Forwarding from the trip tips we wrote when we got back:
DRIVING: You’ll read online that driving in Greece is a white-knuckle experience and that Greece has a very high accident rate. This almost caused us to rely on buses instead, but in the end we were glad we chose to rent a car because this allowed us to go at our own pace and save a lot of time. Buses were going to be almost as expensive and would have used up a ton more of our valuable vacation time. Greek drivers were a little bit crazy (everyone is constantly passing each other, and it’s not uncommon to see people passing multiple cars around a blind curve) but it felt manageable, as my husband is a pretty confident driver. His assessment is that if you are fairly confident/comfortable with driving, driving in Greece feels manageable and even enjoyable, but if you are a more nervous/worried driver, this might make you struggle more and perhaps cause an accident, so perhaps driving isn’t the best fit. If you do drive, the main thing to know is to stay way over to the right (straddling the shoulder) to allow people to pass and to leave a gap in front so that passers can swerve back into the lane if needed. Saw signs warning of speed enforcement via video. Keep change on hand for tolls; big bridges (like one between Delphi and Olympia) can be a big toll (~$15). Choose a car with a large enough trunk for your luggage if you plan to make stops between hotels/cities (though smaller cars are generally better for narrow roads/streets). Get your International Driver’s Permit from local AAA office or risk a big fine. Parking was free and generally easy to find outside of Athens and central Nafplio. Most rental cars are stick shift. Diesel cars may be cheaper to operate. Picking up a rental car in one city and dropping off in another is prohibitively expensive. Make sure the pick-up and drop-off locations are convenient in huge Athens. Unlike the chain rental agencies in the US that allow you to drop off a car any time, our rental from Piraeus was very flustered when we arrived earlier than expected/asked if we could meet them early. Be sure to learn about the insurance that comes with the rental and determine if you need to purchase separate coverage (sometimes free through credit card, though requires declining rental car company’s insurance). Before departure, watch YouTube videos of what it’s like to drive in Greece and read up on Greece’s road signs. To avoid break-ins at night, open the luggage cover in the hatchback (to show that it’s empty) and try to look like a local by covering rental car decals and leaving a local newspaper (NOT tour books, etc) in view.
NAVIGATING: T-mobile phone with Google Maps GPS worked fine for us while driving. Briefly lost signal a few times, but never to the point of causing problems. Never had to use paper map, never got lost. If choosing this method, research route ahead of time (Google Maps may offer you multiple routes, but some may take you on difficult mountain roads/through the crazy center of Athens). Also be sure you know all the alternate spellings of your destinations (e.g. Nafplio/Nauplion/Nafplion, Mycenae/Mykines, Corinth/Korinthos, Delphi/Delfoi). Do at your own risk, as I’ve heard others post about GPS’ leading them astray. If using separate GPS unit, you may have to purchase its international maps at an extra cost. GPS through car rental company is extra and sometimes a significant cost (more than just buying a GPS unit, depending on length of car rental). We were comfortable going the speed limit, so the travel times listed on Google Maps were fairly accurate within 10-20 min for long drives. There was adequate English on road signs.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Athens has a metro, but otherwise public transportation isn’t quite as easy as places like Europe or France, where you can hop on a cheap high-speed train to get between main tourist cities. Car and bus are your main options for moving around the mainland.