Driving in Zakynthos is a question that might be on your mind before you visit the island. As it’s a very compact place, to begin with, it only makes sense to rent a car and explore with proper freedom. There’s just the burning question remaining: How hard it is to drive in Zakynthos?
Driving in Zakynthos is moderately difficult, with some challenging parts. Beginners will most likely find it hard to drive around the island but anyone with some experience will do just fine. Let’s explore all the aspects of Zakynthos driving.
Zakynthos is a beautiful island. You can spend a week there without leaving the beach. This island is all about relaxing anyway. For the touristy places like Navagio Beach and the caves around the island, you will be taking an excursion anyway.
However, if you are someone who is looking to explore the island in its entirety then we recommend a rental car. It will give you the freedom to go wherever you want. What’s the best? We’ll get you ready for driving in Zakynthos with this handy guide.
Should you rent a car in Zakynthos?
We’ve already mentioned how we think that you should rent a car when you are visiting Zakynthos but let’s take a serious look at the question.
There is public transport on the island even if it’s limited. When you travel during peak season it’s actually not too bad. The buses don’t run frequently but they are usually on time and not very crowded.
You can even catch free buses to certain beaches during the peak season. During the off-season, it’s not so rosy. The bus schedule is limited to adjust to the demand and it becomes a bit too hard to get around purely with public transport.
You can still use the local taxi service. There are tons of taxis all around Zakynthos only a phone call away. They are not incredibly cheap but they will get you from A to B if you only need to use them once or twice.
Renting a car is recommended if you plan on leaving the hotel for longer periods. This is especially true when you are on Zakynthos in the off-season. When you have a car you don’t have to worry about timetables or taxi charges.
Considering how cheap it is to rent a car in Zakynthos you’ll probably get a better price than using the taxi service excessively.
What is driving in Zakynthos like?
Driving in Zakynthos can get a little hectic at times. As there are no highways the roads get congested easily. During summer when you have a lot of tourists visiting the island rental cars are almost all sold out.
This in turn multiplies the number of cars that are on the road compared to a normal day. There are some differences between the locals who want to get around during their day and the tourists who often take it a bit slower.
Basic rules of Driving in Zakynthos
The speed limit in Zakynthos is 50km/h (31mph) in urban areas and 110km/h (68mph) outside of cities. Of course, road signs can overwrite these limits. As there are no highways we feel like you’ll rarely be going over 90km/h in usual circumstances.
You’ll need to be at least 18 to drive a car in Zakynthos. You need an EU or International driving license. Most rental companies require at least 1 or 2 years of experience as well.
All passengers and the driver must wear a seatbelt at all times.
No children under 10 are allowed in the front seat.
No drinking and driving.
No phone in hand while driving. If you want to use your phone while driving us a hands-free mode.
How are the roads in Zakynthos?
There are no highways on Zakynthos. The biggest roads are two-way with shoulders. These are the main roads that handle most of the traffic on the island. They are usually well maintained and connect the cities.
The best roads are in the southern part of the island. This is where most tourist resorts are and this is where people spend most of their time.
Smaller attractions and towns have smaller roads leading to them. Often the road becomes just one big lane as soon as you turn off the main road. They can still fit two cars but are not in a comfortable manner. If there is oncoming traffic you have to take it slow and pass next to each other with care.
These smaller roads are generally fine but when they become mountain roads they can be scary for beginners. For example, the road that leads to the secluded beach of Paralia Porto Vromi is a well-maintained asphalt road.
It just has one problem. It’s a mountain road and there are no barriers. You get stunning views of the sea and Zakynthos but no safety barrier on the side of the road. While it can fit two cars it still looks scary for inexperienced drivers.
There are also some gravel roads. Luckily, Zakynthos is doing a good job at building asphalt roads so you can almost always avoid traveling on gravel.
Although we say that the roads are mostly fine they are very far from US roads. They are of reasonable quality but they are definitely unlike the small roads in the US.
How big is Zakynthos?
It takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive from the southernmost town of Zakynthos to the northernmost town. This is the longest distance as the island is actually pretty narrow.
By renting a car you’ll be able to move around the island effectively and visit multiple places each day.
Traffic in Zakynthos
We have to look at traffic in two separate circumstances when driving in Zakynthos. The first is summer.
During summer Zakynthos has a lot of tourism and tourists love to rent cars, scooters, ATVs, and even bikes. This can and will get hectic.
As all roads are two-way only, the popular southern part of the island is usually pretty busy. You won’t have time to speed anywhere as you’ll encounter a lot of traffic.
The northern parts of the island are better in terms of traffic but in the high season, you’ll still see plenty of cars. The secluded attractions are the best these months as there is little traffic even during the most popular times.
During the off-season and especially winter the traffic is very light. It’s mostly the locals and honestly, it’s a breeze to drive during these times on the island.
Parking in Zakynthos
Surprisingly parking is usually not an issue. That is of course if you are not staying in the middle of Zakynthos town.
Inside Zakynthos town, there are only a few places to park and they are almost always occupied. You’ll need nice parking skills and especially parallel parking skills. Oftentimes someone will be waiting behind you and if it’s a local they might not be so patient to wait until you fit in a tight parallel spot.
Outside of the main city, it’s much better. Most apartments and hotels have their own parking. Almost all attractions and beaches also have their own parking. The most popular beaches can get congested in the parking lot during the day but if you arrive early you’ll have no problem finding a spot.
What’s it really like to drive in Zakynthos?
Driving in Zakynthos is a little stressful. There is a lot of traffic towards the south side of the island and the locals usually want to go quicker than you. They’ll try to overtake at the most impossible spots.
Side roads are narrow and you can expect oncoming traffic. Be careful especially when you are going around corners. Try not to speed and be alert always.
Defensive driving is a must if you want to have a safe trip in Zakynthos. We don’t recommend this island for inexperienced drivers. Ideally, you should have 2-3 years of experience at least.
Tips for renting a car on Zakynthos
Now that we’ve covered what’s driving in Zakynthos like let’s see some tips on renting a car. You’ll get a nice mix of local and international companies when you want to rent on Zakynthos.
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What type of car to rent in Zakynthos?
We recommend a small-medium car. If you want full agility then the smallest category is nice but due to the hectic traffic, it might not feel very safe.
A proper hatchback will feel okay. Of course, it will still feel very small coming from the US, you don’t have to worry about it. A hatchback will fit right into Zakynthos traffic without being too small.
You can try to get an automatic. If you are looking to rent an automatic you’ll need to try the international brands. They have a better inventory. Overall, most of the rental cars on the island are manual.
An AC is a must especially if you rent during summer. Make sure that the AC works before you take over the car.
How long to rent on Zakynthos?
You may rent for the full duration of your vacation. In this case, make sure that your hotel or apartment has separate parking.
If you want to save money we recommend renting only for a few days. Zakynthos is a beach island. You’ll get a lot of time when you are not using the car. There are also boat excursions available that can take up to a full day.
Keep the above in mind and adjust your car rental itinerary. It can save you a couple of bucks in the long run.
Renting Scooters and Quads
A popular thing we see among visitors to Zakynthos is renting quads or to some extent scooters. They look tons of fun, especially quads. People love to pose for their travel photos and make their friends jealous by driving a quad around the island.
We don’t want to tell you not to rent a quad but we want to advise caution. If you are not familiar with riding them then the hectic Zakynthos traffic can be dangerous. Make sure that you are confident with a quad before you actually rent one.
More articles in our driving series: Driving in Corfu Driving in Kefalonia Driving in Naxos
Driving in Zakynthos FAQ
Zakynthos is moderately difficult when it comes to driving.
Roads vary in quality but most of them are paved.
If you want to fully explore the island we recommend that you rent a car.
We don’t consider it safe but if you have experience with them you will probably be fine.
It’s 1 hour and 10 minutes between the furthest towns of the island.