Thursday, March 29, 2007

Driving in Greece

Driving in Greece is a bit tricky and Greek drivers I can't say that are the best drivers in Europe and, although I haven't driven in all European countries, it's certainly not the best I have experienced. However, forewarned is forearmed, Greece is a beautiful country and a wonderful driving holiday in Greece can be had if you know a) what to expect and b) that joining in with their bad driving will lead to a very stressful journey.
The reason why Greek driving is so bad is, I think, twofold. Firstly, it results from poor roads and the lack of good fast motorways and parking facilities in town centers - especially Athens. Secondly, it would appear that the natural anarchic personality of the typical Greek seems to extend to their driving skills resulting in an apparent total lack of concern regarding what constitutes good, safe and considerate driving.
The situation of roads all over Greece is slowly improving but the country still has a long way to go before it reaches the excellent driving conditions which you can find in, for example, France or Germany. Currently, Greece has 4 big national highways: the E65.which goes from Patras to Athens, via Corinth, the E75 which goes from Athens to Thessaloniki via Larissa, the Egnatia odos highway which goes from Igoumenitsa (connection port with most ports of Italy like Bari ,Brindisi ,Ancona) to Thessaloniki and further until the borders with Turkey in Evros and the new E65 which takes you from Corinth to Tripolis.The highways Patras to Athens consists of 1 lane and a hard shoulder in each direction, with no barrier in the middle of the road to separate the oncoming traffic except some kilometers from Patras to Rio ,outside Aegion and Akrata. This is the situation for more than 100 kilometers after leaving Patras. It isn't until you get to Corinth that the road develops into a super modern highway of 3-4 lanes which will then take you to the tolls at Elefsis about 20 km before Athens. Similarly, the motorway from Athens to Thessaloniki, although a very good road of 500 km has a central barrier for only 200km of it - which is less than half. However, due to the Olympic Games, an excellent ring road was built around Athens and is also the route to the airport. This is a fast, smooth, uncongested road of 3-4 lanes in each direction and a central reservation at all times. Equally, the highway from Corinth to Tripolis has two lanes and a hard shoulder all the way which extends to three lanes in parts for slow moving lorries. This excellent road has reduced the journey time from Athens to Tripolis to 1 1/2 hours. The distance on this new road being only 60 kms as opposed to 150km from the old road ,the most important development though is the Egnatia odos with more 505 ks ready and 165 under construction.
Because of the lack of lanes for large sections of some highways, Greek drivers tend to use the hard shoulder as a second lane for 'slower' driving, which means that there is no emergency lane. Experienced lorry and bus drivers are aware of this and on blind corners will always avoid being in this lane in case someone has stopped there ,thus, caution must be taken.
When it comes to the Greek's proficiency and skill in driving it is very hard to find anything positive to say. They do not appear to recognise that they are behind the wheel of a potentially lethal machine. Bad driving to look out for is that, generally, there is very little consideration for other road users, be they cyclists, other drivers or pedestrians. If the Greek driver wants to stop, then they will do just that, often in the middle of the road and having made no signal to alert others that this is their intention ,a common sight in the provinces and islands. Likewise, turning left or right is carried out without signalling and overtaking is from any side which suits them best - if it was possible to go under you or over you they probably would! Speed limits exist but are rarely adhered to if they can get away with it and the middle of the road is favoured by all!
Having given you an idea of the typical Greek driver and roads it is still possible to enjoy a driving holiday in Greece. The smaller roads are often empty of lorries and commuter drivers and I would certainly recommend taking these roads if you can. Your journey will be longer but certainly safer. For example going via the old road from Corinth to Tripolis will take you through the historical cities of Argos, Mycenae and Nafplion. Taking the old road from Patras to Athens will take you all along the coast and through many charming seaside towns and villages as well the old road from Corinth to Athens. 
If you do use the motorway it is probably a good idea to use the hard shoulder as a slow lane . In this way you will avoid the stress of having a car tailing you and flashing their lights to encourage you to join them in dangerously exceeding the speed limit. If you get stuck behind a lorry or bus, better to stay there rather than risk overtaking on highways with no central reservation and drivers with a preference for staying in the middle of the road! 
However, even on the small roads you must probably stay more alert than you would driving in other European countries. Keep a sharp eye on oncoming traffic and cars in front or behind you with the idea that they are probably not aware of your presence. Always maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front and be vigilant about using your mirrors, bearing in mind that overtaking is not always carried out from the outside lane. The speed limit on minor roads is 70km, in built up areas it is 50km and on highways it is between 100-120km. Stick to these and don't be hassled to join others who exceed it. Seat belts are compulsory, although not often used by the Greeks, but for extra safety make sure you always use them. 
Happy and Safe Driving.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diving in Greece is a very hard job.Be aware of the young drivers in the Greek highways they drive many times over the speed limit.

May 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI I AM A GREEK, YOU KNOW WHAT? WE ENJOY DRIVING LIKE THAT!! ITS IN OUR BLOOD WE ARE A BEAUTIFUL MEDITERANNEAN RACE AND WE LIVE LIFE TO THE LIMITS EVERY DAY.. WE ENJOY SHOUTING, WAVING, PRESSING THE CAR HORN ALL THE TIME AND EVEN DRIVING WITHOUT HANDS!! TO IMPRESS OUR GIRLFRIENDS!!SEE YOU ALL IN GREECE!!!! TAKE CARE

November 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Due to my little experience in London as a new driver I could say that even English way is not so respectfull and politeness. Drivers if they did not have the FEAR of cameras and CCTV's and police enforcement, they could drive really fast and many times dangerous. Although as a Greek I can inform you that Greeks drivers are responsible of what they are doing...! We keep our eyes open all time and I trully believe from what I have observed until today that many English drivers are able to drive so much carefully as we do!!!
Just be sure next time of what you says about!
Thanks

July 26, 2008  

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