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How I learned to love driving in Greece.

Updated on December 28, 2010

Greek Driving

The last time I found myself driving in Athens I realized that any difficulty I was having was my own fault. It was my expectations that were causing me stress. People weren't doing what I expected them to do and so I was constantly surprised and on edge. The trick was for me to stop expecting it to be like home, keep my eyes open and learn about how people drive in Greece.

The written rules of the road might only differ slightly but the way people behave and what makes it all work can be dramatically different. Read my tips with this in mind. This is not a guide to the road rules , but rather the road culture .

Here's what I learned, and it's also why I love driving in Greece.

Tip 1: Right of way.

To start with I asked my Greek father-in-law a question and he gave me a great answer.

Me: "How does it all work on Greek roads?"

Him: "In Greece, you have to understand, everyone has the right of way."

This simple summation proved to be a powerful clue to the way people manage to make it all work on Greek roads. Everyone has the right of way.

How does this apply in the real world? Take for example the following situation:

You are driving along a narrow street which intersects with a larger road with a never-ending parade of fast moving traffic. What do you do?

You push in. Keep in mind, you have the right of way, but so do the other drivers. They expect you to push in and nobody is going to let you in until you do. Because they expect it, it's actually not as risky an action as it would be in a nation where people expect you to wait.

When you do push in, people let you in. Greece is great!

Tip 2: Helpful honking.

Traffic lights can be a challenge for the recent arrival in Athens. In many countries, lights are set both at the stopping line and at the other side of the intersection so that wherever you stop, you can see the lights.

In Athens, if you're the first car stopped at the lights you may find that, try as you might, you can't see the traffic light as it's right above you and there's no other light to look at.

Don't panic. The drivers behind you will honk the very second the light turns green and you'll then just have to trust your fellow Athenian and head into the intersection without seeing the light for yourself.

You'll soon come to love your fellow driver for their reliable honks of help.

Tip 3: No tailgating.

Tailgating is one of my pet hates. It's unfair to risk the lives of other people because you think they're not driving fast enough. Fact is, if they need to stop, for any one of a million good reasons, you will drive right in to the back of them.

Having said that, nobody tailgates in Greece.

The reason is that people expect the unexpected. Given that you have the right of way, you may decide to pull over at that road-side stall selling watermelon, or you might care to suddenly park. In any case, drivers in Greece respect your right to be impulsive and so will leave enough space to stop (or veer around you at high speed) safely. You'd be wise to do the same.

Drivers expect you to do the unexpected. Another reason I love driving in Greece.

Tip 4: Parking impunity.

Now don't get me wrong, if you park illegally, you may get a ticket. However, your fellow drivers will do everything short of congratulate you if you manage to change across three lanes to park between a postbox and a park-bench.

Parking is easier in Greece because people understand that if you need to park, you need to park. If you slow down to pull into a parking spot that is really the entrance to a shop and hold up the traffic to do it, you're unlikely to feel as though the cars behind you care very much. When parking, put on your hazard lights to let people know you're about to do something (could be anything). If this turns out to be simply stopping right there and jumping out of your car to buy a paper, well so be it.

Tip 5: Get out of the way.

Greece has built some impressive freeways, some of them with German money. Consequently these thoroughfares are built for speed. If you're doing 120mph and you see some lights flashing behind you, change lanes . It's probably a BMW doing close to 200mph and he expects you to be somewhere else when he gets to where you now are.

Over-taking is also done at speed in situations where there's no lane to change to and sometimes with near-insane margins for error. Not much to be said about it except that after a while you may find yourself doing the same.

General tips:

  • As a pedestrian you are not included in the 'everyone has the right of way ' plan. Cross with caution.
  • If there's two lanes, people will drive in both of them at the same time, if there's room.
  • Most cars have bumps and scrapes on them, even newer ones. This is probably due to the creative approach people take to parking.
  • People will only occasionally indicate when changing lanes.
  • Slower vehicles will use the emergency lane on freeways.
  • If someone shouts at you, don't feel bad, Greeks don't bottle things up. It's a sign you're fitting in!

I hope you've enjoyed these thoughts of mine. If you have something to add, please comment.

Thanks for reading, and happy trails.


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    • DriverAbroad profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article- perhaps you could contribute some info to my site below?

    • profile image

      driving school cheltenham 

      7 years ago

      Driving in that place will give you a feeling of reminiscing stories about Greeks. Their temples, gods and godesses, their stories of morality, etc.

    • profile image

      Toronto condos 

      7 years ago

      Yes, it's exactly like this!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Always funny to read how foreigners are afraid of driving in Greece and i have to say that it is nowhere that bad. You just need the right mentality as you said. Just let me add some things.

      Tip 1. Spot on. However one must not forget that Greece is full of bikes. When you intersect a two road lane the right way to approach it is viewing it as a four lane.

      Tip 2. I don't agree with this one and i never trust the honking. You never know to whom they are honking at. To you that you want to go straight, or the one next to you who wants to turn left/right. If you have no other choice let them honk a while and proceed extremely cautiously.

      Tip 3. I would agree that nowadays tailgating is sparse unless you go too slow on the left.

      Tip 5. And if you are speeding and an opposing car flashes it's lights you can expect to find the police waiting some road ahead.

      Some general tips for drivers.

      Approach roundabouts with caution. In older days the one who was coming in had the priority. I have heard that it has changed but i don't know. Still if there is no stop the one who comes in generally passes first.

      Be always on the lookout for pedestrians caught in the middle of the road at night and of course bikes which can be everywhere.

      Never trust the roads especially in countryside. They are full of huge potholes, rocks from the mountains and many animals up to cows and horses. To counterbalance this there is a lack of signs so you might have a closer look to that gorge that you where admiring some time ago from above. At night reduce accordingly your speed and pray luck to be on your side. Still i do prefer them instead of the main roads and it is not only because of the view.

      Important tips for pedestrians.

      If you are in Athens be very careful of some major avenues in which the bus comes from the wrong way so you have to look first to the right!

      Pedestrian crossings are for decorative purposes only. Nobody will expect that you are expecting from them to stop, so that you pass. Do it only if you want to test our hospitals also. You can walk anywhere and nowhere.

      My motto is expect the unexpected and drive as expected but regretfully i find sometimes myself doing the opposite. Try not to be near me at that time. ;)

      Happy driving!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. I especially like your first lines...Any problems we have in life can generally be traced back to our own expectations of others behavior. Great hub.


    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Meg and Rosie!

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya Fertile Forest, this is absolutely awesome! Now I know how to drive if and when I visit Greece. Thumbs up and awesome!

      Congratulations for being a Hubnugget Nominee! Best of luck!

      Happy Holidays,


    • megmccormick profile image


      7 years ago from Utah

      Congrats on your HubNugget nomination. I learned to drive in Southern California, and a lot of what you wrote reminds me of driving there...except the tailgaiting...tailgaiting's like a sport in SoCal.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Elayne. Thanks for mentioning Australia. I think a hub on driving in Australia is well due.

    • elayne001 profile image


      7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      We have driven in Australia, China and a few other countries and I think each country has their idiosyncracies when it comes to driving. Here in Hawaii people are pretty fast to let you go ahead of them since there is only so much road and plenty of traffic. It is the aloha spirit so they say. I was scared to death driving in Australia as they go so fast and drive so close. China gets bottle necked because they (like the Greek) believe they all have the right of way. Thanks for an entertaining and educational hub. Congrats on the nomination.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks Ipeoney.

    • Ipeoney profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      This is a very good driving tips especially for anyone who have plans to travel to Greece.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Couldnt agree more travel man 1971. Greek roads can seem daunting but it all works.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Very useful tips. I've been to Athens way back 2002. As a sailor, along with other Filipinos and Greek officers, we were invited to go ashore and explore the city (usually at night). People, especially drivers were very considerate. Little knowledge on Greek language did help, too! Efkaristo, FF! And congratulations on your hub nomination!

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you Pamela, so glad you liked it.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very entertaining hub that I thoroughly enjoyed. Rated up.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Why, thank you KoffeeKlatch.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Funny stuff, rated up and funny.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Phew! I'm getting lots of Greek approval for this Hub. Thanks a bundle De Greek.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      7 years ago from UK

      Funyyyyy.... Well done and I am voting for this :-))

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I completely understand. I think the idea that the average Greek has it easy is very unfair particularily when you consider that the German funded infrastructure is a money-making scheme, not charity.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sorry, my mistake, it's just that this whole situation of "Greeks party with German money" when in fact it was 10% of our population that partied, along with German corporations and exports that partied even more, got frustrating quick :)

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      1- Thanks.

      2- Not sure you've disagreed with me. 'Built with German money' implies German money was used to build them. Exploiting them with tolls is how the Germans get their money back. I don't think I'm implying that the Germans donated the money to build them.

      My actual point is that the roads are built like Autobahns and the traffic is very fast moving.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      1- You are so absolutely right in everything. I never stopped to think how strange it must look to someone else :)

      2- No roads were 'built with German money' in the way you imply, that shit is getting old. German companies collaborated with corrupt Greek politicians, built the roads for twice the cost, plus the politicians' thieving fee, and the exploit said roads with extremely expensive tolls for a million years. Stop that shit.

    • Fertile Forest profile imageAUTHOR

      Fertile Forest 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hi Dinesh. Thanks for the comment.

    • dinesh8252 profile image


      7 years ago

      nice articles keep it up


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