Renting a Car in Santorini
- 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.
- Booking car rentals in advance is not absolutely essential but it sure makes things cheaper and easier.
- 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 pick up rental cars at the Santorini Airport to avoid the long lines for a taxi. (Airport pick up is easier than pick up in Fira or Oia).
- If arriving by ferry take a taxi or bus from the ferry port to the airport and then get your rental car. It’s easier doing car pickup at the airport than finding the individual rental car companies in Fira or Oia.
- There are also rental car companies located directly at the ferry port. In my experience, when you rent from these companies they will then drive you to their customer service center somewhere around the island. This is a fine option too but it’s always a little uncertain what the process will be.
- When picking up your rental car, take pictures of the vehicle (inside and out) before driving away from the parking lot.
- Driving in Santorini is fairly easy (just drive slowly and never drink and drive). I do not recommend ATVs or motorcycles – too dangerous.
- Drivers from the US and Canada are required to have an International Driver’s Permit, as well as a valid driver’s license to drive in Greece.
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 recommend picking up your rental car from the Santorini airport even if arriving by ferry. The airport is smack in the center of the island and a short taxi or bus ride from the port and all towns. All the airport rental car desks are within a few feet of each other. It’s easy to get your car, walk across the parking lot, and drive away. On the other hand, both the ferry port and Fira are busy and chaotic. Finding the rental car companies are tricky and getting your car will usually require waiting while someone drives it there from another location (maybe the airport).
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 and Spiridakos.
Driving Map of Santorini
Car Rental at the Santorini Airport
For airport rental cars you can reserve through Rentalcars.com and pick up 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 Santorini airport, it’s a short 10-minute drive to Fira. About 15 minutes to Imerovigli. And 25 minutes to Oia. 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 Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise. Their desks are located in the arrivals hall of the airport terminal. The desks are well-staffed and there’s almost never a lineup for car pickup.
What Rental Car Companies Rent Cars at the Santorini Airport?
Car Rental at the Santorini Port
The Athinios ferry port in Santorini is chaotic when a ferry arrives. I would not advise doing a rental car pick up at the port. For one, it’s very busy, and meeting your contact person will not be straightforward. And two, the winding snaking crazy road up the caldera cliff is damn scary and packed with large tour buses, trucks, cars, and motorbikes. It’s not easy or relaxing for a tourist to deal with. (Whenever I’ve booked a rental car for pick up at the port they’ve actually driven me to an inland customer service center, which is fine too. You’re just never certain what the process will be.) First-timers should reserve a rental car at the Santorini airport. When you arrive at the ferry port take a direct bus or taxi to the airport (about 20 minutes away). The airport is in the center of the island and from there it’s much easier to get going in the right direction whether you’re staying in Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, or one of the beaches.
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 to and from your destination. If you wanted to go (from Oia) to Kamari and Akrotiri on the same day you’d be looking at 8 bus trips. However, if 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
13 Reasons to Rent a Car on Santorini
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 to the relative calm of the Santorini airport – 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). You’ll also get a better rate by booking in advance.
- 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. If you’re not from the EU you’re supposed to get an International Drivers permit before leaving home. However, almost all places will rent to you with only an American, Canadian, Australian, or any other foreign license. (For the record: I do not have an international drivers permit and have never had a problem.)
- Before you leave the rental company take pictures on your phone of every corner of the car (inside and out).
- RentalCars.com – Best rates for rental cars on Santorini
- Santorini Airport Guide
- Holidays To Santorini – A Travel Guide
- The Best Hotels on Santorini
- Maps of Santorini
- Videos of Santorini
- The Best Things to Do on Santorini
- The Best Restaurants on Santorini
- Mykonos Car Rental
- Heraklion Airport Car Rental
- Athens Airport Car Rental