Car rental Thessaloniki
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Why rent a car in Thessaloniki?
Thessaloniki is a great place to explore by car. A city with a history that dates back more than 2000 years and the largest metropolis in the sometimes underappreciated, but fascinating Northern Greece, it offers everything from impressive architecture to stunning beaches and unique cuisine. Thessaloniki is also within a four hour drive off four different countries: Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
Top ways to enter Thessaloniki
- Thessaloniki Airport. The third busiest airport in Greece, also known as Thessaloniki Airport Makedonia, is located just southeast of Thessaloniki’s city center. It serves more than six million passengers every year.
- Kavala Airport. About a two hour drive east of Thessaloniki, Kavala Airport hosts both
- domestic routes and flights to more than ten different European countries. Like many other airports in Greece, Kavala Airport is especially active during the summer months.
- Skopje Airport. Serving the capital of neighboring North Macedonia, Skopje Airport is just a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Thessaloniki. If you plan to come from North Macedonia to Greece by a rental car, first ask your car rental provider if they permit it. Also, make sure your EU entry documentation is in order.
- Athens Airport. By far the largest in Greece and among the 30 busiest in Europe, Athens Airport is a great regional air hub. It might be a five hour drive south of Thessaloniki, but there are many interesting stops you can make on the way.
Useful city facts
Thessaloniki enjoys a humid subtropical climate. The average temperature in July is 27 °C (80 °F) and it’s not unusual for temperatures to creep higher. Winters are generally mild, although Thessaloniki is one of the few beach cities in Greece where snowfall can occur in January and February. Unlike in the more southern areas of Greece, summers in Thessaloniki are not significantly drier than winters.
Thessaloniki is the second most populous city of Greece. Although only 325 thousand people live inside the city proper, there are more than 1 million inhabitants in the greaterThessaloniki metropolitan area.
Top destinations and activities
- Rotunda. Arguably the most famous landmark of Thessaloniki, the Rotunda and its neighboring Arch of Galerius have been in their places for more than 1600 years. It was first built as a temple during the Roman times, then turned into a Paleochristian church, then a mosque, and finally a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the Rotunda has suffered many earthquakes, it has always been rebuilt to retain the beauty of its early days.
- Saint Demetrios Church. Also known as Hagios Demetrios, this ancient church honours Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki whose resting place is under the basilica. Once one of the largest churches of the Byzantine Empire, it is still an important religious and historic monument.
- The White Tower. Another very important symbol of the city, the White Tower of Thessaloniki is both a monument and a museum dedicated to the city’s long and diverse history. Exploring its many collections is just as interesting as climbing its labyrinthine staircases or appreciating the view of the rest of the city from the tower top.
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 steep 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.
Find out more about toll roads in Greece on the European toll road website.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Thassos Island. With its golden coastline, calm waters, and relaxed atmosphere, Thassos is arguably the number one coastal destination in the area. Aliki Beach and Limenaria Beach are fun and busy, while the Scala Maries Beach has a quieter feel. While you’re here, make sure to also see the old harbour and visit the ancient mountain village of Potamia. Park your car in Thessaloniki and take an enjoyable three hour ferry ride to Thassos.
- Kavala. While it may not be as popular with foreign tourists, the Greeks themselves consider Kavala one of the most beautiful places their country, and in a place like Greece, that is some claim. Come here for beautiful castles from different eras, stunning natural beauty, and delicious cuisine. Kavala is about 160 km (100 mi) east of Thessaloniki.
- Prespa lakes. The Great Prespa Lake and the Small Prespa Lake are two beautiful lakes about three hours north of Thessaloniki that border both Albania and North Macedonia. A relaxing destination to be enjoyed at a slow place, the Prespas are home to many unique animal, bird, and fish species that you can observe from its coasts.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular rental car in Thessaloniki is the Renault Clio, closely followed by the Volkswagen Up and the Skoda Citigo. The most popular rental car types are economy, mini, and compact.
- North Macedonia. Greece’s smaller neighbor to the north is an underappreciated travel destination with a truly wild feel. The beautiful Lake Ohrid and the vast nature areas that surround it is a highlight, but make sure to also drive to little mountain villages, appreciate ancient historical sites, and pay a visit to the fun and busy capital city Skopje. If you’d like to pick up your rental car in Greece and drop it off in North Macedonia, first ask your car rental provider if they permit it. Also, make sure your entry documentation for North Macedonia is in order (Greece is a member of the EU, while North Macedonia is not).
- Albania. Similarly to North Macedonia, Albania is another up-and-coming travel destination with an untamed atmosphere, but it also boasts a long and beautiful Adriatic sea coast. Beach resorts like Sarande in the south and Durres in the north are obvious highlights. However, do also travel inland as Albania’s mountain scenery is among the most dramatic you’re bound to find anywhere in Europe. If you’d like to pick up your rental car in Greece and drop it off in Albania, first ask your car rental provider if they permit it. Also, make sure your entry documentation for Albania is in order (Greece is a member of the EU, while Albania is not).
- Athens. It might be a long six hour drive from Thessaloniki to the capital, but once you’ve come to Greece, it would be a shame not to visit it. Home to countless ancient sites, stunning museums, diverse neighborhoods, and gastronomic influences from all over the country, Athens truly is a destination like no other.
How can I save money on my rental car?
There are a number of things you can do to get a good rental car deal in Thessaloniki:\
- 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 Thessaloniki is the cheapest in March when renting a car is about 69% cheaper than the yearly average and an unbelievable 86% cheaper than renting a car in June. Come visit Thessaloniki in early spring!
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