Heraklion is a great place to rent a car to explore Crete, but a bad place to actually drive and park. Here’s everything you need to know about whether renting a car to see Heraklion is a good idea or not.
Do you need a car rental in Heraklion?
I've visited Heraklion about a dozen times now during my different travels in Crete. On each trip I’ve traveled with a car, but I have to say that when it comes to driving and parking it in Heraklion, a cloud of anxious dread descends upon me!
I've always found a car to be more hassle than it’s worth in Heraklion city itself. Outside of the city, when wanting to get out to different places nearby or further afield, having a rental car is excellent. In Heraklion itself, having the car is a total pain.
One thing that makes having a car in Heraklion a hinderance is the lack of parking. The heavy traffic also has a lot to do with it. Mainly though, once at a place to stay in Heraklion, I’ve simply never needed the car to go into the city and see the attractions. I can get everywhere on foot or taxi.
So, my simple answer is that no, you don’t need a car rental to explore Heraklion itself.
Related: Things to do in Heraklion
Why you might still want to rent a car in Heraklion
That said, Heraklion is a great city for renting a car, particularly if you’ve arrived at Heraklion airport and intend to later explore more of Crete. There’s a lot of rental car companies both at the airport and in the city itself, ensuring a large supply of vehicles and competitive prices.
I recommend Discover Cars for renting cars in Crete. They use a combination of local rental car companies and big name agencies, and you can easily compare their prices.
Many people choose to pick up their vehicle from one of the car rental companies at Heraklion International Airport, drive to their hotel in the city, stay for a night or two, and then take a road trip in Crete.
While the car might not get used for a day or two, it is convenient for the next stage of the Crete itinerary by road.
Read: Renting a car in Greece
If you are thinking to do something like this, there’s something very important to keep in mind. Parking.
Where to park in Heraklion
Anyone considering rental cars in Heraklion needs to work out where they are going to park first. If your hotel is in the historic centre (Old Town), parking will be impossible. If it is on the outskirts, then parking is most likely to be on side streets.
In some cases, there might be a paid parking lot in the area where you are staying – but don’t bank on it. The best thing to do, would be to choose where to stay in Heraklion first and ask them about parking before you start looking at rental cars.
What type of car is best for driving in Heraklion?
If you absolutely insist on driving in Heraklion (and good luck to you!!), a smaller car will be better. You’ll find it easier to park in tight parking spaces on the narrow streets with a smaller car.
You’ll probably want to make sure your car insurance covers you for bumps and scratches as well, especially if you have to park your car rental out on the street.
Keep in mind that in Greece, most cars are manual transmission cars (gearstick and a clutch). If you need an automatic car, you’ll have to specially request one from the car rental agency.
As mentioned, you can find a well-priced car rental via Discover Cars.
Still not sure if you need a car or not? Here’s some things to ask yourself:
Should I rent a car in Heraklion?
Whether or not you should rent a car in Heraklion, Crete, depends on your specific travel plans and preferences. Here are some factors to consider when making this decision:
- Accessibility: Heraklion has good public transportation options, including buses and taxis, which can take you to popular destinations within the city including Knossos. If you plan to stay within the city and its immediate surroundings, you may not need a car as yu can walk most places.
- Desired Destinations: Consider the places you want to visit on the island. If you intend to explore various towns, beaches, and archaeological sites in Crete, having a car can provide more flexibility and convenience. Some destinations might be less accessible by public transportation.
- Parking and Traffic: Be aware that parking in Heraklion and other popular tourist areas can be challenging, especially during the high season. Traffic can also be congested in some areas.
- Cost: Compare the cost of renting a car, including fuel, insurance, and potential parking fees, with the cost of using public transportation and taxis. Depending on the length of your stay and your itinerary, one option may be more cost-effective than the other.
- Driving Experience: Consider your comfort level with driving in a foreign country, especially if you're not used to driving on the right side of the road. Greek roads and driving practices may differ from what you're accustomed to.
- Local Knowledge: Research the local road conditions, signs, and traffic rules. Having a GPS is essential in order to navigate the streets of Heraklion!
- Rural Exploration: If you plan to explore the more rural and less touristy parts of Crete, a car is often the best way to reach these areas.
Car Rental Heraklion
In conclusion, the decision to rent a car in Heraklion largely depends on your individual travel plans and personal preferences. If your itinerary is mostly confined to the city, the well-connected public transport network may suffice your needs. However, if you dream of venturing off-the-beaten-path and explore Crete’s less-travelled rural areas, a rental car will grant you the freedom and flexibility you desire.
Dave is a travel writer from the UK who's been living in and writing about Greece since 2015. As well as writing this guide to whether or not you need a car in Heraklion based on personal experience, he's also written hundreds of other travel blog posts about the Greek islands and destinations in Greece. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Crete and beyond: