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Car Rental in Athens: Save Money when Seeing the Cradle of Democracy
Greece's capital is one of the world's great historical destinations, thanks to the Acropolis and the Parthenon, and the fact that the city gave birth to democratic government – something that attracts fascinated visitors from every continent.
But it's a sprawling city, and there are plenty of unmissable attractions in the suburbs and the surrounding area. With a car hire in Athens, you can head to the beach resorts on the coast of Attica, head to the medieval port of Nafplio, see Olympia, site of the ancient Olympic Games, or head to Delphi, to see the location of the famous Oracle.
If you want to explore Athens, the best time to visit is probably spring and early summer, before the temperatures start to become too sweltering, and the ancient sites are crammed with vacationers.
Between April and the middle of June are ideal times to go. You can expect peace and quiet at the major attractions, warm beach weather, and no problems booking tables at the finest tavernas.
Most people at tourist attractions will speak good English, although a few phrases of Greek are always welcome. The country uses the Euro as its currency, and ATMs are easy to come by across the city.
The best place to pick up a rental car is probably Athens International Airport, where you'll find branches of international rental agencies. The airport is around 15 miles east of the city center, but you can whizz into town fairly quickly via the Attiki Odos – a multi-lane toll road. The tolls are paid as you join the highway, and there is a flat rate per journey of EUR2.80.
The only problem could be traffic. If you arrive during rush hour periods, the belt roads around Athens and the highways into town can become very busy, so try to schedule your arrival for the evening or during the day to enjoy the fastest journeys into the city.
Cheap Car Rental in Athens
Prices in Athens will generally start at around $10-15 for small vehicles. After that, here are some sample prices that visitors can expect:
- $17.50/day for an intermediate class vehicle like a Ford Focus
- $24/day for a standard class vehicle like a VW Passat
- $25/day for full sized vehicles like Volvo S40s
- $50-70/day for premium people carriers like the Fiat Scudo
- $70/day for premium sedans from brands like BMW or Mercedes
You can usually reduce the daily cost of these packages by booking over longer periods, or by booking well in advance.
Rent a Car in Athens as Cheaply as Possible
Rental prices in Athens tend to be fairly stable throughout the year as the city sees a constant stream of visitors to the ancient sites, even during the winter.
However, you can expect slightly cheaper prices in the winter. For instance, if you pick up from the airport, the lowest price for a small vehicle per day in December is around $10.50 per day, while in summer the price will be closer to $14.
The pickup location also makes a difference when finding a cheap car rental. Athens Airport is generally the cheapest place to book (mini class vehicles start at $10 per day), compared to approximately $12 in Downtown Athens.
Visitors have plenty of companies to choose from in Athens, with Drive, Caldera, and Goldcar among the cheapest options, so shop around and use our search tool to find the best deals.
Tips for Driving in Athens and Greece
Driving in Athens is a great way to get around the Attica region and to see more distant sights, but there are some things for travelers to bear in mind when renting a vehicle.
- If you are coming from the United States or any country outside the European Union, you need to have held a driver's license for at least one year, and rental companies will also ask for a photo ID.
- Anyone renting a car must be over the age of 21, while a small surcharge may be levied on drivers aged between 21 and 25.
- Just to be clear, Greeks drive on the right hand side of the road, and everyone must wear a seatbelt at all times. Mobile phone use while driving is also prohibited, although hands-free systems are fine.
- When driving on the country's highways, remember that the inside lane is only meant to be used for passing other vehicles, not for cruising.
Inside the city, the speed limit is around 50 km/h (31 mph), 90 km/h (55 mph) on smaller roads between cities, and up to 120 km/h (75 mph) on the country's highways. If you aren't sure, check signs beside the roads, which clearly show local speed limits. And don't speed: traffic cameras are common, and Greek traffic police can levy on the spot fines or license revocations.