Everything your heart desires
In Crete you can buy most of what you can buy in stores in Northern Europe. The range may be a little smaller and brands may be different, but you will probably not lack anything.
Prices in the Cretan shops have increased in recent years and generally you should expect that prices for imported goods are higher than in Northern Europe. On the other hand, prices of local goods lower. If for example you want imported wines, imported clothing or electronics, it is quite expensive compared to Northern Europe, while locally produced alcohol, meat and vegetables, etc. is relatively cheaper.
Shopping hours in Crete
Hours vary, but in general there is 'siesta' between the hours 2pm and 5.30pm. Many supermarkets and shops in tourist areas have open anyway. Shops in tourist areas may also be open until 11pm and on Sundays and holidays. But only in the season.
Supermarkets are open from 8am to 9pm, weekdays from April to October and from 8am to 8pm the rest of the year.
Other shops from 9am to 9pm, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Monday and Saturday only open till 2pm. Closed on Sundays and holidays.
Petrol stations are open from 8am to 9pm or 10pm. A few longer than this. It varies whether they are open on Sundays and holidays.
Pharmacies have the same hours as other shops. If you need a pharmacy outside of normal business hours there is a sign in the window that displays to the nearest open place.
Cretan specialties / Souvenirs
It hardly comes as a surprise that there are ample opportunities to buy souvenirs and crafts on an island like Crete. Both high quality and what it really mass-produced Chinese souvenirs. But what is typical Cretan products?
Cretan crafts stems primarily from the island's tradition as an agricultural community. Crete is famous for woven and embroidered blankets, tablecloths and the like. Cretan knives have a high quality. And an unusual souvenir could be Cretan boots! But woodcarvings and woven baskets are also traditional handicrafts. Cretan ceramics, based on a 4.000 year old tradition, is perhaps the most authentic souvenir, you can acquire.
In the larger cities, Heraklion, Rethymnon and Chania, there are jewelers and other stores that sell jewelry and watches. There is fierce competition, so prices are low. One can find everything from mass-produced cheap thing to brands and good handmade stuff.
If you want a little taste of Crete with you back home, olive oil, cheese, honey or herbs are obvious thing to put in the suitcase. There are approx. 60 olive trees per inhabitant on Crete and an average Greek use 25 liters of oil per year, so it's certainly an authentic souvenir. Purchase only extra virgin olive oil. Taste the product and purchase from the manufacturer if possible. It is the cheapest and best.
Cretan honey, that the industrious bees have extracted from wild thyme flowers is superb and both thyme, oregano and many other herbs are fresh and good. Cretan cheese is a little overlooked. But you can get really good and not very expensive cheeses. Not feta, which is not a Cretan cheese, but for example the Cretan variation of a fresh cheese called misithra.
If you buy your meat from the butcher you are almost sure to get meat of a higher quality than you are accustomed to in northern Europe. Agriculture in Crete is traditional and the local lamb, pork, chicken etc. is produced under natural conditions that can be tasted.
Fish has become a rare commodity in the Mediterranean and the price is relatively high. If you live in our holiday house you may ask at Taverna Veronica0. They might be able to provide fish from the local fishermen for a less expensive price.
There are many theories and no definitive explanation, but the fact is: You will never in your life taste better tomatoes and cucumbers than the ones you get in Crete. That's the truth. Whether this is due to climate, soil, cultivation methods or something else.
The Greeks introduced the tomato in 1815 and has since developed its' cultivation to perfection. And together with the other vegetables it represents a very significant element in the traditional kitchen. One can easily buy imported vegetables, but there is no reason for it when you can get local tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, avocados, bananas, apples, pears, cherries, oranges, lemons, olives, peppers, melons, aubergines...
And then there are the wild herbs - 'ta horta' - which is a whole chapter in itself.
As mentioned, imported goods are not particularly cheap in Greece. This includes wine, beer and spirits. If you insist on having French wine, you get to pay for it. And if you want Cognac rather than Metaxa, you must also pay extra.
The local wine can be anything from almost undrinkable to the sublime. Crete produces about 20% of all wine in Greece and if you pay a little extra you can get excellent wine from local producers. You may also be lucky that the local wine which is offered in a taverna is good, but you can just as easily be unlucky and get a pretty featureless fluid.
There are three common Greek beer brands that have good lager, Fix, Mythos and Alpha. You can get several other brands, and the trend with microbreweries and specialty beers has also reached Crete.
Among spirits you can get most products, but of the local stuff we're first and foremost talking Raki or Tsikoudiá, as it is called in the Cretan dialect. Again, the quality can vary as Raki is brewed locally in many places. Ouzo is not a Cretan drink, but belongs in the rest of Greece. But it can of course also be purchased.
A kiosk or a 'periptero' as it is called in Greek, is found on every street corner. There is supposed to be about 46.000 of its kind in Greece. These are small wooden buildings on a few square meters completely wrapped up in the goods sold: cigarettes, soft drinks, ice cream, candy and snacks, newspapers, magazines, keychains, postcards, phone cards, toothpaste, condoms, pens and more. You can get most of what you've just forgotten and then they open late. Some are even open 24 hours. This is also where you can buy bus tickets or parking tickets.
Service stations and petrol
There are not many petrol stations with self-service in Crete. And do not expect to be able to use credit cards. An employee fills the car for you and you pay cash afterwards. Petrol is also expensive in Greece. Prices go up and down, but you must assume that it is slightly more expensive than in the UK.