Car rental Athens
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Why rent a car in Athens?
Athens is a fascinating city to explore. Both ancient and modern, this sprawling city has countless landmarks, distinct neighborhoods, and beautiful nature areas. Many interesting places, from Hellenic monuments to small, charming villages, are also located nearby. Getting a rental car is the best way to see as much as you can.
Top ways to enter Athens
- Athens Airport: By far the largest in Greece and among the 30 busiest in Europe, flying to Athens Airport is the best way to reach the Greek capital. The airport is about 30 km (18 mi) from the city center.
- Volos Airport: Only open during the summer months, and served by a few low-cost carriers, Volos Central Greece Airport is about a three hour ride north of Athens.
- Kalamata Airport: Like many others in Greece, this airport serving the large southern Peloponnese city is mainly active during the summer months. It is about three hours west of Athens.
- Thessaloniki Airport: The third busiest airport of Greece ,serving its second city, is about a five hour ride north of Athens. Arriving in one and leaving the other will give you a big opportunity to see a lot of mainland Greece.
Useful city facts
Athens enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate. Summers are dry and extremely hot, with temperatures often reaching 35 °C (95 °F). Remaining properly hydrated is very important. Winters are more humid, but mild, with the average temperature around 10 °C (50 °F) in January and February.
The birthplace of democracy and the leading city of politics and culture during early classical antiquity, Athens was inhabited long before. With a history of human settlement going back for 7000 years, Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Although the population of Athens Municipality is only 660,000, nearly 4 million people, or more than every third inhabitant of Greece, live in its wider metropolitan area. It is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the European Union (EU).
Top destinations and activities
- Acropolis. Once a fortified town of what was then Athens and dating back as early as the Bronze Age, the Acropolis is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the main symbols of the city. Visit landmarks such as the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and Theater of Dionysus. Then check out the Acropolis Museum or take a walk to the nearby Hill of the Muses and Hill of the Nymphs, two other ancient landmarks.
- Mount Lycabettus. According to a legend, the most important summit of Athens was created by the goddess Athena when she dropped a limestone that she was carrying. Nowadays you can ascend the mountain via a funicular. The view from the top reveals not only the rest of Athens, but also, on a clear day, the Peloponnese peninsula.
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This ancient outdoor theater, built by a Greek magnate and sophist that gave it his name, has been hosting plays for nearly 2,000 years and continues to do so to this day. Even if you’re not visiting on a day when there’s a performance, you can still appreciate the magnitude of the stone theater, have a nice walk around it, and appreciate the local flora and fauna that includes tortoises.
Traffic and parking tips
- Unless specifically indicated otherwise, the speed limits are 90 km/h (55.9 mph) on roads outside populated areas and 50 km/h (31 mph) in populated and built-up areas.
- While the larger roads are in good shape, some of the smaller, rural roads might have poor surfacing and potholes. Be careful when driving on them, especially after dark.
- Many gas stations might be closed during weekends and public holidays.
- It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
- The legal alcohol limit is 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.02% for novice drivers. Exceeding these limits can lead to high fines and a licence ban. Exceeding the limit of 0.08% is a criminal offence and can lead to up to two years of imprisonment.
- The insurance and car documentation needs to be in the car whenever you’re driving.
- If you’re the driver, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
- The general emergency number, like elsewhere in the EU, is 112. The police number is 100, the ambulance number is 166, and the fire brigade number is 199.
There are a number of toll roads, tunnels, and bridges on mainland Greece. Many travelers find them very hard to navigate and some choose to avoid using the toll roads altogether because of the very complex toll system that is in place. Different toll roads are administered by different private companies and so there is not a single, nationwide (or even region-wide) system in place.
For most toll roads, payment can be either made with cash at a toll gate, by a credit card, or with coins at an automatic toll machine. For some roads, an electronic transponder might be used to pay for using the toll road. Some rental cars may be equipped with such an electronic transponder. However, because of the aforementioned different toll systems that are in place, this payment method might work for some toll roads, but not for others. Determine out your route in advance and ask your car rental provider about the best way to pay for all the toll roads that you plan to use.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Parnitha National Park. About one hour’s drive from downtown Athens, this green area has many gorges, caves, springs, and dense forests that you can explore along its hiking paths. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the red deer that live in the park’s territory.
- Epidaurus. Once a ritual site for the worship of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, this place southwest of Athens is famous among locals both for its alleged healing properties and the incredible acoustics of its old theater. The theater is about a two-hour drive from the capital, with the road mostly hugging the Megara Gulf.
- Thebes. Mentioned both in Greek myths and written records of the many empires that ruled the area, Thebes is another world-famous historical location. Walk through the ruins of Cadmea Fortress or pay a visit to the stunning Archaeological Museum of Thebes. From Athens, it’s only a tad more than one hour’s drive north.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular rental cars in Athens are the Renault Clio, the Fiat 500, and the Opel Corsa. The most popular rental car type is an economy, closely followed by mini and intermediate.
- Thessaloniki. The second city of Greece is a fascinating place to explore thanks to its impressive architecture, long crescent-like beaches, and unique traditions. It also serves as a great base for the exploration of the rest of Northern Greece with its mountains and many wildlife areas.
- Nafplio. A small, but very interesting town, Nafplio is a mix of Hellenic, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences that you notice in its architecture and cuisine. After the hustle and bustle of the capital, from which it is about 140 km (85 mi) southwest, Nafplio is a great place to relax and then go on exploring the rest of the Peloponnese.
- Crete. The largest of Greece’s countless islands, Crete has something for everyone. Many travelers tend to stick around Heraklion and Chania, its two largest cities, but do get in a car and go to see the rest of the island - its real beauty is in its rugged beaches outside tourist resorts, small mountain villages, and pristine wilderness. Keep in mind that while you can take a car on a ferry from Athens to Crete, ask your car rental provider first if they permit it. Alternatively, you can drop off your car in Athens and pick up another in Heraklion or Chania.
How can I save money on my rental car?
These are some of the things to keep in mind when booking a rental car in Athens:
- Compare rates of different rental car providers
- Book your rental car well in advance
- Plan your route before you go
- Know your fuel and mileage requirements
- Visit during the month when the rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting Athens is the cheapest in January when renting a car is about 58% cheaper than the yearly average and a whopping 80% cheaper than renting a car in August. Come visit in winter time when the city is just as fascinating, but far less crowded!
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