Travel to Crete - Make it easy
How to get to Crete? Where to stay? What about the weather? Which is the best period of the year to visit the island?
Your holiday planning begs several questions just find the time to answer all of them. Planning my first trip to Crete caused me a great puzzlement. I didn’t even have an idea where I should stay. I was searching on the Internet for days before everything felt into place, and even so there were quite a few questions to remain.
Oh, I wish I had a little Crete Guide to tell me where to start to plan my holiday in Crete. Fortunately, it will be easier for you, because below you can find the most basic information to the biggest Greek island that will help you before packing. Check them to not get unpleasant surprises during your vacation.
How to get to Crete?
You have more than a wide range of options which you can choose for your Cretan holiday and either you decide to take the airplane or the ferry boat to come to Crete, you’ll have also the opportunity to decide in which part of the island you want to step first.
Crete has 3 airports: in Heraklion, in Chania and in Sitia.
Sitia is just working with domestic flights but the 2 biggest airports, Heraklion and Chania serve also for international planes. In the peak-season, from May to November, many international flights are landing in Crete but is doesn’t mean that in other period of the year you can’t visit the island easily. From the mainland of Greece, especially from Athens and Thessaloniki there are many flights which can be good choice even if the Cretan summer is over. In addition, the island has 3 ports Heraklion, Chania and Rethymno and they are connected to the mainland with several ferries.
The most common way to come to Crete from the mainland is to use the Piraeus port as departure port and arrive in Heraklion or Chania (Souda) within a 9-hours sailing. Ticket prices for ferries and flights between the mainland of Greece and the island of Crete are very similar in the last years.
Where to stay in Crete and how to decide about it?
Considering the size of the island, it is worth choosing the accommodation according to which sights and beaches you would definitely like to visit during your holiday.
Getting from one side of the island to the other and back (west-east direction) can take up to half a day and you probably don’t want to sit in your car so long instead of enjoying the beautiful nature and monuments of Crete.
North-and South Crete
North and South Crete are different and it can help you also to decide what the best is for you.
If you know that you prefer more touristically developed resorts, the northern part of the island will be definitely more attractive for you, but if you are more a fun of the authentic, less frequented areas, you will find more secluded, hidden gems in south.
The eastern side of the island is home of the island’s capital, Heraklion and many holiday resorts and nightlife paradises are situated here. They could be good choice if you vote for typical touristic areas with a wide range of services.
The western side of the island is dedicated to the old Venetian towns, like Rethymno and Chania and the mass tourism is less developed here compared to the east.
Lively holiday towns you will also find here and this is the place from where it is the most easiest to discover Crete’s most beautiful beaches.
Additional useful information
Weather in Crete
Crete’s size and topography allow you to enjoy the benefits of several climates without to leave the island. While you can sunbathe in the Mediterranean climate in the north and in most parts of the island, in the south you taste the heat of North Africa, despite the fact that you still haven’t left Europe. In general, the summer on the island is hot and dry, while the winter is mild, the northern areas have more rain, and snowfall occurs only in the higher elevations.
The warmest months are July and August, with an average temperature of 20-30 degrees, while the coldest month is January, but the average temperature does not fall below 10 degrees. When you choose the date of your holiday in terms of weather, it largely depends on what exactly you want to do during your trip. The hot summer months are not exactly for sightseeing tours and visit monuments, but anyone who thinks that an October vacation is not suitable for bathing is also wrong.
The sea temperature reaches 20 degrees even in November, and although the number of rainy days may be more compared to the summer months, this period is suitable for discovering the island’s beauties.
Wind is not an unknown phenomenon on the island, but the famous Meltemi wind typical of the summer months cools the air rather than disrupting our beach vacation.
Language in Crete
Currency, payment, tipping
The official currency of the country is the Euro and because there are not a high number of exchange offices it may easier to make the exchange in your home country. (Banks in Crete make also exchange.)
Bank cards are accepted in most places, supermarkets, shops, taverns, restaurants, and major bus stations, but the locals still prefer to pay in cash, for which they often offer also a discount.
ATMs can be found in many places and depending on the bank and the amount, the fee for withdrawing cash can range from €2-4. (+home banking costs)
There are restaurants where the price of the service is added to the bill, but it is more typical that you decide about the tip, which is generally around 5-10% and is accepted by the locals with great pleasure due to the low salaries. Not only in restaurants, but also for bus drivers and tour guides, it is typical to thank them for their kindness with a tip.
Is it safe?
The island’s public safety is basically good, especially compared to the Greek capital, but you should pay attention to your values in any case, especially on the crowded beach. If the accommodation has a safe, take advantage of it. In any case, it is worth making a photo or photocopy of your documents and keeping this with you instead of the original document.
Drinking water and health
It’s said that it’s better to avoid the tap water generally in Greece although the tap water in Crete is drinkable but because of its disinfection with chemicals may not taste first for those who are not used to drink it. But even if it’s so Greeks and me too drink the tap water in Crete for years without any problem.
If you decide to not try the Cretan tap water you’ll always have the chance to buy mineral water from the supermarket and its price is usually lower than in other European countries.
Several towns on the island, mainly along the northern coast, have hospitals and/or doctors’ offices, and there are pharmacies in every corner, where pharmacists can also provide professional help in case of minor health problems.
You’ll not find public toilets often in the island but luckily many restaurants and cafes allow you to use their toilets even if you are not their guest. But if it’s so don’t forget to say them thank you and if you leave them some Euro as well they will appreciate it more than you can imagine.
As in all parts of Greece also in Crete you can’t flush paper down the toilet. The narrow sewage system can’t cope with paper waste and even if you’re in a 5-Star hotel where it should work well it can easily clog and even if it’ll be unstopped the bad smell of the room will remind you for the accident for hours.
Plug Types and Electrical Output
You can find 2 plug types in Crete: „C” and „F” which are the same with many European countries. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Driving, Parking, Taxi
To drive in Crete you need a valid driving license but an international driving license is no longer required in Greece however be aware to hold a valid ID/Passport with photo if you want to rent a car.
Although from the age of 18 it is possible to drive in Crete, most of the car rental companies do not allow or just allow with extra risk to drive under the age of 21.
In Crete you drive on the right and as an unspoken rule it’s is also true that slow driver try to pull onto the hard shoulder to let the faster pass by.
Seatbelt in the car, helmet on a motorcycle, moped, scooter, or quadbike is required and because of the conditions of the rental car companies the consumption of alcohol when you drive is not allowed. (Even if the legal blood alcohol limit is 0,5 gr of alcohol per liter of blood.)
Since you can’t get far with a small motorbike or quad and there are long distances in the island the best idea and the most comfortable way to explore Crete is to rent a car.
What kind of clothes should you take to Crete?
If you visit Crete in the summer months, you should mainly focus on your beach clothes, and not on your warm clothes, but when packing, pay attention to what programs you will be participating in.
For hiking, but also often for going down to steep-to shore, you will need suitable footwear, hiking boots, at least sneakers suitable for that, and a light, waterproof wind jacket can be good going through gorges or sitting in a boat.
Not only the tourists, but also the Greeks pay a lot of attention to their clothing when they visit taverns in the evening hours, so we can put one or two summery but more elegant clothes in our suitcase.
The necessary accessories for the beach, such as hats, watershoes, beach clothes, snorkelling equipment, sunscreen, sun oil, can also be purchased in the island for an affordable price, but pay attention also to not leave your sunglasses at home because you’ll definitely need it due to the strong UV radiation and wind.
What about the beaches in Crete?
Many of Crete’s beaches are blue flagged, and since the entire island has more than 1,000 km of coastline, it’s not worth sitting in just one of the several beaches. Some beaches are pebbly and sandy; others have fine sand, while you can also swim on rocky shores at any time.
In almost all cases, you have to pay for the parasol and sunbed, if not otherwise, with mandatory consumption in the beach bar or restaurant which owns the beach articles.
In the heat, you will need shade, so if you want to reduce the cost of sunbeds and sunshades every day, you could even buy your own sunshades at the nearest store, which you could then leave for the guests who come to your accommodation after you.
Opening times, afternoon siesta
You are in a Mediterranean country so it’s not a surprise to meet the afternoon siesta which can affect also the opening time of the shops.
Some shops and even pharmacies are closed between 3 pm till 6 pm in Crete however it is less common in touristic areas or less applies for shops which are serving tourists. The good news that even if you may face the siesta the shops are waiting for the customers until late at night. (9-10 pm)
Tourist police: 171 (In English, German, French, Greek)
Athens tourist police: 1571 (In English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek)
Central Police: 100
Fire Department: 199
European hotline for missing children: 116000