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rental car pick up and return to Pireaus

We're coming into Pireus by ferry overnight from Chania, Crete, with probably a 6:00 AM arrival. Earlier I had noticed the number of rental car offices in the immediate area of the ferry port and thought that was going to be perfect, as we are planning to drive down to Napflio that day. We will return several days later in early evening to drop off the car and then on into Athens city center. But there are a number of posts on the web about how difficult it is to get in and out of Pireaus by rental car. Those posts advocate taking the bus to the airport to pick up a car, but that really takes us out of our way. So I was thinking of taking a cab or mass transit either into central Athens or to the Avis location at north Athens Halandri, 47, Vas Georgiou Str. which appears out by the main east/west highway, to pick up a rental car. Has anyone picked up/dropped off in Pireaus and how bad was it? Has anyone picked up a car in central Athens - how bad was returning it there? We want to rent from a large international company. Have driven in Europe many times and we know to generally avoid having a car in a large city. We will have a rental car in Crete prior to this time, so hopefully will have gotten used to driving in Crete/Greece somewhat.

I realize that flying from Crete to the Athens airport would simplify this, but we were looking forward to taking the ferry. I've read debates on the other threads on this forum about ferry travel so I understand the pros and cons. We took the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead last summer and thought it was a charming alternative to airports The overnight won't take that much time from our schedule.

Posted by
2934 posts

Driving in and around Athens is a nightmare, but that particular Avis office is right next to the highway. So as long as you are good with spotting landmarks when you return you should be able to find your way back without too much of a challenge. Google Street View is very good for this in terms of locating those landmarks and familiarizing yourself with the area. But heaven help you if you make a wrong turn!

If it were me I'd take the Green Line Suburban Railway from Piraeus into Athens to the Saint Irini Station (closest to Avis) and then a taxi the rest of the way to the Avis office.

Posted by
396 posts

Thanks so much for your help. My husband is a confident driver but returning the rental car to Piraeus sounds pretty stressful based on your comment and others I've read. I understand your suggestion to use Google Street view so that I'll have an idea what I'm looking for. That's a great tip. We've also had some frustrating rental car returns when we can't find the exact location of the return parking spaces or lot. Always good to note that when you're picking up the car, if you're returning it to the pickup location.

Posted by
22 posts

Tried Avis inmany countries including Greece and had a very good experience actually

Posted by
2934 posts

Out of curiosity I just did the Google Street Walk to "drive" the highway back to that Avis Office, and if you decide to rent from that office I want to caution you to be VERY familiar with the approach, as the exit lane is quite non-descript and you could easily miss it if you aren't in the far right-hand lane as you approach, and don't see the landmarks leading up to it. There is an island that separates the exit lane from the main part of the highway and there are only a few breaks in that island where you can get to that exit lane so you can turn left at the bottom of the off-ramp. Then once you're on the city street (Palaiologou) you have to drive on it for awhile before you get to the first left turn available (Solomou) that will eventually take you to Vas Georgiou Street where you turn left again to get to the Avis office. It's a little tricky, so be prepared.

Posted by
396 posts

Thanks for your helpful posts, Lee and zoz22. I'm copying your information into the day by day agenda notes that I've created for the trip, Lee, and I'll use your technique in advance to walk through getting to that rental location.

I also toyed with taking the train to Corinth and then taxiing to the Sixt location nearby in Kinetta, Greece. I'm trying to duplicate a similar successful approach we took in France where we dropped off the car in Amboise and took the train into Paris; so stress-free because the Amboise area is easy to navigate. I don't think this Corinth idea has quite the appeal. It appears that Corinth train station is small and you can't get a car at the station. Also it ties our success to the Corinth train line which could strike and is potentially a 'single source of failure'.

Posted by
2934 posts

I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is for you to be VERY familiar with the approach to that exit ramp. What I love about Google Street Walk's satellite function is that you can take your time to see details by dragging the little man in the lower right corner of your computer screen onto the streets with blue lines, then using your mouse to click/move and the zoom function to see details close up in all directions. I will caution you that the street walk is sometimes a couple of years old, and some landmarks might have changed ownership if you're using businesses for that purpose, so look for landmarks that can be recognized by size and shape, not name, such as the buildings themselves, a bridge overpass, etc.

Using the Street Walk "Directions" function I just found another possible route to the Avis office and I think it might be an easier route as you're driving in on the Leof. Kifisias Highway. There's a left turn break in the highway divider across from the "Media Strom" building that could take you to the Avis office using some back streets. The challenge will be to avoid one-way back streets going in the wrong direction. I'll leave it to you to figure that one out using Street Walk. The good thing is that if you miss that left turn you can still use the other route as it will still be ahead of you on the right on the approach to the Avis office discussed earlier.

Posted by
396 posts

Thank you again, Lee. Providing this detailed info is very kind of you. It sounds like getting a feel for the general highway and street layout in that area is a very good idea in case we miss one (or more!) of the turns, and knowing us that is a high likelihood : ) Fortunately at that point in our itinerary we will have nothing planned for the rest of the day except to return the car and travel to our hotel in the city center. I appreciate your help.

Posted by
10 posts

I was disappointed to read that it may be difficult to drive into and out of Piraeus and would like to get some details on the difficulty. My husband is a good driver (managed Cornwall last year) but I can be a nervous navigator.

My evolving plan had been to take the Metro from Monastiraki, near our Athens hotel, to Piraeus to rent a car on the morning of Monday, April 23. We would drive to Mycenae, spend the night in Nafplion, see Epidaurus on Tuesday and return the car and spend the night in Piraeus before a 7:25am Blue Star ferry to Santorini on Wednesday morning.

Comments? Suggestions? I'll be posting a much longer request for help on other parts of our itinerary later. We are planning to fly back to Athens after Santorini and Crete, rent a car to see Dephi, Meteora, and fly home from Thessaloniki, but given the realities of geography I realized we don't need to see these south of Athens sites as part of our end of trip plans.

Posted by
2876 posts

When you rent a car for Delphi, Meteora and end up in Thessaloniki, you will have to shop around to find an agency which allows you to leave the car there without a horrendous drop-off fee. I hear that some of the big agencies, Hertz, Avis etc now finally are offering the drop off option in Thessaloniki ... but for many many y ears NO agency would do it wihout a large fee that exceeded the amount of rental fee for an entire week. That's because Greece didn't have (and still doesn't) have much of a back-and-forth fleet Flow, as in other countries. A local Athens agency would have to SEND a car, with TWO drivers, to Thessaloniki to fetch the dropped-off car. Thus the large fee. You might google "Athens car-hire with lo/no extra fee for drop-off in Thessaloniki".

Posted by
10 posts

Both Sixt and Hertz will let us get a car from the Athens airport and return to the Thessaloniki airport but at a cost of about $100/day.

Posted by
2876 posts

In april, that's about 2x the usual rate for an automatic, and more than 2x cost of stick-shift ... so they are building in the cost of getting the car back to Athens.

Posted by
389 posts

A few years ago, the last few days of our Greece vacation involved taking a ferry from Naxos to the mainland, renting a car at Pireaus, driving to Naplion, staying 2 nights, then returning the car to the airport for our flight home. We got hopelessly mixed up and frustrated trying to get out of Athens! The rental car agency had given us directions to follow but we made some errors and pretty soon we were lost and very frustrated! The roads and exits around Pireaus were very confusing. It took over an hour for us to finally be on the right road and on our way out of the city. During that time, we were wandering around, trying to figure out signs, and stopping to ask for help. Those requests were to no avail until our final stop at a gas station with two employees. The younger one spoke English but didn't know how to help us find the exit we needed. He determined that the older man (who didn't speak English) knew how to get us to where we needed to go. The younger man translated and so together, they were able to guide us out. Once we were out on the open road, the driving was very easy. Returning the car to the airport after Napflion was super easy.

Posted by
27 posts

What websites are you using to book car rental ?
And did you mean using the GPS in the car for google street view or phone GPS, which means I would need a data plan to use right ?