Planning to explore Greece in a rental car? If you're looking for towns and beaches untouched by tourism, renting a car is the only way to go. Here are some special considerations to keep in mind.
Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Greece
Book from home. Car rentals in Greece tend to be more expensive than in other European countries, and airport rentals can be especially pricey. Keep in mind that if you're touring the islands around Greece, there will also be less availability and fewer options than on the mainland. Don't wait until you get to Europe to rent a vehicle. It will be cheaper to book your car from the United States before you go. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.
You need an International Driving Permit. U.S. residents need to get an International Driving Permit to drive in Greece. Not only is carrying a IDP advisable, it has been a law since May 2018 This document is simply a translated version of your state-issued driver's license and can be obtained from the AAA. Give yourself some lead time to apply before you leave on your trip.
You'll drive on the right. Greece is one of a majority of countries where people drive on the right—the same as at home.
Pay for the rental in euros. Although it may seem easier to be charged in dollars instead of euros, this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.
Automatic transmissions can be harder to find and pricier. Most people in Greece still drive manual cars. Thus, car rental companies in Greece have a very limited selection of automatic vehicles for rent. If you don't specifically request an automatic transmission, the vehicle will have a manual transmission. If you need an automatic vehicle, it can be easier to find one if you rent at an airport location. You'll likely be charged an additional fee for an automatic vehicle.
Double check your insurance coverage. Before you leave for Greece, contact your credit card company to see what collision coverage, if any, it offers on car rentals abroad. A car rental contract in Greece generally requires fire insurance and third-party liability. These supplemental fees will automatically be added to the cost of your rental.
Expect tough terrain. Whether you're exploring the hills of Greece's countryside or making your way through the bustling traffic of Athens, driving in Greece is not for the faint of heart. Many rural areas have steep switchbacks and one way roads. Urban streets can also be difficult to maneuver due to narrow passages and a lack of clear signs. Yet, if you're a confident and calm driver, you'll discover parts of Greece that most have never seen. Just stay safe and take regular breaks.
Having a car in Athens is a hassle. For starters, parking in the Greek capital can be very difficult. Check with your hotel if it offers private parking; otherwise you'll need to find a private parking lot to keep it safe from theft or damage. If you need a car for exploring the countryside, schedule your car pickup time for when you're ready to leave the city.
Don't take a rental car on a ferry. It may be tempting to try to take your rental car onto a ferry headed for Santorini or another of Greece's beautiful islands. Yet, the contract you sign with your rental car company will most likely forbid you from doing so. Due to tight maneuvers aboard the boat and the risk of loss or damage, if you get caught taking your rental car off the mainland, you will rack up major fees.
Inspect the car carefully before driving it off the lot. Make sure to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by carefully look over your car before taking it for a spin. Document every nick, scratch or dent. Your smartphone will come in handy for taking photos of any imperfections to ensure you won't have to pay for them later. Narrow, winding roads in Greece's small towns are notorious for leaving cars a little banged up, so you'll want to make sure you aren't blamed for any dings left by previous renters.