I’m a host on Couchsurfing.com and often get asked travel questions for the Greek island of Crete. Sometimes I feel like I’m Tourist Information! So I’m finally writing down the top questions with answers into one place so that couch surfers, as well as other travelers, get the lowdown and some useful links.
How Easy Is It To Get Around Crete By Bus?
It depends on where you want to go!
It’s easy to travel by bus if you just want to visit the major towns or resorts. Heraklion/Rethymno/Chania intercity buses run every hour in Summer and Winter. There are also regular services to Agios Nikolaos, Malia, Sitia, Ierapetra, Plakias etc.
To get to the villages and tourist attractions (excluding Knossos which has a regular bus) it can be more difficult. Generally speaking buses to villages are scheduled for the locals with 2 services per day, 1 out, 1 in. These cater to the school kids and locals going to the market and usually leave early in the morning and get back late afternoon – This can be difficult for tourists as an overnight stay would then be required. Some villages offer a few more options during the week. See the bus routes and bus timetables on the KTEL site.
Is It Expensive To Get Around By Bus?
What’s your idea of expensive?!
As of 2017, it costs:
- €6.80 Rethymno > Chania
- €4.90 Rethymno > Plakias
- €12.00 Heraklion > Ierapetra
- €8.30 Heraklion > Rethymno
- €7.10 Heraklion > Agios Nikolaos
- €8.00 Chania Airport > Rethymno
- €2.50 Chania Airport > Chania
There is no discount for a return ticket and no such thing as a ‘day pass’, basically no special prices, what you see is what you pay!
See this KTEL link for prices plus routes.
Can I Hitchhike Around Crete?
Yes! Though not seen so often this is an acceptable way to get from A-B, especially in remote areas where buses do not go. Just stick out your thumb and hope someone stops! I had a girl successfully hitchhike from the South coast to Rethymno and another managed to blag a lift from Heraklion port to Rethymno, despite the bus station being steps away! I think it’s easier for girls who are alone to get a lift, but I may be wrong!
Do You Know Any Good and Reliable Car Hire Companies?
Crete is awash with car rental companies! You’ll get a great price if you shop around when you are actually here. But if you need a car from the airport you can book online from the big companies as well as some smaller ones.
We have all the big names who have offices at the airports and towns, such as Hertz, Budget, Avis, Enterprise, Sixt, Europcar etc but also many, many independent companies. I highly recommend going with a local independent car rental company – Sometimes tour reps will scare people from going with these saying there is no insurance but this is not true (my Father worked for 3 car local hire companies over the years!) the reps only say that because they want to get commission from whichever company they are affiliated with.
What’s The Best Way To Arrive and Leave The Airport?
This depends on the time of day you will be arriving/leaving, but hire car is certainly the easiest/most direct.
Buses are cheap and fairly regular but they do not run 24 hours per day. This can mean sleeping in the airport overnight (Not Recommended) for early morning flights.
Taxis are expensive if you’re staying more than 30minutes away. A taxi to/from Rethymno to either Chania or Heraklion airport costs €100+ !!
Things to See and Do
What Do I Need To See?!
In 1 word? Knossos.
But it’s so difficult to answer this question, everyone has different interests and it also depends on how long you have where you will be staying and if you have money for paying entrance fees! There are so many other articles on the web that cover this, Google and TripAdvisor will help you narrow it down. Whether you want to see churches and monasteries, do hiking and see gorges and caves, visit museums and archeological sites and other historical sites like the Forts, or visit the beautiful beaches, towns or mountain villages, Crete has something for everyone.
What Places Do You Recommend For Hiking and Nature?
Samaria Gorge is the first place many people think of, but Crete has so much more than that to be enjoyed. These are my go to sites when I want to get outdoors! Crete Nature Travel Guide (they also cover beaches) and Cretaholic Trails.
What Are The Best Beaches?
The ones advertised for their beauty are also the most crowded, so if you want to view these gorgeous places try to avoid the crowds for a better experience – Head to the beach early, early morning, or after 4pm when everyone else is on their way home, or even better, off-season when they’ll be empty!
Elifonisi, Balos Lagoon (pictured below) and Vai are the 3 beaches most advertised, you may also have heard (or seen on Instagram) Preveli Palm Beach and Seitan Limania.
If you want peace and a nice beach to yourself, avoid the town beaches and just drive… or scour Google maps/streetview!) You’re going to find your own piece of paradise without much trouble, just walk the other way when you see sun umbrellas, sunbeds, and burnt Brits!
Where and When
Which Crete Region Should I Visit?
First, I hope you realize how large Crete is! You cannot see this island in 3 days!
Personally, I love the Rethymno region, but I’m biased! I highly recommend you move around and see as much of the island as you can, especially exploring inland as well as seeing how the South coast varies from the North coast.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Crete?
Spring! Late March until Early May you’ll see the stunning wild flowers and tourist season will only just be starting so you’ll avoid the intense heat plus the crowds. Winter shouldn’t be overlooked either though we have no idea what the weather will bring – January 2017 brought snow to the coast which is practically unheard of! For me, the worst time is school holidays, especially July/August as the island fills up and the heat turns up, but everyone has different needs and ideas!
Are There Any Cheap Hostels?
Where’s The Nicest Place to Stay in Crete with Beautiful Beaches and Not Too Touristy?
Since Crete’s main industry is tourism this can be difficult to avoid unless you travel off-season (November-March).
Avoid the North Coast resorts/towns and head South. Agios Pavlos (pictured below) has stunning views and is known for its beach but could be too cut-off for some people as despite having a hotel and apartments it has no shops and just 2 tavernas, also no bus service so a car is essential unless you hitchhike from the main road.