Athens

By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Athens?

Do you need a car in Athens > Should you rent a car in Athens Greece > Athens ( ATH ) Do you need a car in Athens? Is it worth hiring a car in Athens? Should you rent a car in Athens?

Athens Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]

70%

  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Athens but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]

€85

 #82/300

  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Athens during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]

 €320

212/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.


Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 635 - of which 132 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

21%

#242/300

  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Athens, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Athens public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.

60%

  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Athens

100%

  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.

20%

  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Athens good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Athens because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Athens. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.

60%

  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Athens, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Athens Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Athens", "is it worth hiring a car in Athens", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Athens?

Do you need a car in Athens?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Athens " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Athens?

Is it worth hiring a car in Athens?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Athens" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Athens?

Should you rent a car in Athens?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Athens, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Athens compares with other destinations in  Greece or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.


What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Athens?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.

10%

Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.

19

  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Athens if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Athens for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Athens for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Athens if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Athens if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Athens if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Athens, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Athens if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Athens if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Athens if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Athens, or are there good reasons not to?

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?

Do you need a car in Athens? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Athens?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Athens? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Athens as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Athens?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

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.

Why should you rent a car in Athens?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Athens?

Reasons why you should rent a car in Athens

  • If you rent a hire car in Athens, you will be exempt from the restrictions for 40 days, which should be more than enough to explore the city and the local area.
  • Meteora – the stunning monasteries of the Meteora region should be the highlight of any trip to Greece, and if you need a preview, just watch the closing scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Naturally, given how these monasteries perched high on top of rocky promontories, this is a place to go hiking to take advantage of the rudimentary lift systems that operate in some of the monasteries.Yet there is still the small question of getting to Meteora. The train ride from Athens to Kalambaka goes through some pretty impressive scenery and over one or two great bridges, but there are only three trains each day, and only one of these is direct. So for even a brief excursion to Meteora by train, you will probably have to spend two nights there, whereas you could visit this area as part of a long day excursion in a hire car.
  • Rattling railways – Greece could never really claim to be one of Europe’s great Railway destinations, given that the population is relatively sparse and the terrain is unforgiving, yet even on those lines that do remain open following budget cuts, service is slow and sporadic. Unless you are someone who loves train travel, sticking to the roads is  going to be the easiest option.
  • Central what? If you are going to travel from Athens by train, bear in mind that not all surface train services run through the main Athens station (often called Larissa station after its original name, and the name of the adjacent metro station).
    There’s no direct metro connection from the airport to here either.Surface trains from the airport will take you to the new Athens Archarnes Railway Centre (SKA), which is being billed as a new “central” station, although it is out in the suburbs and has no metro station.
    Trains from the airport continue from here towards Kiato on the Peloponnese peninuslar, but the line goes nowhere near central Athens.

Peloponnese

  • Peloponnese – there are lots of great driving opportunities around the Peloponnese peninsula, including the Corinth canal and the engineering marvel of the Rio-Antirio bridge to complement the natural splendours. I’d like to say that this is also a great area to explore by train, but sadly, the narrow gauge Peloponnese railways have fallen victim to Greek austerity cuts. There is little chance of them being reopened any time soon. You can at least take the train as far as Kiato, but from there you’d have to go to Patra and beyond by bus.
  • Corinth canal – if there’s one particular piece of engineering which demonstrates Greek maritime prowess it must surely be the Corinth canal. Perhaps not as famous as its sticky Panamanian brother, nor anything like as timesaving, the Corinth canal still looks far more impressive than any other as it has been cut into its own deep but narrow canyon. This has been done without the need for any locks. Although there are hourly trains, and plenty of coach tours from Athens which will give you a view of the canal, visiting this location in a hire car will let you see things in your own time.  You can also use the canal is the starting point for a driving tour around the Peloponnese.
  • Rio Antirio bridge – this should be the highlight of any tour around the Peloponnese, or possibly of a circuit including the Peloponnese and Delphi on the other side. You can walk or cycle across the bridge and you can also get buses to and from Patra, but the most obvious way to appreciate it is still to drive.

Island hopping

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.

Why not? Visiting Athens without a car

What is public transport like in Athens? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 3?

Reasons to visit Athens without a car

  • Odd and even Number plate rules – in 1982, Athens introduced a restriction banning cars from the city centre according to whether their number plates were odd or even. Since then, the number of cars in the city has grown fourfold. The legislation has had little effect, especially as some houses have got round the legislation by owning two cars, one with an odd and another with an even plate.
  • Even with a 40 day exemption from the odd/even numberplate rule, driving on congested Athens city centre is still a nightmare.
  • You still have to find somewhere to park.
  • As with any major city, we would always advise walking or using public transport to visit all the major sites within Athens.
  • Congestion in Athens is a city wide / all day problem – this isn’t just about the city centre, nor is it just about rush hour. Within the European Union (as of 2017 at least), only Bucharest and London have higher congestion levels than Athens – and we wouldn’t recommend trying to drive in either of those cities either!
  • Athens Metro – in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics, Athens invested heavily in an underground system, and this itself was halted many times due to archaeological digs along the route. This has resulted in many displays in the major city centre stations, making this sleek and modern transport network a destination in its own right as well is a way of getting around.
    The underground network is also supplemented by a network of local trains and buses. This includes the historic train link down to the port of Piraeus, where a lot of budget accommodation is available.
    There is no obvious centre of the metro network, with a number of stations being on two lines. The natural social and cultural centre is the area around Syntagma Square, and its metro station is on lines 2 and 3. This is also where many urban bus routes congregate, and where the tram route from the coast terminates.
  • Ancient treasures – need we go say any more? Athens is one of the most historic cities in the world and beyond the indelible impression the Parthenon is going to leave you from its perch at the top of the Acropolis, there are plenty of other places waiting to be explored well within the city boundaries and easy to reach on foot.

Beyond the Athens area without a car

  • Further afield, there are plenty of places which can be visited on historical tours, or on day excursions by scheduled bus.
  • Delphi is certainly well worth a visit, and once you get there, you will be walking around the main points of interest anyway, so there isn’t a huge time advantage in having a hire car. However, a group of people sharing a car might be better value. Allow around 3 hours each way by bus.
  • Island hopping on foot  – a hire car might give you a little bit more flexibility when you arrive on each island, but it is a deadweigh just sitting on the ferry, and a very expensive deadweight at that.
  • Why fork out for the cost of a hire car and then for the cost of ferry passage on top, when you can just travel as a foot passenger on the ferry and use local buses for getting around each island? Even if you have to shell out for a few taxis, they are unlikely to break the bank on any of the smaller islands.

Ratings

Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Verdict

What is our final score for Athens on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.

7


Summary

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:

Would you hire a car in Athens?

Have you driven in Athens? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Athens}? Do you need a car in Athens? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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