Renting a Car on Santorini

Updated: December 5, 2016

How To Rent a Car in Santorini

  • Book rental cars in advance for late June to early September.
  • Most cars on Santorini have a standard transmission. If you need an automatic reserve in advance.
  • If arriving by plane pickup car at the airport to avoid the long lines for a taxi.
  • If arriving by ferry take a taxi or bus into Fira and then pickup your rental car.
  • Take pictures of the vehicle (inside and out) before driving off the lot.

Q. How do I rent a car on Santorini?

Auto Europe is a car rental company that has the best rates for hired cars in Greece. Don’t be put off by the simple layout of the site – it’s all about finding the best prices from the big rental companies (for Santorini it’s usually Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, Budget, or Thrifty).

I prefer renting from one of the international car companies that you find on Auto Europe but there are also local rental offices all over the island that will rent a car, scooter, or ATV to you. (The local companies are the only option for scooters and ATVs.) Many people have horror stories about dealing with local car rentals but 2 that are reliable are Vazeos in Oia and Spiridakos (which offers free pickup at the port, airport, or your hotel).

Q. How do I rent a car from the airport?

Reserve through Auto Europe and pickup from one of the kiosks at the airport. The airport is very small and it’s super easy.

Q. Should I rent a car on Santorini?

It definitely makes getting around the island much easier – especially if you’re not staying in Fira. Fira is the hub of the bus system on Santorini and there are direct buses from Fira to pretty much every corner of the island. But if you’re staying in Imerovigli or Oia, then you need to take a bus to Fira and then another bus to the Kamari Beach or Akrotiri or Perissa. So, that’s 4 buses right there. If you wanted to go (from Oia) to Kamari and Akrotiri on the same day you’d be looking at 8 bus trips. However, you’re most interested in staying at your hotel, sitting by the pool, enjoying the caldera views, eating a local restaurants, and doing the occasional bus ride to Oia or Fira, then you’d get little benefit by renting a car.

4 Reasons to Not Rent a Car on Santorini

Walking vs driving on Santorini - you don't need a rental car for the best views

The highlight of visiting Santorini: the walk along the caldera from Fira to Oia. You don’t need a rental car for this.

Santorini with rental car – finding the best views.

Sitting in your private plunge pool and staring out into the caldera. You definitely don’t need a rental car to enjoy this.

The best things to do on Santorini without a car rental.

A boat tour of the caldera and volcano is a must for Santorini. You don’t need a rental car to jump into the hot springs. (Hotel pickup and drop off are included with pretty much every tour.)

Santorini's best bars - you don't need a rental car for Fira nightlife

The best bar in Fira – the Kira Thira Jazz Bar. Having a car is more of a hassle if you’re going out drinking.

13 Reasons to Rent a Car on Santorini

Driving around Santorini - Where To Go

There are definitely places you’ll see and things you’ll do with a rental car that you wouldn’t if getting around by bus or taxi.

The best things to do on Santorini with a car.

One of my favorite restaurants in Santorini. Cava Alta in Pyrgos. You can get here without a rental car … but you probably won’t.

Exploring Santorini with a hired car.

The awesome village of Emborio in southern Santorini. You won’t be getting here without a rental car.

What's best? Getting around Santorini by bus or car?

A line-up for a bus in Santorini. I like taking the bus – it’s a fun experience. But let’s be honest: it says express, this ain’t no fucking express bus.

Car vs bus on Santorini – the bus schedule for getting around the island.

The bus schedule for Santorini. It changes all the time. On the plus side: for the main caldera towns they run pretty often. But for getting anywhere else they’re less reliable.

The best places to go with a rental car on Santorini.

The beach road on the east coast of the island. You’re not getting here unless you rent a car.

The best restaurants on Santorini with a car.

The best restaurant in Santorini is Metaxy Mas in Exo Gonia. Very difficult to get here and get back home by bus (presumably at night). Getting here by taxi is easy, getting a taxi to come back late in the evening is a challenge.

The best views and walks on Santorini with a rental car.

Great views from the mountain south of Kamari (that’s the airport out by the water). You can certainly get here by a combination of bus and hiking but much easier with a rental car.

The best beaches to go to on Santorini with hired car.

Lots of good beaches and great swimming on Santorini. This is Perissa and it would take 2 buses and 1 hour to get here from Oia (at the opposite end of the island). So, this is one example where renting a car makes things a lot easier.

Wine and wineries to go to with car rental.

Wine for sale on a roadside in Santorini. You won’t be stumbling upon this if you don’t get away from the crowds and explore the island on your own.

Fun things to do on Santorini with car?

One of my favorite things to do on Santorini is the open air cinema in Kamari. So much fun. But tricky to get to and from without a rental car. (Not impossible but just takes some planning.)

Shopping on Santorini with a rental car.

How the you gonna get your meat home without a car? Can’t take this slab of cow on the bus.

Taxi or rental car for Santorini airport.

The taxi line at the Santorini airport. It can be chaotic and in short supply of taxis. If you rent a car in advance you won’t have to wait for a taxi (which can take up to an hour in the morning or evenings). And if it’s late at night some taxis will not drive to any town except Fira.

Tips for Renting a Car on Santorini

  • All local and big name car companies will do airport pickup and drop off.
  • If you’re arriving at the airport then it’s best to book in advance and do airport pickup. This way you avoid the sometimes-dreadful taxi line.
  • If you’re arriving at the ferry port I’d recommend taking a taxi or bus into Fira and then getting your rental car in Fira – whether you booked in advance or not.
  • Booking in advance is not absolutely necessary but if you require an automatic transmission during June, July, August, or September then you have to reserve it (most cars on Santorini are standard).
  • If you need an automatic and you’re booking through Auto Europe (recommended) be sure to select Transmission: Automatic.
  • I do not recommend renting scooters or ATVs. Over all my years of traveling this is the number one way that people end up in the hospital: riding a scooter, motorbike, or ATV when they don’t usually do it at home. Also, they’re fine for short trips but going from one end of the island (say, Oia) to the other (Akrotiri or the beaches) on an ATV or scooter is a long ride – at least I don’t enjoy it.
  • If you have a young child it’s best to bring a car seat from home – some rental agencies do have a few child seats but they tend to be older and not up to British or American standards (though they’ll do in a pinch).
  • If you need a larger car for a family of 4, 5, or 6 then I’d recommend booking in advance.
  • EU drivers licenses are perfectly acceptable for renting a car. But if you’re not from the EU you’re supposed to (in theory) get an International Drivers permit before leaving home. Almost all places will rent to you with only an American, Canadian, Australian, or any other foreign license but if you get into an accident your insurance will be not be valid (in theory). For the record: I do not have an international drivers permit and have never had a problem – but, I’ve never gotten into an accident either.
  • Before you leave the lot take pictures on your phone of every corner of the car (inside and out).
Driving on Santorini - Is it easy or difficult?

Driving on Santorini’s narrow roads can be challenging and comical. Once again: be patient.

Getting rental car at the ferry port in Santorini.

If you arrive by ferry it’s going to be busy and crazy at the ferry port. Take a bus or taxi to your hotel and get your rental car in Fira later that day or the next day.

Parking on Santorini with rental car.

Parking on Santorini is always an adventure. This is the “parking lot” in Imerovigli. Just have lots of patience and know you’ll always be able to find something.

Is it safe to drive on Santorini with a rental car?

I love Greek people but let’s be honest – they’re terrible drivers. And in all honesty, they’re crazier than the donkeys.

Prices on Santorini for car, scooter, and ATV rental.

Car rental prices at local rental car companies in Santorini. There will also be some additional charges (insurance, transfer, taxes).

See Also

8 Questions and Comments

  1. Which Islands and How Long

    Will be in Greece in July 2017. Athens 2 nights. Santorini is a must. Trying to decide between Naxos and Milos for another island. The other question is should we do 3 islands and add Mykonos or is that too much running around? Traveling with husband, 2 teens(19,16). We love to explore, absorb local culture, snorkel, dive, and relax. Any advice would be so helpful. I’m quite overwhelmed. Luci

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Naxos and Milos are both great. Naxos has better beaches and more inland villages. Milos is great for boat tours around the coast and its wonderful beautiful geography. Mykonos has nightlife (Naxos and Milos don’t) and beautiful lively beaches. You don’t say how long you have in total so can’t tell you what to do but I’d recommend 3 nights at least on each of those islands.

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      The Saloon in Fira (the lower half of Murphy’s) has a pool table. Groove Bar in Kamari also has one.

  2. Pickup Rental Car and Parking in Oia

    Hi Dave
    Thank you fo a very informative site!
    We will be in Oia in July 2017 for 5 days, arriving by transfer from the port. We would like to first spend some of the time in and around Oia, and then rent a car for 2 days to drive around the island. I’ve looked at the Auto Europe site and it doesn’t seem to have a vehicle pick up point in Oia. Would I have to travel to the airport to pick up the car? And where could I park the car in Oia?

    Kathy Hutchinson

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Yes, most of the pickup and drop off spots are in Fira or at the airport. (Fira is much closer to Oia than the airport is.) If you wanted to rent from a local company that has an office in Oia then try Spiridakos. There are a few different spots to park in Oia (the turn off to Baxedes or up near the north end of Oia, by Lioyerma pool) but I don’t know where you’re staying and I’m sure your hotel will have some tips on where to park.

  3. How Many Days on Santorini for Renting a Car to be Worthwhile

    We’re planning our stay in Santorini for next August. Between Crete, Naxos, and Mykonos we’re uncertain about how much time to spend in Santorini. Where would you draw the line between renting and not renting a car for Santorini? We might spend 1, 2, 3, or 4 full days on Santorini – for which length would you recommend getting a car?

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      If you have 1 full day on Santorini I would not rent a car – explore the caldera towns of Oia, Imerovigli, and Fira. If you have time walk the footpath from Oia to Fira. Have dinner with a caldera view. But for 2 days or more I think renting a car becomes worthwhile for most (unless you’re doing a full-day boat tour of the caldera). And certainly 3 or 4 days you’d be thankful for having a car to really explore the island. Lots to see.

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