How to rent a car in Santorini? What rental cars are available? Car pickup and rental cars at the Santorini Airport, Fira, and Oia.
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.
If arriving by plane pickup rental cars at the Santorini Airport to avoid the long lines for a taxi – and airport pick up is easier than pick up in Fira or Oia.
Should I Rent A Car In Santorini?
RentalCars.com 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 and CarRental 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).
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.
The highlight of visiting Santorini: the walk along the caldera from Fira to Oia. You don’t need a rental car for this.
Sitting in your private plunge pool and staring out into the caldera. You definitely don’t need a rental car to enjoy this.
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.)
The best bar in Fira – the Kira Thira Jazz Bar. Having a car is more of a hassle if you’re going out drinking.
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.
One of my favorite restaurants in Santorini. Cava Alta in Pyrgos. You can get here without a rental car … but you probably won’t.
The awesome village of Emborio in southern Santorini. You won’t be getting here without a rental 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.
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 beach road on the east coast of the island. You’re not getting here unless you rent 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.
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.
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 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.
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.)
How the fuck you gonna get your meat home without a car? Can’t take this slab of cow on the bus.
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.
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.
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 pickup 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 scary as fuck and packed with large tour buses, trucks, cars, and motorbikes. It’s not easy or relaxing for a tourist to deal with. 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.
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’s narrow roads can be challenging and comical. Once again: be patient.
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 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.
I love Greek people but let’s be honest – they’re terrible drivers. And in all honesty they’re crazier than the fucking donkeys.
Car rental prices at local rental car companies in Santorini. There will also be some additional charges (insurance, transfer, taxes).