Crete in detail

Getting Around

Car Useful for travelling at your own pace and visiting regions and villages with limited bus service. Cars can be hired at the airports, in towns and at resorts. Drive on the right. Away from main highways, roads are paved but often narrow and winding; some are still unpaved and only suitable for 4WD. Locals pass boldly and straddle the shoulder of the road if they are going slow, so others can pass.

Bus Service is widespread in summer and between major towns, but it’s nonexistent to many villages and some beaches, and much reduced in winter. Schedules: western Crete (http://e-ktel.com) and central and eastern Crete (www.ktelherlas.gr).

Air

There are no commercial flights within Crete.

Bicycle

Cycling is becoming more common in Crete, but the often-hilly terrain means you need strong leg muscles and endurance if that's your preferred method of getting around. Dedicated bike lanes do not exist.

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 resource is www.bikemap.net.

Boat

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. Ferries get cancelled in bad weather.

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, such as 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 Chrissi Island (Gaïdouronisi or Hrysi), Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga Island, Kissamos to the Gramvousa Peninsula (Balos beach), and Paleohora to Elafonisi.

Bus

Buses are the only form of public transport in Crete, but in most regions a fairly extensive network makes it relatively easy to travel between major towns and villages. Travel is safe and buses are quite comfortable. Fares are government regulated and quite reasonable by European standards. For the latest timetables, check http://e-ktel.com for western Crete and www.ktelherlas.gr for central and eastern Crete.

Car & Motorcycle

Having your own wheels is handy for getting around and necessary if you want to to explore Crete away from the coastal resorts. 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 come across unpaved roads that may require a 4WD.

Driving Licences

EU driving licences are valid in Crete. Rental agencies require the corresponding driving licence for every vehicle class (for example, motorcycle/moped licence for motorbikes or mopeds). Greek law requires drivers from outside the EU to have an International Driving Permit (IDP). Rental agencies will request it, as may local authorities if you're stopped. International Driving Permits can only be obtained in person and in the country where your driving licence was issued. Carry this alongside your regular licence.

Fuel

In the populated areas fuel is generally widely available, but petrol 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 Sundays 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.

Hire

Car

  • The major international companies have branches at airports and in the bigger towns.
  • Prices are often better on prebooked rentals through consolidators such as Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) and 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. In some cases, younger drivers may be able to hire (but they may have to pay extra).
  • Most hire cars are manual, so book ahead if you need an automatic car as they are rare and usually more expensive.
  • Always check what the insurance includes; there are often rough roads or dangerous routes that you can only tackle by renting a 4WD.

Motorcycle

  • Mopeds, motorcycles and scooters are available for hire wherever there are tourists to rent them. Most models are newish and in good condition. Nonetheless, check brakes before committing.
  • 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. British citizens must obtain a Category A1 licence from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (www.dft.gov.uk/dvla) in the UK (in most other EU countries separate licences are automatically issued).
  • Rates start from about €20 per day for a moped or 50cc motorcycle, rising to €35 per day for a 250cc motorcycle, and drop considerably out of season.
  • Most motorcycle hirers include third-party insurance in the price, but it's wise to check this. This insurance will not include medical expenses.
  • Helmets are compulsory and rental agencies are obliged to offer one as part of the hire deal.

Insurance

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.

Road Hazards

The main dangers in Crete lie in the local driving culture. 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 are also prevalent. Other dangers to keep in mind:

  • Try to avoid night driving; drink-driving laws are barely enforced so roads are dangerous.
  • Expect narrow roads, unprotected embankments and blind curves on mountain roads.
  • Road surfaces can 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.
  • Not all falling rock zones are signposted, nor hemmed with nets or tarps; always keep a keen eye out for loose rocks on the road.

Road Rules

  • Driving is on the right side of the road and passing only on the left. On highways, slower drivers are expected to straddle the narrow service lane and let faster traffic pass.
  • Outside built-up areas, unless signed otherwise, 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.
  • Seatbelts 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. Police will book you if you’re caught without a helmet.
  • 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 is the same as cars. 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.
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal.

Hitching

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.

As elsewhere, getting out of cities tends to be hard work; hitching is much easier in rural 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.

Train

There is no train service on Crete.