Crete Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Plan ahead Crete is larger than its fellow Greek Islands, so you could waste a lot of time traveling from site to site. Create an itinerary before you head out to make sure you budget enough time to do and see everything on your list.
- Bring a phrasebook Although you can find English speakers in the more touristy parts, Greek is the official language.
- Bring an extra change of clothes It's important to dress appropriately at the religious sites: Long pants and skirts and shirts that cover your shoulders and chest. If you're bouncing between the beach and the sites, packing an extra pair of clothing will do you well.
If there was one word to describe the Greek island of Crete, it would be "diverse." Sandy beaches hide amongst soaring mountains, palm-tree forests grow in the middle of sprawling plains, bustling modern cities share coastline with ancient ruins. And speaking of cities -- in Crete they reflect the people that came before; the streets are lined with architecture mirroring the styles of the Minoans, the Venetians, the Ottomans as well as contemporary Greeks. Despite the visible contrasts, this island maintains a sense of unity felt whenever you step onto the street, dine at a local taverna or enjoy a glass of raki at a sidewalk café.
Crete's experiences are as assorted as its history, so take some time to decide what type of vacation you're looking to have before you set anything in stone. For a more urban setting and a variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, consider staying along the northern coast in Chania or Heraklion. Those who prefer the great outdoors should head to the southern areas of Chania and Rethymnon for the hiking opportunities and many beautiful beaches.
How To Save Money in Crete
- Bring your own toiletries Shampoo, toothpaste, suntan lotion… all of these things cost more in Crete than they do in the U.S. And as long as they're not in your carry-on, you'll have no trouble getting them from point A to point B.
- Eat like a local When it comes to dining on a dime, you can't go wrong with a taverna. These homely eateries serve up all the Greek favorites for a fraction of the cost of a fine restaurant.
- Determine your route in advance Gas prices tend to be high in Crete. If you're renting a car, avoid excess fuel use by mapping out your route and your itinerary.
Crete Culture & Customs
Greeks are known for their hospitality and Crete is regarded as a friendly tourist destination. However, understanding Greek etiquette will help you interact with residents and blend in with society.
Understanding body language will also help you interact with residents. Be aware of your gestures; for example, the hand signal for "OK" using the thumb and index finger, is offensive in Greece, and Greeks indicate "yes" -- a slight downward nod -- or "no" -- a slight upward nod -- differently than Americans.
Because of Crete's warm climate, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable when walking around the cities or the beaches. However, if you are planning to visit any religious sites, make sure to dress more conservatively in long pants or skirts and shirts that cover the shoulders and the chest area. You should dress more formally when dining at a restaurant.
Cretan restaurants are used to serving foreigners and generally accept most major credit cards However, Cretans themselves generally pay in cash (the official currency of Greece is the Euro). When it comes to tipping, 10 percent is the standard amount, but it's acceptable to leave a little extra for outstanding service.
You can find authentic Cretan menus at almost any taverna. If you're feeling lost when it comes to finding a truly authentic taverna, just ask a resident; Cretans are known for being friendly and helpful to tourists. Travelers suggest dining at the Ferryman Taverna and Lotus Eaters, both located in the northeast town of Elounda, for an excellent dinner experience.
Meals are composed of fresh meat and fish, dairy products like feta cheese and locally grown produce and wine. Crete is also famous for producing olive oil, a staple ingredient in most dishes. And no need to worry about calorie counting when it comes to dessert; most desserts are sweetened naturally with honey and molasses.