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Greek island Renting a car

We are going to Crete and for where we want to go paleochora , I think it will be best to rent a car since it is quicker and more direct than the bus. I am from the USA and have never rented a car in a foreign place. Is it different, is there anything I should know, is it hard to figure out the countries roads and how they work ? Will they take a regular US drivers license to rent a car?

Posted by
5648 posts

We’re heading to Crete in September, and haven’t yet made car rental reservations yet, but we rented in Greece at Eastertime last year. We used a local company, Pop’s, as they had the best deal. Not sure whether they have a branch on Crete, but we’ll be making our reservations soon.

Compared to renting in parts of the world where they drive on the left side if he road, at least Greece drives on the right, as in the USA. At least most of the time . . . In April 2018, we found a lot of cars coming towards us, cutting across the centerline on curves. They eventually got back in their lane, but if you’re on a twisty road, be extra alert to someone maybe not staying on their side of the line.

Next, we drive manual transmission cars in the USA, and they’re usually cheaper to rent in Europe than those with automatic transmissions. But you may find it worth spending a bit more for an automatic, if it will work better for you. We get the smallest car we can that will fit the number of people and will hide all suitcases in the trunk - again, smaller is cheaper, and also takes up less space to park. A big luxury sedan or SUV isn’t something we’re looking for.

Road signs will (probably) be in Greek, especially names of towns. You may want a navigation system or App to help you get around. A good map or atlas has always been essential for us. Stop signs, speed limit signs (in kilometers per hour), stoplights, should all be easy to figure out.

Bring your US drivers license and Passport, along with the IDP mentioned above. The IDP is really just a translation of your home license into several languages, in case a police officer needs the information. You can get them at your nearest AAA office, along with passport-photos that are needed when applying for an IDP.

Carefully assess how much insurance coverage you want with your rental. Some credit cards offer rental car insurance protection, but understand what’s covered and what isn’t. Same with fuel - know whether they’ve given you a diesel or gasoline powered vehicle, and whether they expect you to return the car full.

Posted by
2948 posts

If you're coming from Athens to Crete fly or ferry to Chania instead of Heraklion if you want to go to Paleochora. Greek road signs are in Greek and Phonetic English.

Posted by
973 posts

Very important that you get an International Drivers Permit. I get mine at AAA and the cost is around $30-$35 depending if you need photos taken.

Driving in Greece is not as bad as some make out, unless you are driving in Athens. You drive on the same side of the road as in the US which makes it very simple. The least expensive vehicles will be those with manual transmissions.

Crete is Greece's largest island and most of the traffic will be in larger towns like Chania or Heraklion but once you get outside those areas traffic is greatly reduced. What time of year you go will determine how much "tourist traffic" there is.

I go to Greece in October and traffic on most islands is greatly reduced. In fact you'll encounter more goats than cars!

You can check out this website about driving in Greece:

https://www.athensguide.com/driving/

Posted by
58 posts

Does anyone know how far ahead of time I would have to apply for a IDP. My trip is June 10

Posted by
1940 posts

No advance application needed. Just go to your nearest AAA office with your driver's license and an extra passport photo (or they can take a photo there). Depending on how busy they are, you will walk out with your IDP a few minutes later.

You might want to call ahead if it's a weekend or busy time.

Posted by
973 posts

Very easy and quick to get an IDP from AAA. Just go to any office and they'll take care of it quickly, depending on how busy they are. Even still it won't be a very long wait.

Posted by
7967 posts

We book with AutoEurope.com most of the time. They stand behind you if there are problems. On the Greek islands, we booked cars through our hotels, as needed.
We had a car all two weeks we were in Crete. Yes, to go to Crete's Libyan Sea coast, a car is best. And get an IDP.

Posted by
28069 posts

two messages back there is (until it is removed) a post from somebody using the name maria something. the post with the car rental link is the 4th in a few minutes saying the same link using 4 different 1st time poster id names - this is contrary to our guidelines and has been reported for removal as spam.

Posted by
1 posts

Just returned from my honeymoon in Crete last night. We rented a car for 160 euro for 4 days. May have been a little more expensive than my friend from Athens told me to expect but we had our hotel organize the car. The people met me at the hotel with the car and I returned the car at the hotel. Also I did not have an international permit and they did not ask to see it so if you do not get one you can still rent a car and play the I had no idea I’m a dumb American card. Probably still end up with a fine but the IDP is not required for a rental or at least not everywhere. I would certainly get one to be safe if you could tho

Posted by
2948 posts

No matter what you might have been told, DO NOT go to Greece without first getting the IDP from your local AAA office. What are you going to do if you get in an accident and don't have one when the police ask you for it, are you going to say "I don't have one because someone told me it's OK to be here without it".......??? That will go over like a lead balloon. Remember: You'll be in a foreign country where you don't speak the language and where your rights vs. those of a local resident will be secondary, at best. Be smart. The IDP is only $15 if you bring your own 2 passport photos. No test or membership required.

Yes, sometimes it’s possible to rent a car, ATV or scooter just by showing your passport and a current drivers license. No problem.
BUT....................
If you get in an accident and don’t have the IDP you'll be in serious trouble with the Greek Police. Greek Law requires it and if you can't produce it you could possibly be detained until you come up with the cash to pay for any and all damages to the vehicles involved regardless of whose fault it is and whether or not the damages were pre-existing (especially if the other car belongs to a local seizing the opportunity to play the system!)
AND...................
Your insurance, including what your credit card supposedly provides, will be invalidated because technically you will have been driving illegally.
And in that regard I also encourage you to take out the local insurance offered when you pick up the vehicle, as much coverage as you can get. Don't rely on the automatic insurance your credit card claims to provide you. You'll be in a foreign country and there won't be a claims adjuster handy.
Just as important: Don't take "No Problem" as a substitute for indicating on the rental acceptance form every little scratch, dent, tear, stain, crack and missing part on the vehicle, inside, outside and underneath. Take photos to back up your inspection. If the rental agent resists signing off on all that you've indicated walk away and find another agency.

Posted by
973 posts

If you need to get an IDP . . . get one! If the company you are renting from or your hotel tells you you don't need one then they are not looking out for your best interest and you may want to go somewhere else.

As stated you are in a foreign country and if you get stopped by the local police or have an accident not only will you pay a hefty fine you may end up staying in Greece longer than you planned!

Don't risk not getting the IDP. The cost is around $30-$35 from AAA. A small price to pay when you consider you are spending hundreds if not a few thousands $$$ or Euros for your trip.

Posted by
173 posts

IDP is super easy to get.... show up to your local AAA office with your driver license and it takes about 10 minutes. All they need to do is take a photo of you and that's it. It is good for a year.... We didn't find driving on the islands easy. The roads were super narrow and most of the time you would have to know where to stop so a bus or a bigger vehicle would have enough space to pass. It was crazy in Mykonos and same as in Santorini. It wasn't the driving that was difficult it was just navigating the narrow roads.

Posted by
7967 posts

Just walk into any AAA, IDP takes about twenty minutes total to get at AAA including having your photo taken.