Thinking of driving around Greece on your next holiday? Be warned that it is no easy task if you’re a foreigner, and there are many things to keep in mind in order to survive.
1 Road rules are mere suggestions
One of the first things young learners are taught at Greek driving schools (assuming they go) is that what they learn to pass the test (assuming they don’t bribe their way through it) is not what actually happens in practice. Once out on the streets, speeding signs are mere suggestions with maximum speeding limits actually being applied as the minimum in practice. And if you decide to stop when the light turns orange, chances are the guy behind you may have already decided he is going to go through. Pedestrians should also note that pedestrian crossings and traffic lights do not necessarily mean that they can cross the street regardless of what the road rules stipulate.
2 Assume nobody can drive
Many Greeks, simply bribe the people administering driving tests via their instructors. It is a way of risking failure, so for this reason it is good to assume that nobody but you knows how to drive so take the defensive approach.
3 Drivers licenses
Australians wishing to rent a car in Greece should get an international license before they go on holiday. In the past, Australian licenses were accepted, however this rule has recently changed.
4 Road rage
Greeks are fiesty so don’t be startled by the honking horns, swear words and gestures you may experience. And then there’s the category of taxi drivers that feel they own the roads and should be on a list of their own.
5 Minimal safety
It isn’t surprising to see cars crammed with too many people, babies loosely held in their mothers’ arms rather than strapped in their seat, drivers talking on their cell phones, seat belts left unused and motorcycle drivers without helmets. It is not surprising that the government is considering tax incentives to prompt motorcycle drivers to buy and use helmets. But helmets are just a drop in the ocean as far as driving safety is concerned. In fact, if the government really wanted to solve the debt crisis, they should just issue parking fines and tickets for other traffic infringements.
6 Avoid quad bikes
Quad bikes are dangerous in rural Australia, but even more so around islands where tourists are in full force and Greek drivers weave in and out of traffic.
7 Drive on the right
Stick to the right-hand side of the road – the opposite to Australia. However, if you intend to turn right at a T-junction, traffic approaching from the left has the right of way. Furthermore, vehicles entering roundabouts have right of way. This means that those approaching from your left should stop for you though they probably won’t.
8 Forget parking
Illegally parked cars may be towed away or their license plates removed, but finding a space is often so hard that this doesn’t stop drivers from double parking or squeezing their cars on a spot on the curb.
9 City centre
Restrictions apply in downtown Athens to contain smog. These are known as the ‘daktylios’ around Alexandras Avenue, Zacharof, Mesogeion, Pheidipidou, etc, where license plates ending in even numbers can only enter the city centre on even days of the month, while vehicles whose license plates that end in odd numbers can enter the city centre on odd days.
10 Condition of the roads
Expect old roads with potholes in the cities, and steep, jagged cliffs. Not for the faint-hearted.