A great way to see the Greek island of Santorini is to rent a quad bike! There are several things to keep in mind though and in this post I share my observations from my ATV rental experience!
ATV Rental Santorini
My observations on Greek roads
First things first, the most important thing to consider is your confidence of driving on unknown roads. In Santorini they drive on the right hand side of the road and the speed limits are posted in kilometres per hour.
We didn’t jump into our quad bike rental straight away. We spent our first day scoping out other drivers to get an idea of what we’d be facing. I’ve passed my driving tests in both England and America and coming from those countries, the biggest thing I noticed was that there didn’t always seem to be a system to giving way to other vehicles at junctions, it was very much a free for all.
The towns of Fira and Oia were BUSY. These are the 2 main tourist towns on the island so this is of course where the majority of the traffic is. There are also one way streets and pedestrian only streets that you’ll need to be aware of. For us, we decided to take a local bus between Fira and Oia, just to avoid the town traffic.
Since coming home, I read online that the journey from Fira to the airport takes on average 10 to 15 minutes. However this person has said that in the summer that same journey can take 2 hours. Maybe that’s true in August but we travelled in July and didn’t find this at all. Compared to the gridlock on a daily basis in the UK, the traffic was always moving and once you were out of the towns, the roads of actually pretty empty.
The roads are also a lot clearer in the morning, so if you want to get used to driving around Santorini, I’d suggest hitting the road as early as possible. 9am was a good time to start.
We paid for a day rental but in the 6 hours we were driving, I found that there were only really 2 junctions that were a little confusing. The speed limits for roads aren’t always obvious either. Apparently on ‘wide open roads’, the speed limit is 65kph but we never saw a sign stating where this zone would start, there were no ‘national speed limit’ type signs that you’d find in the UK.
I did see some 50 kph and 30 kph signs when entering towns, but these were a bit hit and miss too. The size of the quad may also restrict the speed you can reach anyway. If you’re going to be riding 2 up, I’d suggest a minimum of 300CC. There are some hills on the island and with the weight of an extra passenger, you may struggle to get up the hills with a smaller engine.
What size ATV to rent
When doing my research into ATV rental in Santorini, I found that people would often say that you’ll get locals and buses over taking you, which can be scary considering how ‘out in the open’ you are on a quad. HOWEVER, maybe it was because we had a 300CC but I found that the buses were actually slower than me on the windy roads so I was just happy to stay behind them and let them set the speed. But there were locals in cars and scooters that would overtake both me and the buses in one go on blind corners.
Just stick to the outside of the roads to give plenty of space for other cars and scooters to overtake you. Don’t be a road hog if you are going a little slower.
I’m also a huge GPS/Sat Nav user so I was a little worried about how to navigate while on an ATV. If you have a passenger, it would be possible for them to use a mobile device to navigate, as it’s quite easy to communicate with them. We were able to get where we wanted by just using the road signs. The place names were written in both Greek and English and because the island is fairly small it’s fairly easy to find where you want to go.
All the places we drove to on the quads were only ever around 20 minutes from each other, so driving distances aren’t huge. Before we set off on each drive, we’d consult a very basic free island map that we picked up and double check Google Maps, just so we had an idea of where the route would take us.
ATV Santorini GoPro Footage
Quad Rental in Fira Santorini
I was based in Fira, so of course it was easier for me to get an ATV rental based in Fira. If you book in advance though, a lot of the companies offer free drop offs to your accommodation.
Agiou Athanasiou street in Fira had a whole bunch of ATV rental companies. We used Moto Thira simply because it was the closest to our accommodation and offered what we were looking for.
A 300CC quad for 2 people was 40 Euros for a whole day rental.
Moto Thira opened at 8.30am in the morning and we were asked if we could drop it off no later than around 8.30pm. If you had wanted to drive and see the Oia sunset (especially in July), this wouldn’t give you enough time to get back so keep things like this in mind. They also had smaller quads or buggies available for hire.
We paid in cash but we had to give a credit card number in case of damages etc. We also had to show our driving licenses. As a Brit, the UK driving licenses are recognised and accepted in Santorini. BUT from what I’ve read, if you are travelling with a license from outside of the EU, you’ll need an international driving permit (IDP). This INCLUDES USA licenses. Please check that your country’s license is accepted in advance.
Read the small print/know what the insurance covers
Moto Thira only had third party insurance on their ATV rentals. This wasn’t the end of the world, my car insurance in America is only third party. But it does mean that if you do have an accident, only the other vehicle is covered. You are liable for the damages to the ATV.
It’s also important to check your OWN TRAVEL INSURANCE. Quad biking isn’t always covered on standard travel insurance policies as it’s considered a motor sport. For example, in the USA I don’t think it’s included on Allianz insurance policies, however it IS included on World Nomad policies. In the UK on Insure and Go policies quad biking coverage is a little extra. (This is if YOU get injured on the ATV, not damage insurance to the vehicle).
Which leads me on to WEAR A HELMET!!! In Santorini you don’t HAVE to wear a helmet on a quad bike, we saw lots of people that weren’t. You know, it’s ‘cool’ not wearing a helmet. Yeah I’m sure you’ll look real cool if you fall off and smack your head on the road. Helmets are offered for free as part of the rental so I’d advise wearing them just to be on the safe side. Plus they keep the sun off your head, win win!
Also wear some sort of eyewear, such as sunglasses. Santorini is a dusty island and it can be windy too, so wearing sunglasses just makes it so you can see a little easier.
Are you an experienced ATV rider?
Just like knowing your confidence level on foreign roads, how confident are you with riding ATVs? I’ve been on multiple guided quad bike tours around the world (both on and off roads), I even have my own ATV that I use for off-roading and trail riding, so I’m fairly confident on one. If you’ve never been on an ATV before it’s another element of driving on strange roads that you’re going to have to get used to.
Obviously handle bars are different from a steering wheel, the brakes are similar to those on a bicycle and the speed is controlled with a thumb throttle. Long distance ATV riding can be hard going on your thumb!
Moto Thira did ask if we had been on an ATV before and were asked to demonstrate basic control skills in their tiny little office…reverse and stop, forward and stop, reverse and stop again and then a controlled zig zag forward and stop. They didn’t point out the indictors but most road ATVS will have one on the left handle bar that simply just slides left or right to switch them on or off. I’d advise using indictors so other road users know your intentions!
A nice addition to an ATV rental is a top box that you can keep your bags in while driving around or when you park up you can then put your helmets inside so you don’t need to carry them around. Moto Thira did advise ONLY keeping helmets in the top box while parked up, as they aren’t completely secure, even though they are lockable with a key.
Filling up with fuel in Santorini
There are lots of fuel stations in Santorini. When we picked up our quads, they were empty and we were told to then return it ’empty’. We stopped at a petrol station just outside of Fira and an attendant filled the quads up for us and we paid in cash.
The tanks on our rentals could hold around 25 Euro of fuel but for only a 1 day rental we were told 10 Euro would be more than enough. I think we ended up using around 5 Euro each during the 6 hour rental.
Where we went on our ATVs!
Fira to Akrotiri 10.5km (18 minutes)
Our first stop was the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri! This is the ruins of an ancient village that was buried by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Similar to Pompeii but older! They are still excavating the area and most of the artefacts that have been discovered are now on display in various museums around the world so it’s only really the remains of the buildings. It is said to have been quite a wealthy town in its time and as far as they are aware, everyone fled before the eruption as no human or animal remains have been found at the site.
Entrance is 12 Euros and there is a large car park opposite the entrance which had a parking fee of 3 Euros for an ATV. This was a little surprising as so many other car parks around the island are free. There were a few parking spots down by the beach but I’m not sure if these were meant for the nearby restaurants etc.
Akrotiri to Akrotiri Lighthouse 6.1km (12 minutes)
We weren’t sure what would be at the lighthouse, we just saw it on the map and thought it would be interesting to see. The drive up to the lighthouse was nice, along winding coast roads that were as good as empty. Parking at the lighthouse is very limited. There was a food truck next to the lighthouse but it was literally just a photo stop before carrying on.
Akrotiri Lighthouse to Perissa 12.5km (23 minutes)
This was our longest drive in one go. Perissa is home to a large black beach with various bars, restaurants and sun loungers. We parked in a large car park and then took a short walk to the beach.
Depending on what time you visit, you may be able to park on the road that runs along the beach (there were barriers that said access is restricted to only pedestrians during certain times). We found a shady tree to sit under, went for a swim in the sea and then followed it up with ice cream and crepes and waffles in one of the cafes!
Perissa to Fira 11.7km (21 minutes)
We decided to go back to Fira but another option would be to drive up to ‘Ancient Thera’ and the Monastery on top of the mountain. Apparently the views from the top are amazing, but the road does consist of A LOT of switchbacks. As it’s a popular route for coaches and buses that hog the road, we opted on skipping this. Just like a hire car, my ATV was checked for damages on return.
*TIP* Try and park in the shade!!! ATV seats are black and shiny. When parked in the sun they get HOT. If you are wearing shorts you are likely to burn the skin off your butt.
As mentioned, there is a large (cheap) local bus network but most connect through Fira so you maybe need to get on a couple of buses to get between other towns and villages. I liked the freedom the ATV gave us and it was a great way to experience Santorini!
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