Rent a Car for Travel in Heraklion

Heraklion is the capital of the Greek island of Crete, a diverse land rich in history, culture and natural beauty. Located right on the island’s north coast, Heraklion serves as the perfect base to explore Crete’s Minoan ruins, rugged mountains, golden beaches and charming villages. Renting a car is the ideal way to experience the freedom of touring this lovely island at your own pace.

Benefits of Renting a Car in Heraklion

Having your own wheels in Heraklion provides many advantages:

  • Freedom – Craft your own itinerary to the sites you want to see, when you want.
  • Flexibility – Make spontaneous side stops and detours off the main routes.
  • Convenience – Avoid relying on public transport with sparse schedules. Travel point-to-point easily.
  • Accessibility – Reach areas not served by public transit and remote beaches or mountains.
  • Comfort – Travel relaxed with air conditioning and space for luggage and passengers.
  • Affordability – Cheaper for families or groups than trains, buses or guided tours.
  • Island Mobility – Circumnavigate Crete’s coastal roads and mountain switchbacks.

Types of Rental Cars Available in Heraklion

Heraklion offers a wide selection of rental vehicles:

  • Economy – Small cars like Toyota Aygo ideal for squeezing into tight spaces and good mileage.
  • Compact – Larger models like VW Polo or Opel Corsa fitting up to 4 passengers.
  • Standard – Midsize sedans like VW Jetta with room for 5 people and bags.
  • Minivan – Spacious vans fitting up to 7 passengers plus luggage. Great for large groups.
  • SUV – 4×4 vehicles like Toyota Rav4 for rugged terrain on backroads.
  • Luxury – Indulge in high-end brands like BMW, Mercedes, or Porsche.
  • Sports cars – For driving Crete’s mountain roads in style in a convertible or sporty coupe.

Where to Rent a Car in Heraklion

Main rental locations include:

  • Heraklion Airport – Counters right in the arrival halls. Drop-off at departure entrance.
  • Heraklion Port – Pick up vehicles right at the ferry port gates.
  • Heraklion City – Various rental sites scattered around downtown.
  • Resort Towns – Major resorts like Malia, Hersonissos, Rethymno have agencies.
  • Online – Reserve ahead online for best rates and guaranteed bookings.

Documentation Required to Rent a Car

Bring these documents to provide when renting a car:

  • Valid Driver’s License – Must have been held for 1+ year in most cases. International Driving Permit recommended.
  • Passport – Required for identity verification for non-EU nationals. EU-issued IDs also accepted.
  • Credit Card – Necessary for making the reservation and providing a deposit. Debit cards rarely accepted.
  • Voucher – Any confirmation voucher if you pre-booked a car online.

Driving Laws and Rules in Crete

Familiarize yourself with these driving regulations:

  • Drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. Child seats required for kids.
  • Using handheld mobiles while driving is prohibited.
  • Observe speed limits – 90 km/h on open roads, 50 km/h in towns.
  • DUI limit is 0.05% BAC – driving under the influence is illegal.
  • Headlights must be on at all times outside urban areas.
  • Carry your driver’s license and IDP/passport when driving.

Top Sights to Explore By Rental Car from Heraklion

Having your own transportation makes it easy to access top attractions around Heraklion and Crete:

  • Knossos – Crete’s most famous site and Europe’s oldest city – the legendary Palace of Knossos from 1700 BC.
  • Phaistos – Second largest Minoan palace site dating back to 1900 BC with vivid frescoes.
  • Samaria Gorge – Dramatic 11km gorge cutting through the rugged White Mountains. Incredible scenery for hiking.
  • Elafonisi Beach – Stunning pink sand beach with turquoise waters on Crete’s southwest coast.
  • Balos Lagoon – Idyllic protected cove whose white sands and emerald waters resemble the Caribbean.
  • Rethymno – Charming Venetian-influenced port town with a huge fortress.
  • Chania – Vibrant harbor city packed with Ottoman, Venetian and Byzantine relics.
  • Agios Nikolaos – Picturesque seaside town with great beaches, lakefront promenade, marina and charming cafes.
  • Spinalonga – Tiny fortress islet off Crete’s northern coast near Elounda and Plaka villages.
  • Lassithi Plateau – Verdant plateau surrounded by the impressive Dikte mountains.

Driving Tips for Crete

Making the most of your Crete road trip requires following driving best practices:

  • Narrow roads and tight spaces make smaller cars easier to handle. Avoid huge vehicles.
  • Mountain roads are steep and twisty in places. Drive cautiously.
  • Print out maps as backup since connectivity for mobile maps can be spotty in remote areas.
  • Allow extra time for trips as the mountainous terrain means slower average speeds.
  • Fill up on gas when you can as stations are scarce in rural villages.
  • Have some cash for small tolls in villages that don’t accept cards.
  • Carefully inspect your rental car for any existing damage and note it on your contract.
  • Driving at night outside cities can be challenging as roads are poorly lit.

FAQs about Renting a Car in Heraklion

What is the minimum age to rent a car?

The minimum age is usually 21 years old but some agencies may rent to younger drivers for an added fee.

Do I need an International Driving Permit?

Having an IDP along with your license simplifies renting but is not legally mandatory.

Are automatic transmission cars available?

Yes, automatics are available but manual shift cars are more common. Reserve early if you need automatic.

What side of the road do Cretans drive on?

As in mainland Greece, vehicles in Crete drive on the right side.

Is car insurance mandatory to rent a car?

Yes, you must purchase the basic insurance included from rental companies. Added premium coverage is recommended.


Renting a car is by far the best way to experience true freedom discovering Crete’s treasures like ancient sites, secluded beaches and mountain villages. Just be sure to reserve your car rental well in advance during the busy summer tourist season. Respect local driving laws and drive defensively on winding roads. With your own set of wheels you can pack your Crete trip with fabulous memories exploring Greece’s largest and most diverse island.


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