THE FOLLOWING ARE MANDATORY WHEN DRIVING IN GREECE AND MUST BE CARRIED IN THE VEHICLE AT ALL
* VEHICLE REGISTRATION DOCUMENT
* LETTER OF AUTHORITY TO DRIVE, IF YOU ARE NOT THE OWNER OF THE VEHICLE
* CURRENT M.O.T. CERTIFICATE
* CURRENT CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE (MULTI-LINGUAL ON REVERSE)
* PHOTOCARD DRIVING LICENCE OR INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT, IF YOUR LICENCE DOES NOT HAVE A PHOTOGRAPH, A PASSPORT IS NEEDED TO VALIDATE THE LICENCE
* SPARE BULB KIT
* WARNING TRIANGLE
* FIRST AID KIT
* INTERNATIONAL ACCIDENT DECLARATION FORM
* FIRE EXTINGUISHER
Children in Cars:
Under the age of 10, children are not permitted in front seats.
Dipped headlights must be used at times of reduced visibility.
Drinking and Driving:
Don't do it. Blood/Alcohol limit is 0.025%. Breathalysing is just beginning to catch on here so watch out. It has finally been accepted that the driver has the right to refuse a roadside breath test in favour of a properly administered blood test.
The wearing of seat belts is compulsory. With the highest accident rate in Europe, please, everybody strap yourselves in.
Parking meters operate in Athens. Parking is limited in Athens but visiting tourists are exempt from some regulations. In some areas, street parking requires purchase of a ticket from a booth. These areas will be posted in both English and Greek. Forbidden (though it may not be marked) within 3 metres of a fire hydrant, 15 feet of a road junction, or 15 metres from a bus stop. A red light to the rear of the vehicle must be displayed if parked on a public road at night. If you park in a No Parking zone in Athens or certain other areas, the police may remove your licence plates if you owe a traffic fine or fines.
Fines are strict for breaking traffic laws in Greece. Running a red light or ignoring a stop sign is 700 euros. Not using a seatbelt in a car or wearing a helmet on a motorbike is a fine of 350 euros. Talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free kit is 100 euros. Driving under the influence depends on how you score on the breathalyser and can be from 200 to 1200 euros. Most of these fines also come with a loss of license for 10 days to 6 months. Fines are payable to the Public Treasury not the police.
Motorways = 120km/h
Major Roads = 110km/h
Towns = 50km/h
Motorways are known as Ethniki Odos.
Toll charges apply on all motorways and must be paid in cash.
Things to Remember:
• Do not use main beam headlights in towns.
• Only single tone horns are permitted.
• In towns the use of the horn is for emergencies only.
• Road signs are written in Greek and repeated phonetically in English.
• Special care should be taken when crossing unguarded level railway crossings. (Barriers and lights are notoriously unreliable - coming down too soon, too late or not at all, road surface over rails usually dangerously anomalous - ignore impatient drivers and slow down till you can see clear track in both directions).
• When travelling through Greece do not point at or otherwise gesticulate in the vicinity of Greek aircraft, military or otherwise. There is a serious danger of being accused of treason, helping the enemy in time of war, etc and carted off to the nearest high security establishment where even the Greek Foreign Minister (a Very Nice Man) can't help you.
Now for the interesting bit:
We have produced this section after careful consultation with our drivers, and taken note of their words of caution and their experiences. So be sure to read it, it may save you a lot of problems later.
Greece, after Portugal, has the highest death and accident rate in Europe. The Greek government recently announced a major national awareness campaign to try and remedy this situation. Long weekends, with their resultant mass exodus from cities; to return to villages or visit country homes represent the most danger.
Greek Holidays are the worst times to drive on the roads, especially the National Roads or big roads. Saturday night is the second most dangerous time to drive on Greek roads.
You must always keep in mind that you may be the only person on the road who actually took and passed a road test. Many of your fellow drivers rather than go through the inconvenience of taking the test or risk failing it simply bribe the people administering it. Just assume that nobody but you knows how to drive and you have to make up for their lack of ability by driving more defensively.
These are Standard European and Bi-lingual. Direction signs do have a tendency to lead you into the wilderness and dump you there, even in and around Athens. Speed limit signs, curve signs and white lines tend to be arbitrary and dangerously misleading; roadworks and diversions are equally so. Expect anything from an upturned bucket on a stick to nothing at all. Stop signs, junction signs and Give Way signs are frequently disregarded, so be prepared.
When driving in Athens you should be aware of traffic light conventions. If the lights turn red as you approach them, do not attempt to pull smartly to a halt without checking your mirrors since the stampeding wildebeest behind you will have started to accelerate in order to beat the lights. Similarly, when the lights turn green proceed with the utmost caution if you do not wish to become involved in a lengthy and acrimonious insurance claim.
Don't expect buses, trucks, tractors or cars to:
• Signal their intentions.
• Be equipped with functioning rear lights or brake lights.
• Be equipped with functioning and correctly adjusted headlights (that oncoming motorbike is probably a pickup truck that's been in the family for generations).
Use of hazard flashers here signifies any of the following:
• I'm going to veer off the road and park without warning.
• I'm going to Double Park in the middle of the road.
• I'm confused.
• I've just seen my mate in the café and I have a sudden urge to discuss the current political crisis with him. N.B. It does not indicate that I am about to suddenly reverse at great speed without warning. This requires no sign
• Flashing ones headlights does not mean "After you, sir." It means, "Get out of my way, you muppet! Can't you see that I am bigger, faster and driving a clearly superior car!"
Expect to be overtaken on all sides. When overtaking, expect the vehicle to accelerate and/or veer (see etiquette).
Donkeys, herds of sheep, two cars blocking the highway while they discuss the weather are often found lurking endearingly the other side of blind bends.
Check your life insurance, pray devoutly to whatever divine being is protecting you and ask yourself whether your journey is really necessary.
All major manufacturers are represented. Our experience has been that generally they will go out of their way to help. Their traditional skill and ingenuity at improvising unorthodox, cost effective solutions is particularly impressive and especially helpful if you are driving an older or obscure car (there are still plenty of Wartburg’s, Zastava's and Polski's to be seen on the roads here). Obviously this applies more (but not exclusively) to rural areas. However, try to make sure that all parties understand what they have agreed to before work begins.
Radar, spot-checks, seat belts, crash helmets. Due to the hideous carnage, which occurs every weekend, the police are being forced to take things much more seriously than they used to. This has improved the situation slightly. However, dangerously unroadworthy cars are still common.
Non-existent. The ethos goes something like this. No one can drive as well or as fast as me. I must overtake everyone if my journey is to be considered a success. My overtaking cunning is an indication of my manliness and natural superiority. If I am overtaken I will not be able to live down the humiliating insult to my manliness etc, etc. Blind bends, brows of hills, double white lines; all represent a stimulating challenge to my driving prowess.
Very poor to atrocious: Hardened ready-mixed concrete road spills, craters, disappearing kerbs, redundant white lines that suddenly veer off the road into the shrubbery, raised manhole covers (often protruding to radiator height) and worse are all very common. There is little awareness of the concept of adapting one's driving to road and weather conditions. In fact it is common for rainfall to cause a kind of mild hysteria to set in, causing drivers to actually increase their speed and start taking unnecessary risks (like pulling out of junctions without looking) to get out of the rain. A similar phenomenon can be observed in drivers faced with unwarranted delays e.g. a car in front obeying the speed limit.
Causes of Accidents:
Almost everything: Including speeding, racing, drinking, tailgating, overtaking, rain, rage, and incompetence. Not so long ago, due to the age of the majority of Greek vehicles and their revered status in the household, most accidents were slow motion and survivable.
This is no longer the case. Toy racers can be bought on easy credit by feckless youths. Plenty of self-made nouveau riche are demonstrating their new status by buying big, powerful vehicles that they have no idea how to control. Insurance premiums here are hardly affected by a driver's age or record. There are still too many unsafe and uninsured vehicles on the road. It still takes more money than skill to pass the driving test here.
The average weekend bloodbath results in about 25 dead and up to 100 injured. Medical services vary from non-existent to fair. Another lottery, they usually try their best for foreigners. Most people prefer to take a taxi to hospital rather than wait for the ambulance.
If you are involved in an accident, beware of enthusiastic citizenry whose idea of first aid is to drag the injured party off to the side without pausing to examine it and slap its cheeks boisterously while pouring a bottle of water over its head.
In the event of an accident or altercation bear in mind that it's always your fault. Carry a camera and/or video and immediately start photographing everything and everybody. Photograph any signs of unroadworthiness, as these may not be present next time you see the vehicle. That will normally cause people to start taking you seriously. Hit and run is not uncommon here. The police may or may not be impartial. The courts can be similarly unpredictable. Family ties, opportunism, corruption, fast-talking or simple stupidity are often the dominant factors in a dispute. In this country truth is a negotiable commodity. The police can be infuriatingly unhelpful, lethargic, bureaucratic or again merely stupid. Of course they can also be wonderful above and beyond the call of duty but it is very much a lottery so keep your wits about you and take nothing for granted.
One manoeuvre in Greece, that is cause for concern, 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 analysing 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 500 metres, or your brake lights that you have been pumping frantically hoping that the driver behind you will notice and finally slow down.
Many of you will have found the last section, shall we say amusing, so hopefully our comments will be remembered.