Santorini is one of the most popular islands in Greece, and for good reason! Not only are there the famous villages of Oia and Fira to explore, but it’s full of unique beaches, amazing history and so much more. One of the best ways to see this magical island is by getting a Santorini rental car. However, it might not be right for everyone! Here’s our top tips and tricks for renting a car in Santorini to help decide if you’ll need one on your holiday.
Plan Your Santorini Vacation First
To start off, it is important to know that there is so much to see and do on Santorini! Whether or not you need a rent a car in Santorini may depend on how many days you have and the area you decide to stay in.
If you only have a day or two and book a hotel in the popular towns of Fira or Oia, then you honestly won’t need a car. The iconic views can only be seen from the steps and winding maze of walking streets that flow through the main towns.
The villages of Santorini are best explored on foot and many of the hotels are built into the cliff sides. That means that hotel parking isn’t even an option with a Santorini car rental! These hotels also come with a premium price tag with some costing several hundred a night or more in high season.
If you have longer and want to see other areas then you will need some type of transportation to get around. The most popular ways to experience the island of Santorini are to rent a vehicle, take the bus, or jump on an island tour.
Santorini Rental Car vs Bus System
One of the reasons you might decide against a Santorini rental car is that there is actually a decent bus system. However, that does come with some warning! Taking the bus can get crowded in the busy summer months and even overpacked at times.
Only heading to one specific town or somewhere on the main bus route? Then you may not need a rental car in Santorini.
Obviously, there are some major benefits to taking the bus. It’s very inexpensive, you won’t have to deal with parking, and the public transportation runs year-round.
The bus can fine for some people on vacation, but there are drawbacks. For instance, you won’t be able to explore at your own pace and may be planning your days around the bus schedule.
Depending on the time of year, you also might be showing up to your destination with a bus load of other tourists. This can be annoying as you’ll feel like you need rush around and beat the crowds.
At the end of the day, there are so many beautiful places and viewpoints that you can only reach by renting a car in Santorini! Yet, you may find yourself utilizing a mix of both car and bus if you have multiple days on the island.
Can Renting a Car in Santorini Save You Money?
This is a funny thing that we were thinking about while traveling around Santorini. During our visits, we stumbled upon small villages, beach towns, and beautiful hotels overlooking the ocean… The only thing is they aren’t in Fira or Oia!
So often, travelers come to Santorini and only see the two most famous villages. While they are absolutely stunning and worth seeing, know that there is so much more to this famous Greek island.
Additionally, the hotels on other parts of Santorini can cost 1/4th of what you would pay for the caldera view. The only issue is that they aren’t always the easiest to get to!
If your lifelong dream has always been to travel to Santorini and stay in one of the famous cave hotels we understand. You can literally swim in a pool overlooking the Aegean Sea and watch the magical Santorini sunset from your balcony!
However, if you are looking for a more affordable option then staying in the smaller towns could be better. Even including the cost of renting a car on Santorini, it will likely be cheaper to stay outside of Fira and Oia than splurging for a hotel with an iconic view.
Another huge cost factor is the time of year you visit. By doing a quick search just now we found a week long Santorini car rental for only $100 USD!
Keep in mind this deal was for the month of May. A different week in the middle of August will cost at least $350, and even more for an automatic vehicle.
How Long Do You Need Your Car Rental in Santorini?
Something we should point out is that you may not need a Santorini car rental for your whole visit! It actually may be smarter to just have it for day trips or just a couple days out of a longer itinerary.
Many high-end hotels actually work with Santorini rental car companies and even offer a free delivery service to your accommodation. That way you can time the pick up of the car for first thing in the morning and have an entire day to see the island.
Once you get out and start to drive around Santorini you’ll quickly see how massive it is. There is a main road the leads out of the popular towns and takes you along the beautiful coast.
3 Main Santorini Rental Car Locations
Decided that renting a car in Santorini is right for you? Well, there is something else to think about! It’s now time to figure out where you’re picking it up from.
The best prices can often be from the airport. Yet, if you will only have it for a couple of days then one of the other rental locations might make more sense.
Remember that even though it’s an island you’ll be able to book all car types from standard to high end luxury cars.
We always use Discover Cars while traveling. They make it easy to compare all the different companies and filter by pickup location.
Santorini International Airport
If you plan to get it a rent a car in Santorini as soon as you arrive then the airport is the best way to go. Most rental agencies have branches nearby and offer shuttle services to the office.
Taxis and private transfers can be pricy from Santorini Airport. By renting a car on Santorini you can avoid additional costs and get the best rates when you land!
Fira is the capital of Santorini and one of the main places to see on the island. You will have no problem finding a rental car company in this zone. As always, we recommend planning ahead to get a great price and guarantee your booking.
This still applies even if you only need the car rental in Santorini for just a day or two. Know that many of the best car hire deals are ones you get by searching months in advance!
Santorini Ferry Port
This is something you might have not thought about if it’s your first visit to the island. If you are arriving by ferry you will want to book with one of the Santorini car rental companies that have a physical office in the Santorini port.
Just to make it very clear, this is different than if you are arriving on a cruise ship. Cruises dock in the bay and shuttle guests up the gondola which takes you directly to Fira Town.
More Tips for Renting a Car in Santorini
If you go to Santorini and only stay in Fira or Oia then there is so much you will be missing out on. Ideally, you will to have at least a day or two with a car to explore!
1. Book a small rental car if possible. The roads around the island are busy in the summer months and can be very tight.
2. Use a rental agency that has good reviews and a pickup location that fits your schedule. You don’t want to have to pay for extra taxis just to get your rent a car on Santorini.
3. Visiting Santorini in July or August? Book ahead for the more affordable prices and get on the road early. You will feel like you have the island to yourself if you are out exploring first thing in the morning. This is especially true if it’s before the cruise ships dock!
4. Santorini is large, but still not big enough where you’ll need to worry about having unlimited mileage. Still, make sure you have a valid driving license from your home country and an international drivers permit if possible. Sometimes we have been asked for this in Greece, and other times we haven’t.
5. Make sure the car is in good condition and document any scratches or dings when picking it up. The last thing you want to happen is to be hit with an extra charge if you didn’t make the damage!
6. There are more manual cars than automatic cars on the island of Santorini. If you need an automatic then be sure to filter for it during your online search.
7. Finally, don’t take the car on a ferry to a different island without specific written permission. Many companies don’t allow it and you’ll face a huge fine if you get caught.
Should You Rent a Car on Santorini?
If you couldn’t tell already… Yes! We highly recommend renting a car in Santorini for at least a day or two of your trip. While it may not be necessary for the entire visit, having a vehicle will allow you to see so many amazing places that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
With that said, everyone has a different travel style and budget to work with. Hopefully, this helped with your own decision. The rental prices can be a little crazy during the summer. Yet, it’s absolutely worth it if you want to explore outside the main towns of the island.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own experience renting a car on Santorini? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where to Stay in Santorini Greece
Here are some hotel recommendations as well as inspiration for different areas of the island. As you can see, there is something for every type of traveler on Santorini!
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Greece Travel Planning
For island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. The fast ferries like Sea Jets will cost more but often takes half the time of slower ferries like Blue Star!
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for as little as $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Tours: Go to Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities in Santorini. You can find everything from group sailing tours to private catamaran cruises. Go wine tasting around the island, horseback riding down the beach, or even jump on an ATV tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.