Are you ready to explore the marvelous island of Santorini in Greece and discover all its hidden wonders? Renting a car is the ideal way to explore this island in a flexible and unrestricted manner. With a rental car, you can explore the beautiful beaches, savor delicious local dishes in hidden taverns, and visit picturesque villages at your own leisure.
I’ve compiled all the important information you need to know about renting a car in Santorini, from booking to driving on the island. Get ready to have an unforgettable experience and discover the true essence of Santorini.
Requirements for Renting and Driving a Car in Santorini
If you’re planning a stay on the incredible island of Santorini, I highly recommend renting a means of transportation. Whether it’s a car, a quad, or a motorcycle, it’s essential for exploring the island at your own pace. And the best part is that as a European, you don’t need an international driving permit.
Indeed, to drive a car in Greece, you simply need to hold your driver’s license. Just bring your license and your ID card, and you’ll have no trouble renting a vehicle.
I do recommend, however, that in addition to the insurance offered by the company renting you the car, you also have international insurance. I’ve been using Chapka Insurance for years, and I can only recommend them to you.
Finding Your Rental Car for a Stay in Santorini
Renting a car to explore the roads of Santorini in Greece may seem daunting, but it’s actually quite easy. There are several options to find the best car rental rates. I recommend checking RentalCars.com, which searches among the Santorini companies to find the best prices.
To rent a car in Santorini, the best option is to book online in advance. This will allow you to secure your vehicle before they are all rented out and get a good rate. If you need an automatic car, which is limited and in high demand, it’s essential to book quickly.
You have the choice of several pickup locations including the port, the airport, the villages of Fira and Oia, or even having the car delivered to your hotel. Personally, I always pick up my car upon arriving in Santorini.
I always rent my cars from one of the international companies available online: Sixt, Hertz, Avis, etc. They have offices in several locations on the island, and in case of any issues, you can be sure of prompt assistance.
Car Rental at the Port of Santorini
For those arriving in Santorini by ferry, you will disembark at the new Athinios port of Santorini (also known as Santorini’s “new port“).
The port hosts several car rental companies. You will find a few rental desks on the buildings where you disembark. However, they are often immediately crowded with dozens of people, and the wait can be very long. You can make your car reservation for the port of Santorini directly on RentalCar.
The easiest option is to take a taxi to the airport, your hotel, or another village in Santorini, and arrange with the rental company to have the car delivered to the port so you don’t have to deal with the kiosks.
I don’t like renting a car at the port for several reasons:
- It’s usually a chaotic scene when you disembark, with taxis and private minibusses holding signs or touts trying to get your attention. You are surrounded by many buses, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and cars, making traffic very stressful.
- The winding road leading up the cliff can be intimidating, with tight, steep turns. It’s not reassuring when you’re next to giant trucks.
Rent a Car at the airport (JTR)
Taking your rental car directly from Santorini’s small airport (JTR) is the simplest option. Right in the arrival area, after picking up your luggage, you’ll find several car rental kiosks.
Among the car rental companies serving the airport, you’ll find Avance, Avis, Autonion, Budget, Centauro, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt, Suntime, and Thrifty. In short, you have plenty of choices! You can compare their prices on RentalCars.
Parmi les compagnies de location de voitures qui desservent l’aéroport, vous trouverez Avance, Avis, Autonion, Budget, Centauro, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt, Suntime et Thrifty. En somme, vous avez du choix ! Vous pouvez comparer leurs prix sur RentalCars.
The airport rental companies have plenty of staff, ensuring a quick service for picking up and returning vehicles. The range of available rental cars varies, from small cars to large SUVs.
Once you’ve picked up your vehicle, you’ll be within easy reach of almost all the destinations in Santorini. It will take you only 10 minutes to get to Fira, 15 minutes to reach Imerovigli, 20 minutes to get to Akrotiri, and 25 minutes to reach Oia.
Thanks to renting a car, you won’t need to endure the hassle of Santorini taxis and the long queues. Plus, you’ll save the 30 to 50 euros that trips to the major cities on the island can cost.
Renting a Car in the Villages – Fira, Oia
If you’re looking for a place to rent a car in Santorini, you have several options. Car rental agencies can be found in all the main villages, such as Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, Firostefani, Akrotiri, Kamari, and Perissa.
However, please note that the agency offices in the villages are often located on the main roads. They are frequently crowded and frequented by buses, etc. It’s generally not an ideal place to pick up or drop off a car as the roads are narrow and congested.
If you can, I recommend picking up and returning your car at Santorini Airport. This will save you from navigating the crowded roads of the main villages when returning your car. If you must rent a vehicle in one of the villages, don’t hesitate to ask if you can return it to the airport or ferry port. Some car rental agencies will allow you to park the car and leave the keys under the seat, saving you the hassle of taking a bus or taxi to return it.
Why Rent a Car During Your Stay in Santorini?
Renting a car in Santorini is a significant asset for your stay on the island. It greatly facilitates transportation, especially if you’re not staying in Fira. Fira serves as the hub of public transportation in Santorini, and direct buses connect Fira to almost every corner of the island.
However, if you’re staying in Imerovigli, Oia, or another village, you’ll need to take a bus to get to Fira and then another one to reach Akrotiri, Pyrgos, or Perissa. That means four bus journeys back and forth to your destination. If you want to go from Oia to Kamari and then to Akrotiri on the same day, you’ll need to make six bus trips. Not to mention that public transportation can be crowded, delayed, or even canceled.
However, if you prefer to spend most of your time at your hotel, enjoying the pool, the caldera views, savoring local cuisine, and occasionally taking a bus to Oia or Fira, renting a car will only provide minimal benefits. You might also consider renting a quad or a scooter, which are much more convenient.
In conclusion, yes, for me, renting a vehicle in Santorini is essential, especially if you plan to explore the island even just to visit its various beaches.
Do You Need a Car in Santorini?
As you probably know if you’ve read other articles about Santorini, the island, although relatively small, is quite spread out. There are several villages, points of interest, beaches, and activities scattered all over the island. It’s impossible to do everything on foot, and public transportation isn’t the most pleasant option.
You can get around the island in various ways, including private vehicles, buses, ATVs, taxis, tours, and more. You need to make a decision based on the distances and activities you plan to do during your stay.
If your goal is to explore the island, discover hidden gems, or simply visit the best spots, then yes, a vehicle is essential in my opinion. If you want a bit more excitement, I even recommend renting an ATV. Easier to park, cheaper, and more enjoyable, it’s the best solution in my view.
When to Rent a Car in Santorini?
- If you seek the freedom to explore the island at your own pace and on your own schedule, renting a car is the best option. With a vehicle, you can access the most remote parts of Santorini that are more challenging to reach using other modes of transportation. For example, a visit to Ancient Thera is a breeze by car, but it’s quite a serious hike on foot.
- Regarding the bus experience, while they use large coaches, it’s not always guaranteed that the service will be… reliable. And when it’s crowded, it can be quite chaotic. Plus, schedules aren’t always the most accurate.
- Concerning dining, without a car, you’re limited to the places near your accommodation. Especially in the evening, when transportation options are even more limited. With a rental car, you can visit some of the best restaurants that aren’t in the main towns.
- A car allows you to create more complex itineraries. With public transportation, you’re limited to one or two destinations per day. With a car, theoretically, you can easily circle the island ten times in a single day.
- Save money! Yes, there are hardly any supermarkets in the towns and villages of Santorini. So, you’re forced to eat out all the time, which can quickly add up. With a car, you can go to one of the city’s supermarkets and do proper grocery shopping at a lower cost.
Finally, as I mentioned in this article, some of the most memorable moments of a trip are the ones you didn’t plan. With the flexibility of a car, you can stop wherever you want.
The Disadvantages of Renting a Car in Santorini
When renting a car in Santorini, you may encounter some disadvantages.
- Cost can be a factor to consider, as car rentals can be expensive on the Greek islands. For those looking to save money, bus transportation is a much more affordable option.
- Availability can be an issue if you haven’t booked in advance. You might not find available cars.
- Consider your transportation needs, as you may not need to use the car every day. Some days may be dedicated to organized excursions, while others may be perfect for walking around your village or hiking from Fira to Oia.
- Parking can be a challenge, especially in popular areas like Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli! Street parking spots fill up quickly, and it can be a real hassle at times.
- Winding and narrow roads. Santorini’s main roads are relatively normal. But as soon as you go off the beaten path or venture into town, it’s a different story.
Tips for Renting a Car in Santorini
Renting a car in Santorini can be an easy and convenient way to explore the island. However, there are some things to consider to ensure a pleasant and hassle-free trip. Here is a detailed list of tips to help you plan your journey:
- Book in advance to get better rates and availability for the desired car models.
- If you’re arriving at the airport, book a car pickup and drop-off to avoid long taxi queues.
- If you arrive at the ferry port, take a taxi or bus to get to Santorini Airport.
- If you’re traveling with young children, bring your own car seat, as rental car seats may not meet your expectations.
- If you’re traveling in a group, pre-book a car of adequate size for your family.
- Your European driver’s license is acceptable, but it’s advisable to obtain an international driver’s license if you’re from outside the EU.
- Before leaving the rental agency, take photos of all parts of the car to cover yourself in case of damage or loss.
- Consider the price of gasoline in your reservation, as it can significantly impact your budget.
- Always have cash on hand when refueling. Most gas stations accept credit cards, but some may only accept cash.
- Refuel the car before returning it, and take a photo of the fuel gauge as evidence in case they try to charge you for an additional tank.
Parking – Parking in Santorini:
- Parking in Santorini can be quite challenging. Allow extra time to find parking spots during your travels, especially in Fira and Oia.
- Parking spaces are mostly free, as you often park directly on the streets.
Choice of the Car
- Go for a small, compact car. Unless you’re a large group, I strongly recommend getting a small car for getting around Santorini. The narrow streets can sometimes be so tight that it’s nerve-wracking. After all, think about how minivans manage to fit through (I have no idea how).
- Opt for automatic transmissions. Whenever I have the choice while traveling, I go for automatic cars. It’s less stressful in unfamiliar situations. So, go for smaller cars; it will be simpler.
Condition of Roads in Santorini
- Surprisingly good. The roads are, for the most part, in good condition with few potholes, especially if you stick to the main roads that cross the island. Otherwise, be prepared for dirt roads and cobblestone streets.
- No tolls! All the roads on the island are toll-free.
Driving in Santorini
- It’s not as complicated as you might think. I expected driving to be much more precarious, but in the end, once you get past the first few kilometers, it’s relatively straightforward. Apart from some sections that can be winding and bumpy, I had a good experience overall.
- Be patient! In some situations, particularly in the villages, you’ll need to be patient. You may have to wait for a minivan and a few cars to pass by before you can pull out from a corner and proceed on the road. It can be so tight at times that it might make you cringe, but it always works out.
- Stay alert! Especially regarding quads and scooters, which can sometimes have erratic driving behavior. Be particularly attentive at night when people are leaving bars.
- Don’t speed! The police are very vigilant, and even the slightest speeding infraction is severely punished. And it’s foolish to speed on an island like Santorini.
Quad vs. Car in Santorini
You’ve probably understood by now that I prefer renting a quad during a stay in Santorini. Let me explain in detail the advantages of a quad compared to renting a car on the island:
- More economical – Renting a quad in Santorini is much cheaper than renting a car, especially when you consider fuel consumption and insurance.
- More exciting – Riding a quad is much more fun than driving a car. Feeling the wind in your hair, the breeze on your face, and the sun’s rays on your skin is exhilarating.
- More compact – Parking is infinitely easier with a quad than with a car, especially in Santorini, where parking spaces are in high demand. I’ve never had any trouble finding a spot to park the quad.
- Small storage – Although the storage space may not be sufficient for a suitcase, you can still fit two small bags.
- Two people – If you’re alone or traveling with one other person, you can easily cruise around on a single quad.
- Less stressful – When heading to some beaches, you may have to descend steep slopes on rocky paths. The advantage of a quad is that it’s much less stressful than a car in such situations.
Insurance to drive in Santorini
Driving in Santorini can be a wonderful adventure, but it’s important to be protected in case of an incident. There’s no simple answer to the question, “Do I need car insurance in Santorini?” but in general, the answer is yes. There are different options to provide coverage.
Take insurance when renting your vehicle, often in the form of collision damage waiver or loss damage waiver. It’s essential to carefully read the terms of this coverage as they can vary.
You may also be covered by your credit card if you use it to pay for your car rental and it includes car rental insurance. However, please note that this coverage may not include third-party liability or property damage.
Lastly, travel insurance can also be a valid option to cover you in case of incidents. For example, providers like Chapka offer good coverage, but this type of insurance only covers your person and not the vehicle itself.
In conclusion, having travel insurance can provide coverage in case of incidents or injuries, and car insurance can be important to protect your vehicle. Make sure to check the coverages offered by your credit card and consider these options when planning your trip to Santorini.
Q&A — Rent a car in Santorini
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Article mis à jours le 20 December 2023 par Pierre Bouyer