Athens might have famously tried to reduce its horrendous traffic problems by only allowing either order or even number plated cars to drive on any given day of the week, and the city also invested heavily in a metro system in the run-up to the 2004 Olympic Games. So is this somewhere that you even need to consider getting a hire car?
This Athens car hire guide looks at whether or not to get a car either for a short break or for a slightly longer holiday involving travelling around between different places. For visitors from elsewhere in Europe, it can be just as easy to fly to one of the Greek islands and then to either stay locally or island hop without needing to get a car. Travellers from further afield will almost certainly head through or to Athens International airport.
This page is aimed at visitors who want to get out of the city of Athens.
Reasons why you should rent a car in Athens
Hopping between the different Greek islands in a hire car is always going to give you that little bit more flexibility than travelling as a foot passenger, although this flexibility does come at a cost.
At the end of the day, the decision whether or not to pick up a hire car in Athens might boil down to which islands you want to visit – for an island the size of Crete, a hire car is extremely useful, but most visitors to this island would fly direct into Heraklion or Chania. For medium-sized islands like Zakinthos (Zante) or Lesbos, then a hire car can be a benefit, whereas for the smaller islands like Santorini, you may well find that a hire car is more trouble than it is worth.Note that despite the need for ferry connections, it can be possible to get one way car rental deals between Athens and other Greek islands – budget for around £100 on top of the hire cost for one week.
Reasons to visit Athens without a car
Beyond the Athens area without a car
Anyone simply thinking about taking a city break in Athens is very unlikely to even consider getting a hire car, but after a few days Athens can start to become quite overbearing on the novice visitor. So whether you get a hire car or not, there’s a good chance you’ll want to get out of the city, and unfortunately, public transport in Greece leaves a great deal to be desired. Should you rent a car in Athens, and then use it for a trip outside the city? This is really going to depend on where you are most interested in visiting from the long list of places mentioned above. Is it worth hiring a car in Athens just to use within the city – no, never, that bit should be clear enough! But you really don’t have to get far out of the city for public transport to become worth it.
For a country with such a rugged coastline and so many ancient treasures, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy to take things at a slower pace anyway. Yet getting a hire car in Athens is still going to take away a lot of the hassles of planning and executing a holiday when you are dealing with so many different transport companies, all of which operate from their own separate hubs in their own different ways. Public transport integration in Athens is very poor – whether you are trying to change from bus to metro, to get to the Peloponnese by train, or simply if you are trying to find the right berth for your onward sea connection in Piraeus, nothing is particularly well connected.
So even though a hire car in Athens remains strictly optional, if you are already considering getting one, then you will probably find it beneficial.
Useful Athens travel links:
- Athens metro & map
- Athens area car hire / transport map