A-Z Guide to Crete and Greece
Airports in Crete
Crete has two international airports, the Ioannis Daskalogiannis airport in Akrotiri Chania, the Nikos Kazantzakis airport in Heraklion, plus a smaller airport in Sitia. Both of them are military airports as well and photography is prohibited. The whole year around there are scheduled flights, whereas in summertime the airports are very busy with charter flights. Several companies fly domestic flights from/to the above airports to various destinations in Greece. For international flights you will usually have to fly via Athens, except for charter flights or a few companies which fly directly to Crete.
Archeological sites and museums in Crete
You will find automatic cash machines in bigger towns and cities all over Crete and Greece. Keep in mind that they are not always re-filled during the weekends, so make sure you have some cash left.
During bank holidays shops, banks, postoffices and public services are closed. In tourist areas you will find small supermarkets still open. Greek Holidays
Crete has many beautiful beaches on the north and south side of the island. Some beaches are sandy, but there are also rocky and pebbly beaches, where it is best to wear water shoes to protect yourself from sea urchins. There are lifesavers on the bigger beaches on Crete, the smaller ones usually have a flag warning system: red = do not enter, orange = enter but stay close to shore, green = enter.
The sunbeds and umbrellas on the beaches are for rent, and it is very rare for them to be free. However you may buy an umbrella (about 10 €) and a beach mat in a supermarket, and place them in a free spot on the beach.
Try to avoid an overexposure to the sun and do like the locals, avoid the sun from 12.00 – 15.00h. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high protection factor, wear a hat and a t-shirt so you will avoid sunburn.
If you travel with your children to Crete and you want to keep them happy and busy, then take them to a playground or to a waterpark. There are 4 waterparks in Crete: Star Beach and Aqua Plus in Hersonissos, Watercity in Anopolis (14 km east of Heraklion) and Limnopoulis in the outskirts of Chania.
The Crete Aquarium in Gournes is another interesting idea, as well as the smaller aquarium in Hersonissos, which also features reptiles and turtles. Karting, donkey riding or horseback riding is also available in many areas in Crete.
All major Credit Cards as well as Euro-cheques are recognized and accepted in most hotels, shops, travel and car rental agencies and restaurants in Crete. Stickers in the front windows will advise you as to which cards are acceptable.
The currency in Greece, like most of the European countries is the Euro (€), which comes in 7 different banknotes of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euro and 8 different coins; 2 and 1 euro, 50 cents, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent. The euro replaced the Greek drachma or “dhrachmi” in 2002.
People in a wheel chair may find it difficult to move around in Greece. Narrow streets with no or tiny sidewalks and cars parked on both sides are common problems in many towns. Things have improved in bigger towns and cities, but there is still a lot to be done. Wheelchair and disabled – friendly hotels are also rare in small towns in Crete.
Dress code in monasteries and churches
No shorts, bikinis or sleevless shirts. Take your hat off when you enter a church and do not use flash for taking pictures.
Drinking tap water
Be aware that in many cities in Greece the tap water is disinfected with chemicals and has a different taste that most Europeans are not used to. It is therefore advisable not to drink the tap water but to buy bottled water in the supermarkets. As it can get quite hot in the summer, make sure you drink enough to avoid dehydration. You can brush your teeth with tap water. Ask your hotel receptionist for details.
Driving in Crete might seem a daunting prospect at first. However, provided you take appropriate care your trips will be safe and result in enormous pleasure. In Greece we drive on the right side of the roads and all road signs are bilingual (Greek and English). Read more about driving in Crete.
E111 form will prove valuable if you become ill or have an accident. All residents of European Union countries, who carry a valid E111 form, are entitled to receive free immediate, urgent medical care in Greece.
The standard in Greece is 220V AC (50Hz). Appliances from North America require a transformer and British ones an adaptor.
Fishing in Crete is a popular activity, although you will probably be disappointed by the size of fish you will catch. Please remember that you need a fishing license from the port authorities, but if you avoid fishing in a port, then it is unlikely to have any problems.
Greek Food and Wines
The Greek cuisine has a large variety of dishes: different kinds of starters, also known as mezedes, followed by main dishes, usually either meat or fish with chips. Because of the large variety the Greek kitchen is probably the most appropriate for vegetarians. Desserts and sweets are a different issue, but definitely worth trying. You should also taste the wines of Crete and other areas of Greece. You may ask for a bottle of wine or a carafe of house wine (cheaper). Read more about Greek food and the Crete wines.
Hotels and Rooms
Although most tourists have pre-booked their holiday accommodation in a flight package deal, it is also possible to find a room upon arrival (not advisable with a late night arrival). Almost all over Crete “rooms to let”‘ signs can be found. The standard of these rooms can vary, but it might give you the opportunity to get closer to the Cretans than most other people. However if you visit Crete in July and August, you may find all hotels occupied, so pre-booking for the high season is preferable.
There are plenty of Internet Cafes, even in small towns in Crete. The rate is 2 Euro per hour (Heraklion, April 2008). Prices may be higher in smaller towns.
Jobs in Crete
Many young people from Europe get a summer job in Crete, usually as waiters in bars and cafes or as reps in travel agencies. In order to get a job in Crete you will need to have a friend looking for you or you had better visit Crete in the beginning of the season, usually in April, and look for it by yourself. You should also find a place to stay, as accommodation is not included in most cases. You should be warned though, that your employers expect you to work hard for your salary and working 7 days a week for 5-6 months is not so much fun. Read more about summer jobs in Crete
Mesimeri means noon. In Crete and Greece, mesimeri is very important. First of all, it lasts longer: from 12:00 until 17:00. The lunch of Greek people is a full, hot meal and they have it at 14:30. Afterwards they enjoy their noon sleep. Never call someone between 14:30 and 17:00, unless he has asked you to do so. Even the law forbids noisy activities during the noon rest period. Shops and offices will close at 14:00 and open again at 17:30 until 21:00. This is the reason why Greek people have dinner late at night.
Unfortunately they are common in Crete. Mosquito repellents are available in supermarkets, such as plug-in anti-mosquito devices with fluid or tablets. A bottle of mosquito repellant will last for 40 nights, but tablets need to be replaced every day. These are excellent for indoors use, but if you need something to keep mosquitoes away from you in your balcony or in a taverna, then use a special lotion or anti-mosquito candles. You might even consider bringing a mosquito-net.
Nature in Crete
Crete is an island with many different faces. About 2000 species of plants, flowers or trees are growing in Crete, on the mountains as well as in the valleys. A large number of animals are living in and around Crete, some of which are protected by law. Nature in Crete
Most foreign newspapers and foreign magazines can be bought in small supermarkets or kiosks.
Nai is the greek word for Yes. Gesture for Nai: move your head downwards.
Ohi is the greek word for No. Gesture for Ohi: move your head upwards. Even an upwards movement of the eyebrows is enough for No. More Greek Gestures.
Passport or ID-card
According to the Schengen Agreement you can travel in EU countries with a valid passport or ID card as an EU citizen. Make sure that any children travelling with you either have their own passport or ID card or are registered on yours.
Ports in Crete
The main Crete ports are located in Souda bay (close to Chania), Heraklion city, Rethymnon town, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. If you want to travel by ferry, then you can take the ferry from/to Piraeus to/from one of the above cities. From Crete there are also ferries to Santorini and various other Greek islands. Travelling by ferry is more affordable (not always) than travelling by plane and the ships are modern, safe and fast. They depart late at night and arrive early in the morning of the next day. There are day trips also and the fare is reduced compared to night trips. LINKS: Anek Lines, Minoan Lines
If you want to visit the island of Gavdos, then you will take the local ferry from Paleochora or Sfakia. The same applies if you want to travel from Kastelli (Kissamos) in west Crete to Kithira island and south Peloponnese.
Prices in Crete
Check the prices of common services and products in Crete
The local buses are the main public transport in Crete, which is operated by KTEL. Buses are comfortable and provide good and cheap services between the major towns and the tourist resorts.
Do not hesitate to ask questions whenever you need assistance or information about something. People of Crete are always helpful and most of them speak English or German in tourist areas. In remote villages it will be a lot more difficult to find someone speaking English and you may have to use hands and feet to make people understand your question.
Rent a car
To rent a car, the driver needs to hold a valid drivers’ licence, which must be issued at least 12 months before car rental. If you are not an EU citizen, then besides your driver’s licence, you will also need an international driver’s licence issued by your country. Most car rental companies require the driver to be at least 21 years old. Most cars are insured for death, injuries of third parties and damages to third parties. Cheap car rental in Crete
Rent a moped or scooter
To rent a 50 cc scooter or moped you need to be 16 years old and have a licence which is issued 1 year before rental. In Holland this licence is called “brommerrijbewijs”. To rent a scooter with more cc’s you need to be 18 years old and have drivers’ licence for motorbikes. Insurances may be different, so double check before start driving!
Although Cretans are famous for their honour, including that they don’t steal, other tourists and other nationalities will be around as well. It is advisable to rent a safety box; better safe than sorry!
Spelling of towns and cities of Crete in road signs and maps is confusing because you will see various different spellings: Heraklion – Irakleion – Iraklion – Iraklio, Chania or Hania, Rethymnon – Rethymno – Rethimno, Sitia or Siteia. Use your creative imagination.
Sports and activities
In Crete you may enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities, from walking in the countryside to hiking, trekking on mountains higher than 2000 meters, rock climbing, ice climbing, fishing, hunting, bird watching, water skiing, scuba diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, windsurfing, horseback riding, even bungee jumping. In Hersonissos there is an 18-hole golf course, and bigger hotels have a gym and/ or a tennis court. Read more about hiking and activities in Crete
Taxis in Crete are a convenient and quite cheap way of moving around in Crete. You either pay according to the meter or you agree on a price before you enter the taxi. Check the taxi fares
Local and international calls can be made from public cardphone booths and kiosks (periptera) equipped with meters. For the cardphone booths you will need a telecard, which can be purchased from kiosks and the offices of OTE, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization. A cheaper way of calling abroad is to get a Green Card or Talk Talk Card from the kiosk. The instructions on how to use the card are on the backside in Greek as well as in English.
A cellular phone can be used all over Crete, however up in the mountains and in the South of Crete the coverage is not the best. Tips on cheap calling with your mobile phone.
Greek time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, an hour ahead of Central European Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Timeshare in Crete
If you’d like to inject some Mediterranean flavor into your life, you may want to buy timeshare in Crete. These vacation properties make it possible to return to your favorite region of this stunning island every year or every other year, essentially making Crete your home away from home. Dozens of resorts sell timeshares, so you can find the perfect one for you, on nearly any budget!
Tipping is optional but common at cafes, restaurants, hotel maids, tour guides and taxis. A small amount of money is enough.
Should you need a toilet in a restaurant or a cafe, then look for the WC sign. Inside the toilet you will notice a waste basket or bin. This is where you should throw the toilet paper because the delicate Greek waste pipes will get blocked if you throw the toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
Traveller’s Cheques issued by all the major companies are widely recognized. You can cash your traveller’s cheques in all Greek and foreign banks, exchange bureaus and big hotels, but do not forget to have your passport with you. Identification is necessary for the transaction.
Villas in Crete
One of the best ways to experience Crete as a local is to rent a private villa. Holiday villas in Crete offer relaxed and isolated vacations, away from the mainstream tourist locations. You can find a villa in or close to a village in Crete and experience the unique Cretan hospitality of the locals, or even close to a beach and have your own personal holiday paradise! From luxurious to traditional inspired accommodation, villas in Crete will satisfy the demands and budget of every visitor: Book your villa in Crete.
Weather in Crete
The weather in Crete is usually quite sunny and warm in summertime, with extreme high temperatures in July and August. However no guaranty can be given. The water temperatures range from 22 – 27 C in summer months, or 15 – 18 C in the winter months. Read more about the Crete Weather.
What do I need to bring from home?
Almost all products of all international brands can be bought in the bigger supermarkets, so there is no need to bring loads of diapers for example. If you take medication, make sure you bring enough or take a prescription with you. Be aware that some medications might have a different commercial name.
Banks are open from 8:00 until 14:30 from Monday until Friday.
Public Services are usually open to the public from 07:30 until 13:00 in most cases. This varies greatly, so you had better ask a local for accurate information.
Shops in tourist areas are open from 8:00 until 22:00 or even later but the normal working hours are different in areas non-dependent from tourism, such as remote areas or cities. In cities like Heraklion or Chania the shops are open on Monday 09:00 – 14:00, Tuesday 09:00 – 14:00 and 17:30 – 21:00, Wednesday 09:00 – 14:00, Thursday 09:00 – 14:00 and 17:30 – 21:00, Friday 09:00 – 14:00 and 17:30 – 21:00, Saturday 09:00 – 14:00.
Supermarkets in cities are open from 08:00 until 20:00 from Monday until Friday. On Saturday they close at 18:00.
If you need to buy cigarettes, a chocolate bar, a bottle of water, condoms or a magazine you can do that easily at a periptero (kiosk). They are everywhere, even in the smaller towns. In cities there will be several of them open 24 hours a day, usually around the city’s centre.
Gas stations close at 21:00 or 22:00. In every city there will be at least one gas station open during the night or on Sundays.
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