The roads in Greece vary in their quality and state of repair, with all major cities being connected by nice wide, multi-lane highways, and smaller cities being served by the narrow variety. To navigate to the most spectacular and remote locations you might have to negotiate through very narrow roads that might turn into gravel for large stretches of the trip often doubling the estimated time of arrival you calculated looking at the little red line on a map. Greece is a mountainous country and driving can yield spectacular views, but also it can be a cause for motion sickness. If you are traveling with small children make frequent stops and allow extra time to get to your destination.
Driving in Greece is not to be taken lightly. Greece has a very high accident rate compared to other European countries and much caution is advised. The most dangerous roads are the one lane roads which connect large cities and host large tractor trailers, small cars, older cars, and even smaller motorcycles, all driving at wide ranges of speed. Be extra careful when you pass slower vehicles and have to cross over to the opposite direction lane . There is no avoiding this maneuver on Greek roads especially if you are stuck behind a slow moving tractor trailer on a long uphill for the last 24 minutes. Maybe it's the pressure of 48 Greek drivers tailgating you cursing and waving frantically in your mirrors, maybe it's the need to get to where you are going sometime this century, or maybe it's your own latent Spartan warrior deep down inside who tends to awaken when you drive uphill behind a tractor trailer with 48 Greek drivers behind you, maybe all these reasons will compel you to forget all your ideas about defensive driving and pass the darn truck even if it is the last thing you would ever do.
Another dangerous maneuver in Greece is the dreaded left turn on any road. Chances are good that whoever follows behind you at double your speed is busy lighting a cigarette or fiddling with his stereo all while he is calculating the physics of passing you on the left without hitting the oncoming traffic and analyzing his trajectory to allow his wheels to avoid the two pot holes on the street. Naturally the last thing he has noticed is your left blinker that has been flashing frantically for 5oo meters, or your brake lights that you have been pumping frantically hoping that the driver behind you will notice and finally slow down. After driving in Greece for a long time I have come to the conclusion that turn signals fail in this way one time too often, so in addition to turning them on early, I extend my entire arm out the window pointing to the left for at least 200 meters. That seems to take care of the driver directly behind, but it has no effect on the ones behind him, but, hey, what's life without a little stress.
Minimum Age: Drivers must be 18.
Seat Belts: Must be used by front-seat passengers. With Greece's high accident rate, please, everybody, strap yourself in.
Children: Kids under 10 can't sit in the front seat.
Speed Limits Use these as a guide, but always obey the posted limits, which may vary.
Urban areas: 30 mph/50 kmh
Outside cities: 68 mph/110 kph
Freeways/Expressways: 75 mph/120 kph
Horning: Technically, it's illegal in towns and urban areas except in case of emergencies. Use it freely if needed; it could save your life. On high mountain roads, I always make a short beep shortly before going around a blind curve.
Driving in the Middle of the Road This is very common, especially on narrow roads, and is not necessarily a bad idea if you are expecting to have to avoid a sudden obstruction such as rockfalls, grazing goats, or an unexpected parked car. One Greek woman explained it to me by saying "If I'm driving in the middle, I always have someplace to go". But it is very disconcerting to see a car barreling toward you well over the middle line.
Parking: Forbidden (though it may not be marked) within 9 feet of a fire hydrant, 15 feet of an intersection, or 45 feet from a bus stop.
In some areas, street parking requires purchase of a ticket from a booth. These areas will usually be posted in both English and Greek.
Moving Violation Tickets Fines are expensive, often hundreds of euros. With Greece's current financial crisis, enforcement rates will probably rise.
Driver's Licenses: EU citizens can use their own. Other nationals should have an International Drivers License, though in practice, a recognizable photo license is usually accepted.
USA drivers license is valid in Greece, and it should be accompanied by an International Driver's Permit.
The International Driving Permit is an official translation of your valid Drivers License into 10 different languages, and they are valid for one year from the date issued. You can obtain an International Driving Permit from your local AAA for $10, or from ATAA. All you need is your valid US Drivers License, the completed application, two passport size photos (often taken on the spot at the AAA office), and you must be over 18 years old. You can go to your local AAA office, and the whole process takes about 10-15 minutes, or you can obtain your permit by mail.
Roadside Assistance: ELPA offers coverage to members of AAA (Triple-A), CAA and other similar assistance services but any driver can contact them. Check with your membership department for information on using the ELPA shared services in Greece.
ELPA has quick-access numbers dialable in Greece: 104 and 154.
Athens Restricted Area: The central Athens area restricts car access to reduce congestion, based on whether or not the car license plate ends in an odd or even number, but these restrictions do not apply to rental cars.
Driving Your Own Car: You need a valid registration, proof of internationally valid insurance (check beforehand with your insurance company!), and your driver's license.
Circles and Roundabouts: While these are standard in many European countries and in the UK and Ireland, they are new to many US drivers. These circles serve as a kind of perpetual-motion intersection, keeping traffic flowing without the use of signal lights. This sounds more difficult than it actually is, and roundabouts are actually kind of fun once you get used to them.
Cell Phone Usage It is now illegal to use your cell phone while driving in Greece. Violators can be stopped and issued a fine. Periodic crackdowns are driving this point home.