Driving in Athens

Driving in mainland Greece and on the Greek Islands is a pleasure with amazing views. However, you must remember to be careful. In general the roads are good and well marked, but driving in Athens is different and for newcomers and visitors, driving here may seem impossible at first. People drive fast and are quite nervous and impatient, and at certain times traffic can be bad.

Greeks drive to the right. Keep your eye on the road and concentrate as a lot of people don't follow even the basic driving regulations. Also, take extra care when driving on the National Road, especially when passing the opposite lane.

Take extra care with people on motor bikes. Especially in central Athens as motor bikes are abundant here and they normally don't obey any lanes or rules.

Road signs are displayed in both Greek and English and all the main roads and highways are well sign posted. In central Athens the signs may not be very easy to see, so be careful.

At weekdays and during rush hour traffic it can be particularly bad. Thus, allow more time to reach your destination or take public transport for more convenience. Keep in mind that demonstrations (which are fairly regular) occur at Syntagma Square. Avoid going to the centre during a big demonstration and especially avoid parking your car around this area as many cars get smashed during the protests.

Always wear your seatbelt. Youngsters under 18 years old are not allowed to drive and children under 10 years old must sit in the back seat. If you have toddlers, always have a baby car seat and everyone should always obey the posted limits. The speed limit is normally 50kmh in urban areas, 110kmh outside the cities and 120kmp on highways.

It's not really worth hiring a car while in Athens since public transport is very extensive and inexpensive and there are plenty of taxis. As Athens is such a crowded place and the parking is so scarce, you will probably not want to drive. However, it's a good idea to rent a car and explore the regions beyond Athens. Hiring a car is rather inexpensive, it gives you flexibility and is the best way to see the countryside and visit some of the nearby attractions, like Nauplion or Delphi, at your own pace. Major car rental agencies and small family-run rent-a-car companies offer a wide selection of car types and prices. Due to the  scarce parking in Athens, especially central Athens, opt to have the rented car delivered to you at the airport or at your hotel, on the same day you plan to set off for outer Athens.

To drive you should be 21 years old and hold a valid driving licence. When renting a car ensure that you have a 24-hour line to contact in case of emergency or if your car is not up to standard.

In a case of emergency dial 112 for multi-language assistance. Information can be provided in Greek, English and French regarding ambulance services, fire brigade, police and the coast guard. You can also dial 100 for Police, 166 for Fires and 199 for Ambulance Service. For roadside assistance call ELPA at 10400.

Fines for not confronting with the laws and the regulations are strict and expensive. Passing a red light or ignoring a stop sign is 700 Euros. Not wearing the car seatbelt or a helmet on a bike is a fine of 350 Euros. Talking on a mobile phone without using a hands-free kit is a fine of 100 Euros. While driving under the influence of alcohol is a fine between 200 to 1200 Euros and a probable loss of license from 10 days to six months, depending on the level of the alcohol test shown.

Driving in Athens may be terrifying at first, but once you get out in the city and take good care on the road, you will love driving.