Updated: April 18, 2018
- Renting a car is a great way to see the whole island as not everywhere is well served by bus and Santorini taxis are in short supply. About half of the best things to do in Santorini are made easier by having a rental car.
- Book rental cars in advance for visits from June to September.
- RentalCars.com is the best site for reserving cars in Santorini.
- Most rental cars in Santorini have a standard transmission. If you only drive automatic then definitely reserve in advance.
- If arriving by plane pickup your rental car at the airport to avoid the long lines for a taxi.
- If arriving by ferry take a taxi or bus from the port into Fira and then pickup your rental car.
- Take pictures of the vehicle (inside and out) before driving away from the rental company.
How do I rent a car in Santorini?
RentalCars.com searches all the big car companies and finds the best price. Don’t be put off by the simple layout of the site – it’s all about finding the best rates. The most common pickup points are Fira and the Santorini airport. Under Pickup Location select either Santorini Airport or All Locations (which will usually means Fira).
I prefer renting from one of the international car companies that you find online 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).
Car Rental At The Santorini Airport
For airport rental cars you can reserve through Rentalcars.com and pickup from one of the kiosks at the Santorini airport. The airport is very small and it’s quick and easy to get your car. From the airport it’s a short 10 minute drive to Fira. About 15 minutes to Imerovigli. And 25 to Oia (from the airport). Renting a car from the airport will save you the hassle of getting a taxi. When flights arrive taxis are in short supply and waits can be long. Rental car companies that offer cars from the Santorini airport include Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise. Their desks are located in the arrivals hall of the airport terminal.
Car Rental At The Santorini Port
The ferry port in Santorini is chaos when a ferry arrives. I would not advise doing a rental car pickup at the port. For one, it’s very busy and meeting your person will not be straight forward. And two, the winding snaking crazy road up the caldera cliff is scary as fuck. I have not driven up it nor do I want to. Whether reserving in advance or hiring a car after arrival just do it in Fira or Oia. Much easier.
Should I Rent A Car In 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 at 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
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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 RentalCars.com 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 rental company take pictures on your phone of every corner of the car (inside and out).