Driving in Greece and the Greek Islands

scooters on Naxos island, Greece

Naxos island: wheels meet again.

The best transport in Greece is the rental scooter?

Every year a couple of hundred bikers/scooter riders die on Greek roads (not just islands, but mostly in the summer tourist season), the highest rate in Europe, with at least a quarter of the fatalities being under 25 years old.
The worst islands are Crete, Corfu, Kos and Rhodes, though Santorini is catching up. And that’s just the fatalities. . .

Most accidents happen at night according to police and often involve speeding, running red lights and over-shooting stop signs.

Greek islanders are usually careful drivers, excluding perhaps the young, terminally pissed-off or bus drivers (all three combined are a devil’s brew of road rage and incompetence), but they do have a rather casual, even fatalistic approach to transport safety, not bothering with seat belts or child seats for kids, or what might be coming round the bend, at speed, on the wrong side of the road (which may very well be you, a happy, drunk, young British tourist).

Foreign visitors in rental cars or scooters, some with no fore-knowledge of driving either two or four wheels can cause havoc on the narrow, winding roads of the typical Greek island and come to an abrupt and unpleasant halt even without the help of a bellyfull of Vodka Red Bull, a dark night and sudden stop sign.

Greece Driving Survival Tips

– if you’re British and used to driving on the left side of the road then be especially careful in Greece where they don’t. It’s all very well at the start of the rental when you’re paying attention and thinking things through but it’s really easy to slip onto the wrong side, for example when leaving a gas station or cafe and there’s no traffic visible.

In a car it’s easier as the steering wheel is on the other side – basically remember that the driver is more-or-less sitting in the centre of the road – but scooters/bikes don’t have the same guidance. And with a couple of beers in your tank, after dark, it’s extremely easy to make a very nasty mistake.

– most of the time you will need a motorcycle licence to rent a bike or scooter, even if it’s only 49cc, unlike the rest of Europe (tho’ shops don’t understand non-British licences very well, so some nationalities (USA? Canada? ) get away with claiming a full licence means bike too), and you may be obliged to wear a helmet.
Note that if you get a rental for which you don’t have a licence then you’ll have no insurance cover in the event of an accident and be liable to severe penalties.

Clearly Greece is tired of caring for brain damaged foreign loonies and can see the value of a little protection, even if the law only applies to visitors to the islands, not locals.

– dirt roads: if you manage to get a scooter and are not well aquainted with two wheeled transport, be very careful on unmade tracks or tarmac roads with gravel scattered on corners. Gravel rash can really put a damper on a beach holiday, not to mention permanent vegetitive condition may reduce your enjoyment of life generally.

– cost: when you go scooter or motorcycle hunting do check all rental shops in the area before making a choice. Inevitably the shops nearest to most tourists will charge silly rates, which don’t matter so much over a day but really add up over a week or two.

– before you drive away check brakes and lights. Due to off-road driving light bulbs fail frequently and if you find yourself heading home on 20kms of unlit road after a few sunset drinks, and bingo! no lights, what are you gonna do? Wait for the full moon?