Things you should know before traveling to Crete

Crete is easy. There is little you need to do to prepare for your trip to this glorious Greek island beyond making a few reservations in advance. The packaging is simple, and if you forget something, you can buy it there.

The island is safe. The local economy relies on tourists and Cretans, like most Greeks, are friendly and welcoming. In any business that tourists go to (including even small family restaurants high up in the hills), someone will speak English. A little common sense and courtesy will go a long way in navigating venue etiquette.

Here is everything you need to know before traveling to Crete. (You’re lucky.)

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Book your rooms and rental cars (good) in advance

As travelers continue to make up for missed trips during the pandemic, Crete is a favorite destination. From April to October, the best places to stay at all price levels are reserved in advance. Don’t wait, hoping prices will go down. They will not.

This is even more true for rental cars, thanks to the global car shortage. If you drive the entire time you’re on the island, shop around and book the best deal you can find. One exception: If you’re just renting a car for an occasional day trip, you can wait until you’re on the island and then arrange a day rental with a local team. (Note that this may be a friend of the hotel owner with a fleet of three Fiats.)

Exploring Crete by car is easy – just make sure you book your rental well in advance of your trip © Krivosheev Vitaly / Shutterstock

Know your season and layer up

Images of sun-kissed beaches and balmy nights in cafes underpin the clichés of Cretan tourism. But outside of summer, it’s not always hot. Winter can be windy, cold and wet. Nights out in July and August can be lively. Bring layers.

bring some cash

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted for purchases large and small, and ATMs are common in Crete. But you may find offline machines or cash-only vendors, so we recommend bringing around €200 in cash in various smaller euro denominations. Don’t be that person who gives the old ex-fisherman who runs the beach ferry a €50 ticket for a €5 fee.

Fill your phone with maps before you take the wheel

Many map apps allow you to download data in advance that you can later use to navigate when your phone is offline. This can be a lifesaver when you’re at the junction of two unmarked roads deep in the mountains and don’t know which way to turn.

A woman walks towards the church of Agios Nikolaos, carved into the rocks in the Kotsifou Gorge, Crete, Greece, Mediterranean Sea
Remember to show some modesty and cover up before entering any of Crete’s countless historic churches © Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images

take cover in churches

Letting (almost) everyone hang out is fine on many beaches (there are a few completely nude ones on the island), but when you stop by Crete’s many incense-filled historic churches, show some respect. Cover your shoulders, wear shorts or a skirt that reaches below your knees, and don’t go barefoot.

Stay cool and stylish at night.

Warm nights call for airy, flowy garments, but don’t expect to walk into that cool cafe, upscale restaurant, or hectic club in a T-shirt and shorts. Shorts and longer dresses are good almost anywhere at night; a cool designer t-shirt or something with a collar will work for men.

Cretans rarely go nude or topless on the beach.

Island residents expect clothes to fall off of beach-loving visitors. However, you still need to exercise some discretion. Near city centers and along seafront promenades, the courteous exposition maintains a shred of modesty. Elsewhere, women often go topless and designated nude areas abound. When in doubt, take a look at the prevailing fashion around you (or lack thereof).

A wide view of diners on a waterfront terrace at night in Tabakaria, Chania, Crete, Greece, Mediterranean Sea
Crete dinners are lively, family-oriented and long © Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock

Expect long, languid dinners.

Crete has some of the best food in Mediterranean Europe. Meals are a event – and can stretch over two or more very enjoyable hours. Friends share large and small plates, which are served to the entire table, family style. On a busy summer night, restaurants can fill up at once and dishes can leave the kitchen only after long intervals. Trying to rush things is rude and the antithesis of a lovely, relaxed night out.

In contrast, lunch can be enjoyed fairly quickly in a café or savored for much longer, especially in a seaside tavern, where a shaded table and a meal of fresh seafood is the ideal antidote to the scorching sun. noon.

Be sure to tip, but not too much

As an island with a large tourist industry, Crete has more of a tipping culture than the less touristy parts of Greece. In restaurants and cafes, 5% is a good average amount, with 10% being very generous. Locals will round up to an even number at a restaurant (for example, leaving €35 for a €33 bill) or leave small change at a coffee shop.

It is always appreciated to leave a few euros for the room cleaner. If someone helps you with your bags, €1 to €3 per bag is appropriate, unless it’s a taxi driver, in which case the baggage handling fee is added to the fare. You just have to tip the taxi driver a maximum of a couple of euros.

Pay the asking price

Outside of open-air markets, price bargaining is not the norm in Crete. Expect to pay the marked price in stores and galleries.

feel free to drink the water

Tap water in Crete is safe to drink. Remember to refill your water bottles whenever you can, as it is very hot in summer. You’ll need plenty of hydration for the beach, hiking trails, bus and car trips, and more.

Don’t stress about the crime

Crete is a safe place to travel and you should not lose any sleep over the risk of crime. However, like anywhere, common sense should always prevail: lock the doors, don’t leave valuables in the rental car, and never leave your phone or other treasures unattended on the beach or in the cafeteria.

thwart the mosquitoes

Mosquitoes buzz endlessly at dusk. If you like anti-insect sprays or balms, take them with you: repellents can be surprisingly hard to find in Crete. Mosquito coils are widely available, as are electrical devices that plug into the wall in hotel rooms. But the effectiveness of these methods is variable at best.

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