Transport and Driving in Greece
Expats shouldn’t have too many problems with transport and driving in Greece. The country has a developed transport infrastructure that continues to improve in spite of its economic difficulties.
However, economic troubles have ignited strike action from workers in every major mode of public transport in the last few years, and this affects other industries and private commuters. Obversely, strikes are generally announced in advance, and tend to take place during the tourist season between June and September, which generally allows people to plan around them.
Public transport in Greece
There is an extensive network of public transport in Greece which makes getting around the country fairly easy. The largest public transport network in Greece is the Athens Mass Transit System, which serves areas in and around the Greek capital. It consists of bus and trolleybus routes, the Athens Tram network, and rail and subway networks which serve the city and link it to other regions of the mainland.
Expatriates can take advantage of regional railway lines which link most of the country as well as the urban rail networks in some of the larger cities. Trains in Greece are operated by the Greek Railway Organisation (Organismos Sidirodromon Ellados), which is known by its acronym, OSE. The majority of the rail network is good and expats shouldn’t have too many problems. However, the network is not as extensive as Greece’s bus routes and generally isn't as comfortable as the buses.
The subway system is the Athens Metro, which runs along three lines and links the city centre to the surrounding suburbs and the Athens International Airport. Since 2003, the planning and construction of a metro system in Thessaloniki has been underway, with construction due to be completed in 2018. This may, however, be delayed as construction continues to unearth a wealth of archaeological finds.
The Athens Tram is the only public tram network in Greece and is run by the Urban Rail Transport Company (STASY SA) The network began as a horse-drawn tramway in the 19th century and has developed into a modern system that runs between 5am and midnight during the week, and 24 hours a day over weekends.
Buses are the primary form of public transport on land in Greece. With a network that connects large cities like Athens and Thessaloniki to small villages, expats shouldn’t have much of a problem getting around. The majority of the mainland is linked to Athens or, alternatively, Thessaloniki. Islands such as Corfu can also be accessed by bus from the Greek capital.
Greek buses are most often modern, safe and affordable. While they are reliable most of the time, as with other modes of transport, they may face delays and cancellations as a result of sporadic strikes, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. Expats are advised to arrive early to catch a bus since they have a tendency to run off schedule.
Greece’s ferry services are arguably its most famous mode of transport, carrying millions of passengers a year. To catch a ferry, expats can travel to the main port in Piraeus (a short trip south of Athens). From here, expats can catch a ferry to Cyclades, the Dodecanese Islands, the Northeastern Aegean Islands, the Saronic Gulf Islands and Crete. Alternatively, there are also ferries available at Rafina, Port of Lavrio and Thessaloniki.
Taxis in Greece
Taxis come in variable colours depending on the city they are located in. Taxis in Athens are yellow, taxis in Thessaloniki are blue with white roofs and in more rural areas they’re often silver. Taxi drivers mistaking expats for tourists will probably expect a tip of around 10 percent.
As part of a closed industry, Greek taxis have been notorious for overcharging their customers and being able to get away with it. However, recent changes to industry regulation mean this is likely to change as long as the new laws are enforced.
Driving in Greece
In Greece, cars drive on the right-hand side of the road, and driving in Greece can be a harrowing experience - the country is infamous for having some of the worst drivers in Europe. It certainly has some of the highest accident rates and high road death tolls, mostly caused during overtaking. That said, the roads in Greece are generally good and many regional roads that used to be dirt tracks have been tarred over in the last few years.
Driving is a good way to explore some of Greece’s more remote areas. Expats may, however, want to consider public transport if they don’t want to become masters of defensive driving. Another option may be using a motorcycle for its manoeuvrability.
Those wanting to drive in Greece are advised to take out insurance. Expat motorists should also take note that the owners of all vehicles with a Greek license plate are required to pay a circulation tax.
While petrol stations are generally available, a number of them have closed as a result of Greece’s economic difficulties and expats may struggle to find one in some of the more remote areas of the country. Service stations in smaller towns can also close as early as 7pm, while they tend to close later on major routes and in larger towns and cities.
Flying in Greece
Greece is well regarded as having an extensive domestic air travel network. With 15 international airports, expats can easily fly into Greece and from there fly to a number of Greek islands or cities on the mainland.