Planning on renting a car in Athens?
This article contains everything you need to know about a rental car in Athens, including how and where to rent a car, what documents you need and day trip ideas. We also offer advice and tips on how to get around Athens if you choose not to rent a car.
Athens is an incredible city to visit at any time of the year. It has a rich cultural and historical heritage and is home to the world-famous, UNESCO-listed Acropolis. Modern Athens is a sprawling, energetic, 24-hour city but also an excellent base for visiting other nearby exciting destinations!
We’ve recently stayed in Athens for over two weeks and we used a rental car to visit Delphi, Meteora and the local beaches, which we highly recommend doing! We found driving in Athens and Greece super straightforward and enjoyable due to quality roads and good signage.
Should I Rent A Car In Athens?
Our pros and cons of renting a car in Athens are based on our experience of visiting the city on several occasions. This may help you decide whether an Athens rental car is the right choice for you.
Advantages of renting a car in Athens
✅ The main advantage of car hire in Athens is the flexibility to go where you want when you want – and to come back when you want. If you’re staying in Athens for longer than two days, you can rent a car and visit the famous Meteora or the ancient sanctuary of Delphi. You can also visit the coast and spend some time on one of the Athens beaches.
✅ You will not have to queue or wait for public transport, and you can travel easily (though not quickly in Athens traffic) to and from your accommodation.
✅ Also, if you are travelling with kids or have mobility issues, renting a car is easier than walking all over the city or using public transport, especially in summer.
Disadvantages of renting a car in Athens
The cons of renting a car include the cost of car rental in Athens Greece, driving in the city centre and the notoriously difficult parking in Athens.
⚠️ If you’re only planning on visiting the Athens main points of interest and neighbourhoods, you won’t need a car. And it is cheaper to use public transport in Athens, especially for a solo traveller or a couple.
For example, a three-day unlimited public transport pass costs just €20 per person. When you factor in car hire, insurance, petrol and parking fees, public transport will be cheaper. But if renting a car is a convenient and economical option if you plan to explore beyond the city boundaries
⚠️ Finally, parking in Athens is a nightmare unless you know the area well. Parking is limited to residents only or is metered, and it can be very difficult to find an available parking space. If you’re planning on renting a car in Athens for longer than one day, make sure you ask your accommodation host about the nearest parking.
Renting A Car In Athens Greece: Logistics
Due to the challenges, you will face driving in Athens, we recommend doing all your Athens-based sightseeing first using public transport. Pick up your car rentals in Athens when you are ready to make day trips from the city or embark on a Greece road trip.
However, if it is necessary for you to have a car during your stay in Athens, you will find the following information helpful.
What’s the best way of renting a car in Athens?
There are lots of car rental Athens city centre companies so you do not have to return to the car rental Athens airport depots in order to rent a car.
We recently rented a car with a pick up near Plaka in the city centre. There was nowhere to park the car near where we were staying in Athens, so we decided it was better to pick up the car rather than have it dropped off to us.
Always book your car hire Athens well in advance of your trip, especially if you are travelling in peak season or want to hire an automatic vehicle rather than a manual drive.
We trust and use Discover Cars, an easy-to-use comparison website. It quickly compares the types of cars available for our travel dates and lists them in order of price or review ratings.
We get detailed specifications for the car so we know exactly what we are getting, and there are no hidden fees. Plus, Discover Cars allows free cancellation, so we can keep our travel plans flexible if needed.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Athens?
The cost of the car rentals Athens has to offer will vary according to the type and size of the car you are renting and the month in which you are visiting the city.
For example, using Discover Cars, the cost of hiring an economy Renault Clio for one week in the peak season month of August costs from €450 / $490.
If you were to hire the same car for one week in the shoulder season month of November, it would cost €173 / $190.
If you want one of the luxury car rentals Athens has to offer or a four-wheel drive, you can expect to pay more, no matter what time of year you visit.
Shall I get a car rental in Athens Airport?
We do not advise car rental in Athens airport Greece, unless you are planning to leave Athens immediately to start your Greece road trip.
Athens airport car hire is a similar price to the city centre, but you have to weigh up how you will feel picking up a car at the airport and then navigating unfamiliar congested city roads after a long flight.
If you plan on spending a few days in Athens, first, catch a taxi, book a transfer or use public transport to get to the city from the airport. Do your city sightseeing first and then use a city centre Athens rent a car company when you are ready to leave.
If you are set on using one of the car hire Athens airport companies, make sure you book your car in advance to avoid lengthy waits upon arrival in Athens.
Is it difficult to drive in Greece?
Driving in Greece has its challenges, especially if you are unfamiliar with driving on the right side of the road. Ideally, you should be an experienced and confident driver if you want to drive in Greece though generally speaking, driving in Greece is not too difficult.
City centre roads are in good condition but be prepared for traffic jams and congestion. Signage is usually in Greek and English but sometimes can only be visible at the last minute, so stay alert.
In more rural areas be prepared for potholes, rockfalls, plus animals and pedestrians on the road. In mountain areas, you will encounter winding, steep roads and rocky off-road tracks.
You will also find fewer dual-language signs, so may need to learn the Greek name for your destination. Also, be aware that some towns and cities in Greece have dual names. For example, Athens is also called Athina, and Piraeus is sometimes written as Pireas.
Know the speed limits for different Greek roads, adhere to the zero drink driving policy and know the rules and regulations of driving in Greece before setting off.
Our experience of going from Plaka (Athens’s historic city centre) to Delphi was really good. We used a speed road with tolls, which cost about €10 each way, but was not busy, looked very new and well-signed. Also, the route was very picturesque, and the driving was a breeze.
On the way back to the city centre, we did encounter a bit of congestion since we arrived at the rash hour, but it was nothing too crazy.
Athens Car Rental: Requirements
Can I rent a car in Greece with a US drivers license?
Yes, it is possible to rent a car in Greece with a U.S. driver’s license, but there are a few conditions.
You must have held your U.S. driver’s license for at least one year and be over 21 years old and under 70. If you are over 21 but are under 25, you will be classed as a young driver, and many car rental agencies charge an additional rental fee for young drivers.
Since November 2021, you do not need to show an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) in addition to your U.S. license in order to book one of the hire car Athens has to offer.
However, if you are a frequent traveller, we recommend getting an IDP. Very few countries around the world allow visitors to hire a car solely on a U.S. license, but more than 150 countries accept the International Driver’s Permit. To many rental agencies and law enforcement, an IDP is more recognisable than an individual country-specific driving license.
You can get an International Driver’s Permit if you are over 18 years old and have a valid U.S. license and can apply for an IDP online or at any AAA office in the United States.
Can I rent a car in Greece with a UK drivers license?
As the UK has now left the EU, there is some confusion about what documents UK passport holders need to rent a car abroad.
In Greece, UK citizens can currently rent a car using only a UK driving licence (as long as you are over 21 years old and under 70). You must have had your UK licence for at least 12 months.
However, this situation could change in the future, so to be prepared – and to avoid any confusion – we recommend applying for an International Driver’s Permit just in case.
There are three types of IDP in the U.K. A 1926 or 1949 IDP lasts for 12 months, whereas a 1968 IDP lasts for 3 years (or until your UK driving licence expires, whichever comes first).
You can apply for an IDP in the U.K online or over the counter at any Post Office. You will need your passport, driver’s licence, passport photo and the permit fee.
What documents do I need to drive in Greece?
It is a good idea to carry these, in the car with you, when driving. If you are stopped by traffic police, they will ask to see these documents.
Do I need insurance for renting a car in Greece?
Some credit card companies offer car insurance as part of their card contract, but these are often insufficient to rent a car abroad. If you want to use your credit card insurance, it is essential to check the small print as to what is and what is not covered.
Most rental companies in Greece offer a basic collision damage waiver (CDW) as part of the rental car contract, but we always advise scrutinising the small print to make sure you are covered for every eventuality.
It is possible to add on extra protection to a basic Collision Damage Waiver policy, but these extra charges can quickly add up. That’s why we always choose to take out full insurance cover through Discover Cars. It is the most cost-effective way to protect ourselves and the car from any unfortunate incidents.
In our experience, it is cheaper to book full insurance coverage online in advance rather than when you arrive at the rental depot. We use and trust the comprehensive and affordable full insurance policy offered by Discover Cars.
Practical Tips For Athens Car Hire
The following practical tips are based on our experience of renting a car and driving in Athens. But the tips are generally good practice and could be applied to any city or country in the world.
✔️ Get a full insurance cover
It is a sad fact that road traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of injury or death to travellers abroad, yet many travellers do not take out full insurance coverage when renting a car overseas.
Many travellers reject the added cost of insurance, but when you factor it into how much the trip has already cost, it is only a small chunk of your overall travel budget. Plus, driving in any country has an element of risk, and would you drive in your home country without full insurance cover?
Full insurance cover provides comprehensive cover for injuries sustained by you or your passengers and any damage to the rental car. It also extends protection to any other cars, passengers or property involved in an accident with you.
Full insurance cover may seem expensive, but it is a fraction of what you might potentially pay in legal, medical and mechanical fees.
Make sure you read the full insurance cover policy carefully, including the boring but essential small print. It is important to know if there are any restrictions or conditions in the policy that could invalidate your claim if you were to have an accident.
For peace of mind, we always take out a full insurance cover with Discover Cars. Their comprehensive policy makes us feel protected on our road trips around Greece.
✔️ Record the condition of the car
You would not buy a car without doing a close inspection of the vehicle, so why rent a car without inspecting it first?
It is important to spend a few minutes carefully checking and recording the condition of the rental car at the depot before setting off on your road trip.
If there is a note on the rental car paperwork of any dents, scratches or windscreen cracks already on the car, check this damage first. If the damage is more acute than the paperwork says it is, get a rental car employee to change it.
Then check the rest of the car for any missed damage. Take close-up photos or videos of the outside and inside of the car, focusing on problem areas such as the windscreen, headlights and rear bumper.
Get any damage noted on the paperwork by a rental agency employee, and ideally, save a copy of your photos and videos somewhere safe.
✔️ Plan where you’re going to park
Public parking is limited in many parts of Greece, and we found that Athens was particularly difficult to park in. Parking in Athens is either metered or for residents only.
Before you set off for your destination, research where you are going to park. This will save time – and stress – once you arrive. Plus, to avoid the daily hassle of where to park, try to book a hotel or Airbnb that has on-site parking (and preferably free parking).
There are various apps you can download to help you find a parking space close by. ParkAround will help you to find a free space in Athens, whereas the myAthensPass allows you to prepay for metered parking in the controlled zones in Athens city centre.
✔️ Access restrictions “Δ”
In an effort to reduce pollution and air quality, there are traffic restrictions in central Athens. If you see a “Δ” sign, it means that you are entering and driving in the restricted zone known as the ‘Daktylios Ring.’
Only cars with a licence plate that ends in an odd number are allowed to drive inside the ring on odd number dates of the month. Vehicles with licence plates that end in an even number are allowed to drive on even dates of the month. These restrictions are in effect from September through to June, so you may find yourself unable to use your Athens car rentals on certain days during your trip.
Best Places To Visit With A Rental Car In Athens
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most visited places in Greece – and deservedly so. It is a fascinating historical location which gives an insight into the lives of ancient Greeks.
Situated 120 kilometres north of Athens on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, Delphi was considered by ancient Greeks to be the centre of the world. For over 1000 years, people of all statuses travelled to Delphi to receive a prophecy from Pythia, a priestess who was believed to transmit messages from Apollo.
Today, you can see the impressive remains of this once mighty city. Walk the Sacred Way to the 6th century B.C. Temple of Apollo, explore the huge amphitheatre that can seat 5000 people and see the 200-metre long sports stadium and the iconic Temple of Athena.
The drive from Athens to Delphi takes between 2 – 3 hours, so self-driving in a rental car allows you to make stops on a route whenever you want to. We rented a car in Athens, specifically to make this trip, and had a really good experience. The drive was super easy and pleasant.
📍Temple Of Poseidon
The 5th century B.C. The Temple of Poseidon has a spectacular 65-metre-high clifftop setting overlooking Cape Sounion. It is approximately a 1.5-hour drive (or 70 kilometres) from Athens, so it is a great day trip from the capital.
The Temple of Poseidon is a popular sunset spot, and having your own rental car enables you to time your visit for sunset if you want to. Plus, you can enjoy lots of stops along the coastal road from Athens.
It doesn’t take long to explore the exposed and vertiginous site, so you can combine your visit with a trip to a nearby fishing village or beach. We combined the temple with a visit to a nearby beach, which turned out to be a really fun day!
The nearest beaches to Athens are a 30-minute drive from the city centre. Having your own car makes a beach day in Athens quick and easy – especially if you like to have lots of beach gear!
We recommend Kape Beach, a one-hour drive from Athens on the coastal road. The sandy beach is made up of several coves backed by cliffs and has a laid-back island feel. It is clean and unspoilt and can only be accessed by stairs.
If you prefer organised beaches, try Sounion Beach, a long sandy beach a 1 hour and 10 drive from Athens. There are dining options on the beach, plus sunbeds and umbrellas to rent.
Sounion Beach is close to the Temple of Poseidon, so it is a perfect spot to relax and cool off after your sightseeing.
The 14th-century monasteries at Meteora look as if they have stepped out of a fantasy film set.
The six remaining monasteries are precariously perched on top of a giant sandstone pillar, typical to this area, and can only be reached by stairs and paths that have been cut into the rock.
The monasteries are an incredible feat of architecture and deservedly have UNESCO World Heritage status. You can visit all six monasteries and having your own car will make travelling between them quick and easy.
The drive from Athens takes around four hours, so we recommend staying the night in Meteora if you can to allow yourself plenty of time to explore this stunning location.
Best Day Trips From Athens Without A Car
If you decide against car rental Athens Greece, you can still do some fabulous day trips. Here are our top recommendations.
🌟 All Day Cruise -3 Islands to Agistri, Moni, & Aegina
WHY BOOK THIS TOUR
This 10-hour tour packs a lot into one day, and you can be as active or as inactive as you like. The tour offers an alternative date should the tour be cancelled due to poor weather or a full refund if you cancel 24 hours before departure.
It accepts a maximum of 49 travellers.
After boarding a traditional sailing boat in Athens, you will set sail across the Saronic Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea to neighbouring islands.
The first stop of the day is the village of Skala on Agistri Island. You can spend 1.5 hours exploring the village, swimming or snorkelling or trying a new water sport such as windsurfing or waterskiing.
You will then travel on to Moni Island Beach for a one-hour stop for lunch and swimming. After lunch, the boat will sail past the Temple of Apollo, The Sanctuary of Apollo Delfinios Kolóna, before arriving at the Port of Aegina on Aegina island.
You can spend 1.5 hours here exploring the historic sites on the island or just relaxing on the beaches before sailing back to Athens.
WHY BOOK THIS TOUR
This 10-hour tour visits one of the most spectacular historical sites in Greece. The highly-rated tour offers a full refund 24 hours before departure and accepts a maximum of 49 guests. It provides a good mix of guided and free time.
The tour begins with a long drive to Delphi. Your guide will give live commentary along the route about Greek history and culture.
Upon arrival at Delphi, you will spend one hour at the museum and then 1.5 hours on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, guided around both by your English-speaking guide.
You will see Delphi’s most famous sights, including the Temple of Apollo, the Charioteer of Delphi and the Sphinx of Naxos. After lunch in Delphi, you will depart for Athens, stopping for free time in two villages along the route.
Both Arachova and Levadia villages are known as handicraft centres, so these are good locations to pick up some authentic souvenirs.
🌟 Meteora Day Trip by Train from Athens
WHY BOOK THIS TOUR
The UNESCO-listed Meteora is one of Greece’s most incredible locations, but it is not easy to get to, especially if you do not have a car.
This highly-rated tour makes visiting easy. You catch a train from Athens to Kalambaka, where you are met by a guide and driver who will take you the rest of the way to the 14th-century Meteora monasteries.
The tour offers a full refund if cancelled 24 hours before departure and accepts a maximum of 45 guests.
Departing Athens at 8.10 am, sit back and enjoy a scenic 3-hour 40-minute train ride to Kalambaka. Your guide and driver will meet you off the train and drive you in an air-conditioned vehicle to Meteora. You will then have five hours to explore the monasteries and visit the hermit caves of Badovas.
You will then be brought back to Kalambaka for some free time to explore before boarding the 5.35 pm train back to Athens.
How To Get Around Athens Without A Car
If you decide that renting a car in Athens is not right for your trip, there are several other transportation options you can consider.
The Athens metro system is extensive, reliable and cheap. It is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get around the city centre.
The metro runs seven days a week, starting at 5.30 am and operating until just after midnight or until 2.30 am on weekends.
You can buy a single ticket which gives you unlimited public transport for 90 minutes for €1.20. Alternatively, you can buy a two, three or five-day unlimited travel card. The three-day Tourist Card Ticket is excellent value for money at €20 and includes a round trip to the airport.
Whenever we visit Athens (and it’s been a few times), we always use the metro to get from the airport to the city, because it’s super easy and cheap. But remember, you need a special airport ticket that cost arounf €10 each way.
If you are staying longer in Athens, you can also buy plastic rechargeable cards similar to London’s Oyster Card. These cards must be bought from metro stations but can be topped up in most shops and kiosks around Athens.
If you are short on time or just want to get your bearings and discover places to revisit another time, consider joining a bike tour.
The 2.5-hour sightseeing tour with a professional guide winds through the cycle paths and streets of Athens, passing most of its major attractions on route. It is a great way to see a lot of sights in a short time and save foot fatigue! We did this tour on our last visit, and we had a lot of fun, and it was cool to do sightseeing in a slightly different way.
The price includes your guide, your bike and a helmet.
Another excellent and easy way to get around the city is by HOHO bus. There are three Hop On Hop Off bus lines in Athens, and together they cover all of the city’s major attractions.
Each route takes around two hours to complete if you stayed solely on the bus, but you can get on and off the bus as many times as you wish. There are up to 22 stops on the routes, and the buses travel as far as Piraeus and local beaches.
Your ticket includes full commentary, and you can choose between a 24-hour or 72-hour ticket. If you choose a 24 ticket, we advise starting your ticket around midday. This means you can enjoy a full afternoon and evening of sightseeing but also have time to see more attractions the next morning when you feel refreshed.
The one downside of using the HOHO buses in Athens is that traffic is often slow-moving in the city centre. But as you are not the driver, you can sit back and soak up the views!
Is There Uber In Athens?
Yes, there is Uber in Athens but only as an Uber Taxi. Athens is one of a handful of locations in Greece where Uber Taxi exists (the others are Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu and Thessaloniki).
You summon a ride as usual in the Uber App, but the ride that turns up is not an independent Uber X driver, it will be one of the city’s licensed yellow taxis.
We took several Ubers on our recent trip to Athens (2023) and found prices for popular routes were reasonable. For example, Plaka / Monastiraki to Piraeus Port cost €20, Plaka / Monastiraki to Athens Airport was between €40 – 45 and Plaka / Monastiraki to Lycabettus Hill was €8.
If you can fill an Uber vehicle with friends, it can work out an easy and affordable method of transport in Athens. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for your journey in case you get stuck in city centre traffic.
Athens is known for its yellow city centre taxis. You can catch a taxi by hailing one in the street, from a taxi rank (there are ranks near the major attractions), by phoning the company or by using a taxi app such as DriveMe or BEAT.
Unlike some of the Greek islands, taxis in Athens city centre do not have standard fares. The taxis are all on a meter, so make sure the meter is switched on in any taxi that you use.
There is a minimum city fare (around €3). Each taxi has a starting fare (around €1.20), and then each kilometre will increase the final charge. You will also pay an extra charge for large bags and late-night travel.
Longer routes, such as from Athens airport to Piraeus Port, are a fixed rate journey, so make sure you find out in advance how much the ride will cost so you know how much to pay. (In 2023, the cost of this route is €47).
Renting A Car In Athens: Final Word
Renting a car in Athens is easy and driving straightforward. Just make sure you plan in advance where to park and try avoiding rush hour.
There are many cool places to visit near Athens such as the historic site of Delphi or Meteora monasteries, that are best reached by car!