So you rent a car and you are ready to explore the Greek islands and mainland. Here is what you need to know before hitting the road in Greece.
Tips from native drivers
Greece is where we learned how to drive. We have been driving to work in the busy roads of Athens, and have enjoyed the freedom of driving to the most beautiful areas admiring the views of this mountainous country. Anyone who has been driving in Greece long enough knows that it is a country with a large variety of sceneries and thus roads and driving conditions. The good news is that you do not have to speak Greek to read the signs as they are both in Greek and English.
Driving in Athens and Thessaloniki
Athens and Thessaloniki, the capital and second largest city can truly be a nightmare in terms of parking, traffic and other frustrated drivers. However if you avoid driving during traffic hours then a car can help you get easily and fast from one place to the other.
You do not need to rent a car to visit the historical center of Athens as you can enjoy it more by walking at the pedestrian streets. The metro will also take you fast in all central areas while taking away the parking nightmare. However the city of Athens was not built in the heart of Attica region by chance. Just a few kilometers outside the city center in the rest of Attica peninsula, there are mountains and beaches worth visiting. For amazing views take the coastal avenue all the way to Cape Sounio or rent a car and explore the coast of Attica following our Athens Day Trip itinerary.
Thessaloniki is built on an east-west axis parallel to the sea so it is easy to find your way in the center. Outside the center, use the ring road (speed limit is 90 km/h) that connects the entrance to different parts of the city.
What about the rest of the country?
Driving in the rest of mainland Greece and the islands is much easier. Renting a car will give you the opportunity to explore the country and its hidden beauties. The only public transport there is the bus which can be quite limited in terms of itineraries, while taxis can be very expensive compared to the daily car rental rates. A car will allow you to go wherever you want and for as long as you want to.
Driving in Zakors, eastern Crete. Photo by Simplybook.
Before you drive off
Before you drive off check that you have the documents and safety items which are mandatory when driving in Greece:
Documents: Valid EU driving license, or driving license with International Driving Permit, proof of ID (passport), car rental contract
Safety items: When you rent a car make sure that you are also given a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit and a warning triangle. It is compulsory for motorcyclists to wear helmets.
Fasten your seat belts:
When driving in Greece it is mandatory to wear seat belts on all seats, unless you are exempted from wearing the belt for medical reasons, in which case you must carry the certificate of exemption.
Drive on the right side, overtake on the left. Give way to vehicles coming from the right, even in traffic circles, unless there is a stop sign.
Overtaking is not permitted on roads with double lines.
Speed limits and restrictions when driving in Greece
- The speed limit is 50 km/h on residential streets, 90 km/h out of town and 130 km/h on motorways, unless there is a sign showing something else. You will often see other cars going faster. Keep to the legal limits.
- Mobile cellular telephones may not be used and the same applies to hands-free accessories. You are allowed to use a hands-free kit with voice activated dialing or answering or via a wireless bluetooth.
- You can always find gas stations. At least one always remains open in each area at night and on Sundays. They will not necessarily be the cheapest though…
- The blood alcohol limit is 0.5g/l
Tolls – Is it possible or even worth avoiding them?
When driving in Greece, using the motorway, national roads and some bridges and tunnels comes with different toll fees. Check the indicative fees for Greek tolls to calculate the cost of driving to your destination. There are always alternative routes, but this usually means more time and fuel in smaller winding roads. However, taking the old road also means seeing more of the area that you are crossing and having a chance to stop whenever you reach a beach, mountain, tavern or picnic place you like. So, avoiding tolls is not so much a matter of budget but a matter of the time you have available to explore. Hopefully, it is enough!
So go ahead, rent your car and enjoy the flexiility and freedom it gives you to make the most of your holiday in Greece.
Do you want to find out more about driving in Greece? Read our Simplybook post about the Greek Road Network.