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Driving in Greece

Driving in Greece can often be thought of as being a memorable experience to visitors. From bad drivers, very nervous drivers to seemingly rude rivers, Greek driving is definitely different from the driving you are used to.

OK, there are places that have worse driving, but in terms of driver behavior, Greece is near the top. Firstly, Greeks in general are nervous people; this shows in their driving. Changing lanes with no indication; crossing before the light turns green; driving over curb corners; racing around street curves at unsustainable speeds; going too fast on a day-of-rain-after-long-periods-of-sunshine-with ground-dusty environment and so on.

Secondly, Greeks think they know how to drive and push their cars to the limit. OK, many people do this but then Greek roads are still undergoing repairs and creation. And thirdly, Greeks do not seem to show concern for others drivers, foreigners or otherwise.

What this produces is accidents, really bloody accidents, and body counts at every public holiday weekend. And children get caught in this, through no fault of theirs.

In defference to this however, driving in Greece is no different that driving anywhere else. You just have to remember these things:

  • Do not let people make you upset; ignore the often used car horn;

  • Know your route in advance; ensure you know where you are going;

  • Make sure you have a clear viewing area;

  • Try to avoid Athens rush hour traffic;

  • Above all, remain calm.

    Renting a car
    Rental companies are ever present from the major ones such as Avis, Hertz and Budget to smaller, unheard of companies. All car rentals in Greece cost money. The smallest cars are 1 liter Toyotas that have trouble going up the mountains with 4 people on board, to Mercedeses that have Cadillac-like rental costs. Whatever you choose ensure you get CDW (either pay for it or make sure your credit card covers it) and Personal Accident ensurance.

    You may find that taking a taxi is much cheaper than renting a car and much safer, but this decision is up to you. On the islands, the choices are much more constrained, but nevertheless there are cars to be gotten there too. You must book in advance because cars are in short supply during the summer months.

    Renting a motorbike/scooter
    Renting a scooter is the highlight of any trip to Greece. You can find scooters anywhere from Athens to the smallest island. All you need is a driver's license, which the company keeps as a guarantee of the scooter's return. They cost about DRA 5000 per day (about $17). There is no insurance or anything like it. Just ensure you see where you are going and that you have gas.

    The roads
    There are highways in Greece, that link Athens to Thesaloniki, Athens to Patras and some other roads, but the bulk is paved two lane highways that link various cities. Since Greece is mainly a mountainous country, the roads are windy, twisty and need carefull drivers. Often the papers carry stories about people driving off the cliffs, with tragic results. In Athens there is pollution control which alternates cars depending on whether their number plate is odd or even. Diesel private cars are not allowed in Greece because Diesel particulates destroy the ancient monuments. Foreign cars are currently excempt from this rule however (if you drive a diesel in Athens, think about this).

    Speed limits are 50km/h (30mph) in cities; 80km/h (50mph) outside cities and 100km/h(60mph) on highways. If you are a European Union citizen, your driver's license is fine in Greece, otherwise you would need an international drivers license.

    Breakdowns, theft, accidents
    There is an automobile association in Greece. Called ELPA, it offers road assistance service reciprocal to your own road insurance scheme. If you are a member of the AA, the AAA, the CAA and other European road assistance services, you will be covered; just bring your own vehicle assistance booklet with you.

    Greece also suffers from theft. Car radios are easily picked up, even from the most difficult-to-steal cars, and find their way to Monastiraki for sale on Sunday morning at the flea market. Just cover up car radios, or install a removable radio. Remember: leave your car totally empty, park it on a brightly lit street at night, and lock it up. It will be just fine.

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