Greece Driving Guide 2020
Experience glorious Greece and see the spectacular view of Mount Olympus and historical places in Athens. An international driving permit is a must-have. Read this guide for the best trip you could ever experience.
January 28, 2020
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you should plan to drive at least some of the time you’re there. It’s a beautiful country, and nothing quite beats seeing it from the open road. That way you can take your time, stop to take closer looks, and really take advantage of all that Greece offers its residents and visitors.
Before you jump into the driver’s seat, there’s a lot you need to know when you’re driving in Greece. For your safety and the rest of the people on the road, it’s important to study the rules of the road. Knowing what to do and what not to do will also help you not feel so stressed because you don’t know what you’re doing or what anyone else is doing. Here’s the guide to make your trip memorable and safe!
How Should You Drive in Greece?
You should drive defensively in Greece. You need to keep your eyes and ears wide open when driving in Greece. The driving test is difficult in the country, and many people drive without a license because they couldn’t pass the test. Some of the ones who did pass the driving test didn’t pass fairly because they either paid the tester or knows someone who let them pass.
What this means is you need not only to pay attention to what you’re doing on the road, but also on what others are doing, so you can avoid any potential crashes. If you see people driving erratically or over the speed limit, let them go ahead of you. This is not the place to have road rage, or you may end up spending more time with those people because of an accident.
Driving defensively also means driving aggressively at times. People won’t let you in if you need to change lanes in congested areas. You’ll need to make a move into the lane or you’ll sit waiting for someone to let you in for hours. Wait until you have just enough room to put the front of your vehicle into the lane and then get into it as quickly as possible. The other drivers will understand and will appreciate you making the traffic move.
What Side of the Road Do People Drive on When Driving in Greece?
Drivers drive on the right side of the road. The driver sits on the left side of the vehicle, as well. If you’re an American, this is just the same as you do in the United States.
Driving in Greece with US License
If you are driving in Greece with US license, you will still need an international driving permit. Make sure to get one before entering the beautiful country of Greece!
Passing Vehicles on the Road
Driving in Greece is a lot like driving in the United States. Solid lines in the middle of the road mean no passing, while short lines mean you can pass. The problem is that drivers in Greece often don’t pay attention to those lines and will pass whenever they please. This can be highly dangerous when the people passing are coming right towards you. The best thing you can do is slow down and move as far over to the right of the road as possible. The same goes for people behind you who want to pass you. Slow down, move as far to the right as possible, and wait until they pass.
The police will try to pull over drivers who are not obeying the rules of the road, but not often enough to make it a concern for them. That’s why you’ll see a lot of people breaking the rules.
Also, don’t become too scared when you are driving in Greece because not everyone drives dangerously. There have been many fatal accidents over the years, so many drivers are just as conscientious as you of those who simply don’t care.
For drivers who are driving very fast and come up behind you quickly, don’t try to stomp on the breaks to scare them. They are not scared by you and they will likely just go right around you. The problem is that this type of behavior often leads to accidents. When you stomp on your brakes, the driver behind you may veer over to the next lane to get around you and that may lead to hitting someone else that is coming down the lane. It can also cause the driver to hit you if at the last second, the driver decides not go around you because of an incoming car. It’s really just best to let fast drivers do what they want to do as you slow down and move over.
Road Signs in Greece
Greece knows they have a lot of visitors from the United States and other English-speaking countries, so their road signs are in Greek and English. Most of the road signs are self-explanatory, so you will be able to make them out when you see them. The only issue that some visitors have is that they can be hidden in areas. It’s best to have someone in the passenger seat look for signs as you are driving, so there are two sets of eyes looking for them. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to find landmarks.
There are some areas where the road signs are no longer available. This means if you’re visiting old villages, you may not be able to get to them just by following signs. This is why it is so important to have current maps ready. If you find yourself in a rural area with no way to know which way to go, at least a map can give you some direction to at least the center or the nearest city.
Traffic While Driving in Greece
People from NYC and LA may not think Greece’s traffic is bad, but when you’re on vacation, the last thing you want to do is sit in traffic. The most popular times for traffic are when people are going and coming from work and during shopping hours.
Strikes and demonstrations are common, which just adds to existing congestion. One of the most notable places where there are protestors and marches is the Syntagma Square. Ask people in the area if there are any plans for an event when you plan to go near that area, so you don’t get caught up in it all. It’s also possible to learn about any protests by looking at the Kathimerini Daily. This newspaper lists the marches in English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble understanding it.
You should also avoid driving into and out of Athens before or after a holiday weekend. People love to travel during holidays, so you will get stuck in the traffic of people trying to head out of the city and then coming back.
Driving with Children in Greece
All children who are younger than 10 years old need to sit at the back of a vehicle. Toddlers and younger need to be in a car seat. Not all car rental places in Greece for car seats for you to use, so you will either need to bring your own or purchase one when you get to Greece. The car seat should be placed in the back of the car at all times.
While people in the United States and other countries can drive at 16 years old, the minimum driving age in Greece is 18 years old. The car rental agency where you get your vehicle may have other regulations when it comes to who can drive their vehicles, so be sure to ask about age.
Driving without a seat belt is illegal. With all of the dangers of the road and experience with driving in Greece, it’s a good idea to wear a seat belt anyway. Always test the seat belt when you’re renting a car just to make sure that there are no problems with it. If you believe that there is a problem with your seat belt or the child seat, contact the rental agency as soon as possible and do not use the vehicle until you have thoroughly checked it or the vehicle is replaced. In most situations, the vehicle rental agency will replace it so they are not seeming negligent by not rectifying the seat belt situation.
Speed Limits in Greece
In Greece, speed and speed limit signs are in kilometers. What you need to remember is that residential areas usually allow you to drive 50 kmph unless another speed is posted. In some areas, the speed limit will be lower than 50kmph because it’s in a high-risk area. For instance, on roads that are narrow or have cliffs, the speed limit is lower to ensure people don’t end up losing control around the curves. Where there are a lot of pedestrians, the speed limit may be low as well.
Highway speeds are between 100 to 120 kmph. While you’ll see many people going faster than this, you should always pay attention to the speed limit signs or you might end up with a pretty high speeding ticket. The police will try to keep people from speeding, so they are much more likely to pull you over for this violation than another one.
There are no minimum speed limits, but you need to drive fast enough that cars won’t come up and drive into you. This means that you should try to drive at least five kmph under the speed limit. Even when people still come behind you, it won’t be to the point of them almost hitting you. This is especially true if you are mindful enough to move over to the right side of the road.
Getting Directions While in Greece
Study your map and bring a compass with you. Your vehicle may or may not have GPS. You may be able to use your phone for directions, but in case you can’t, at least you’ll have what you need to get around.
You can ask people for directions, but you’ll likely just get more confused, and not just because they may only speak Greek or broken English. People in Greece do not like to give directions, so they will usually tell you to drive down the street, take a turn, and then ask someone else.
Another idea is to print directions while you’re still at home. You can bring these directions with you to Greece. When you want to go somewhere, all you have to do is to follow the directions you have printed. Many people do this who don’t have accessibility to GPS while on their trip.
Parking in Greece
Parking is difficult, especially in the more popular tourist areas. Parking on the side of the road can be risky because there are many places where you can’t park and the no parking signs are not always easy to see. If you park illegally and the police see it, they may take your plates. You will then have to pay a fine to get your vehicle back. It can take an entire day to get your car back, and well, that won’t make you very happy.
The best way to park in Greece is in parking garages. That’s where you’ll have the greatest peace of mind because you know you can park in them. The other place is hotel parking lots if your hotel has one. Don’t park in other hotel parking lots because you will likely get fined for it. So, when you’re planning your trip to Greece, look for parking arrangements for your hotel. One with a parking garage or lot will be the best choice.
The other option is to have someone park for you like in a valet situation. This way you can be guaranteed a parking spot that is legal. You may need to pay the person for his services, but it’s less expensive than paying for the fine when you get your license and plate confiscated by the police.
Fueling Your Vehicle While Driving in Greece
You won’t have much trouble finding gas stations around the country,but most of them don’t accept credit cards because they are owned by small business owners. Be sure to carry enough cash,so you can fill up the tank at least. This will save you from running out of gas in between non-credit card gas stations.
The other thing to keep in mind with fueling is that you may not have the accessibility to gas stations in between rural areas. After all,they are rural and many of the people in those villages don’t even have vehicles. To make sure you don’t run out of gas between stations,be sure to fill up when you approach a half tank each time. That way you know you have plenty of gas to get to the next station. But,if you do run out of gas,there is roadside assistance to help you.
Road Side Assistance
If you have any emergency health problems while driving in Greece,you can call 211. That is the equivalent of 911 in the United States. The difference is that not only does it alert the ambulance,fire,and police,but also the coast guard as well.
Roadside assistance can be accessed by calling 10400. The person who answers may speak Greek,but you can request to speak to someone who can communicate in English. They usually have someone available for this reason – tourists are always calling for roadside assistance.
You can also ask your rental car agency about roadside assistance. They will likely tell you the same information as the above,but they also may use a third party that may be more helpful.
If you’re able to get a cell phone in the country,get one. Most of the smartphones in the United States have an international calling plan,but you have to contact your carrier. The added money you will pay for the ability to use your phone in Greece is worth it because it will give you peace of mind that if something happens,you’ll be able to call for assistance.
The other option is to ask for a temporary phone while in the country. They have pay by the minute or you can purchase minutes to use. The phones are rented,so after your trip,you can just turn them back in. Research these options before you go to Greece.
Driving the Greek Islands
If you are planning on driving in Greece as a tourist, you should get an International Driver’s License. It is required for a foreign driver to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as domestic driver’s license to drive a vehicle in the country.
Driving in the islands around Greece is amazing. Those islands must be explored if you go on a trip to Greece. The only thing is that you will have to take a ferry to the islands. The ferries take on vehicles,but you’ll want to be confident when driving onto the ferry. It’s tight when they squeeze everyone on the boat.
The alternative is to rent a vehicle on every island you visit. It may seem like a pain to do that,but it’s not that bad. You’ll likely see a lot of people doing it,and if you are staying more than a day on the island,it just makes sense. Just make sure to have your local driver’s license and an international drivers license in your pocket.
If you go to Greece,you need to go to the Islands. Don’t let the vehicle situation keep you from doing it. The ferries are completely safe,and your vehicle will be fine on it. If you’re still wary of it,then just walk onto the ferry and use public transportation on the islands. You will be glad that you made an effort to go there.
Renting a Vehicle to Drive in Greece
All you need to rent a car in Greece is a license and a Greece International Driving Permit. Americans and other citizenship can apply for an International drivers license at International Drivers Association.
The International Driving Permit just tells the country you want to drive in that you know how to drive. Your license could do the same thing,but with so many people making counterfeit licenses,countries had to come up with another way to make sure that drivers know the general rules of the road.
Something else you should know about renting a vehicle in Greece is that you must report any problems with the vehicle immediately to the rental agency. If not,they may blame you for the problem. When you call to alert them of the problem,they may bring a new vehicle out to you if it’s an issue that makes driving uncomfortable,such as no heat or air conditioning. Since it can be an inconvenience to wait for a new vehicle,be sure to look over the vehicle before you leave the car rental agency lot.
You will likely have some options for what size of vehicle to rent. Choose a mid-size vehicle if possible,because it’s safer in case you are in an accident. You should have more car body around you for protection. Smaller vehicles are more useful on narrow roads,though. If you plan on spending most of your time in the villages of Greece,go ahead and get a smaller vehicle. If you’ll be on highways and in the cities,get the larger one.
Important Driving Tips to Remember When in Greece
Driving Direction in Greece
In Greece you’ll drive on the right and and overtake on the left side of the road. A you can see most of the former British colonies in the world drive on the right such as United States of America,Latin America and European countries.
Drinking and Driving in Greece Is Expensive
You can owe up to 1200 euros if you are caught drinking and driving in Greece. You will be amazed at how many people will leave the tavern completely inebriated and get right into their car. They don’t care as much because they are drunk. They will care if they get caught.
Sunday is a very popular day to hang out with friends and drink. Be very careful if you are out on the road because most of the people with you are also drunk. Again,stay away from them as much as possible.
If you are caught drinking and driving in Greece,you should go to the police station and pay the fine right away. Just because you’re going back to the United States doesn’t exempt you from paying the fine for breaking the law. You may be found and held liable even after returning to the U.S.
Using Hazards Lights in Greece
Hazard lights don’t mean the same as they do in other countries. In Greece, hazards lights mean there is something unexpected coming. That may be a sharp turn, sudden stop, or some other move that people need to be aware of who are behind or on the side of the vehicle.
Avoid vehicles with hazards lights because you have no idea what the driver is about to do. For your safety, if you can’t stay behind the person far enough, either slow down so they get way ahead of your or try to safely get around the vehicle. Just be very careful and be prepared to get out of the way of the vehicle if needed.
When someone flashes their headlights in the United States,it means there’s an emergency vehicle coming up so be careful. While in Greece,it means something a bit different. It really means that the driver wants you to pay attention to him because he is coming and he doesn’t want anyone getting in the way. This is usually when incoming cars are passing the ones ahead of them and they are crossing the middle of the lane.
Flashing lights also may mean the person is going really fast and they want to let you know that that’s the case,so you don’t try to cross in front of him as you’re trying to take a left turn. Of course,if you do that,you may get caught underneath the tires of that vehicle and that could be a deadly situation for everyone involved.
Rotaries/Roundabouts in Greece
In many countries with rotaries/roundabouts, the people who are coming into them have to yield to those who are in them already. This is not the case when you’re driving in Greece. Drivers who enter the rotaries/roundabouts believe that they have the right-of-way, so they just drive right into them. They expect the people to stop for them. This is something you must be aware of or they will hit you or cut you off when you get into a rotary/roundabout.
There aren’t many rotaries/roundabouts in Greece, but there are a few in the cities. You can’t avoid them so when you come up to one, just know that you can go as soon as you get to it and the others in the circle will let you in. It may be scary, but once you understand that simple driving culture in Greece, you’ll drive just like them.
Pedestrians in Greece
There are crosswalks for pedestrians, but it’s like they don’t exist. Drivers in Greece don’t stop for pedestrians, which is likely why there are so many pedestrian accidents. While you’re driving in Greece, you may want to stop for the pedestrians, but be aware that if you have anyone driving behind you, the person may hit you. Drivers don’t know you’re going to stop for a pedestrian, so they aren’t expecting it. Some will get very upset with you for stopping for pedestrians, even if there is a crosswalk.
If you’re in a pedestrian in Greece, don’t think drivers care about your safety. They care more about getting to where they want to go. Always check and double-check when you walk across the road. Don’t expect them to do anything and be wary when someone stops to let you go. Someone behind them might come up and go around them through the walkway, which could put you at risk for being run over. It’s best to just cross when there are absolutely no cars coming.
What Yellow Means at a Traffic Light?
Yellow on a traffic light with red,yellow and green usually means to slow down and proceed with caution. This is not true when driving in Greece. When you drive in Greece,speed up when you see a yellow light. If you don’t,the person behind you will likely hit you because he believes you understand the unspoken rule of getting through the yellow light before it turns red.
If you do slow down and don’t get hit,you’ll once again hear people shouting from cars. Try not to pay attention to the rage they are exhibiting because arguing with them will only cause more trouble. Just keep driving as safely as possible while making some adjustments to keep up with the driving culture.
Using the Vehicle’s Horn When Driving in Greece
Using a vehicle horn is illegal in Greece unless you’re in an emergency or you’re warning another vehicle of a blind curve. For instance,if you’re on a high mountain and about to go around the curve,honk very briefly to let incoming cars know you’re coming. This will help people know if they should stop or move over to leave enough room for you to pass.
Using Cell Phones While Driving in Greece
Even if you’re a visitor and you don’t know where you are going,you can’t use your cell phone while driving. It’s best to have a passenger use it to help you navigate. If you are caught using your cell phone,the police will stop you and issue a fine.
If you need to use your cell phone,stop at a rest area or the side of the road. This way you don’t get in trouble by the police and you’ll remain safe.
Restricted Areas in Athens
Some roads in Athens are restricted to certain vehicles. The way people know whether they can drive on restricted roads is by looking at the last two numbers on their license plate. These rules don’t apply to rental cars BUT if you do end up on a restricted road,you should be courteous to other drivers and pedestrians in that area,as they are supposed to be there.
Note: Restricted areas are identified with signs,so you will know when you are in them.
Pay Attention to Motorbikes
Motorbikes think they own the roads in Greece,so they basically do whatever they want to do while driving. Keep an eye on them because they will speed in and out of vehicles quickly. Just look at your rearview mirror,side mirrors,and turn your head when changing lanes to make sure they aren’t coming. Have your passengers keep an eye out for them as well because they can be hard to see since they are much smaller and faster than other vehicles on the road.
Toll Roads in Greece
The National Road has tolls,and they can be paid in cash or debit/credit card. They do have a Fast Pass,but most visitors don’t bother to get one. They simply pay for the tolls they go through. You can expect to see toll booths along the main roads when traveling from the airport to the center of Athens. Toll roads function just the same as they do in the United States. You drive up to the booth,stop,hand over the money,and then drive away. Don’t worry if you don’t know euros well because you can always ask the attendant or use your card.
Where to Go When Driving in Greece
If you have 10 days to drive around Greece,you have more than enough days to see Athens,Peloponnese,Delphi,The Meteora,and Thessaloniki. The following are what you can do in each city,so you can make the most of your driving adventures in Beautiful Greece. Start in Athens and spend three days there. You can visit the following landmarks:
- Plaka District
- Ancient Agora
- Philopappos Hill
- Panathenaic Stadium
- Arch of Hadrian
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
As you are site-seeing, don’t forget about all of the amazing foods that are available to purchase. Go ahead splurge on the foods because will definitely remember when you come home.
After you’re done with Athens,head out to Mycenae,Epidaurus,and Nafplio. It’s just a short drive,and you can enjoy the Corinth Canal and see a famous theatre and archeological site. Many people spend the night in the city of Nafplio before heading to Palamidi Fortress and Monemvasia the next day.
The Palamidi Fortress offers lovely views into the sea. It looks like paradise. A three-hour drive will take you to a hidden village called Monemvasia. They have paved alleys that will make you feel like you entered into another century.
The next day you can drive to Mystras and Olympia. The ancient city – Mystras – has beautiful churches,monasteries,and a concent. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a great place for a relaxing stroll. It can take three hours to get through it all so expect to be there for a while. You may want to explore Olympia later in the day around 3 or 4 PM,which is a well-known ancient site that captivates visitors because of all the history. You can also visit the Historical Museum of the Olympic Games for more history.
After spending the night in Olympia,you can make your way to Delphi. The remains of the Temple of Apollo are inspiring and you’ll love the beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains.
After a nice night in Delphi,you can spend the next day in Meteora. At this point,you’ll be on your 8th day. This day will be filled with impressive monasteries that are up on huge rocks. You will wonder how anyone was ever able to build it on the rock because they are massive and the rocks are smaller than them. Don’t worry;they’ve been there for many,many years,so they are completely safe.
The 9th day should be spent in Thessaloniki and you should stay there for 2 days. It is Greece’s second-largest city,so there’s plenty to see,such as the Modiano market,Egnatia Street,and the waterfront.
Once you’re done with Thessaloniki,you’ve completed your driving in Greece trip. You can head home with a huge smile on your face and many memories.
An Overview of Driving in Greece
Driving in Greece may seem like it’s too dangerous for you to do,but it’s really not that bad. Just think that there are many people who drive the roads of Greece every single day,and while many people do get into accidents,most of them are getting into accidents because they are not paying attention to the people around them and to themselves. You just have to pay a lot of attention to everything that is going on around you and follow the rules of the road.
It’s always better to drive slower than faster,especially when you don’t know the area. You may get some angry faces because there are drivers behind you,but don’t worry about them because they are just trying to get somewhere in a big hurry. If they really want to get around you they will do it,and you can be on your merry way in a safe way
If you would prefer not to drive,you may want to consider public transportation that is widely available. It may be frustrating to learn the routes and times when they will pick you up,but once you understand how it works,it will be much easier.
Of course,if you’re interested in seeing Greece in its entirety,it’s better to drive it. You will be able to do so much more and see all of the parts of Greece when you can drive on the roads that take you to some of the most beautiful landmarks in the world.
Review the tips in this article when you’re getting ready to visit the country. As long as you keep them in mind,you will have no trouble driving in Greece. After a couple of days,you’ll feel much more comfortable being there and you’ll know more of what to expect as you navigate the roads and people on them.
Have a wonderful time in glorious Greece!