Preparing to drive on the Greek mainland

Mar 14th, 2014, 06:41 PM
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Preparing to drive on the Greek mainland

1. What map should I buy? I will have GPS, but I will feel more secure if I also have a "real" map.

2. What's it like buying gas in Greece? Is it all automated pumps needing chip-and-pin cards? Or is it easy to do with cash?

3. Any ideas who I should check out to rent from? I know Autoeurope, and I have checked them and know what they can do for me, but IIRC someone here recommended a local agency that was terrific. I really want an automatic - last time I drove a stick was 11 years ago, and I'm going to be driving some mountainous areas.
artsnletters is online now  
Mar 14th, 2014, 06:52 PM
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Be sure to go to your local AAA office to pick up an International Driving Permit, no test or membership required. Bring 2 passport photos with you and save a few dollars.
brotherleelove2004 is online now  
Mar 14th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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We ordered very detailed maps of Greecefrom you can buy one of the Peloponnesean Peninsula. Learn the Greek alphabet as sometimes signs may not be in English.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Mar 14th, 2014, 11:21 PM
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A manual car is better for mountainous areas rather than an automatic. I would use Autoeurope rather than a local agency.
Odin is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 12:50 AM
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Re 2 , Greece is a very cash-driven country.
Automated pumps are very rare or not existent. An employee will come, ask how much gas you want (usually reply is either "fill it up" or "20 euro" or whatever of money worth, rather than "xyz litres") then manually use the pump to fill the tank. You then have to pay, commonly in cash and get your receipt. Sometimes credit card machine is available but cash is the common pay method.
mariha2912 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 04:02 AM
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Maybe not in tiny villages, but in every city credit cards are widely accepted at gas stations,you will usually the cc signs at the board with the prices.

Driving on the mainland you will most probably have to pay toll fees. At the toll stations apart from a few booths that are for e pass holders( and are clearly marked as such), all the others accept only cash and are manned.
clausar is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 06:56 AM
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CREDIT CARDS -- Since you are from the US, remember that using credit cards for gas can be iffy, because most of ours have only the old-fashioned "swipe" technology, not the PIN & chip technology, the only kind that most petrol stations (and train stations) accept, Just hit the ATM before you hit the road, & have plenty of cash for tolls & petrol.

RENTALS - For getting an automatic, I can only speak from my own experience, but have found the most fleet options/good prices/good service at the following Budget-affiliated but Athens-owned agency: ... they have several automatic shift models that are not the "luxe" mercades level ... they have an office right in ATH airport... and to get your car, you just walk about 200 yards to the car-lot. I found them to be very flexible/helpful (on one trip, due to changing number of passengers, we had to change the model ordered 3x!! and they came thru for us). NOTE: for most peloponnese driving -- ie. Argolid area, and main roeads to West Coast), not that mountainous. U don't say how far from the main roads you plan to adventure.

MAPS -- I've been able to buy the Pelop. "Roads" company map in the Airport bookstore 2x before. If u want to be extra-sure u could order on line if u have time; u don't give dates. For planning, I love this online map: (click & it gets huuuge):
-- it may not be totally up to date (i.e., I hear there are ore modern stretches now, east of Kalamata, that speed things considerably) -- but it does show terrain very clearly.
travelerjan is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 03:17 PM
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A couple of things you should know:

- Greek drivers will pass anywhere. Including hills and curves so be ready to meet a car partially in your lane. The best bet is to keep as far right as possible in these areas.

- you'll be expected to put 2 wheels onto a paved shoulder to let a faster car pass on a 2 lane road.

Don't get the smallest car available... might be okay for the city but not for driving out of town. Manual or automatic makes no difference... either works as well as the other... it's a matter of personal choice.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 04:24 PM
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The Athens airport probably is your best bet for an automatic. Smaller agencies may promise an automatic but not be able to produce it when you show up. (Lots of possible reasons. The last time we picked up a car at a small office outside Chester UK, the previous renter had put an unexpectedly large quantity of miles on it. The computer refused to rent the car again until it had regularly scheduled maintenance. So they didn't have the promised automatic for us.)
Mimar is offline  
Mar 15th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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I know I'll have to rent from the airport, as I'm picking up after a flight from Rhodes and returning on a Sunday.

Right now I'm struggling with the urge to rent a VW Passat. It's not that much more than a lower end automatic. Well, yes it is, actually. But I had a Passat for 10 years and loved driving it, I just didn't love the repair bills. It would be wonderful to drive one again. I expect I will talk myself out of it.

The prices are higher than they were when I checked a couple months ago, but I wasn't in the position to commit at that time. I'm going in May. Is it likely to get worse if I wait longer?
artsnletters is online now  
Mar 15th, 2014, 10:26 PM
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Just be aware that the specific car model that you saw is just indicative, you can't be sure that they will give it to you upon arrival. You may get any other car of the same group, depending on what's available at the time you show up at their airport office.

Also keep in mind that last year was an all times record for tourism in Greece, there were 17,5 foreign visitors ( when Greece has a population of 11. Mi), this year the country expects about 19 Mi. tourists.

This will also reflect in the prices, usually the more you wait the worse it gets.
clausar is offline  
Mar 16th, 2014, 03:43 AM
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Go for the Passat! As Clausar says, you may not get it but you'll enjoy it if you do. With any luck it will be a TDI... I rented one in France for a week and didn't want to turn it back in. Gp for it! You only live once.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
May 13th, 2014, 02:43 PM
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Makeithappen is offline  
May 14th, 2014, 09:45 AM
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Bookmarking, we are going in October!
takemewithu is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 03:54 AM
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Here's a report, halfway through the driving portion of my trip.

I got the Passat and I'm enjoying it immensely. The new version has some additional bells and whistles and it took me a couple minutes to figure out how to start it, but for the most part it's my baby all over again. Man, I wish they weren't so mechanically fragile!

GPS is the bomb! I had never used one before, but it wasn't that hard to figure out, and I've gotten better with it with experience. I don't know how I would have found my way to all those archaeological sights around Nafplio without it. I highly, highly recommend having one, specifically one that speaks to you. Although, do be prepared that sometimes it will try to send you down a road closed for repairs, sometimes persistently. If you drive far enough away from where it's insisting on sending you, it will recalculate a different route that (usually) avoids the problem.

If you've driven the interstate at home, you should have no problems with the big highways in Greece. The quality of the roads is excellent. I was driving the road around Athens at 8:30am and had only very light traffic, easy to handle. There are frequent rest stops with gas, snacks, etc.

The most adventurous drive I've had was the one from Nafplio to Olympia. The very narrow road is full of hairpin turns, one after the other after the other. And in several places there was a bridge a single lane wide to handle traffic from both directions! I'd been driving an hour or so through this and wondered if tour buses used this route, but since I hadn't seen any, I was thinking not. Then, after I was through the worst of it, I saw tour buses heading the opposite direction. Those drivers must have nerves of steel. It was hard to think of that road as a highway in any sense of the word.

Having been forewarned, I quickly picked up the Greek method of passing described above and have employed it myself, although not on hills or curves. I am most amused when a two lane road gets used as a four lane road, with cars passing going each direction. I have not found it too unnerving, but on curving roads I'm careful to stay to the right just in case I encounter someone passing in oncoming traffic.

Today I drove up to Delphi, and that was nothing after the drive to Olympia. The biggest challenge was that I don't like tunnels (the very short ones are fine), bridges, or heights, and there have been all of these on this trip. I was most worried about getting across the Rio-Antirio bridge without freaking out, but it turned out fine. (I also don't like flying, so it's a measure of how much I want to be here that I'm facing all of these on this trip!)

One question for the experts here. How does one get a car washed? Mine got rained on (twice) in Nafplio, and it is all speckled by rain on dust. It's particularly bad because the car is black (not the color I'd choose for hot Greece). Also, more importantly, how does one get the windshield/windscreen clean? Mine is a graveyard for bugs, and the wiper/washer function is not cutting it. At home, the rare full service station would take care of it routinely, and self-serve stations generally provide all the necessities to DIY.
artsnletters is online now  
May 21st, 2014, 04:14 AM
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So exciting! Can't wait to read more about your trip.

My BIL and family rented a Passat wagon for their 5 week European adventure and wanted to buy one when he got home.

So glad you are enjoying your trip!
starrs is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 05:33 AM
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Good to hear things are going so well and you're having such a wonderful time! Is your Passat a TDI (diesel)?

You should find squeegies at gas stations.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 08:32 AM
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Just ask at any gas station for a car wash...
Not sure how much it is outside of Athens, but in Athens having the car cleaned inside and washed outside costs around 10 Euro.
clausar is offline  
May 21st, 2014, 11:19 AM
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Just a regular Passat, but that's quite enough to make me happy. The gas mileage seems to be terrific. I gassed up today, first time since leaving Athens, and I still had probably a third of a tank. Certainly could have made it to Delphi without filling up, but I'd rather be on the safe side. The car often turns itself off when I'm stopped, but then turns itself back on instantly when I take my foot off the brake. That took some getting used to, but I guess that probably helps keep the mileage high.

Clausar, could you give me the phonetics for asking for a car wash? It isn't in my phrasebook.
artsnletters is online now  
May 21st, 2014, 12:00 PM
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I am not good at giving you the phonetics...( could do that for a german speaker, having German as second language)
but here it is in Greek

μπορείτε να πλύνετε το αυτοκίνητο μέσα έξω παρακαλώ ?

( can you please wash the car inside out please? )
clausar is offline  

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