Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Driving and driver’s licenses in Greece


Athens is a city where people should depend on the public transportation network of express and local buses, trams, metro, electric railways and trolleys — if there are yellow ones still being used, you must experience the jerking sardine effect! It’s cheap, relatively reliable unless there’s a strike or riot and saves you the stress of mapping, navigating and being lost in the labyrinth of one-way sometimes mountainous streets upon which 150,000 cars are added every year — of which 20 percent are more than 15 years old — and with the EU’s most dangerous drivers at the wheel.

Should that not frighten you and you like an adventure, that’s a good thing because capital’s roads were designed for 430,000 cars, but are actually accommodating 2.4 million. This explains why people get creative when parking in Athens.

If you must drive, be aware of restrictions imposed on driving into the center of Athens in which the last digit of the license plate number corresponds to odd and even days of the calendar you’re allowed to enter during business hours up to 20:00, except on Sundays and the month of August when the restriction is lifted. See “Athens Ring” for details.

A stiff fine applies if you’re caught at any of several checkpoints around the city. Police know the backroads and shortcuts also, in case you think you’re clever. See the current list of fines at, “Fines for parking and moving violations in Greece.”

Photo from the Associated Press, 2004

Visitors to Greece

Visitors and temporary residents of Greece who plan to drive should secure the necessary documents to avoid being denied car rental or fined/detained by police.

EU citizens: If you’re an EU citizen, the license from your home country is perfectly fine as long as it hasn’t expired.

Americans: If you have a valid American license, an International Driving Permit (IDP) from one of two issuing authorities in Canada and the USA — AAA or AATA — is necessary and must be secured before leaving home by downloading the online form and submitting it in person or by mail. An IDP is not an international driver’s license; it is essentially a translation of your normal license, which is the reason it requires no tests, is only good while you’re a tourist and costs a mere $15.

Be aware that there are fraudulent and fake ads regarding similar types of IDPs from places other than AAA or AATA, and the Greek Automobile Association (ELPA) is not authorized to issue IDPs.

Car rental agencies should ask for both a valid unexpired driver’s license and an IDP before renting scooters or vehicles; those who do not are bending and breaking the law.

Canadians: If are a Canadian citizen visiting Greece, the Embassy recommends securing an IDP. Click here to view eligibility requirements and download the application.

Other non-EU citizens: Check with your embassy before leaving home.

Non-Greek residents of Greece

Driving and purchasing a scooter, motorcycle or vehicle in Greece carry rules different than if you are a tourist or temporary resident.

EU citizens: If you’re an EU citizen, the license from your home country is perfectly fine as long as it hasn’t expired. You can also convert it, however there are no additional benefits. See, “Converting to a Greek driver’s license.”

American citizens: If you are an American living in Greece, you must swap for a Greek driver’s license and are allowed to do so without the time and expense of completing hours of theory classes, practical lessons and passing a driving test.

Should you purchase a vehicle in Greece, you are required to present a Greek driver’s license. If you somehow slip through the cracks or purchase a vehicle from a private party, a Greek driver’s license will be requested when you register your vehicle. If you have plans to do this, see “Converting to a Greek driver’s license.”

Operation or purchase of a scooter (depending on CCs) or motorcycle requires you have the appropriate class license. Using your car/vehicle driver’s license is technically not legal, and police will assess a penalty or detain you if caught.

Other non-EU citizens: If you are a citizen from Australia, Japan, South Africa and South Korea now living in Greece, you also have the option to swap for a Greek driver’s license. See “Converting to a Greek driver’s license.”

Should your country not be listed above, you must acquire a Greek driver’s license the normal way by signing up and paying for theory classes at a driving school, take hours of practical driving lessons, then pass a test.

The Transport Ministry promised to provide special booklets for those who are illiterate, have  learning disabilities or otherwise cannot understand the Greek language.

Greek citizens/dual Greek citizens

If you are a Greek citizen without a driver’s license from another country, and are looking to secure a Greek driver’s license for the first time, it involves a minimum of 21 theory classes and 20 practical driving lessons that cost more than 1,000 euros…unless of course, you have connections and money to bribe someone instead. See, “How to get a driver’s license as a Greek citizen” for more details.

Should you be a dual Greek citizen with a non-EU country listed above, you could technically convert the license from your homeland to a Greek license. See “Converting to a Greek driver’s license.”

As of January 2009, new drivers are expected to pass a test on ‘eco-driving’ measures that can help conserve fuel, save money and reduce emissions by 10 to 25 percent. See “Eco-driving measures for 2009.”

Important note

All EU member states have different rules and regulations regarding driver’s licenses. It is wrong to assume that somewhere else is the same as Greece. See “How to get EU citizenship, passports, driver’s licenses, visas, permits…” for more details.

Rules of the road

1. Wear your seat belt: You’ll need it, and it is the law

2. Obey road signs

3. Lines on the road are (unfortunately) a suggestion

4. Pedestrians are supposed to have right-of-way, but you’ll be cursed if you follow this

5. Don’t let other drivers intimidate you (not really a rule, but more advice)

Gas Stations

* Gas stations are usually closed by sundown and on Sundays
* Price is by the liter and not the gallon (of course) and very expensive
* All are usually full service and you are not required to tip

In the News

Driving test set for overhaul by end of 2008” – Kathimerini
Greek drivers: A modern death cult” – Kathimerini
Hell is other people” – Kathimerini
Car rental down” — Kathimerini


  Ann wrote @ April 21st, 2007 at 12:15

Sounds exactly like Italy. Connections connections connections, or pay out the nose……….

  Eftychia wrote @ May 18th, 2010 at 23:59

Thanks for all the great information! Your website has been a great help!

Do you have any information, or links where I can get information about shipping a car to Greece from the US. Information regarding Greek customs (forms to file, fees or taxes?) upon arrival and the registering process will be especially useful. I have also noticed that some vehicles keep their foreign license plates (even from the US). How is this possible?

Thanks again!

Kat Reply:

Hello and thank you for your question.

I don’t have an article pertaining to this on my site at the moment, but a future one is planned that combines official documentation and the real-life experiences of my wonderful readers who volunteered to share this information with me to make available to everyone.

All I can offer you right now is:
a) The U.S. Embassy’s “Importation of a car for permanent residence
b) The Greek Consulate in Chicago’s, “Cars to Greece

Based on what I know and have heard, it’s much more involved than what is described, which is why I plan to do an article. I saw two articles via a Google search, but one is by someone unreliable and the other is by someone who is a known plagiarist. I strongly suggest you contact the Greek Consulate and inquire. Here’s their “Contact info and hours.”

Regarding registration and road worthiness, you can find articles on the subject at the ministry of transportation’s website in Greek; there is no English version for the relevant articles. Go to ‘Οδηγός του Πολίτη’ under ‘Το Υπουργείο.’

  kalliope wrote @ July 5th, 2010 at 19:30

We just arrived for a 2 week holiday in Greece yesterday and most of the place looks open for business. Other than Sixt rental car at the Athens International Airport. After making a reservation months ago at Sixt, we were informed by the agent at the desk that without Internationally valid licenses (we were using our American drivers licenses) she could not rent us a car. By law.

I couldn’t help thinking there wasn’t a little inequity towards a Greek-American, or an American period. Are they saying that at this time of economic challenges facing the tourist industry, Sixt will not rent cars to Americans? There aren’t many with International licenses.

Hertz treated us well, did not even ask for an international license and we were on our way in less than 10 minutes.

Kat Reply:

Welcome back! 🙂

As the American Embassy in Athens and my article say, an international driver’s permit (IDP) must accompany a valid license if a non-EU citizen intends to drive in Greece for under six months as a visitor or temporary resident. It can be secured easily for 15 dollars by mail or in person, and it’s always been a law, though you may not have noticed on past visits to Greece because enforcement was lax.

Sixt is upholding the law; Hertz is not. It has nothing to do with the economic crisis or discrimination. Therefore, you will be ticketed and fined if stopped by Greek police.

  Nikki wrote @ May 5th, 2015 at 17:12

Hi, I’m a Canadian citizen with an International Driving Permit (IDP) and my Canadian drivers license allows me to drive automobiles up to 11,000 kg. Will I be legally allowed to rent/drive a scooter in Greece?

Kat Reply:

An IDP is issued for the same class license you hold. If you’re allowed to drive cars, you can drive cars. If it’s a motorcycle license, you can operate a motorcycle. Classes aren’t transferable.

That said, implementation of every single law in Greece is lax. If the rental company holds to the law, no you will not be able to rent/drive a scooter here. If the rental company bends the rules, then yes. However, if something happens to you in the latter case, you’re on your own. Good luck.

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