This “inside page” is not designed to be critical of Greece or the Greeks. It is designed to give foreign drivers, particularly those from the United States, fair warning as to what to expect and how they should conduct themselves.
Don't be too put off by this though - especially other Europeans - as long as you are a reasonably experienced driver, keep your "hazard spotting" head on, and don't lose your temper, driving in Greece is not much worse than most other European countries.
Driving in Greece is not for the faint-hearted. Many common practices of Greek drivers would not be tolerated in the United States and other countries. Many things Greek drivers do might be considered overly aggressive and even foolhardy. Still, renting a car will give you the freedom to get out and see the country. The most important thing to keep in mind is to drive defensively.
Defensively, meaning that you would have to stick on the right part of your lane and let the others go as fast as they think, without blocking the lane yourself. Greek drivers are impatient and such a practice (driving close to speed limits and on the right part of the lane) is advisable.
There are very few multiple lane highways or super-highways in Greece. Most of the main roads are two lanes going in opposite directions separated by a double white line. There is sometimes a shoulder to the right of each lane which is separated from the lane by a single white line. Most Greek drivers treat the roads with a shoulder lane as if they were four lane roads. Greek drivers will normally drive straddling the shoulder, trying to keep as far out of the lane as possible, particularly on mountain roads. How much the drivers straddle the shoulder varies because the width of the shoulders varies. Other drivers will then use the lane to pass the cars that are straddling the shoulder. If a driver using the lane to pass a car straddling the shoulder is not passing fast enough, other drivers might cross the double white line into the oncoming traffic lane, and pass him. There may be even oncoming traffic in the oncoming traffic lane that might start flashing their lights and getting frantically out of the way.
On heavily traveled roads there can be a considerable amount of passing, even in places someone use to driving in the United States would least expect, including blind curves on mountain roads. In places with heavy traffic, it might not be possible for some drivers to pass when they want, so they tailgate the car (or truck) they are following, waiting for the moment to pass. (Most Greek cars have manual transmissions. Americans who can only drive automatic should realize that the manual transmission gives a considerable advantage in accelerating which makes passing from a tailgating position much easier).
You will experience different types of drivers in different parts of the country. For example Thessaloniki is better behaved with all things. Pedestrians actually wait for the light and motorists practice adequate rules and regulations of the road. Patra on the other hand is the exact opposite. No helmets no seatbelts. Dangerous inpatient nicotine/caffeine addicted drivers with a total disregard for the safety of themselves or others. It is the wild west of driving and you will feel a scence of freedom like never before if you bravely venture into this city. Athens is a mix of all things
The way to go is no sudden moves and keep your arms in the car to avoid being struck by a motorcycle weaving in traffic!
Unless you, THE DRIVER, speak the language use a gps or your phone gps. It will take you forever to find something. Directions are sketchy at best. Turn right at the church won't help you if there are four churches every block. It can be stressful enough without having to worry about directions.
USE A GPS and enjoy. Without it you will not be happy.
Again, sticking on the right side of your lane, should do the trick in such cases.
Unless otherwise specified, speed limits are 50 km/h (or 32 mph) on residential streets, 90 km/h (56 mph) out of town and 110-120 km/h (69-75 mph) on highways and freeways (motorways). It should be noted that there are no freeways (motorways) on any of the islands. Many drivers do not respect the speed limits, particularly on the larger straight roads. On multi-lane highways or roads with a shoulder lane, a law abiding tourist driving at 110 km/h should not be surprised to see cars whiz by at 130 km/h (82 mph) and faster. In Athens, driving is considerably slower because of the traffic. There are a large number of motor scooters, motor bikes and motorcycles that drive between the lanes in heavy traffic.
You should consider that a lot of people are using motorbikes in Greece and, as the rest driving cars, are somehow aggressive in their driving. By now, most of them DO wear a helmet as the fine for not wearing one is huge. This shouldn't be a problem for a driver from U.S. i.e. ,as long as he sticks to his lane and makes a move to change lane ONLY when needed and given the time and the flash sign to the other drivers, as anywhere else in the world.
Be very careful at roundabouts: a car entering the roundabout has a right-of-way.
One last point: some traffic control signs are often ignored. For instance, although Greeks will stop at a red traffic light, a stop sign is treated more like a yield (give way) sign. Drivers will often slow down, judge the flow of traffic, and yield or stop when (and if) required.
Parking rules are also often ignored. It is not uncommon to drive into a town or village and find cars double-parked and a line of traffic trying to get round them.