On the Roads of Greece
We want you to have a safe stay with us so we've included this page to help you understand how things often work very differently on the roads of Greece.
Firstly, always remember that in our country cars rule and pedestrians take their chance. The only place we know where cars stop at pedestrian crossings is Athens airport. Once you leave the airport you should completely ignore pedestrian crossings except where there are traffic lights to help you. At pedestrian lights, wait for the green man, then wait for the traffic to stop.
If you have a green light, cars turning across your path will have a flashing amber traffic light reminding them to give way. They very rarely do so.
Despite official speed limits, traffic often travels extremely fast through built up areas so always make sure there's enough of a gap before you try crossing the road without the help of traffic lights.
Penalties can be very heavy if you get stopped by the police following local customs rather than the rules of the road. There's a general attitude here that "I won't be caught". However, for example, if you're caught crossing a red light there's a 700 Euro fine and an automatic two month ban from driving.
Many locals, especially motorcyclists, treat a No Entry sign as a suggestion to think about driving more slowly if you want to go in this direction. A red traffic light can be a challenge to get through before any traffic starts from the other direction. Please DO NOT follow their examples.
Away from main roads, octagonal STOP signs dictate priorities at junctions. Traffic coming from your right side has priority unless there is a stop sign on that road. Quite simply, prepare to give way to traffic from the right unless you can see the back of a stop sign on that other road. Visitors find Greek roundabouts very confusing because priorities often change as you drive around. If the approach road does not have a stop sign, traffic on the roundabout has to give way. If the approach road does have a stop sign, traffic already on the roundabout has priority.
Changes in speed limits are not usually signposted. Unless there's a sign saying otherwise, the limit is 50 km/hr in towns and villages. 90 km/hr on ordinary roads outside built up areas, 110 km/hr on dual carriageway roads with central barriers, and 120 km/hr on dual carriageway National Roads (that is motorways, autoroutes, etc). Some major National Roads have signs showing 130 km/hr.
There are very few speed cameras but the police regularly set up radar speed checks and they're often very well hidden.
There are some cameras monitoring the bus lanes in Athens. They usually operate daily except Sundays and hours of operation are shown, in Greek, on roadside signs.
Double white lines in the middle of the road do not mean, as in other countries, that you're not allowed to cross them under any circumstances. However, you should take extreme care when doing so. Equally, the right hand lane, separated from the main highway by a solid white line, is not simply used for stopping in an emergency. It's often used as an extra traffic lane so, if traffic is approaching fast from behind, you should move across into that lane if you can safely see far enough ahead to do so. If you don't move across, some locals will use that lane to overtake you on the wrong side.
You often wouldn't believe it watching the locals, but the blood-alcohol limit is relatively low in Greece at 0.5 grams per litre. It's even less for drivers with less than two years experience.
Queue jumping is a national pastime so try not to let it upset you!
Minor roads rarely have skid resistant surfacing so, even in the dry, you need to leave enough space to stop safely. In the wet you need to take extreme care. Apart from the slippery surface, a lot of water often accumulates on the road due to inadequate drainage.
Directional signs are normally in the Latin alphabet as well as Greek on main roads but this isn't the case on minor roads.
During the winter, snow chains are sometimes obligatory on mountain roads. There will be signs making this clear.
In the event of an accident it's usual to call the traffic police even if no-one is hurt, and to try to avoid moving the vehicles involved before the police arrive to record details.
Unlike in the USA, you may not under any circumstances turn right at a red traffic light. However, if it is safe to do so, nothing prevents you from driving carefully past a stationary school bus.