Hello! I am an American English Teacher living and working and driving everyday in the traffic in Athens and have travelled all over Greece, the islands and Cyprus alone by car. My personal advise for anyone driving in Greece is:
FIRST: PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE
SECOND: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
THIRD: DRIVE DEFENSIVELY
FOURTH: DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE FAST DRIVERS, they will pass you and get to the light maybe 5 minutes sooner than you...but you will also get there with PATIENCE.
FIFTH: DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE HORNS HONKING.
the drivers believe in expressing their constant stress and there is alot of it in Greece..but be PATIENT and ignore as much of the noise and hand jestures as possible.
SIXTH: ROAD RULES DO COUNT, but they don't...ie. don't expect the driver in front of you to obey the rules. The most observed and important rule in Greece is don't go through a red light!
SEVENTH: REMEMBER YOU ARE ON HOLIDAY..don't let the crazy drivers drive you mad...just drive carefully, stay to the right if you like driving slow, and be PATIENT.
EIGHTH: If you have any questions about anything, call 171
which is the tourist police number.
NINTH: PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE
Be careful to look down at the sidewalk as you walk along in Athens, especially in older out of the way areas of the city, to avoid falling into open basement stairways. The stairs to the lower level emerge into the sidewalk, 2-3 feet out from the building. In the heavily traveled areas they will normally have railings (as shown in the photo) or a raised curb, but in some less traveled areas of the city they are open and unmarked.
After spending 5 days in Athens I have to admit that I am a spoilt German mother! We have mostly wide sidewalks and people coming towards each other make way when passing.
Well, I had to get used to the fact that sidewalks in Athens are in some parts not existing and you have to walk on the side of the road.... that leads to the feeling you are easy prey for the motorbikes, buses and cars racing by you.... especially when walking with a six year old bundle of energy hopping in front of you.
If you are lucky enough to walk on a sidewalk you run into another problem: nobody makes way for anyone, not even for a mother with a kid on her hand! Emily more than once had a handbag in her face with full swing.
Same goes for the escalators in the metro stations: if you want to get on you have to push like crazy and if a child gets squeezed and gets no air, well that seems to be the way of life.
Greek uses a unique alphabet. Many signs are posted in Greek and in a transliteration to the Latin alphabet (something that looks like English and pronounces in English.) Unfortunately there is more then one way to convert many Greek words into the Latin alphabet and you will find different spellings for many place names. The map that I bought (Insight FlexiMap, which I liked and worked very well) had different spellings than some of the street signs and Metro stations. When driving most of the road signs were either in Greek and English on the same sign, or appeared first in Greek and a few meters later the same sign was repeated in English. But the English spelling would vary depending on who put the sign up. Also, the pronunciation and hence the transliteration varies significantly from Ancient Greek to Modern Greek. So if you have a guide book based on Ancient Greek, the spellings of many locations will be different from the modern signs that appear leading up to and at the site. If you know where you are going, and see a sign that is close on the spelling but not quite right, and it is pointing you in the direction you think you should be going in, turn; you probably have the right place. We ended up going down a few narrow streets and turning around in a vineyard, but in the end we found nearly everything that we went looking for. Getting lost in translation is part of the adventure.
There are many cars, mopeds, and people in Athens. There are many signs posted "Do not park", but the police do not ticket because there are just too many cars for the city.
Walking...even if the green light says "GO", still do not cross the street unless you take careful look for oncoming traffic. They do not yield to pedestrians.
I think they will add 'bumper cars' as an Olympic sport for 2004.
Mars Hill is not very big. I was so surprised at it's size. However, it is very slippery. Even when you try to be very careful it's difficult not to slip. Some parts of the descent were best accomplished by sitting down and sliding.
The climb is worth it though. The view of Athens is just astounding!
Driving in Athens can be a nightmare for the inexperienced. Motorcycles whizzing by and squeezing between moving buses and vehicles at speeds unknown to man, cars turning a 4 lane road into a 6 lane traffic jam, the pedestrian right-of-way being violated at every turn, and the harmonious sound of the impatient motorist's never-ending horn combined with the worst of Greek swearing. Enough to drive someone crazy.
I have friends who live there that wont even attempt it, and I know people who have been seriously injured in accidents driving in Greece for their first time, whether on motorcycles or in cars, so I recommend not to do it. Driving in other parts of Greece is fine, but I have never and will never drive in this city.
If you are walking through the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora, you will find that most of the surfaces are uneven and slippery especially when wet. Do be very careful of the slippery surfaces. Wear comfortable walking shoes with rubber soles. It is no joke to sustain a fall on hard marble! If you are osteoporotic, you could sustain a nasty fracture and ruin your whole trip!
The majority of road crashes are caused by human error.
Data shows that Greece – despite the significant improvement recorded during the last decade – has the worst car accident statistics in the European Union and that car accidents are the first cause of death.
The most important prohibiting factors concerning car accidents in Greece are:
1. It hasn’t become fully understood that road safety is a science.
2. Road safety isn’t being adequately taught and promoted in schools.
3. The reduction of car accidents hasn’t been a priority goal by the state and the society despite the numerous fatalities and injuries.
4. The public isn’t well informed regarding road safety, and media plays an important role in the promotion of safety precautions, etc.
DRIVING: Driving in Greece can often be thought of as being a memorable experience to visitors. From bad drivers, very nervous drivers to seemingly rude drivers, Greek driving is definitely different from the driving you are used to. Okay, there are places that have worse driving but in terms of driver behaviour, Greece is near the top. Changing lanes with no indication, disregarding the pedestrian green light, driving over curb corner, crossing before the light turns green etc.
Greeks think they know how to drive and push their cars to the limit. Many people do this but then Greek roads are still undergoing repairs and creation. Greek drivers do not seem to show concern for other drivers, foreigners or otherwise.
Driving in Greece is no different from driving anywhere else. You just have to remember a few things:
- Do not let people upset you and ignore the often used car horn.
- Know your route in advance and ensure you know where you are going.
- Make sure you have a clear viewing area.
- Try to avoid Athens rush hour traffic.
- Above all, remain calm.
I know that Athens was to be cleaned up for the Olympics in 2004, but I and everyone else on my trip experienced many run-ins with stray Dogs. These dogs were seemly harmless but will follow you around the city looking for food. I never felt threatened by them but others might with a pack of dogs walking around.
Suprising thing is they know the traffic lights, can be a sight to see!
While touring the city a member of my party was targeted nothing was stolen as he was spotted trying to put his had in the persons pocket. Be aware of anyone walking to close to you. Any one of the eateries will alert the authorities for you. It would be best to purchase a neck pouch for your belongings when traveling in this area.