Brits in Crete Forum members, Bob and Carole White decided to try out the overland route by car between Crete and UK and back again in October/November 2007.
As retired residents in Crete, they wished to weigh up the advantages of such a venture as compared to flying. Would they do it again? Judge for yourself.
Bob and Carole: Having recently completed the return journey by car, we thought we would add this page as an update to the useful information posted by Geoff some time ago. (See Geoff's UK-Crete and Geoff's Crete-UK experiences). We don’t think it is necessary to repeat all of the road numbers for the route, other than to mention some of the larger cities we passed.
Firstly, insurance cover. Our car insurance agent told us we would need a green card for the period we were out of Greece. We checked on the Internet and found advice to say a green card was not necessary. When we pointed this out to our agent he said that we would only have third party cover without a green card, so we decided to get one (cost 30 euros for 6 weeks).
We had some difficulty getting the plastic bits to fit on the car headlights for driving our Greek car in the UK. Eventually we found a supplier in England who sent the headlight covers to my son, who posted them on to me in Crete. Then, when we boarded the Norfolk Line ferry at Dunkirk to cross the channel, lo and behold the ferry shop sold them to fit almost every make of car !!
We used the ANEK Lines' ferry from Rethymnon to Piraeus, and ANEK from Patras to Venice. Booking both ferries with ANEK meant a discount (probably the same with Minoan Lines, but they did not go from Rethymnon). If you are not certain of the return date it may be wise to get open return tickets. We did not get open tickets, and while in England we decided to stay a week longer. However when we rang our travel agent in Crete from the UK, he changed them to open tickets at no extra cost.
When booking, we found that the price for 2 nights on the Venice ferry was the same as 1 night on the alternative ferry to Ancona, so we chose Venice, which meant less driving in Italy.
The ferries were all clean and comfortable. We booked an A2 outside cabin and we were pleasantly surprised as the room was bigger than expected. The ferries also had wireless internet access - (more below).
For the English Channel crossing,we chose Norfolk Line. Their ferries run every 2 hours day and night, so we thought we could book with them when we were nearer to France, and had a better idea of what time we would actually arrive at the port.
We decided to travel from Italy to Austria, then Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and a little bit of France to get to Dunkirk - the reason for that route was that several people had commented on the BIC Forum that French toll roads were expensive.
Our route had toll charges of €4.50 Piraeus to Patras, €19.80 in Italy, and €8.00 in Austria. In addition you have to buy a Vignette as you enter Austria for €7.50. The rest of the route is toll free.
TIP: When your ferry arrives at Piraeus from Crete, there are no direction signs out of the port, therefore it is important to turn left out of the dock gates, and not right. Then follow this road for several miles until you reach the motorway to Patras. (Note: If you go to the website www.viamichelin.com and zoom in on a map of Piraeus, you will see the road going north west via Elefsina.)
TIP: Piraeus to Patras takes between 2 to 3 hours, plus a nice sightseeing break at the Corinth Canal.
TIP: As we did not know how far we would get on the first day's driving from Venice, we picked 2 to 3 small hotels along the route through Germany.
We drove north through Italy and through Austria, then north through Germany to Ulm. From there we headed West and actually got to a point south of Stuttgart by about 6 pm, so stopped in Neuffen, a beautiful small village.
The next day we travelled through Luxembourg and got most of the way through Belgium by late afternoon, so we stopped at something similar to a Travelodge near Lille airport in France.
That left just an hour's drive to Dunkirk the following morning. The rooms had a wireless internet connection, so that night we booked the ferry for 12.00 noon departure the following day.
We used the Michelin site for the route maps travelling to the UK, and only got lost once !!
TIP: Petrol was much cheaper in Luxembourg, while everywhere else it was about the same as in the UK.
Just to mention, that for convenience we used the Piraeus - Souda (Chania) sea route for our last leg to Crete, instead of Rethymnon.
For the return, we bought a TomTom GPS sat nav positioner and it was absolutely brilliant. Bob: "I have always been a bit sceptical as to their value, but now I would thoroughly recommend one; it does not cover Greece but was excellent everywhere else. (message from the wife - “and it meant no cross words when her navigation went wrong!")
We really should mention the Venice part of the journey - standing on the top deck for the half hour it takes to sail into or out of Venice along the Grand Canal, the views are fantastic!
Indeed we made an additional hotel stop in Italy on the way back from UK to Crete to allow us half a day to look around Venice, which was excellent.
Hotels near Venice were incredibly expensive, so we found a nice small hotel at Faedo, near Lake Garda which left a 2 hour drive to Venice the following morning.
Hotel Garni, Neuffen
Campanile, Lille Sud
Hotel Monreal, Faedo (for Venice)
We took a laptop computer on our journey, fitted with a wireless LAN card. The ANEK Line ferries on the Crete - Piraeus and Patras - Venice routes are fitted with Wi-Fi. A card can be purchased onboard for €7, which gives a PIN to provide 1 hour's internet access via each ferry's onboard satellite link.
In addition, the Hotel Monreal in Italy and the Campanile Lille Sud hotel in France both provided in house free Wi-Fi internet access for guests.
Our overall cost for the return surface journey (Crete-UK-Crete) was about £1,200.00. (Make Currency Conversion to Euros here ) This included ferries, hotels, petrol and road tolls.
Obviously flight tickets for two would have been much cheaper, but we would then have needed to hire a car in the UK, and that would have increased the cost considerably for our 5 week stay.
Brits in Crete wishes to thank Bob & Carole White for recounting their experiences. Photos by courtesy of Bob and Carole. © 2008