A very small island, but full of interesting and beautiful places. The bus service is well developed, but there are a limited number of destinations and routes during the day. So how do you make the most of your holiday on this beautiful island? Prepare in advance and find out all the details about car hire in Santorini, because you can see so much more in Santorini by car!

Rent a car in Santorini

The rules of car hire in Santorini are not very different from those generally accepted in Greece. It is only the small size of our island and the resulting lack of competition that has an effect: car rental companies are rarely idle and the owners of most companies keep the price level relatively high compared to other Greek islands.

Rent a car in Santorini, Greece: Fiat Punto hatchback
Rent a car in Santorini, Greece: Fiat Punto hatchback

You will need the following documents to rent a car in Santorini:

  1. International Driving Licence;
  2. Cash;
  3. Often a Visa or Mastercard from any bank.

If you come to the car rental company yourself, almost every car rental company on the island will rent a car in the following way:

  1. You choose the car that suits you (more often from the price list and photos, less often from the car park in front of the office);
  2. You read the policy carefully. It contains all the terms and conditions of the insurance;
  3. Give your documents to the rental agent, who will complete the contract and insurance (all in duplicate);
  4. You sign the papers and pay the rent;
  5. Get the keys and the car.

If you rent an expensive car, you may also need a bank card. The card account is used as a guarantee and in case of expensive repairs or fines. For example, you will definitely need the card to rent this BMW 4 Series:

Luxury car rental in Santorini, Greece: BMW 4 Series Cabriolet
Luxury car rental in Santorini, Greece: BMW 4 Series Cabriolet

It’s much easier to book a car in Santorini online in advance and pick it up at a date and time of your choice (airport, port, hotel…). So, car rental in Santorini – let’s sort it out together!

Click here for more information:

How and where to rent a car in Santorini

There are several ways to rent a car – you can book online, find one at the port, airport or on the street, or ask your hotel or villa manager to arrange it for you. Let’s look at each option in more detail.

Rent a car in Santorini online

It is not only the most modern way, but also the most convenient and safe. All you have to do is select and book your car online, step off the plane or cruise ship and get behind the wheel of the car.

The only disadvantage of this method is that you cannot see the car you have chosen until you receive it.

The advantages of booking online are obvious: booking in advance allows you to choose the right car not only by class but also by price. Moreover, you are in no hurry and no one is rushing you: you can study all the conditions in a comfortable environment. There is also no need to look for anything on site: the car will be waiting for you at the airport, seaport or can be delivered to your hotel. You can return it in the same way as you picked it up.

The only disadvantage of this method is that you cannot see your chosen car in person until you pick it up. On the other hand, many Santorini car hire companies do not have most of their cars parked in front of the office, but instead “wait” for tourists in remote car parks.

There is very little road space on the island, so there is no way to spread out and show all the cars.

Santorinika Travel Agency, from personal experience of living on the island

This means that even at the time of selection, not all available models can be seen live, and you will have to take a rental agent’s word for it.

To get a general idea of the price level when booking online and to choose a suitable rental and car option, you can visit the aggregator website which collects offers from most car rental companies from all over the island of Santorini.

Find a car on the spot when you arrive

This is likely to happen and was once a very popular option as you can sometimes see the cars available in person. However, it is not the safest option. The fact is that there may be only 1-2 cars in front of the office and the rest will end up in the parking lot. By the way, this is still good because there may be no cars available for the dates you need (don’t forget: Santorini is a very small island and we have a lot of tourists in season). Or you want to rent a car for five days and there are only cars available for two + one day with a three day break in between.

Also bear in mind the time factor: besides you, there will be a lot of tourists interested in cars, and a comfortable environment for a quiet choice may not be.

For example, a typical situation – we arrive on the island at the port of Fira. We look at the car rental in Fira harbour – there are only three cars in front of the office:

Rent a Car in the Port of Thira, Santorini, Greece
Rent a Car in the Port of Thira, Santorini, Greece

And so your ferry has docked, the ramps have been lowered and you – along with the rest of the passengers – disembark to find a car. The car rental offices in the port of Fira are on the far left – just behind the buses:

At the port of Thira, Santorini, Greece
At the port of Thira, Santorini, Greece

There is an opinion that there are a number of inconveniences to car rental in Thira port without advance reservation.

Remember that there may be other ships arriving at the same time as your ferry and you will need time not only to get to the car hire offices, but also to choose, read and understand all the terms and conditions of the rental agreement and car insurance. We will talk about the documents a little later.

Learn about car rental at your hotel

Not bad, but not the best way: on the one hand, you don’t have to worry about anything, but on the other hand… first of all, it has all the disadvantages of the previous methods – you won’t see the cars either, and you can only talk to a receptionist. Also, there is a risk that the final cost of the car hire will be the highest, as the hotel will not be providing this service for free. You have probably heard about the prices on our island.

What documents do you need to rent a car in Santorini?

You will need a passport, a national driving licence and, ideally, an international driving licence. In case of any problems, the complete set of documents will ensure that you will not have any problems with the insurance company or the police.

Terms and Conditions of Car Rental in Santorini

Car rental conditions in Santorini are quite simple:

  • Age: The minimum age of the driver is 21 years. The higher the category of the rented car, the higher the age and experience requirements (i.e. to rent a luxury Mercedes convertible you usually need to be at least 23 years old with at least one year of experience, while the most common compact car can be rented from 21 years old). Some (rare) rentals add two more years to the age requirement, i.e. give cars to drivers from 23 and 25 years respectively;
  • Driving Licences: New national driving licences issued in Europe, America, Australia, Canada, Israel, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are accepted. In other cases, an International Driver’s Licence is required;
  • Experience: at least one year. There are no special checks – the rental staff simply looks at the date of issue of the driver’s licence;
  • Additional driver: depending on the rental, can be free or for an additional fee (usually 5-7 euros per day);
  • Mileage: usually not limited, but the car cannot be taken from the island to other islands or to the mainland;
  • Insurance: In accordance with the option of choice;
  • Fuel: According to the selected option.

A specific vehicle or a group and class of vehicles

In Santorini there are two ways to choose and get a car:

  • By model – it means you get a specific car: you order a BMW 3 – you get a BMW 3. Everything is clear and without options;
  • By class or group – assumes you get any free car from a particular class: you order a Toyota Yaris, you get an Opel Corsa, choose a BMW 3 – you get a Mercedes C class, and so on.

Santorini is a small island and the number of rental cars is very limited.

This is why the second option (getting a car from a group of similar cars) is the most common.

Car Insurance in Santorini – Car, Driver and Passengers

Car insurance in Santorini is essential, especially if you frequently drive on the serpentines and narrow streets of the cities. The chance of hitting a corner or another car with your bumper is high, as is the chance of hitting a rental car. The locals are not at all ceremonious about parking – and you’ll see that when you come to our island. To park door to door or bumper to bumper and “hit” while parking or driving out of the lot – it’s a regular thing.

Before choosing a car rental company, read all the insurance terms and conditions and pay attention to the clauses included in the contract, as there are several different types of car insurance in Greece.

Types of car insurance in Santorini

Learn more about what you can find on our island:

  • TP (Theft Protection) – Insurance, which includes protection against car theft and its parts;
  • FI (Fire Insurance) – Insurance against damage to the car caused by fire;
  • WUG – Insurance against damage to the windows, underbody and wheels of the car;
  • PAI (Personal Accident Insurance) – Insurance for the driver and passengers specified in the contract;
  • СDW (Collision Damage Waiver) – Insurance against damage to the car, which includes insurance excess;
  • SCDW, FCDW, FDW – Insurance that has a zero excess. This is the type of insurance that rental companies most often refer to as “full coverage”. It is the most comprehensive and usually the most expensive.

Ideally, when renting a car in Santorini, you should purchase the most comprehensive insurance policy that includes all of the items listed, i.e. it should clearly include the acronyms TP, FI, WUG, PAI, CDW and FDW. This will ensure that the terms are as comprehensive as possible and you won’t have to worry about every scratch.

Again, we recommend that you read the terms and conditions of the contract very carefully! For example, here is my car rental contract, which clearly states that it includes all types of insurance, I (as the driver) am insured for fifteen thousand euros, and all passengers are insured for one million euros. Note the Insurance & Waivers section:

Car rental agreement in Santorini: insurance options
“Car rental agreement in Santorini: I have included all possible insurances” – Sergey Kolyer (Santorinika Travel Agency)

If you have booked and paid for your car online, you should also ask for a paper version of the contract during picking up your car.

It is also worth noting that no car rental in Santorini offers absolutely full insurance – it simply does not exist. For example, no insurance option will work if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or there are clear and serious traffic violations.

What is excess in car insurance?

Insurance excess is a way of sharing the cost of a claim. In other words, if the damage is up to the excess, the renter pays the cost. If the damage is greater, the tenant pays the full amount of the deductible and the insurance company pays the rest. So insurance excess is the amount you must pay towards the overall cost of an insurance claim.

The deductible amounts are specified in the policy. Here’s how it looks in my case – look at clause 14:

Franchise in a car rental agreement in Santorini, Greece
Excess rules in a car rental agreement in Santorini, Greece

If you refuse the CDW/FDW insurance, the deductible will be 900 euros for simple cars of groups A and B, 1500 euros for more expensive cars of groups C and D, and so on. It is up to you to decide whether the savings of 10-20 euros per day are worth the risk.

When renting expensive and luxury cars, zero excess is not common, so this type of insurance is usually not “full”. The amount of the excess is at the discretion of each rental company on the island.

An example of a car rental insurance excess in Greece

You rent a car for one week for 400 euros with a insurance excess of 900 euros. This means that you pay 400 euros at the time of rental and pick up the car you selected.

If there is no insurance event with the car during your vacation, everything is fine – you return the car to the rental office and the story ends there. On the other hand, if you have a claim, the damage will be assessed after the claim has been reported.

If the damage is minor (e.g. scratches or small dents on the fender or bumper – the repair amount is 50 euros), the rental company will charge you an additional 50 euros (because 50 euros is within the 900 euros excess).

In case of much bigger damages (side collision, broken glasses, dented doors, sill, fender – repair amount is 5000 Euro), the rental company will charge you 900 Euro (maximum amount according to the agreement rules) and the rest 5000-900=4100 Euro will be claimed from the insurance company.

Cost and pricing when renting a car in Santorini

The final price of car rental in Santorini varies according to the season, the company, the type and condition of the car and the insurance conditions. Common to almost all rental companies principles:

  • Seasonality affects a lot, sometimes many times over. For example, the cost of car rental in winter can be 20 euros per day, in spring and fall the same car in the same rental will cost 40 euros per day, and during the summer season the price will be around 60 euros for a day;
  • The higher the class of the car, the higher the cost of the rental. Renting a jeep or a convertible will always be more expensive than renting a sedan, which will be more expensive than renting a hatchback or a small economy car;
  • The more days in the contract, the cheaper each day. For example, renting a car for one day in high season may cost 50 euros, while the same car for three days will cost 120 euros (that is 40 euros per day);
  • Attractive price but no insurance. In the past, our local car hire companies were happy to quote low prices, but it turned out that they did not include insurance. Fortunately, there are now far fewer of these offers, and insurance is usually still included in the price they tell you;
  • More comprehensive insurance will always add significantly to the total cost of the rental. For example, renting a car with a 900 euro excess may cost you 20 euros per day, while the same car with no excess and full insurance will cost you 40 or even 50 euros per day.

On the aggregator sites you can get an idea of the general price level of the different rentals in Santorini. You can also use the form below to select a suitable car if you know the dates of your trip:

Getting the car: checking the car before driving

Before receiving the car, it is worth checking it for external and internal damage. If you find any defects or faults (even small chips or scratches on the bumper), you should always point them out to the manager and ask him to record them in the contract. There is a schematic picture of the car in the rental agreement, where its condition at the moment of transfer to the client is indicated. Otherwise, these small details may be written on your account when you rent the car, especially if you do not have full car insurance.

The final paperwork takes place before the car is handed over to you, so try to consider all these points in advance.

Every car rental company in Santorini tries to please its customers. However, this does not exclude your care and caution. Here, for example, is the most frequent pain of all our drivers (and renters as well):

Car rental in Santorini, Greece: The most common problems are scratches and dents on the bumper.
Car rental in Santorini, Greece: The most common problems are scratches and dents on the bumper.

Below is a short list of all the things that you will need to take into consideration when renting a car in Santorini:

  • Exterior: Condition of the wheels, scratches, dents and chips on the body and windows, missing parts in the structure;
  • Interior: all parts are in place, there are no broken parts, everything works;
  • Inspection: starting the car, checking the operation of the steering wheel, brakes, headlights, windshield wipers and horn;
  • Safety and comfort: air conditioning, stereo, locks and alarm with central locking;
  • Fuel level: as much as there is in the tank at the time of rental – the same amount must be returned at the end of the rental.

If you find even the smallest and (in your opinion) insignificant defects during the initial inspection and examination of the vehicle, be sure to ask the manager to correct them in the contract – do not be satisfied with assurances that “everything is fine” or “it’s all minor”. Everything must be in the contract.

Returning a Rental Car

Usually all terms and conditions for returning the car are agreed in advance. In most cases the car is returned to the same place where it was picked up, but in some cases for an additional fee you can leave the car at a different location (e.g. rent a car at Santorini airport and return it at Athinios port).

If there are no problems with the car, you will return the keys to the manager, he will inspect the car, make sure everything is ok and that’s the end of your cooperation. If there are any problems, they will be solved according to the type of rental and insurance policy.

The most important point when returning the car is the amount of fuel that is left in the tank, and there can be several schemes.

The first and most common is that you return the car with the same amount of fuel you had as when you received it. For example, you received the car with half a tank of fuel. This means that you must return it with half a tank of fuel.

If you look again at the photo of my car rental agreement, you will notice the mark “Should return 3/8” – this is the amount of diesel (it was a diesel engine car) that must be in the tank when I return the car to the rental office. I have to return the car with 3/8 of the fuel in the tank – that’s just under half. It’s that simple.

The other option is to get a car with a full tank of fuel, but the requirement for the amount of fuel upon return is removed – bring at least an empty. As a rule, this option is more expensive, because the car rental company will fill a full tank in advance at its own expense and, of course, at a slightly higher price for each liter of fuel.

Greece and Santorini traffic rules

In Greece and Santorini there is right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic. In general, the traffic rules are similar to what you are used to. Except that we have to gesticulate and communicate more with the drivers around us 🙂

Road signs in Santorini, Greece
Road signs in Santorini, Greece

Travelling by car in Santorini is easy: all the road plans, signs and markings – everything looks either exactly the same or very similar (with a difference in the size of the signs) and should not be difficult, so choose the right car beforehand – and off you go!

Sergey Kolyer

I am co-founder of the Santorinika Travel Agency, a personal guide and the author of the island travel guide. I share the beauty of Greece all year round and help organise great vacations on land, sea and air.