Greece driving guide
When my wife and I were planning our recent trip to Greece, we were initially hesitant about renting a car to explore the country by ourselves.
Greece has a bit of a reputation for wild driving (and drivers)!
But the more we researched, the more we realized a car rental in Greece would allow us to make our itinerary as interesting as possible.
I love the freedom of road trips. Picking your own routes, visit the top archaeological sites, check out less-crowded beaches, and simply stop and start whenever you want to. At your own pace.
Here are some important tips we learned from our experience renting a car in Greece, to help you save money and stay safe while driving around the country!
Greece Travel Restrictions 2021
Starting in May, Greece is allowing travelers to visit, including American tourists. You must either have proof of your COVID-19 vaccination(s), or present a negative PCR test within 72 hours of your flight.
Hotels, attractions, and private tours are open with new health & safety protocols in place, and you still have to follow certain guidelines (like wearing masks indoors).
You can find the latest updates on traveling to Greece here.
How To Rent A Car In Greece
1. Should You Self-Drive In Greece?
Now if you’re a fan of group bus tours, by all means, go book one. It’s a decent way to see Greece if you don’t have a lot of time.
No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work!
But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure of independent travel.
If that’s the kind of traveler you are, renting a car in Greece is the way to go!
No set schedule or timetable — driving around Greece with the freedom to stop anyplace cool you find along the way. Yes, you can take your rental car to the Greek islands too, if you travel by ferry.
Just keep in mind that small back roads on the islands can be pretty winding and narrow. With some practice, you’ll gain confidence on them!
A great thing about renting your own car is the flexibility you get, should you decide to change your plans or get off the beaten path.
2. Where To Rent Your Car In Greece
Some common car rental companies in Greece include Europecar, Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz and Thrifty, as well as some local ones too.
But the best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Greece.
Where to rent a car in Greece depends on where you start your journey, but for most of us a Greek vacation begins from Athens Airport.
Some people decide to rent a car after spending a few days in Athens first, using public transportation. Then you can pick up your car and explore other parts of Greece using the network of island ferries.
Athens Airport: Plan to pick up your car about 60 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 3 1/2 hours before your flight leaves. Because returning your rental car and catching a shuttle back to the airport can take up to 30 minutes.
Now, the traffic in Athens is a bit crazy. So you if you can survive driving through Athens traffic, the rest of your trip will be a piece of cake!
3. Car Rental Insurance In Greece
Some of the rumors about driving in Greece are true, and other drivers don’t always follow the rules. Especially in the capital of Athens! Don’t worry, I’ll share some tips for dealing with crazy drivers below.
Typically, rental cars in Greece come with a basic Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), but this isn’t exactly insurance, and only covers the car for up to €1000-3000 EUROS worth of damage.
This is the amount they hold on your credit card until you return the car in one piece. CDW typically does not include tire, cracked windshield, or undercarriage damage either.
While you can often save money booking your car with a good travel credit card that includes car rental insurance, you REALLY must read the fine print, because many people wrongly assume their card covers them in Greece.
If you get in a wreck driving in Greece, declined full coverage, and you suddenly learn your credit card doesn’t actually cover the damage — you’re screwed. I can’t tell you how many travel horror stories I’ve heard like this…
It’s why I usually pre-book full coverage online. It’s usually cheaper than at the counter — and then you won’t have to worry about accidents at all!
Rental agencies usually include the cost of fire and third party liability insurance, but only up to a certain amount. So please check with the rental agency. Theft protection insurance costs anywhere from $5 to $12 a day. Personal Accident Insurance works out to about $3 to $5 per day. Collision damage waivers cost around $15 to $23 per day.
4. How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car In Greece?
Renting a car in Greece is typically going to cost around $18-50 a day, depending on the type of car you get. SUVs or minivans can cost up to $200 a day. Our compact 4-door sedan was about $30 a day.
Gas (petrol) prices in Greece might seem cheap to Americans at first glance, but remember that the rest of the world quotes gas in Liters, not Gallons (1 Gallon = 3.78 Liters). Currently, gas costs about $7.46 per gallon (€1.61 per liter) in Greece.
Many gas stations only accept cash too. So make sure to have a stash somewhere.
Greek gas stations are often closed on Sundays, and only open till 7 PM on other days. So plan for this, and get your tank filled beforehand.
Automatic vs Manual
Automatic cars are more expensive to rent than manual cars (but manuals are more common in Greece, and Europe in general), and you must specify what type you want when booking. If you’ve never driven a manual car before, don’t start in Greece! It’s safer to get an automatic.
There’s an additional fee for one-way car rentals in Greece, which can vary by company. For example, if you want to drop off the car in a different city than where you started from.
5. Age Requirements For Renting A Car
Although the legal driving age in Greece is 21, many rental providers have a driver age bracket of 25 to 70. So if you’re over 70, or under 25 and over 21, you might have to pay an additional surcharge for driving a car in Greece.
Car hire excess insurance may also be required if you’re below 25 or above 69.
6. Greek Driving Laws Tourists Should Know
- The speed limit in Greece is 50 kph (30 mph) in urban areas and 90 kph (55 mph) in rural areas. While on the expressway it’s 110 kph (70 mph) and on the motorway the speed limit is 130 kph (80 mph).
- Greek’s drive on the right-hand side of the road, just like the United States.
- Private toll road rates range from €1.50 to €3.50.
- It’s illegal to drink and drive, or to talk on your phone while driving in Greece.
- Seat belts are a must. Fines are €80 for the first offense, and €350 after that.
- Fines for going through a red light or illegal overtaking are €700.
- At an intersection with no stop sign, cars on the right have “right of way”. However this is also true for Roundabouts! That means cars already in the roundabout will stop for those entering (this isn’t typical elsewhere).
- Illegal parking can result in fines of about €150. (This happens quite often in Athens as it’s very difficult to find parking spaces.)
- Children under 12 years old must sit in the back seat.
- Car seats are compulsory for children under 4 years old. Book one in advance, or bring your own travel-friendly car seat (like we do).
- If driving in Greece’s mountainous areas in the winter, you should have snow chains with you. These are required by law, so make sure your car rental company provides them.
7. International Driver’s License
It is essential to show a valid EU Driving License or an International Driving License to be able to rent a car in Greece. While you may not need one to actually rent the car, you would need it if you get into an accident or get pulled over by police.
You can easily apply to for an International Driving License in your home country.
Some car rental agencies may require that you’ve had a driver’s license for at least a year before traveling to Greece. Please check for specific rules with the rental agency you choose.
8. Helpful Tips For Driving In Greece
Greeks LOVE using their car horn! For pretty much anything. Don’t take it too personally. In fact they may honk the second a traffic light turns green.
If renting a car in Athens, watch out for impatient motorbike riders (which there are many) don’t really obey lane rules. They’ll also whizz past you even when you’re stopped at a red light.
While driving around Greece’s islands or rural areas, traffic may come at you from the other direction without any warning on what seems like single-lane roads. Or even driving backwards down a road. Or stopping in the middle of it.
Roads on many of the popular Greek islands (like Santorini and Mykonos) aren’t always well maintained. They can be narrow, winding, on the edge of sea cliffs, full of potholes, and some can have blind turns (honk first for safety!).
Try to avoid driving your rental car between 8 AM and 9 AM in Athens. Or leaving the city on a Friday, and returning on a Sunday. Rush hour traffic literally gets you nowhere. It can be a nightmare.
Greek pedestrians follow their own rules. You’ll find people ambling down the road without heed to oncoming traffic. Be careful of them.
9. Extra Advice For Renting A Car In Greece
- Take pictures (or video) of the interior and exterior of the car when it’s handed over to you at the car rental Athens. This ensures you won’t get fined for damage that was already there.
- If you’re planning to drive in Athens and towns closer to it, choose a smaller car. Traffic in Athens (and parking) can be dreadful, so a smaller car is better.
- While staying in urban areas, pick hotels that have free parking included. Otherwise you’ll have to shell out around €150 if fined for illegal parking.
- If plan to take the car on an island ferry, inform the car rental in advance. Some of them do not allow this, while others charge extra.
- Drivers in Greece DO NOT STOP at pedestrian crosswalks. So if you do, you’re risking getting hit from behind by a Greek driver not expecting it.
10. Accident & Breakdown Information
While the European Emergency Phone Number is 112, its use hasn’t been fully implemented in Greece. Alternative numbers you can use are 100 for the police, 166 for an ambulance, or 199 for the fire department.
However if your car simply breaks down, and no one is injured, its probably better to call your Greek car rental company’s own emergency roadside assistance number located on the rental agreement.
Enjoy Your Greek Road Trip!
Follow these few road rules, and you’ll survive driving in Greece with a rental car.