|Driving to / in Greece|
|Driving in Europe
The driving laws are similar to those in the UK, but with some differences. Driving under the influence of alcohol (or drugs), dangerous or careless driving, overloading a vehicle are no exceptions. Don't forget to drive on the right.
This is a rough guide to the requirements that apply to many European countries and will apply to at least one country you will pass through between the UK and Greece.
Documents you are required to carry:
A valid, full, EU driving licence*
Valid insurance document
Items your vehicle is required to carry:
GB sticker ('Euro plates’ are OK in EU countries but not in non-EU countries)
Yellow reflective jacket / waistcoat
First Aid kit
Portable breathalyser (in France w.e.f. 01/07/12, see below)
Warning triangle(s) (Croatia: 2 triangles are required for vehicles towing a trailer)
Fire extinguisher (Switzerland: warning triangle must be kept within easy reach (i.e. not in the boot)
In all countries on the route(s) on-the-spot fines apply for traffic violations and radar detection equipment is illegal. In some countries, France, Germany & Switzerland, daylight headlights are recommended. In Croatia they are compulsory under certain conditions.
Wearing of seatbelts is compulsory, the minimum age for driving is 18.
* In Austria the old style UK licence without a photograph is recognised as legitimate but drivers must be able to produce photographic proof of identity, such as a passport. For Italy see IDP (next).
International Driving Permit
If you hold a driving licence issued by an EU member state you don’t need an IDP to drive within the EU. However, if your route will take you through any of these countries: Albania / Bulgaria / FYROMacedonia / Italy / Montenegro / Romania / Serbia / Slovenia. Click
If your driving licence was issued by a non-EU state, e.g. USA, Australia, South Africa, Russia, etc, you will need a valid IDP and your driving licence. Beware of scams!
If you’re driving to/from Greece you may, depending upon your route, need a Green Card. It is not needed for countries in the EU but is still a legal requirement in some countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia (1&2).
The Green Card isn’t motor vehicle insurance itself but is proof that your vehicle has the minimum insurance requirements for the country you are in. Even where it isn’t required, e.g. in EU nations, it is still the insurance document most widely recognised and understood by police. Click
Drinking & driving
Most European countries, including Greece, have a limit of 0.05%. This is (generally) the equivalent of one small beer and is lower than the 0.08% limit in the UK. In Greece the limit is lowered to 0.02% for drivers who have held a license for less than 2 years, motorcyclists and professional drivers. Some countries, e.g. Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, have zero tolerance. Click.
From 01/07/12 motorists in France will have to carry a portable breathalyser, anyone caught without the equipment faces an 11€ fine. 2€ kits are expected to be available at Channel ports: Click.
Radar detectors / Safety camera (speed camera) detectors
Using or possessing a radar detector or jammer is illegal in most European countries: Click
Sat nav / gps devices that warn of safety (speed) cameras are now banned in France and drivers face a 1,500€ for falling foul of the law. Sat nav owners are advised to update their software as this should comply with relevant legislation. Click
Mobile phones & driving
Using a mobile phone (for voice or text) while driving is illegal in most European countries: Click
Driving in winter
Some countries have special requirements re tyres. Click
To get brief but specific information for Greece and countries on route: Click. For slightly more detailed information: Click
What to do if you are involved in an accident abroad (you may want to click ‘Ctrl’ & ‘+’ to enlarge the font size)
If using a UK cell phone, dialling 999 should get you through to the local emergency services.
European breakdown and recovery-to-destination insurance cover is highly recommended
Driving in Greece
Documents you are required to carry:
A valid, full, UK/EU driving licence (both parts, if you have a two-part licence)
Valid insurance document
Items your vehicle is required to carry:
First Aid kit
A GB sticker (if a UK registered car) on the back of your car, unless your car has 'Euro-plates'
Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory for front seat occupants and advised for rear seat passengers
Children under age 10 can't travel in the front seat without a suitable seat restraint
Children age 5 and under must use an appropriate seat restraint at all times
Smoking is prohibited if children aged 13 or under are in the car
Car horns should only be used in an emergency
Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal
I've heard it's illegal to park within 3 metres of a fire hydrant, 5m of an intersection and 14m of a bus stop - but not usually observed!
The drink-drive limit is one small beer
The maximum speed limit is 50 kph in residential areas, 90 kph on open roads and 130 kph on motorways
On Kefalonia the maximum speed limit is generally 30 kph in residential areas and 60 kph on open roads
Some roads have three lanes, one lane going each way and a middle lane for passing from either direction
Where there's little opportunity to overtake, faster drivers will expect other drivers to pull over to the side of the road so they can pass
If you have an accident you're strongly advised to photograph anyone involved in the incident, the vehicles involved and their position on the road, (don’t move any vehicles until after the police inspection), plus any potholes or damage in the road.
Dial 112 for emergency help, 100 for police or 199 for ambulance. If using a UK cell phone, dialling 999 should get you through to the local emergency services in Greece.
The main differences between Greece and the UK are:
On Kefalonia there are few roundabouts. The one you are most likely to encounter is the square in Argostoli. Technically, this is a roundabout. However, as it's square it seems to confuse some drivers, some will treat it as a roundabout, some won’t.
Many junctions are unmarked and the general rule of the road is to give way to traffic from the right. So, even where it may seem obvious (to you) who has right-of-way, if there is another vehicle approaching the junction at the same time as you, the best action is to slow down and be prepatred to stop - in case the other driver has a different opinion as to who has right-of-way (fellow Brits may well be unaware of the requirements at roundabouts, for example). Stopping may take up a minute of your time, being involved in an accident will take up a lot more. You can check your knowledge of the Greek 'highway code' online at papalos.gr (click on box under the motorcycle for English).
In many places pavements are non-existent (or obstructed by trees, parked cars, etc) so allow for the fact that pedestrians, and animals, may be walking by the roadside (or on the road).
In Greece (or rural Greece, at least) the horn is still, generally, used as it should be: to let people know of your presence (or to say “Yiasou”). If a driver behind you sounds their horn it usually means they are about to overtake you - just slow down and let them (at night they are more likely to flash their headlights - means the same thing). If an oncoming driver sounds their horn or flashes their lights as they approach you, it probably means there’s a heard of goats in the middle of the road just around the bend. Road rage isn’t a part of the Greek way of life (let’s help keep it that way).
Outside of the cities parking on the road side is usually free but it’s best not to park on yellow lines, as about once every five years the police will issue parking tickets to unsuspecting motorists - and you never know when that once-in-five-years will be! If you’re parking on, or near, a corner leave enough room for coaches and lorries to make the turn.
Petrol stations are open from around 08:00 to 20:00 (later in July, August & September), are rarely self-service (in rural Greece, anyway) and the attendant will, naturally, put unleaded in your tank. Petrol is bought by the Euro rather than by the litre or gallon (saves fiddling about for small coins). Some petrol stations still don’t accept payment by credit/debit card so it’s best to have some cash handy. Petrol is called “venzini” in Greek.
If you’re planning on taking a vehicle on a ferry it might be worth noting that, from the moment the tyres hit the ramp to the moment you roll off the ramp at your destination, the vehicle may not be covered by the vehicle insurance.
If you’re thinking of collecting a hire car from your arrival airport and returning it to the airport, bear in mind that overcrowding a car invalidates the insurance and that not only do you need to fit in the passengers safely and comfortably, you’ll also need enough room for the luggage (package-holiday transfer coaches aren’t allowed to accept un-accompanied luggage): e.g. a Fiat Seicento isn’t really suitable for four adults (with or without luggage) and Suzuki “jeeps” have only four seats and a very small boot capacity (and aren’t really suitable for baby seats).
Before you book a hire vehicle, read the terms and conditions and only part with your cash and sign the contract if you agree to the terms and conditions. Be aware that the term ‘Fully Comprehensive’ or ‘Full Insurance’ in Greece may not mean the same as it would in the UK and rarely covers tyres, wheels and undercarriage, nor things such as lost keys, damage to the interior not sustained in an accident, etc. If you pre-book a vehicle in the UK, either through your holiday company or direct via the internet or telephone, check what is included in the price and what isn’t, e.g. delivery to your accommodation.
Greek roads are built to a different standard to those in the UK; they withstand heat well but are very slippery when wet. Many holiday insurance policies don’t cover you for personal injury sustained while riding a motorcycle/scooter.
This information relates primarily to private cars; the laws, rules and requirements may differ for motorcycles, commercial vehicles, etc. Information believed to be accurate at time of posting.
Extract from an article dated 23/01/08 on roadtraffic.com: How the rules of road differ across Europe
In signed/marked junctions, traffic on the main road has right of way unless there's a stop sign which means you must give way to the right in Greece.
In unmarked junctions and exits there is unconditional right of way for traffic on the main road or right of way for traffic approaching from the right in Greece.
When crossing pavements or cycle tracks remember that pedestrians and cyclists have right of way.
On roundabouts motorists already on the roundabout have right of way everywhere except Greece, where road users entering the roundabout has right of way. In Greece motorists have right of way over cyclists, even if they are already on the roundabout.
Buses and trams have right of way when leaving bus stops in all member states except Greece and Italy.
Use of lights
In Greece the use of daytime lights is allowed for warning, in tunnels, and in low visibility. The use of full beam during the day in prohibited in Greece.
Crawler lanes for slow-moving LGVs are used in Greece. Emergency lanes or hard shoulders run alongside roads in Greece... the lanes are for emergency situations. Other types of lanes you will come across are accelerating/decelerating lanes in Greece.
The use of pedestrian crossings is required so there should not be people crossing the roads away from the official crossing sites. Parking is never allowed near a crossing and overtaking is restricted, your speed must be adjusted so its possible to give way at the crossing.
Boarding and alighting passengers
There are rules on opening vehicle doors in Greece, special care should be taken not to endanger others or create an unnecessary nuisance.
It is forbidden to overtake at a bus stop in Greece.
The majority of EU member states have either recently introduced rules on the use of mobile phones while driving or are planning to do so soon. The consensus is that hands-free use of mobile phones is allowed.
In Greece it is prohibited to overtake at bottlenecks, humps in the road, on bends, at pedestrian crossings, at junctions and when there is inadequate visibility.
Changing lanes in junctions is forbidden in Greece.
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