Hi again ,
We are super-excited for our Greek vacation planned for Sept 2015.
Thanks to all who have replied to my posts so far . Your advice is always appreciated .
So...we want to drive (outside of Athens) . Is it really as bad as I've heard ?
We are both in our 40's , experienced defensive drivers (with the clean records to prove it) .
& I've driven a "stick" before . No worries there.
Anybody have any advice?
Hi again ,
No, it's not that bad and the road signs are in Greek and phonetic English. Just don't attempt to drive within the city. Get your car out at the airport so you can drive around the city, not through it. If you live in the US or Canada be sure to go to your local AAA/CAA office to pick up an International Driving Permit, no test or membership required.
I found driving on the Greek mainland to be easy. In the islands, I did witness more people who ignored stop signs. Finding parking in towns can be an issue, so double-parking and leaving blinkers on seems to be the local solution when running errands. On mountain roads, there can be the usual falling rock hazards or lack of shoulder. Road rules are largely the same as in the rest of Europe. One thing that is dangerous is driving a scooter with no previous experience, especially on a rough island road.
We were in our late 60s when we visited Greece in September three years ago and my husband had no problems driving. Most of the roads are well signed. There are often two signs each in two languages, Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Greek words in Roman letters, English. If you can't understand the first sign, there will be another in a short distance. We picked up our car in Pireaus, drove around the Peloponnese, Olympia, and Delphi, and returned it to the Athens airport as we didn't want to drive in Athens. The traffic was light and the roads were in good condition. Your problem might be trying to see the scenery while keeping your eyes on the road!
Driving is actually pretty low key outside of Athens.
You MUST have the IDP to legally drive in Greece and the rental agencies tend to check.
Most rural roads are two lane but wide. Stay to the right edge. The middle is for passing and people will pass even though it looks like a two lane road. Always be alert in hilly/mountainous terrain as anything can be around the next bend.
In the Lonely Planet or Frommer's or Fodor's book on Greece (one of those), there's an eye-opening discussion of driving in Greece, including the islands, for first-timers.
If it were me, I'd go to Amazon and look inside those 3 books and see what they say, before committing to driving in Greece.
So far, I think you're only hearing from those who have had no problems. And God bless 'em, we're glad they didn't have "problems", but I know some travelers have been blind-sided by various problems, including accidents, driving in Greece.
I'd all the insurance the rental company offers.
I've been to Greece twice and drove both times. I've had the bad luck to have my car delivered to my hotel in the old part of Athens and then try to find my way out. It was a bit nerve-wracking the first time I drove in Athens but I got over it. Just ignore all the horn honks directed at you! LOL
Outside Athens there was absolutely no problem. I drove from Athens to Delphi, Olympia, Bassae, Megalopolis, Napflio, Epidaurus and back to Athens with no problem. I did have a GPS that I rented with the car. Be sure to get your International Drivers License at AAA and if you drive slow, bear to the right so people can pass. You'll see others doing the same. All hotels had parking either on the premises or directed me to a free parking lot.
Hey, it's an adventure!
This past June, my wife and I (late 60's) rented a car at the airport and drove around the Peloponnese for 4 days. Our car was a "stick", and we paid extra for the no-deductible CDW. We enjoyed the driving a lot and had no problems except for a couple of minor wrong turns. The GPS worked well (I brought my own, with Greece map installed and destinations marked). Two notes on the GPS, however. First, many back roads are not named, so the voice will say something like "take road, on right." It can be confusing, especially at roundabouts. Just keep an eye on the screen to make sure you took the correct road. Second, don't believe the estimated arrival time on the GPS - it will probably take longer. Many back roads have speed limits of 90 kph, but are so twisty you're lucky to go 40 or 50. Since the GPS thinks you can actually drive at the posted limit, it calculates an ETA that's incorrect.
Friends of mine ("stanbr", stalwart Destination Expert on Trip Advisor) who have found their way around all the back roads of Peloponnese AND Crete, have realized that people go wrong by thinking GPS is THE ultimate answer. The real answer is GPS -- PLUS a paper map. One reason is that in one area, there can be 2 towns with the same name .... 50 miles apart. Another is that, when you change from the Greek alphabet to ours, some letters do not exist, so the translator much choose. And it may not be the choice that's on the sign. Example: Chania Crete begins with a CHI, which is a letter like an X and sound is halfway between a "c", the "ch" as in Loch Lomand, and an "H." So, in the roman alphabet I have seen it spelled Chania, Hanya, Hania, and Xania. A paper map when used to "interpret" teh GPS, will keep you from going far astray.
As Lee mentioned, you'll definitely need to obtain an International Driver's Permit for driving in Greece. This is used in conjunction with your home D.L. so you'll have to take both. You may or may not be asked for it at the rental agency, but if you get into any kind of "traffic incident", it will be very important. Those without an I.D.P. may be deemed to be driving without a license, and the consequences won't be a happy holiday experience.
To elaborate on Ken's posting:
Sometimes it’s possible to rent a car just by showing your passport and a current drivers license. No problem.
If you get in an accident and don’t have the IDP you'll be in serious trouble with the Greek Police. Greek Law requires it and if you can't produce it you could possibly be detained until you come up with the cash to pay for any and all damages to the vehicles involved regardless of whose fault it is and whether or not the damages were pre-existing (especially if the other car belongs to a local seizing the opportunity to play the system!)
Your insurance will be invalidated because technically you will have been driving illegally.
And in that regard I also encourage you to take out the local insurance offered when you pick up the car, as much coverage as you can get. Don't rely on the automatic insurance your credit card claims to provide you. You'll be in a foreign country and there won't be a claims adjuster handy.
Just as important: Don't take "No Problem" as a substitute for indicating on the rental acceptance form every little scratch, dent, tear, stain, crack and missing part on the vehicle, inside and out and underneath. Take photos to back up your inspection. If the rental agent resists signing off on all that you've indicated walk away and find another agency.
We had no problem driving in Greece last year.(I'm in my late 60's.) In fact, I would venture to say that Greece can be much better than many other EU countries.
You have been given some excellent advice; get your IDP, buy lots of insurance, take a GPS, and a paper map!, and take your time.
We rented from local vendors, and I really studied their insurance before I rented. We usually use the auto broker Auto Europe.com, based in Maine, but I was cheap and wanted to save some money last year.. AE is great! They let you pick your options on line, and then give you a policy showing you exactly what is and what is NOT covered. And you can cancel at any time, We usually rent in one location and drop off in another. Most of the time the rate is higher if you pick up at an airport or train station. I enjoy playing with the options and pricing until I find what makes me happy.