Updated: Aug 7
I have just come back from spending seven days on the Greek island of Crete and thought I would share my experience and recommendations. It was my first time visiting this beautiful island and I wasn't disappointed. The people, the food and the spectacular scenery definitely place this destination in my top 10 so far.
Getting around the island
I would recommend without a doubt renting a car during your stay in Crete. Yes, there are buses and ferries but the transport system isn't the most reliable, it rarely takes you to the more remote places and it can end up being rather costly.
Having a car gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want and for as long as you want. There are many car rental companies to choose from but we were really satisfied with the service provided by RCC Car Rentals. The advantages of this company are that you can rent a car from the age of 21 (most car rental companies require you be 25), and you can rent a car using a debit card (again, many companies require you have a credit card which is quite uncommon in France) and lastly they don't ask for a deposit. Plus, the overall price includes full insurance, a modern car and 24/7 assistance. We didn't even have to clean the car before handing it back and the service was 10/10.
Renting a car can be quite stressful so I really appreciated being able to fully enjoy my trip without having to worry about unexpected surprises.
Driving in Crete
No specific driving licence is required to drive in Crete. People drive on the right side and the right of way applies. Driving in itself isn't too difficult but you must be aware that the locals don't always respect the highway code and you have to adapt to their driving ways. For example, on the motorway, we noticed many cars driving on the hard shoulder (in France that's often a sign that there's a problem with your car) but in Crete, it's a way to let people overtake as there are rarely double lanes! It's a tradition that you will have to adopt if you wish to avoid headlight calls or pressure from the driver behind you.
It isn't always easy to know the speed limit on Cretan roads. It tends to randomly change and there are quite a lot of speed cameras on the main roads. I, therefore, recommend you use Waze in order to drive at the right speed and to avoid an unwanted speed ticket!
⚠ Off-road driving is not covered by the car insurance and this is specified in the rental agreement. If you break down or get a flat tyre, it will be at the driver's expense. This rarely prevents travellers from using these roads (such as the one to Balos Beach) but please be aware of the risk.
Accommodation in Crete
You can find Airbnbs all around the island for all different budgets. We stayed in two Airbnbs, the first being on the small peninsula (20mins from Chania) and the second more inland near Spili. We wanted to have a few days by the sea and in the mountains.
We really loved Sofi's View House. It's ideally located as it's only 6mins from Chania airport, 20mins from Chania city centre and 15mins from the famous Seitan Limania beach (as well as many other lovely small beaches and villages). We appreciated being in a calm neighbourhood whilst having all the amazing sites nearby. Plus, two minutes down the road there is a lovely family-run tavern called Ψησταριά μεζεδοπωλείο Νίκος that serves delicious homemade Cretan food. We loved the place so much that we ended up eating there every evening!
Communicating in Crete
Although the Greek language uses a completely different alphabet to English, it is very easy to communicate with local people on the island. Most people speak a little English, in fact, many speak very good English so there is no need to worry about being misunderstood. That being said, it is always polite (and interesting) to learn a few basic words Greek words :
Hello/Goodbye: Γεια σου (pronounced: Yassa)
Good morning: Καλημέρα (pronounced: Kalimera)
Good Evening: Καληνύχτα (pronounced: Kalinichta)
Thank you: Παρακαλώ (pronounced: Parakalo)
Please: Ευχαριστώ (pronounced: Efharisto)
Cheers : Γεια μας (pronounced : Yamas!)
Places to visit in Crete
Crete is the largest Greek island and the 5th largest in the Mediterranean so you can imagine that there is plenty to do and to see! Among the non-exhaustive list, you can decide to admire the remains of great civilisations and impressive mountain landscapes, choose to explore beautiful beaches, fertile valleys and gorges or partake in the island's rich gastronomic culture. Ever heard of the Cretan diet?
What to pack for Crete (summer)
I'm not going to tell you how you should pack, but this is what I found useful :
A light jumper
An evening outfit
A practical bag
I hope this short introductory article was useful. If you would like to see which beaches I recommend going to in Crete, or if you fancy a good hike with a 360 view or if you're figuring out what to do on the island, then these articles should be to your liking :
In the meantime, safe travels! Ana x