It seems that this rocky and mountainous island should be devoid of a developed network of wide and good roads. While in the case of the southern coast it is partly a real image, in the north there is nothing more wrong. In this part of the island, asphalt roads allow access to practically all villages and a large number of villages, sometimes even to microscopic ones consisting of just a few houses. A separate issue is the condition of the surface and its width. Moving around a bigger car can be difficult, especially when passing through city centers, where compact buildings mean that even a compact class car will require a lot of attention from the driver. Therefore, if you want to explore in depth Crete, without worrying about the car, vehicles from smaller segments will be a good choice. Of course, this is true unless you care about the speed of travel. Mountain climbs are demanding and squeeze the seventh sweat out of smaller cars. These road sections are also a great way to test your skills.
Chevrolet Matiz - a car of category A, somewhere in the far east of Crete
Personally, we have used small cars many times (category A and B) and we had no major problems with visiting Crete. Cars like Fiat Panda or VW Up! they were great and they always brought us where we wanted. You can find more advice on car rentals in Crete on this page:
The mountain roads in Crete require a hand from the driver. There are places where the road cuts into a mountain slope, and its boundary on one side is marked by a vertical wall with crumbling rocks, and on the other hand by a steeply falling abyss. In most such places, energy-saving barriers to vehicles fall are the standard, but there are also places where dense concrete pillars are the only security measures. Roads without security are already a rarity now, but if you happen to miss the main road, then you have to face the possibility of encountering such attractions. The driver then has nothing more than a full focus on driving the vehicle, and the passenger (if he has enough strong nerves) can enjoy the views extending outside the window.
Streamers on the road connecting the village of Chora Sfakion and Anopoli
The Greeks' ride is quick and daring. This also applies to mountain roads, where mainly locals move outside of tourists. Their fast and reliable driving should not surprise anyone, because they know the roads as their own pocket and often overcome them several times a day. A special championship here are drivers of great touring coaches. Often we have seen coaches entering places where moving a larger car could be a problem. Driving in the front seats of such a coach can be an unforgettable experience and if there is such a possibility, we suggest using it and taking the place as close as possible to the driver.
Interpretation of road rules by Greek drivers is quite arbitrary. In particular, this applies to the use of direction indicators, adherence to speed limits or parking of cars. They are sometimes left in the strangest places, for example around the inside of the roundabout. Sometimes cars are also parked in completely random places, placing other parked cars. However, left at the emergency lights give a clear signal that this stop will last just a while.
Do not think, however, that you too can apply the rules in such a selective way. This privilege is reserved only for locals, and tourists must take into account the ruthlessness of the services and possible mandates. In Chania, for example, there is a very efficient system for towing away badly parked cars. The same applies to many othersregulations. The vast majority of the Cretans are moving on single-trackers to today without using helmets, which is obviously inconsistent with current regulations. Observing them, however, is enforced much more efficiently and more often in relation to tourists than to local ones. In the local media in the tourist season there are articles about preventive police actions carried out in popular tourist destinations. Usually they end with dozens of issued seats.
Sometimes the road markings in Crete leave much to be desired
There is a widespread opinion that Greek drivers are happy and often use horns. In part, this is true, especially if you will be staying in major cities, where an indispensable element of street noise is the time when the trumpet appears again and again. Rarely, however, it happens so that it is a prolonged use of the horn. Typically, these are single, short signals.
The horn for the Greeks also has a different meaning. It is not only used for warning, but is also very often used as one of the next ways of greeting. Two cars passing by, a Greek passing by a friend, eg in a store or passing by a friend's house or someone from a large family, may be bugging on each other.
If someone is going to signal you with long lights when you follow you, it will most likely mean that he is about to overtake you and wants you to go to the right edge of the road. It will be nice of you if you do so as much as you can. Do not expect, however, thanks for the turn signals, this custom is unknown in Greece.
Traffic on the New National Road. Some of the vehicles are moving on the side of the road.
A completely separate matter is getting around New National Road (NNR). This road connects the largest cities on the north coast of Crete and is by far the best route on the island. In places, it is constantly being expanded, extended and modernized. In the long run, this road should allow for a fast journey from Kissamos located on the west coast to the city of Sitia lying in the eastern part of Crete. At the moment, however, there are still many sections requiring reconstruction.
Driving on the New National Road can be specific in particular when the pace of most cars is not maintained. The speed of movement is usually a speed between 100 and 130 km / h, but even when driving at such a speed better get used to the fact that if you do not overtake just another vehicle you should stay close to the road or even drive it. Of course, this is not compatible with traffic regulations, but NNR has its own rules. Using a wide road as an additional lane is just one of them. A large distance from the central (usually double continuous) line is worth keeping for your own safety, because it will allow you to avoid the unexpected encounter with a car traveling on our belt from the opposite side. Such situations happen because many Greek drivers are ahead of other vehicles, regardless of whether they are doing it in places that ensure full safety of such a maneuver. Often we saw cars being overtaken on the curve or before the top of the hill.
This is why this road is considered one of the most dangerous roads in Greece. There are very many serious accidents here and it is worth showing special caution. Due to the habit of driving on the side, we advise against stopping at it and all stops are best done in car parks located in designated areas of this road.
The new speed camera system in Crete began its operation in 2014
In 2008, speed cameras were set up in several places on NNR. At that time, however, they were quickly devastated and quickly ceased to fulfill their function. A few years later they were on the road covered with garbage bags. In 2014, however, the Greek authorities returned to the idea of building a speed control system. Again, speed cameras appeared in many places on the New National Road, kthat's starting to catch too-bloody drivers. Although as before, some of them were quickly devastated (most often fired from firearms), however, many of them work to this day. It is safer for your own wallet to assume that the camera system in Crete is operational.
If you decide to explore Crete with a rented car, you will definitely find yourself in one of the larger cities on this island. Chania, Iraklion, Rethymnon and Agios Nikolaos are worth a visit, but getting around is not easy. Due to the tight development in the centers, many streets are so narrow that the traffic after them takes place in only one direction. Reaching many places requires keying in the maze of one-way roads. Turning in the wrong direction on even one of the intersections you pass will most often cause you to get away from it instead of approaching the goal.
That is why it is definitely the best idea to leave the car in the parking lot and explore the city on your own feet. A large part of the car parks in the cities of Crete are paid. Fees are often paid directly at the entrance to the parking lot or by means of parking tickets available at kiosks. In some cities (eg in Chania) the parking charge is paid in parking meters, so it is worth having some small coins with you. It is worth remembering that parking in big cities on Sundays and in the evenings is free.
Of course, our article does not fully cover this topic and should rather be treated as an introduction to building own experiences related to driving a car in Crete. We hope that you will like this form of exploring the island, and driving you on the local roads will please you.
Only a few years ago, most of the road regulations were treated in Crete very slowly. Many of the offenses were not registered at all, and many of the issued mandates, by various connections were canceled in one way or another. For several years, however, one can notice a much more restrictive approach to the observance of traffic rules in Crete. In particular, this applies to speed control, fastening seat belts, carrying children in car seats and using mobile phones while driving.
The mountain roads in Crete require a hand from the driver. There are places where the road cuts into a mountain slope, and its boundary on one side is marked by a vertical wall with crumbling rocks, and on the other hand by a precipice falling down a steep slope. In most such places, energy-saving barriers to vehicles fall are the standard, but there are also places where dense concrete pillars are the only security measures.