What is the best season to visit Crete?
The spring is wonderful for its nature and flowers but the sea is still cold and you can have some rain. July and August are too hot and crowded. So the best time is from May to mid-June and mid-September and October. If you are not coming for the sea and sun and want to experience Crete without tourists, come in the winter, it will be a totally different experience.
Which are the most famous places to
visit on Crete?
- The nature is everywhere and really superb, especially the contrast between sea and high mountains
- The Minoan palaces: don't miss the fact that you are in the cradle of Europe. Knossos is not necessarily the best Minoan palace but certainly the most crowded
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum has the best collection of Minoan art in the world. If you can go when it is quiet it is definitely worth a visit.
- The old towns of Chania and Rethymnon with their mixture of Venetian and Turkish architecture.
- The beaches of Elafonisi, Balos and Falasarna are now major attractions...expect crowds
- More recently the island of Spinalonga has become very popular with visitors
How is it to travel as a single woman?
Perfectly safe but don't forget that Greek men belong to a hot-blooded Mediterranean race and cannot avoid at least "trying it on". They will however accept a clear "NO" for what it is, as opposed to the Italians.
Is Crete still a cheap place?
No! Crete is not the cheap place it was 20 or more years ago, but prices vary enormously depending on where you are. The further away you are from large tourist resorts and towns the cheaper it gets. Inland, away from tourism, is still comparatively cheap.
Are the Cretans still very hospitable?
VERY but it disappears in the large tourist concentrations, especially at busy times.
Is there still no theft on Crete?
Theft is still very rare but it occurs, mainly from foreigners. A Cretan will not humiliate himself by stealing with one exception: sheep rustling is still a well loved occupation for some. This is unlikely to affect visitors who generally do not come to Crete with their sheep.
Why do so many houses seem unfinished?
This question addresses two issues: houses that look unfinished and houses that are unfinished and maybe have stood so for a long time.
In the first instance the houses may LOOK unfinished because iron bars stick on top of the roofs. This is absolutely not to avoid paying property tax (as the legend has it) but to simplify the building of another floor in some distant future.
A house could also BE unfinished because the owners are waiting for money to continue with the building. Until a few years ago Greece had a very high inflation rate and it was wise to put any money you had into a house and build whenever money became available. Although the inflation is now on par with the rest of Europe it seems that this habit is still surviving.
Do I need to speak Greek to make myself
Absolutely not in tourist resorts. The further away you are from tourism the less likely you are to find someone (of older generations) speaking English - although even in the smallest villages you might find someone who has worked or lived abroad. But don't worry, unlike the French the Cretans do not expect you to speak their language and will make every effort to be able to communicate with you.
Is it true that when a Cretan says
NO he moves his head up?
A movement of the head upwards means NO. There are all sorts of ways to make this upward movement. The speed and amplitude of the movement and how these interrelate will convey the sort of No they mean. The eyebrows will also lift (different speed and amplitude) whilst the upward movement is occurring. Often, they will accompany it with an upward movement of the eyeballs of varying speed and amplitude, which when interrelating with the head movement further refines the quality of this NO. Whilst this is all happening the lips are pursed slightly forward (I won't go into the pressure and directional factors there because this gets complex) This can lead to a lot of confusion for the unknowing.
How should I dress in Crete?
It is pretty much up to you. You can be well-dressed without being conspicuous but nobody will care much if you dress VERY casually. There are two exceptions though: In churches and monasteries you are expected to have your legs and shoulders covered. This applies to men and women.
Don't walk around in towns in bikinis and swimming costumes. I see it happen in the middle of Chania at times and whilst nobody will stop you it is no less ridiculous than if you were going shopping at your local supermarket in your country in the same attire.
Is it true that the Cretans drive
Not so much dangerously, but like in everything, the Cretans follow their own rules and when you don't know them, driving can get (and certainly looks) dangerous.
More information on Cretan driving here.
Will I be able to eat plenty of cheap
NO! Fish is not cheap because their isn't plenty of it in the overfished Mediterranean Sea. Prices of eating fresh fish range from reasonable to expensive. Plenty of frozen fish from the Atlantic though. Note that restaurants MUST display by law if any item in a dish is frozen, and if they don't and are caught they'll end up paying a large fine.
To tip or not to tip?
Service is always included in all prices but is it usual to tip (waiters, taxi drivers, room cleaners) if the service is satisfying. It is not however expected as a due so that you will not get dirty looks if you don't tip. Around 10% is usual or often, simply round up the payment. Keep in mind that most people working in the service industry are paid low wages for very hard work and tips are not a luxury but a welcome addition to their wages.
If you plan to leave a large tip, maybe because the service was exceptionally good or over a period of time (as it could be in a hotel) make sure that you explain clearly that it is a tip and that you are not making a mistake about the amount.
Being invited out by a Cretan
If a Cretan invites you out, for a meal or a drink, don't expect to pay, don't even attempt it. You are in their country and you are the guest. Trying to pay by force (like taking the bill and going to pay it behind his back) would be extremely embarrassing for him, unless you are very close friends and have known each other for a while. If you want to reciprocate you will have to think of another way.
Sunbeds on beaches
A comparatively new phenomenon in Crete is the deployment of sunbeds and umbrellas on most beaches, even some pretty remote ones. It annoys me no end and I am not the only one but it does have its advantages: providing sunbeds is a job for which people have to have a license. The stretch of beach for which the license applies (and is paid for) has to be kept clean by the licensee and this is checked by the tourist police (or it might be the licensing municipality, I'm not sure). Although in my eyes it has spoilt the landscape I must admit that the beaches are now much cleaner (spotless in places) than they used to be and some have good facilities such as toilets, showers, children playgrounds etc. So let's not begrudge these few Euro.
Every beach also has to have areas where there are no sunbeds by law so that you are NEVER obliged to pay. You can still enjoy the clean beach, showers, toilets.
Are there poisonous snakes and other
There are no poisonous snakes on Crete (at least none that can bite you) but you may find scorpions. These live under stones or in dry wood but can also be found wandering about. Their bite is painful but no reason to panic. A worse hassle that you are likely to get is from mosquitoes, at least in some places.
After decades of a rigid approach against cannabis Greece seems to be moving towards decriminalization. But it's not quite there yet so if you need your smoke do it discreetly.