There are no commercial flights within Crete.
Cycling is becoming more common in Crete, but the often-hilly terrain means you need strong leg muscles and endurance. You can hire bikes in most tourist areas with prices ranging from €10 to €30 per day, depending on the bike. Weekly rentals tend to be a bit cheaper. Bicycles may be carried for free on ferries. For details, suggested routes and guided tours, see www.cyclingcreta.gr. Another good source is www.bikemap.net.
Boats link the towns along Crete’s southwestern coast in the Sfakia region of Hania. From May to October, Anendyk operates daily boats between Paleohora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro and Hora Sfakion, in both directions. Boats to Gavdos Island leave from Hora Sfakion and Paleohora, stopping in Sougia, Agia Roumeli or Loutro en route. Schedules change seasonally; always check ahead.
Taxi boats operate in several southern coastal towns, including Agia Galini, Plakias, Sougia and Hora Sfakion. These are essentially small boats that transport people to places that are difficult to get to by land, like secluded beaches. Some owners charge a set price for each person, and others charge a flat rate for the boat.
Local operators run excursions to offshore islands and nearby beaches, including Ierapetra to Gaïdouronisi (Hrysi) Island, Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga Island, Kissamos to the Gramvousa Peninsula (Balos beach), and Paleohora to Elafonisi.
Buses are the only form of public transport in Crete, but in most regions a fairly extensive network makes it relatively easy to travel around the island. Fares are government regulated and quite reasonable by European standards. For the latest timetable, check www.bus-service-crete-ktel.com for western Crete and www.ktelherlas.gr for central and eastern Crete.
Car & Motorcycle
Having your own wheels is a great way to explore Crete if you can brave the roads and drivers. Although distances are often not that great, travelling on narrow and winding mountain roads will seriously slow you down, so factor that into your day's itinerary. In remote areas (particularly the south), you’ll still find unpaved roads that are only suitable for 4WDs.
The roadside assistance program of the Greek automobile association ELPA is generally also available to members of national automobile associations (bring your valid membership card).
Drivers need a valid driving licence. International Driving Permits (IDPs) are not compulsory but may help make local police make sense of your home licence (always carry that, too) and simplify the car rental process. Motorcycle hire requires a licence that shows proficiency to ride the category of bike you wish to rent; this applies to everything from 50cc up.
Fuel & Spare Parts
In the populated areas fuel is generally widely available in Crete, but stations are quite rare in the mountain regions, so top up before setting out on a major road trip. Some service stations are closed on Sunday and public holidays. Self-service pumps and credit-card pumps are not the norm. Some out-of-the-way stations don’t take plastic at all, so it is always advisable to carry some cash.
Spare parts can be tricky to find, especially if you are in the more remote parts of the island. For a referral to the nearest dealer ask at a service station or call the Greek automobile association ELPA (tel 174).
The major international companies have branches at airports and in the bigger towns. Prices are often better on prebooked rentals through consolidators like Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) or Holiday Autos (www.holidayautos.com). Rates from local companies can also be quite competitive and there's usually haggling room during the off-season.
The minimum driving age in Greece is 18 years, but most car hire firms require you to be at least 21, or 23 for larger vehicles.
Most hire cars are manual, so book ahead if you need an automatic car as they are rare and usually more expensive.
Mopeds, motorcycles and scooters are available for hire wherever there are tourists to rent them. Most machines are newish and in good condition. Nonetheless, check brakes before committing.
Helmets are compulsory and rental agencies are obliged to offer one as part of the hire deal.
You must produce a licence that shows proficiency to ride the category of bike you wish to rent; this applies to everything from 50cc up.
Greek law requires that all registered vehicles, including those brought in from abroad, carry third-party liability insurance. When hiring a vehicle, make sure your contract includes adequate liability insurance. Rental agencies almost never include insurance that covers damage to the vehicle itself, called Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). It’s optional, but driving without it is not recommended. Some credit-card companies cover CDW/LDW for a certain period if you charge the entire rental to your card (often with a deductible/excess). Always confirm with your card issuer ahead of time what coverage it provides in Greece.
The main danger of driving in Crete lies in the local driving culture and rough roads. Road rules are routinely ignored and there is barely any police presence. Cretan drivers are generally erratic. Expect to be tailgated, honked at and aggressively and illegally overtaken if you move too slowly. Overtaking on bends and ignoring double lines and stop signs is prevalent. Dangers to keep in mind:
- Try to avoid night driving; drink-driving laws are barely enforced so roads are dangerous.
- Road surfaces change unexpectedly when a section of road has succumbed to subsidence or weathering.
- In the mountains, expect to stop for herds of sheep or goats on the road.
- Many falling rock zones are not signposted, nor hemmed with tarps; keep eyes open for loose rocks on the road.
- Driving is on the right side of the road. Slower drivers are expected to straddle the narrow service lane and let the traffic pass.
- Outside built-up areas, traffic on a main road has right of way at intersections. In towns, vehicles coming from the right have right of way. This includes roundabouts – even if you’re in the roundabout, you must give way to drivers coming onto the roundabout to your right.
- Seat belts must be worn in front seats, and in back seats if the car is fitted with them.
- Children under 12 years of age are not allowed in the front seat.
- It is compulsory to carry a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and warning (hazard) triangle, and it is forbidden to carry cans of petrol.
- Helmets are compulsory for motorcyclists if the motorcycle is 50cc or more. Police will book you if you’re caught without a helmet.
- Outside residential areas the speed limit is 120km/h on highways, 90km/h on other roads and 50km/h in built-up areas. The speed limit for motorcycles up to 100cc is 70km/h, and for larger motorcycles, 90km/h. Drivers exceeding the speed limit will be charged a fine. You will be told where to pay.
- A blood-alcohol content of over 0.05% can incur a fine and over 0.08% is a criminal offence.
- If you are involved in an accident and no one is hurt, the police will not be required to write a report, but it is advisable to go to a nearby police station and explain what happened. You may need a police report for insurance purposes. If an accident involves injury, a driver who does not stop and does not inform the police may face a prison sentence.
- Driving in the major cities and small towns is a nightmare of erratic one-way streets, double parking and irregularly enforced parking rules. Cars are not towed away but fines can be expensive.
- Designated parking for disabled drivers is a rarity.
Hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. If you decide to hitch, remember that it’s safer to travel in pairs and be sure to inform someone of your intended destination. In Crete you don’t hitch with your thumb up as in northern Europe, but with an outstretched hand, palm down to the road.
Getting out of major cities tends to be hard work; hitching is much easier in remote areas. On country roads, it is not unknown for someone to stop and ask if you want a lift even if you haven’t asked for one.
City buses operating in the larger towns like Iraklio, Rethymno, Hania, Agios Nikolaos and Ierapetra service mostly the residential suburbs and thus are rarely useful for visitors. Tickets are normally bought at periptera (kiosks). There may be a surcharge if bought from the driver.
Taxis are widely available except in remote villages. Large towns have taxi stands that post a list of prices to outlying destinations, which removes anxiety about overcharging. Otherwise, in cities make sure the meter is used. Rural taxis often do not have meters, so you should always settle on a price before getting in.
The trip from London to Iraklio by air generates 0.55 metric tons of emission. If you’re driving, it’s about the same or more, depending on your vehicle. However, travelling by train, you can cut that number down dramatically to just 0.05 metric tons.
Of course, travelling to Crete by train is not quick. Depending on where you started, budget two or three days. Coming from London would see you catching the Eurostar to Paris and then a train to Milan in Italy. From there, a coastal train takes you to Bari where there’s an overnight boat to Patra on the Peloponnese. Or train from Paris to Venice, then boat to Patra. From Patra, a bus takes you to Athens’ port at Piraeus where you catch the Crete-bound ferry. See www.raileurope.com for more routes and tickets.
It’s also possible to travel by train all the way to Athens from London/Paris via Munich, Zagreb, Belgrade and Thessaloniki, or via Budapest, Sofia and Thessaloniki. The excellent website www.seat61.com has comprehensive details.