When living in Crete or just visiting the island, Brits in Crete suggests you use public transport. Take the KTEL bus, leave the car at home or the hotel accommodation you stay in. Take a break from driving the car, see the scenary glide by and relax.
Plan ahead and take KTEL, the regular intercity bus service in Crete. The buses and coaches are comfortable, air conditioned and inexpensive. They are esy to use as bus and coach services in Britain or Ireland. Booking staff almost always speak some English and are helpful.
By the way, there are no train lines on Crete, unlike mainland Greece. KTEL Western Crete Service in Greek is known as ΚΤΕΛ Τακτικά Δρομολόγια Χανιά - Ρέθυμνο - Ηράκλειο. Buses usually show the destination in English and Greek.
Remember that while distances may look short on a map of Crete, they can be deceptive for journey times, especially when travelling on country roads away from the motorway and the new super fast north-south highways.
The busiest long distance bus service is along the North coast highway network. KTEL Express buses run between Kissamos - Hania - Rethymnon - Heraklion - Malia - Agios Nikolaos - Sitia and Ierapetra and to the villages of the mountainous heartland, Southwest and Southern Crete.
Longest direct journey time on the Northwest Crete routes by Express bus can be more than 4 hours and sometimes a change of vehicle is required at Rethymnon when travelling between Heraklion - Rethmnon - Hania and vice versa. Often though, it is a through coach service between Heraklion and Chania. Fare: Heraklion - Chania is approximately Euros 13-14 one way (as of June 2014). Return tickets bought at the same time get a 10 per cent discount.
From Heraklion, Crete's capital, to travel eastwards, it takes 3 hrs+ to Sitia via Neapolis and Aghios Nikolaos. The cost of a ticket is just 7,10 € to Agios Nikolaos | Travel time = about 90 minutes, Express = about 60 minutes, while all the way to Sitia the single ticket is 14,70 € | Travel time = about 3 hours and 15 minutes. The fare between Heraklion and Ierapetra (south Coast), also via Neapolis and Aghios Nikolaos costs 11,00 € single | Travel time = about 2 hours and 30 minutes . (All fares are correct as of June 2014).
You can tell the long distance bus routes by the green and silver color schemes, compared to the municipal buses or trolleys that are in blue livery.
A reminder that in the May to October tourist season, frequent bus services link the capitals of the four prefectures, Hania (Chania), Rethymnon, Heraklion and Aghios Nikolaos to resorts and to tourist attractions, mainly along the north coast. These and other regional routes can be found at the KTEL Crete web site.
KTEL is run by two comanies in Crete. KTEL Crete SA is operated by Minoan Lines on Heraklion and Lassithi routes. KTEL Hania-Rethymnon SA is operated by ANEK Lines on Chania-Rethymno-Heraklion routes. The two shipping lines are Crete's two main ferry companies. The coaches are a joy to travel in. The buses/coaches are fast, efficient, safe and reliable. What is more Minoan Lines offer a 50% discount on coach tickets on their services in Heraklion and Lassithi, if the passenger has a ticket on a connecting Minoan Lines Ferry departing from Heraklion port. Information from Minoan Lines Call Center: +30 210 4145 700.
In the past decade, the whole fleet has been modernised. Just a few of the older coaches remain to serve the more remote routes. On the Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos - Ierapetra route you may be lucky enough to have the chance to take one of the double-decker coaches giving a panoramic view for the ride.
If you just wish to take a day off, a break from driving the car on the more mountainous routes, the long distance express coaches are the way to travel in comfort. For the most part, the Crete routes are operated to time. In the quieter periods of the year, coaches are known to run ahead of schedule. So always be at the bus stop 10 minutes before advertised departure time. Even in summer the early morning coaches also run very much to the scheduled departure times. But this is Crete, and sometimes the crew, can be, well, Cretan.
Interestingly, for few days break off the island of Crete, KTEL operates a service to Mainland Greece from Rethymnon via Xania (Hania) to Thessaloniki (Salonika) and Ioannina via Souda (Hania's port), by sea to Piraeus (Athens port) and by road again to the Attika market town of Larissa. The fare is 46,20 € single, without ferryboat fare | Price back from Larissa = 39,20 € | Price back from Lamia = 26,20 € plus getting a reduced fare for the seaward part of the journey.(Correct as of June 2014)
The KTEL services are one of the best surprises of being on Crete. They also operate to most villages as local services. Those routes are a bit like the Swiss postal bus services that mean so much in connecting mountain villages with the regional market towns; more than just a bus service to the rural communities. The same applies to Crete's isolated and remote mountainous villages being connected to mainstream life by the bus links.
The KTEL services are also used for shipping packages between towns and an excellent means of distribution for the newspapers and periodicals. KTEL operates its own KTEL parcel courier service. For Brits and Irish Ex-Pats living in Crete you can, for example, order spare parts from, say Iraklio and they will be delivered by KTEL to your village or town. Of course, your supplier has to drop the items off at the bus station before departure and you would have to collect them when they arrive in your village or town. It is surprisingly uncomplicated to do. The local people do it all the time.
The KTEL bus stations always have pocket timetables handy at the counter, unless of course it nears the end of the Summer when they just happen to run out when you need one. The bus stations are also clean, a good place for an inexpensive snack and a necessary pit-stop. Bring loo paper with you just in case. Remember, do not flush it, drop it in the bin receptacle.
Brits in Crete recommends you take the KTEL bus , the regular Intercity bus service in Crete, and leave the driving to Yorgos. Kalo Taxide. Happy travels! Always bring along sun glasses. Έχετε ένα καλό ταξίδϊ.