Greece Photo by SHansche

Greece Driving Guide

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.

2023-12-31 · 9min read

Experience the glorious Greece, its top attractions, and historical places with an International Driving Permit.

Greece annually ranks as one of the top destinations globally — and it's easy to see why. The country is celebrated for its rich historical legacy and stunning beaches.

The Greek islands, each with its distinct charm, offer numerous archaeological sites and provide insights into the country's notable history. However, you might be hesitant to rent a car due to concerns about Greek drivers' reputations, most notably for disregarding speed limits which leads to accidents.

Driving in Greece is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but I wouldn't necessarily let that put you off. It's an extremely beautiful country with marvelous mountains, coastlines, and countryside, plus it has plenty of fascinating ancient cultural sites. You just need to be aware of what to expect regarding the challenges.

The most stressful issues that we encountered were scary mountain roads, congested urban areas, aggressive and reckless drivers, chaotic parking, language and signage problems, and motorcycles.

Paul Goodman shares in his post, Driving in Greece: 6 Survival Tips for the Road Trip Tourist, published on the Wander Wisdom travel blog.

Explore the Greek Islands

Though there are negative experiences, don't let them deter you from enjoying Greece. This guide is designed to assist and prepare you for a driving adventure across these beautiful isles.

Let's Take a Closer Look at Greece

Before diving deeper into Greece's driving culture, here are some interesting facts about this popular European destination:

Geographic Location

Greece, located in South-Eastern Europe, is known for its unique geographical position. The country is nestled amidst three seas, contributing to its archipelagic nature.

It consists of around 2000 islands between Albania and Turkey and has a total land area of 131,957 km². The country's terrain is predominantly mountainous, featuring Mount Olympus as its highest peak. Athens, the capital city, houses about a third of Greece's population.

Greece's economy is significantly bolstered by tourism, making it a sought-after destination for global travelers. This has led to an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and beaches catering to tourists' needs, with the hotels in Santorini being particularly popular for their breathtaking sunsets and dramatic landscapes.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Greece is Standard Modern Greek, a blend of the historic Demotic and Katharevousa forms. Other languages prevalent in Greece include Turkish, Albanian, and Macedonian.

Despite the diversity in languages, English is widely spoken and understood, especially in the tourism sector. Most Greeks start learning English at a young age, and given the country's reliance on tourism, English communication is quite common.


Greece's ethnic diversity has been shaped by migrations and invasions throughout the 20th century, though the concept of national or ethnic minorities remains a sensitive topic. The Greek government maintains that all inhabitants are Greek, irrespective of ethnic or national background.

Greece's history can be traced back to the Dark Ages, characterized by scattered populations living in small farming villages. Over time, these communities developed laws, formed governments, collected taxes, and established armies.

Between 750 and 600 B.C., due to a growing population, Greek colonies spread across the Mediterranean and North Africa, significantly influencing the region's cultural development. By the end of the 7th century B.C., Greece had evolved into a self-sufficient and self-governing entity.


Greece operates as a Parliamentary Republic, also known as the Hellenic Republic. The Head of State, or President, typically serves a five-year term and is elected by the Parliament. The Prime Minister, the Head of Government, leads the Greek Government and other key decision-makers.


Greece, a perennial European favorite, attracts millions annually, ranking 5th in the list of preferred countries to visit by European travelers. With its rich history, pristine beaches, and 2000 diverse islands, the country caters to a broad spectrum of interests.

Archaeological sites showcase its past, while the islands offer varied facilities for a comfortable stay. The Mediterranean climate, featuring mild temperatures and abundant sunshine, makes Greece a year-round destination, drawing visitors with its pleasant conditions.

International Driving Permit FAQs

Exploring Greece at your own pace enhances the travel experience, and renting a car is an excellent strategy. However, it's important to be aware that an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Greece is not just recommended but required for foreign drivers. Holding a driving license from your country alone is insufficient for legally driving in Greece.

Who Needs an IDP?

An IDP is crucial for those who frequently travel internationally. This is especially true for Europeans who often cross borders where their regular license and IDP are needed. For those living outside Europe, an IDP facilitates travel across various countries. In the case of driving in Greece with a UK license, an IDP is not required.

The IDP is also useful for business travelers, offering the flexibility and convenience of driving instead of relying on public transport. For those planning to stay in a country for an extended period or permanently, an IDP serves as a temporary license while preparing for a local license.

Is a Local Driver’s License Valid in Greece?

A local driver's license alone does not permit you to drive in Greece. An International Driver’s Permit is required to drive legally. Without it, you may be penalized by local authorities. With an IDP, you can travel to Greece and over 200 other countries. The IDP translates your license into 12 languages, facilitating communication with non-English speaking officials.

Who Can Apply for an IDP?

Anyone with a valid driver's license can apply for an IDP. It's important to have a local license before applying, as the IDP is essentially a translation of your native license. To apply, visit the International Drivers Association's application page and select a package. The requirements include a valid government-issued driver's license, a passport-sized image, and possibly a copy of your passport.

How Long Is an IDP Valid?

An IDP's validity varies for one, two, or three years. Choose the duration based on your travel plans. If you frequently travel for business, a longer validity period may be more practical.

Does an IDP Replace Your Native License?

No, an IDP does not replace your native driver's license. In Greece, you must carry both your native license and the IDP. The IDP, valid for up to three years, is a supplement to your regular license, translating it into multiple languages for international use.

Renting a Car in Greece

Exploring Greece by car offers an unparalleled sense of freedom and comfort, sparing you from the constraints of strict travel schedules. If you're considering renting a car for your Greek adventure, here's a helpful guide to streamline the process.

Car Rental Options in Greece

You have two primary options for renting a car in Greece. The first is online booking, which allows you to reserve your desired vehicle before your trip. This method is preferred by many tourists for its convenience.

The second option is to visit a car rental agency in your destination area. Auto Europe is a popular online car rental service, known for offering a wide range of vehicles at competitive prices.

Required Documents for Car Rental

Though not consistently and strictly enforced, it's crucial to carry the correct documents to avoid complications with local authorities or in case of traffic incidents.

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is often required along with your regular driver's license. This permit should be obtained in your home country before traveling. For European license holders, the IDP requirement may be waived. Other essential documents include your passport and a credit or debit card for payments and deposits.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

Car rental agencies in Greece offer a variety of vehicles to cater to different group sizes and preferences. A compact car or a four-seater may suffice if you're traveling in a small group. For larger groups, consider a 9-seater minivan.

While diesel cars, known for their fuel efficiency, may be less common, don’t hesitate to request one if preferred. Small cars are particularly recommended for rural areas due to their maneuverability and cost-effectiveness.

Car Rental Costs

Car rental in Greece is relatively affordable, especially with early booking. Economy vehicles typically cost around $250 weekly, while smaller cars may range between $150 to $200 weekly. Prices can be higher in major cities. To secure the best deal, compare rates from different providers.

Age Requirements for Car Rental

The minimum age for car rental varies, with most companies requiring renters to be at least 21 years old, though some may set the minimum at 23. Drivers under 25 might need to pay extra for insurance.

The maximum age limit generally extends to 70 years. Ensure you have held your driver’s license for at least 12 months before renting. Always review your rental company's terms and conditions for specific age-related policies.

Car Insurance Costs and Policies

Car insurance costs in Greece can differ widely based on the car model, its power, and age. Comprehensive car insurance is essential, as travel insurance usually doesn’t cover rental car theft or damage.

Most rental companies offer a mix of various insurance types, such as third-party liability, fire protection, theft protection, personal accident insurance, and collision damage waivers. For the best rates, consider purchasing comprehensive insurance in advance.

Road Rules in Greece

Understanding and adhering to the driving regulations of Greece is crucial for a safe and enjoyable visit. This is especially important for visitors from regions such as the US or Asia Pacific, who may not be familiar with European driving laws.

Here's a breakdown of the key driving rules and regulations in Greece:

In Greece, the legal driving age varies depending on the type of vehicle. For cars, the minimum age is 18 years, while motorcycle riders must be at least 16 years old. A person must be 21 years or older to drive trucks and cargo vehicles.

Both residents and foreigners seeking a driver's license in Greece must complete theoretical and practical driving tests. Additionally, a primary school diploma is required. For English speakers, driving tests in English are available online in Greece.

Speed Measurement Unit for Driving in Greece

In Greece, the standard speed measurement for driving is kilometers per hour (km/h). The specific speed limits vary depending on the location. For instance, the speed limit in residential areas is typically set at 50 km/h (about 32 mph).

When driving outside towns, the limit generally increases to 90 km/h (approximately 56 mph). The speed limits on freeways and major highways are usually between 110-120 km/h (around 69-75 mph). It's important to note that freeways don't exist on the Greek islands. In roundabouts throughout Greece, a more cautious speed of 25-30 km/h is advised.

A crucial tip for tourists driving in Greece is to be aware that many local drivers tend to disregard speed limits, particularly on larger, straighter roads. This can be especially true for speeds over 110 km/h on highways.

For your safety, it's essential to stay alert and adhere to the posted speed limits, despite the behavior of other drivers. Following the local traffic regulations is key to a safe driving experience in Greece.

Drunk-Driving Regulations

Greece has strict drunk-driving laws with a blood alcohol limit of 0.2 permille. Exceeding this limit can result in fines ranging from €200 to €2,000. Repeat offenses could lead to driving bans or imprisonment for up to six months. Traffic officers in Greece do not collect fines directly; they issue a ticket that must be paid at a bank. Paying the fine within 10 days qualifies you for a 50% discount.

Defensive Driving and Road Safety

Adopting a defensive driving approach is vital on Greek roads. Before setting out, ensure you are sober, alert, and equipped with necessary items like prescription glasses. Regular vehicle maintenance checks, including tires, brakes, and engine, are also essential.

Using Turning Signals

The majority of lanes in Greece, particularly in major cities, are well-maintained. However, in rural areas, roads tend to be narrow, prompting drivers to rely on signals to communicate with each other.

Turning signals play a crucial role, not only in indicating turns but also in signaling safety to other drivers. If a driver flashes the right turn signal, it implies that it's unsafe to pass due to oncoming traffic. Conversely, a left turn signal indicates that it's safe to proceed, as there is no oncoming traffic.

Parking Guidelines

Park only in designated areas, especially in well-lit spots during nighttime. Be aware of local parking rates to avoid unexpected charges. Always secure your vehicle by locking it and not leaving valuables inside.

Overall Vehicle Condition

Ensure your vehicle is in top condition by checking tires, brakes, engine, and fuel level. Avoid driving if you are unwell or tired, as this can significantly impair your driving ability and safety.

Following these guidelines, you can navigate Greek roads safely and respectfully, enhancing your driving experience in this beautiful country.

Mandatory Seatbelt Use

Wearing seatbelts is compulsory for all passengers in Greece. Ensure that each car seat is equipped with a seatbelt. For those medically exempt from seatbelts, carry a Greek-translated medical certificate.

Strict rules apply for child passengers: children under three must have suitable restraints, and those between three and 11 years under 1.35 meters must use appropriate child restraints. Children over 12 or taller than 1.35 meters can use adult seatbelts.

Understanding Traffic Directions

For travelers in Greece, local assistance with directions is often available in English. Greeks are welcoming, kind-hearted, and always eager to help people out, especially those who are asking for directions.

Driving After Brexit

The driving license rules for UK residents in Greece will remain unchanged until December 31, 2020, following Brexit. Post this date, residents with a UK driving license in Greece are advised to exchange it for a Greek driving license.

The newly acquired Greek license is valid for short visits to the UK. For tourists holding a UK driving license in Greece, alongside their native license, it's essential to obtain an International Driver’s Permit to be eligible for driving in the country.

Traffic Road Signs

Greek road signs typically align with International and European standards, but some local signs may be unique. Familiarize yourself with categories like warning, information, mandatory, and priority signs. Understanding these signs is crucial for smooth navigation.

  • Warning signs stand out in red or yellow, serving as important alerts for potential dangers.
  • Information signs are designed to offer essential details about your current route and what lies ahead.
  • Mandatory signs hold special importance, guiding drivers on specific tasks and arguably representing the most critical signage in Greece.
  • Priority road signs in Greece clearly indicate who has the right-of-way at upcoming junctions or roads.

Right of Way Rules

In Greece, the right-hand side of the road is the standard driving side. Right of way is usually given to traffic on main roads at signed junctions and at unsignalled junctions to traffic approaching from the right. In roundabouts, those entering have priority over cyclists, and buses and trams have priority when exiting stops.

Overtaking Laws

Overtaking in Greece has specific rules: avoid doing so at road humps, bends, bottlenecks, junctions, and pedestrian crossings. Check your surroundings carefully before overtaking and avoid it when visibility is poor. Overtake only when it's safe, particularly in urban and interurban areas.

Driving Side

Greeks drive on the right side of the road, with the driver's seat on the left. Visitors from left-hand traffic nations should practice beforehand to adapt to this change.

The Driving Etiquette in Greece

When driving in Greece, it’s important to navigate the roads with respect and awareness, both for your safety and to respect local driving etiquette. Here are some guidelines to ensure a smooth driving experience in Greece:

Handling Car Breakdowns

Encountering a car breakdown can be stressful, but taking the right steps ensures your safety and a smoother resolution.

  • Safely move your car off the road if possible.
  • If stuck in traffic, exit your car cautiously. If parked on the roadside, use the passenger side to exit.
  • Lock your car if you own it, leaving a note with your contact details if needed. If it's a rental, inform the rental agency.
  • Increase your vehicle's visibility by turning on hazard lights and using warning signals like flares or a hazard triangle.
  • Stay in your vehicle if it's safe, keeping doors locked and seatbelts fastened. Be cautious when accepting help from strangers.

Interacting with Police

Understanding how to interact with Greek police is essential for a stress-free journey.

  • If pulled over, turn on hazard lights and safely pull to the side of the road.
  • Show your driving documents, including your driver’s license and IDP, to the officer.
  • Follow the police officer's instructions and cooperate fully.

Asking Directions

Greeks generally speak English well, but learning key Greek phrases can enhance your experience:

  • Good morning / Good day - ΚΑΛΗΜΕΡΑ (καλημέρα) pronounced kalimEHra
  • Good afternoon / Good evening - ΚΑΛΗΣΠΕΡΑ (καλησπέρα) pronounced kalispEHra ΚΑΛΗΝΥΧΤΑ (καληνύχτα) pronounced kalinIHta means Goodnight
  • Hello (informal / formal)- ΕΙΑ ΣΟΥ / ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ (γεια σου / γεια σας) pronounced yiA sou / yiA sass
  • Thank you - ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΩ (ευχαριστώ) pronounced efharistO
  • Please / You are welcome - ΠΑΡΑΚΑΛΩ (παρακαλώ) pronounced parakalO
  • Yes - ΝΑΙ (ναι) pronounced neh
  • No - ΟΧΙ – (όχι) pronounced ohi
  • Toilet - ΤΟΥΑΛΕΤΑ (τουαλέτα) pronounced tualEHta
  • Water - ΝΕΡΟ (νερό) pronounced nehrO
  • Coffee - ΚΑΦΕΣ (καφές) pronounced kafEHs
  • Beer - ΜΠΥΡΑ (μπύρα) pronounced bEEra
  • Taverna/restaurant - ΤΑΒΕΡΝΑ (ταβέρνα) pronounced tavEHrna
  • Ouzo - ΟΥΖΟ (ούζο) pronounced OOzo
  • Beach - ΠΑΡΑΛΙΑ (παραλία) pronounced parahlIa
  • Sea i-ΘΑΛΑΣΣΑ (θάλασσα) pronounced thAHlassa
  • Hotel - ΞΕΝΟΔΟΧΕΙΟ (ξενοδοχείο) pronounced ksenodoHIo
  • Greek salad - ΧΩΡΙΑΤΙΚΗ (χωριάτικη) pronounced horiAtiki
  • Wine - ΚΡΑΣΙ (κρασί) pronounced krahsEE

When encountering checkpoints, it's advised to give a polite approach to the checkpoint officers.

  • Respectfully greet checkpoint officers and be ready to show your travel documents, like your passport, driver’s license, and IDP.
  • Answer their questions politely and patiently. Use a translation app if language barriers arise.
  • Comply with vehicle checks and open the trunk if requested.

General Driving Tips

Ensure a smooth and respectful driving experience in Greece with these general tips:

  • Drive defensively and be prepared for unpredictable behaviors from local drivers.
  • Familiarize yourself with local traffic signs and rules.
  • Avoid distractions and ensure you are well-rested before driving.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a safe and respectful driving experience in Greece, allowing you to appreciate the country's scenic beauty and cultural richness fully.

Driving Conditions in Greece

Navigating the roads of Greece requires awareness of the local driving conditions, as they can be notably different from those in non-European countries like the United States. Here's a comprehensive overview of what to expect when driving in Greece:

Driving Environment in Greece

Greece's driving environment is distinct, with the country having the fourth-highest road fatality rate in the European Union. This necessitates vigilant and defensive driving. Pedestrians should also exercise caution when crossing streets or walking along roadsides.

Accident Statistics

Greece has challenging driving conditions characterized by poor roads, high-speed hazards, and heavy traffic, particularly at night. According to WHO data from 2018, Greece experienced 943 road-related deaths, constituting 0.94% of total deaths, ranking it #140 globally. Common causes of these accidents include distracted driving, impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs, and speeding.

Common Modes of Transportation

The bus is the primary mode of public transportation in Greece, particularly for accessing islands. Buses in cities and on the mainland serve major routes. While there are train networks, they have limited coverage.

For tourists, cars, scooters, or bikes are popular choices for exploring, with rental services widely available in towns and resorts. Internal flights and ferries are also common for those with a higher budget.

Road Conditions

Greece boasts an extensive National Road system, including four-lane highways with central barriers, motorways, and two-lane roads. Despite recent investments in motorways and infrastructure, road conditions vary.

In Athens, heavy traffic is common. Many roads, especially in rural areas, have sharp turns and uneven surfaces due to poor drainage and erosion. Road signs are often in the Greek alphabet, with limited English translations.

Local Driving Culture

Greek driving culture is known for a lack of adherence to speed limits and other traffic rules. Many drivers do not wear seat belts, and children are often seen unrestrained in vehicles. There's a prevailing attitude of invincibility among local drivers.

Traffic signs are frequently disregarded in urban areas, and drivers often show poor clutch control in stationary traffic. Aggressive driving is common, even in roundabouts, contrasting with the more cautious driving styles typically seen in Northern Europe.

When driving in Greece, it's crucial to be well-prepared and cautious, ensuring your vehicle is in good condition and mindful of the local driving habits and road conditions.

The Top Destinations in Greece

Journey through time to the era of Greek gods and ancient glory in Greece's earthly paradise. Exploring this country by car allows you to fully immerse in the allure of Athens's bustling streets to its islands' serene landscapes.


Athens, the country's capital, offers a diverse blend of historic sites, eastern bazaars, busy roads, and verdant parks. To truly appreciate the city’s rich heritage and modern vibrancy, renting a car is the ideal way to navigate and discover its many wonders.


The Peloponnese region offers a more relaxed driving experience. The roads are peaceful, and driving is less intense than in the past. From ancient ruins and picturesque landscapes to charming coastal towns, the Peloponnese captivates with its rich culture and scenic beauty.


Crete, Greece's largest island, is a treasure trove of legends and the birthplace of European civilization. The Greek archipelago is ripe for exploration, with 6,000 islands, of which 200 are inhabited.

Remember that driving is on the right-hand side, and vehicles entering roundabouts have the right of way in Crete.


The Dodecanese, a cluster of islands near the Turkish coast in the southern Aegean Sea, has historical landmarks, including castles, temples, and Byzantine churches.


The Cyclades, known for their picturesque sandy beaches, chapels, and iconic blue and white houses, epitomize the Greek island experience. Santorini, a highlight of this region, is famous for its stunning landscapes and offers activities like swimming and fishing.

Driving in Santorini, with its cliffs and narrow roads, can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding, offering a unique opportunity to explore this exceptional Aegean island.

Get an IDP to Explore Greece

For a complete European journey, Greece is an essential destination. Make sure to secure an International Driving Permit to fully explore Greece's seven major islands, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience. Happy travels!

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