinks made from cheap illegal imports, and drink spiking, especially at party resorts.
- File reports first with the tourist police that have offices in the cities and popular tourist destinations.
The tourist police work in cooperation with the regular Greek police and are found in cities and popular tourist destinations. Each tourist police office has at least one member of staff who speaks English. Hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tourist shops, tourist guides, waiters, taxi drivers and bus drivers all come under the jurisdiction of the tourist police. If you have a complaint about any of these, report it to the tourist police and they will investigate. If you need to report a theft or loss of passport, go to the tourist police first, and they will act as interpreters between you and the regular police.
Camping Card International (www.campingcardinternational.com) Up to 25% savings on camping fees and third-party liability insurance while in the campground.
European Youth Card (www.europeanyouthcard.org) Available for anyone up to the age of 26 or 31, depending on your country; no need to be a student or European resident; discounts of up to 20% at sights, shops and for some transport. Available through the app and website for €14.
International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org) Entitles full-time students aged 12 to 30 to discounts on museum admissions, hostels, shopping, eating and entertainment (searchable online and via the app). Available online or from issuers in your home country. You need proof of your student status, a passport photo and the fee.
Embassies & Consulates
The UK is the only country with a consulate in Crete (in Iraklio). Other countries are represented by their embassies in Athens.
210 870 4000
210 727 3400
210 339 1000
210 728 5111
210 723 2771
210 725 4900
210 692 4136
210 726 3000
210 721 2951
Emergency & Important Numbers
To call any normal number in Greece, dial the full 10-digit number.
|Greece country code||30|
|International access code||00|
|Police/tourist police||100 / 171|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Crete is usually a very straightforward procedure. If arriving from any of the Schengen countries (ie EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), passports are rarely given more than a cursory glance, but customs and police may be interested in what you are carrying. EU citizens may also enter Greece on a national identity card. Visitors from outside the EU may require a visa. This must be checked with consular authorities before you arrive.
There are no longer duty restrictions within the EU. Upon entering the Crete from outside the EU, customs inspection is usually cursory for foreign tourists and a verbal declaration is generally all that is required. Random searches are still occasionally made for drugs. Note that codeine is illegal in Greece, so if you take medication containing this substance, carry your prescription or a doctor's certificate in case you are questioned.
It is strictly forbidden in Greece to acquire and export antiquities without special permits issued by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture/General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (firstname.lastname@example.org). Severe smuggling penalties might be incurred. It is an offence to remove even the smallest article from an archaeological site.
Cash in excess of €10,000 must be declared.
Duty-free allowances (for anyone over 17) arriving from non-EU countries are:
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
- 1L spirits over 22% volume or 2L under 22% volume
- 4L wine
- 16L beer
- other goods up to the value of €430 (€150 for under 15 years)
Having stamps from certain countries (eg Israel, Cuba) in your passport does not automatically disqualify for entry into Greece.
Generally not required for tourist stays up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals). Some nationalities need a Schengen Visa – check with the Greek embassy or consulate.
Greece is a Schengen Agreement nation and governed by those rules.
- EU & Schengen countries No visa required.
- Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand & USA Among the countries not requiring a visa for tourist visits of up to 90 days. For longer stays, contact your nearest Greek embassy or consulate and begin your application well in advance.
- Other countries You need a Schengen Visa from the embassy or consulate of the country that is your primary destination. For details, check with a Greek mission in your country.
- Eating & dining Meals are commonly served family-style and shared. Always accept an offer of a drink as it’s a show of goodwill (unless it’s an unwanted advance). Don’t insist on paying if invited out; it insults your hosts. In restaurants, dining is a drawn-out experience and it’s impolite to rush waitstaff.
- Places of worship When visiting churches, carry a shawl or wear long sleeves and a long skirt or trousers to cover up in a show of respect.
- Body language In Cretan body language, ‘yes’ is a swing of the head and ‘no’ is a curt raising of the head or eyebrows, often accompanied by a ‘ts’ click-of-the-tongue sound.
- Social visits If you are invited to a Greek home, it's a nice gesture to bring a small gift such as flowers or a box of chocolates.
- Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended.
- Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities such as diving, motorcycling and even trekking; read the fine print.
- Check that the policy covers ambulances and an emergency flight home.
- Find out if your insurance plan makes payments directly to providers or reimburses you later.
- Paying for airline tickets or car hire with a credit card sometimes provides limited travel insurance – ask your credit-card company what it covers.
- Consider coverage for luggage theft or loss. If you have a home insurance policy, check it if also covers your possessions while travelling.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Most cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels offer free wi-fi, although you may need to request a password.
- In some hotels, access may be limited to certain rooms and/or public areas.
- Some hotels have a business centre or internet corner with printer for their guests, often at no charge.
- There’s free municipal wi-fi in numerous municipalities, including parts of Hania, Paleohora, Rethymno, Sitia, Iraklio and Agios Nikolaos.
- It's a good idea to carry your passport with you at all times in case you’re stopped by the police and questioned. Greek citizens are presumed to have identification on them and the police expect much the same from foreign visitors.
- The permissible blood-alcohol content for drivers is 0.05%.
- Greek drug laws are among the strictest in Europe. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is likely to land you in jail.
- If you’re arrested, insist on an interpreter (διερμηνέας; the-lo dhi-ermi-nea) and/or a lawyer (δικηγόρος; the-lo dhi-ki-go-ro). If you don't have a lawyer, contact your embassy for a referral.
Crete does not have much of an open LGBT+ scene. The church plays a prominent role in shaping Cretans’ views and homosexuality is frowned upon by many locals, especially in rural areas and among the older generations. Overall, though, acceptance has increased in recent years, especially in bigger cities such as Iraklio and Hania. Still, the local LGBT+ community is discreet and it pays to follow its lead.
- Same-sex couples should not have trouble finding lodging. For leads on gay-friendly hotels, check www.travelbyinterest.com. Gay-owned Home Hotel (www.home-hotel.gr) near Hersonisos has a fine reputation among LGBT+ travellers.
- The website www.gaycrete.com has some useful information on gay beaches, gay-friendly bars and lodging.
- Despite the name, Villa Ralfa (www.villaralfa.com) is not a hotel but an LGBT+ information site, although much of it appears outdated.
- The Spartacus International Gay Guide (www.spartacusworld.com/en), published by Bruno Gmünder (Berlin), is widely regarded as the leading authority on gay travel.
- Popular international smartphone apps are also in use.
Google Maps works well for driving around and can be downloaded for offline use. However, if you’re planning on doing extensive driving or hiking around Crete, a good printed map still has its uses. Printed maps are widely available online, in bookshops and tourist shops and cost around €8. Maps distributed by car hire agencies and hotels are rarely useful and often inaccurate.
Anavasi (www.anavasi.gr) Publishes excellent digital and printed road and hiking maps, including three separate road maps covering Hania, Rethymno and Iraklio, and Lasithi at a scale of 1:100,000. Walking maps include the Lefka Ori (Sfakia and Pahnes), Samaria/Sougia, Mt Psiloritis and Zakros-Vaï at a scale of 1:25,000 or 1:35,000.
Terrain (www.terrainmaps.gr) Tops for waterproof and rip-proof hiking maps, with good labelled distances. Offers western Crete, central Crete and eastern Crete maps at 1:100,000. Maps are also available via the ViewRanger smartphone app.
Michelin (www.michelin.com) Single-sheet map of the entire island at 1:140,000.
- Newspapers The daily English-language edition of Kathimerini (www.ekathimerini.com), published as part of the International New York Times, is handy for keeping tabs on Greek current affairs.
ATMs widely available in cities, towns and larger villages. Visa and MasterCard accepted in cities and tourist centres, rarely in villages.
Currency in Crete is the euro (€), with seven notes (five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500) and eight coins (one- and two-euro coins and one-, two-, five-, 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins).
- The easiest, quickest and usually cheapest way to obtain cash is by using your debit (bank) card at an ATM linked to international networks such as Cirrus, Plus, Star and Maestro.
- There are ATMs in almost every town large enough to support a bank, and in tourist areas. In rural areas, only larger towns have ATMs, so plan ahead, especially in the southwest and southeast. It's best to carry some cash as a backup.
- Cash is king, especially outside the cities, so always carry some with you and plan to pay with bills and coins almost everywhere. It’s also a good idea to set aside a small amount of euros, say €100, as an emergency stash.
- Shopkeepers and small-business owners have a perennial problem with having small change. If buying small items, it is easier to tender coins or small-denomination notes.
- Big resorts and hotels accept credit cards, but family-owned properties often don't or don't like to. Ask. Likewise, upmarket shops and restaurants accept plastic, but village tavernas and small shops almost never do.
- The main credit cards – MasterCard and Visa – are widely accepted. American Express and Diners Club are common in tourist areas only.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Post offices can exchange banknotes and charge less commission than banks.
- Travel agencies and hotels often change money at bank rates, but commission charges are higher.
- Automated foreign-exchange machines are sometimes available in major tourist areas. They take all the major European currencies, Australian and US dollars and Japanese yen, and are useful in an emergency, although they charge a hefty commission.
- Restaurants Usually service is included, but a small tip is customary if service was good. Round up the bill or leave 10%.
- Taxis Round up the fare by a couple of euros. There’s a small fee for handling bags; this is an official charge, not a tip.
- Bellhops Bellhops in hotels and stewards on ferries expect a small gratuity of €1 to €3.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. The following are high-season opening hours (July and August); hours are more limited in the shoulder seasons, and some places shut down completely during low season.
Banks 8am–2.30pm Monday to Thursday, 8am–2pm Friday
Post Offices 7.30am–3pm Monday to Friday (rural); 7.30am–8pm Monday to Friday, 7.30am–2pm Saturday (urban)
Restaurants 11am–4pm and 7–11pm
Shops 9am–2pm Monday to Saturday and 5.30–8.30pm or 9pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; all day in summer in resorts
- Museum and archaeological site opening hours depend on budgeting, ie if there’s enough cash to hire afternoon staff. It’s always wise to check ahead, especially for afternoon visits. Most sites are closed on Monday or Tuesday.
- Periptera (kiosks) open from early morning until late at night and sell everything from bus tickets and cigarettes to condoms.
- Hours are reduced in the low (November to March) and shoulder (April to June and September to October) seasons.
- Crete is a photographer’s dream. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography is full of helpful tips for photography while on the road.
- Never photograph a military installation or anything else with a sign forbidding photography.
- Flash photography is never allowed inside churches, and it’s taboo to photograph the main altar.
- People generally don’t seem to mind having their picture taken in the context of an overall scene, but if you want a close-up shot, ask first. Same goes for video.
- If a sign says no photography, honour it. This goes for camera phones and tablets, too.
- At archaeological sites, you may be stopped from using a tripod, which marks you as a professional and thereby requires special permissions.
Postal service in Greece is provided by ELTA (Elliniki Tahydromia). Post offices (tahydromia) are easily identifiable by the yellow signs outside. Normal postboxes are also yellow, with red boxes for express mail. Check www.elta.gr (also in English) for up-to-date postage rates and locations of post offices.
- To mail abroad, use yellow post boxes labelled exoteriko.
- Some tourist shops also sell stamps.
- Don’t wrap a parcel before sending it: post office staff may wish to inspect it.
All banks, post offices, public services, museums and ancient sites close on public holidays. Small shops, especially in tourist towns, may be open. Greek national public holidays observed in Crete:
New Year’s Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
First Sunday in Lent February
Greek Independence Day 25 March
Good Friday March/April
(Orthodox) Easter Sunday 19 April 2020, 2 May 2021, 24 April 2022
May Day (Protomagia) 1 May
Whit Monday (Agiou Pnevmatos) 50 days after Easter Sunday
Feast of the Assumption 15 August
Ohi Day 28 October
Christmas Day 25 December
St Stephen’s Day 26 December
Antismoking legislation adopted in 2008 prohibits lighting up in all enclosed public spaces, including cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, offices, businesses and transport stations. Effectively, though, the law was never implemented and is widely ignored, both by smokers and local police.
The Greek telephone service is maintained by the public corporation OTE (pronounced o-teh; Organismos Tilepikoinonion Ellados). Public telephones are still quite common, although demand has dwindled with the proliferation of mobile phones. The phones are easy to operate, take phonecards, not coins, and can be used for local, long-distance and international calls. The ‘i’ at the top left of the push-button dialling panel brings up the operating instructions in English.
All phone numbers have 10 digits. Landline numbers start with '2', mobile numbers start with '6'.
Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones. Most other phones can be set to roaming. US and Canadian phones need to have a dual- or tri-band system.
- Mobile (cell) phones operate on GSM900/1800.
- In June 2017, the European Union implemented the 'roam like at home' rules. If your phone is registered in an EU country, you don't pay roaming charges when calling, texting (sending SMS), using data or receiving calls or texts while in another EU country (provided your tariff plan includes those services). If mobile services are provided via satellite, 'roam like at home' does not apply (eg on cruise ships).
- If you don't have a phone from an EU country, getting a local SIM card might work out cheaper than using your own network, provided you have an unlocked phone. US and Canadian phones need to be multi-band.
- SIM cards are sold by Greece’s three mobile phone service providers – Vodafone, Cosmote and Wind. Top-up cards are available at supermarkets, kiosks and newsagents.
- Overall, Cosmote tends to have the best coverage, including in remote areas.
- Use of a mobile phone while driving is only allowed if you have a hands-free system.
Calling Crete from abroad Dial your country’s international access code, then 30 (Greece’s country code) followed by the 10-digit local number.
Calling internationally from Crete Dial 00 (the international access code), the country code, and the local number.
Reverse-charge (collect) calls Dial the operator (domestic 129; international 139) to get the number in the country you wish to call.
- Public phones take OTE phonecards (telekarta), not coins. These cards are sold at kiosks, corner shops and tourist shops.
- Don’t remove your card before you are told to do so or you could wipe out the remaining credit.
- You can also buy a range of prepaid international calling cards (hronokarta) with good rates. Cards come with instructions in Greek and English. They involve dialling an access code, then punching in your card number.
Clocks in Greece are set to Eastern European Time (GMT/UTC plus two hours). Daylight-saving time starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.
- One peculiarity of the Greek plumbing system is that apparently it can’t handle toilet paper as the pipes are too narrow and back up easily. Toilet paper, tampons etc should all be placed in the small bin provided.
- Very occasionally outside the big towns you might come across squat toilets in older houses, kafeneia (coffee houses) and public toilets.
- Public toilets are rare, except at airports and bus and train stations. Cafes are the best option, but you are expected to buy something for the privilege.
Municipal tourist offices are rare outside the cities. Even then, most are only open on weekdays until the early afternoon and only have a smattering of free maps and brochures. Travel agencies often fill the void. The website of the Greek National Tourist Organisation (EOT; www.visitgreece.gr) has some information on Crete.
Travel with Children
While Crete doesn't cater to kids the way that some destinations do, children will be welcomed and included wherever you go. Greeks generally make a fuss over children, who may find themselves receiving many gifts and treats. Teach them some Greek words and they'll feel even more appreciated.
Best Regions for Kids
Crete’s most family-friendly region, with big beach resorts, water sports of all sorts, high-octane water parks, Minotaur mysteries in Knossos and even a chance to mingle with dinosaurs.
- West & South Hania
Crystalline and gentle waters at Elafonisi, Balos Lagoon and Paleohora are big draws, as are the ghost stories of Frangokastello castle and the labyrinthine old quarter of Hania. Take teens to tackle Samaria Gorge.
Youngsters love Rethymno’s Venetian fortress and the playgrounds of the municipal park. Adventures outside the city include an olive oil factory, a spooky ossuary in a rebellious monastery and cool caves.
- Eastern Lasithi
Low-key region with great appeal to for outdoor-loving kids. Clamber around gorges, visit the cave where Zeus was born, explore a spooky former leper colony or go swimming on a palm-studded beach.
Crete for Kids
Crete has plenty of beaches to choose between, from sugar-fine sand to pebbles, and hidden coves to public stretches. Add the coral-blue waters aglimmer with sunken ships to explore while snorkelling, and the fun boat trips to be had, and you can see that H20 is going to be a big part of your Cretan adventure. But there are many other attractions that will light their imaginations, ranging from myriad ruins and creepy caves to ruined castles and ancient myths.
Greek cuisine is all about sharing, and ordering lots of mezedhes (appetisers) lets your children try the local food and find their favourites. Some dishes that kids might grow to love include kalamari (fried squid), tiropitakia (cheese parcels in filo pastry), dolmadhes (flavoured rice wrapped in vine leaves) and saganaki (fried cheese). Most menus also include international kids' faves such as pizza, omelets, chips (French fries) and spaghetti.
Nuts and dairy find their way into lots of Cretan dishes, so if your kids suffer from any severe allergies, ask someone to write this down clearly in Greek so you can show restaurant staff before you order.
Hikes, Bikes & Horses
Apart from the more strenuous gorge and mountain walks, such as the Samaria Gorge, there are numerous shorter and easier options to suit the family. Just ask any local for tips and advice or join a guided tour offered by agencies throughout the island. The same goes for cycling, while most horse-riding outfits are excellent at tailoring sessions to all ages.
Museums & Attractions
Head to Iraklio’s Natural History Museum, where the Discovery Centre is crammed with interactive features. If it's extinct animals that spur your kids' imagination, take them on a prehistoric adventure at the Dinosauria Park in Gournes. A trip to a water park will also go a long way to keeping tempers cool. Acqua Plus near Hersonisos and Limnoupolis near Hania are both excellent options.
- Watercity, Anopolis Enjoy this water fun park southeast of Iraklio.
- Natural History Museum, Iraklio Nose around the engaging children’s section in this imaginative museum.
- Agora, Hania Browse through Hania’s lively daily market.
- Fortezza, Rethymno Dial back centuries while exploring Rethymno’s Venetian fortress.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Big resort-style hotels tend to open later in the year than independent accommodation – as late as June – but they are generally more tailored to kids’ needs. Many hotels don’t charge for young children and will often provide a camp bed.
Accommodation is considerably cheaper in the off seasons, potentially quieter, and locals have more time to chat.
Before you Go
An excellent way to prepare your kids for their holiday and to encourage an active interest in the destination is by introducing them to some books or movies ahead of time. Lots of younger children enjoy stories of Greek gods and Greek myths, while slightly older kids will enjoy movies such as Mamma Mia, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or even My Big Fat Greek Wedding for their Greek settings. You can also find children's books about life in Greece that include a few easy phrases that your kids can try out.
- Sunscreen – and plenty of it! – as well as hats, sunglasses and water bottles.
- Travel highchair (either deflatable booster seat or a cloth one that attaches to the back of a chair).
- Lightweight pop-up cot for babies.
- Medicine, inhalers etc along with prescriptions.
- Reusable plastic cups and cutlery for little ones.
- Newborn’s car seat – unless you have pre-checked with the car rental agency, you’ll likely be disappointed.
- Portable change mat and hand sanitiser – nappy-changing facilities are rare.
- For toddlers not yet walking, consider bringing a sturdy carrying backpack, as strollers are a struggle in villages with steep cobbled streets.
Fresh milk is available in large towns and tourist areas, where supermarkets are the best places to look. Formula is available almost everywhere, as is heat-treated milk. Disposable nappies are also ubiquitous,
When to Go
For younger kids and toddlers, it’s worth thinking about visiting in spring, early summer or autumn when the sun is not too strong and temperatures are pleasantly warm. June is probably the earliest your kids can swim in the sea; anytime before that, the water will be cold.
Crete is generally a safe pace to travel with children. The largest danger is heat stroke – remember Crete is blessed with a regular breeze so it’s easy to become over exposed to the sun without realising it. Be careful, too, at isolated beaches and coves that may have powerful offshore currents. And finally, always be mindful of youngsters at ancient sites, where there might be no safety fences or loose masonry.
There are doctor’s surgeries around the island, but for anything serious head to Venizelio General Hospital in Iraklio.
If hiring a car, check for agencies that have child seats available and fit the seats yourself.
Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisation that we do not work with directly. Travellers should investigate any volunteering option thoroughly before committing to a project. Note that child welfare experts recommend against drop-in and short-term visits.
Crete for Life (www.creteforlife.com) Recuperative holiday camp for disadvantaged kids near Ierapetra.
Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org) Teach conversational English to children in Malevizi west of Iraklio.
Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece (www.archelon.gr) Has monitoring programs in Hania, Rethymno and the Bay of Mesara.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Greece uses the metric system.
- Crete is remarkably safe for women to explore, even for solo travellers. Going alone to cafes and restaurants is perfectly acceptable. This does not mean you should be lulled into complacency; bag-snatching and sexual harassment do occur.
- On beaches and in bars and nightclubs, solo women are likely to attract attention from men. Kamaki, the Greek word for men on the hunt for foreign women, translates as ‘fishing trident’.
- If you don’t want company, most men will respect a firm ‘no, thank you’. If you feel threatened, protesting loudly will often make the offender slink away or spur others to come to your defence.