No western driving school can prepare you for driving in the chaos that is the Greek traffic. However, I can truly recommend exploring this amazing country by car, since other forms of transport severely limit you in your explorations. So keep reading the quick guide below, get in your rental car, put your fears aside, start driving in Greece and enjoy!
Stick to the maximum speed
Many Greeks will drive up to 140 to 180 km/h on their newly constructed and often empty highways, but do not try to keep up with them. Especially in the mountainous areas in the north of the country, there are many surprising turns. Locals know when to break, but you do not. Take it easy and enjoy the view!
Keep right. And I mean really right
Many of the national roads in Greece consist of only one lane for you, but through the eyes of a Greek, there is always more. Don’t get scared when a car is heading towards you in the middle of the road. Use the concrete next to your lane. This is what they expect you to do. A road is more than the lanes that are marked on it when driving in Greece. And even when there is a line telling the Greeks that they can not pass other cars, they will.
Even though it seems that Greeks are always in a rush when they drive, around smaller villages you often find a few that took the concept of siga siga with them behind the wheel. Going just 40 km/h on a 80 to 100 road, dangerous! But these people often drive their cars on the right side of the official lane, making it easy for you to pass them. They are also very friendly, when their left indicator keeps blinking when you are right behind them, they give you the sign that there is no traffic ahead. It is safe for you to pass.
Do not trust your navigation
Many times I followed googles directions to guide me somewhere while driving in Greece. Going over dirt roads on cliff sides with sharp turns and steep inclines, only to discover that there is a concrete road on the other side. When you have doubts about the road that you’re on, try to find the signs instead of trusting Google. Locals always know better.
Prepare your car to get dirty
On many islands however, there is no way to avoid dirt roads. Be prepared for this and make sure that the car rental company allows you to go off-road.
Do not stop at zebra crossings
Pedestrians never ever have priority in Greece, unless there is a traffic light. When you stop at a zebra crossing, there is a big chance the car behind will crash into you because he simply doesn’t expect you to stop. Even more important here is that as a pedestrian in Greece never just cross the street, because no car in this country will stop for you.
Greeks park everywhere. Especially in the smaller cities cars are parked wherever. Double parking, parking straight underneath a no-parking sign, and against a yellow band are quite common. However, what the Greeks have and you don’t is inside information about when the police will walk around to hand out fines. So don’t do it! When parked wrong the police might end up taking your number plates to make sure that you will come to pay your fine. To get them back as a tourist is both time consuming and expensive. Especially in big cities, search for accommodation that includes parking to make your trip much easier.
Try to avoid taking a rental car on a ferry
Island hopping is a great way to explore the many beautiful islands of Greece, but getting on one of the ferries with a car is really the most stressful experience I have ever had. If you have to opportunity to rent a new car on each island and enter the ferry by foot, do this! Especially since without a car, the ferries are really affordable.
Be prepared for the Greek ferries
Before entering, make sure that the right mirror is closed and only the driver remains in the car. All passangerswill go on foot taking everything you need during the trip. And when you’re alone, make sure everything you want to take is within reach. When your car is on the ferry, only the driver’s door will be able to open just for a little while.
When you enter, there will be many guys shouting to you in Greek, telling you where to go. This is overwhelming, even when you speak Greek. Try to follow the car in front of you until he stops. Then you will park almost against him as well as against the car on the right. And soon your car will be closed on every side.
Although the experience might be stressful with the many men shouting at you. Remember that they are very friendly and if your really don’t understand what they mean or you can not do what they tell you, they will take the time to help you!
In Greece it is very easy to get a drivers license. Either you pay someone to get it or you take an exam driving just 20 km/h in a small village. Although this means that Greek drivers aren’t really the safest to be around. It does also mean that you are far better than they are. So trust in that, drive defensively, prepare for the worst but have faith in yourself. After a short while you will understand that driving in Greece is not as bad as it seems.
If you are planning on driving in Greece and you are not from the EU, you need an international driver’s license to be able to rent and drive in Greece. Read more about this here.