The Athens Ring or Δακτύλιος Αθηνών (Daktylios Athinon) is an area of central Athens controlled by an odd/even system, originally designed and intermittently implemented from July 1979 to save fuel during the oil crisis. It was later imposed as a permanent solution to control traffic congestion and pollution in 1982.
Unfortunately, the number of cars in modern-day Athens has more than quadrupled since 1982 and legislation has not been revised to reflect this, though there has been discussion of charging drivers a fee to enter the center (κέντρο/kentro).
Downtown Thessaloniki may also be subject to ring restrictions if traffic worsens, according to the Kathimerini. But for the moment, austerity and the rising cost of fuel have forced many drivers to resort to public transport.
*Article last updated September 11, 2014
Green ring — Green cars
The Athens Ring welcomes environmentally friendly cars to circulate freely without restriction on any day at any hour as of September 3, 2012.*
This includes electric cars and vehicles categorized as Euro 5 or Euro 6 with carbon emissions less than 140 grams/kilometer, regardless of type of fuel used. Plus hybrid vehicles in category Euro 4, with carbon emissions less than 140 grams/kilometer, using LPG and natural gas. Click “Chart” to view a list of vehicles by make/model that qualify.
A green sticker issued electronically and sent free of charge had been discussed, but the Ministry of Transport announced no further details.
*Originally scheduled to take effect May 1, 2012 but delayed due to change of government and several amendments.
How does it work?
The odd/even restrictions correspond the last number of a vehicle’s license plate number to the calendar date.
- All vehicles with license plate numbers ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 can legally be in the Athens Ring on all odd dates, i.e., September 19, October 27.
- All vehicles with license plate numbers ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 can legally be in the Athens Ring on all even dates, i.e., June 10, February 28.
Households with two or more cars should have been asked to designate one car and not be using multiple cars to drive in the center every day.
When does it apply?
Athens Ring restrictions apply from early September to mid-July. For the 2014-2015 period, the ministry has announced these dates as September 15, 2014 to July 10, 2015.
It is in effect:
- Monday to Thursday: 7:00 to 20:00
- Friday: 7:00 to 15:00
It does not apply on:
- Saturdays, Sundays
- Official holidays
- Days on which Athens public transport has called a 24-hour strike (also known as hell)
- Summer, between mid-July and early September.
Restrictions may also be lifted during Holy Week and Christmas to accommodate shoppers and families, as announced by the ministry via Greek media.
*Note that the area around Syntagma Square is closed every Sunday from 10:45 to 11:05, when evzones (Presidential guards) in traditional dress parade down Vas. Sofias for the official changing. A must-see.
Big Ring, Small Ring
There are two rings in Athens, not to be confused with highway Attiki Odo (Attica Road/Highway) that many English speakers have dubbed the Athens ring road.
Big Ring or Μεγάλο Δακτύλιο (Megalo Daktylio): The Big Ring encompasses the majority of greater Athens and is only (and rarely) used on high-pollution days at the discretion of the ministry.
It comprises: Ag. Anargyroi, Ag. Paraskevi, Aigaleo, Alimos, Drapetsona, Filothei, Halandri, Ilioupoli, Kaisariani, Kallithea, Keratsini, Moschato, Nea Filadelfeia, Nea Ionia, Neo Psychiko, Nikaia, Paleo Faliro, Peristeri, Piraeus, Rentis, Vyrona, Ymittos, Zografou
Small Ring or Μικρό Δακτύλιο (Mikro Daktylio): The Small Ring is what most people know as the Athens Ring or “The Ring.”
Where is it?
An excellent map of the Athens Ring via ΕΜΒΕΛΕΙΑ. Click to enlarge:
The streets outlining the ring are (from top, clockwise):
Leof. Alexandras, Leof. Vas. Sofias, Messogeion, Michalakopoulou, Merkouri Spyrou, Vryaxidos, Ymittou, Ilia Iliou, Frantzi Am., Kallirrois, Tsaldari Pan., Hamosternas, Tsaldari Pan., Peiraios, Iera Odos, Leof. Konstantinoupoleos, Achilleos, Karolou, Marni.
A map may also be found inside the Attica map book, available for sale at any kiosk (periptero).
Drivers can identify when they’re in, near or about to enter the ring by looking at these signs posted around Athens with a capital Delta or ‘Δ,‘ which of course stands for Δακτύλιο or ring.
Vehicles in violation of the odd/even rules can be stopped by police and fined 200 euros, according to Article 52, paragraph 6. See “Tickets and fines in Greece” for more information.
Odd/even restrictions in the center of Athens do not apply to the following:
— Rental cars for the first 40 days
— Hybrid vehicles (added 2003)
— Cars with foreign plates owned by newly arrived Greek/EU/non-EU residents in Greece for the first 40 days
— Vehicles belonging to residents within the ring who hold a special card from the City of Athens can be in the ring one hour before the start of work and return within two hours after ending work (if you live in the ring and need a card, see below, “Where Athens Ring residents can get a card”).
— Cars with a disabled person as the driver or passenger, designated by the appropriate license plate or certificate
— Public buses and school buses
— Cars belonging to Parliament, and state, municipal and public utility employees with the appropriate license plate
— Vehicles belonging to the foreign consulates and embassies
— Ambulances, plus vehicles transporting patients requiring frequent medical treatment, with the appropriate certificate
— Vehicles transporting medical supplies and organs
— Drivers education cars belonging to businesses within the ring
— Limited number of cars belonging to employees of daily and weekly newspapers and magazines, foreign correspondents, photojournalists, NET, ET1, radio station, TV channel workers, POESY and ESIEA, National Bank of Greece, active judges, airlines registered with the CAA, members of the Olympic Committee, doctors rushing to an emergency, certain IKA and Athens metro employees.
The ban on diesel vehicles was lifted November 29, 2011. Greece was the only country in the EU to prohibit the use diesel vehicles in major cities.
Where “Athens Ring” residents can get a card
Those who reside within the Athens Ring needed to apply between August 26 and October 31, 2013 for a special card granting them access without penalty at:
Traffic Division of Athens
or Διεύθυνση Τροχαίας Αττικής (Dievthysi Trochaias Attikis)
Th. Diliyianni 24-26, 4th Floor / Θ.Δηλιγιάννη 24-26, 4ος όροφος
Fax: (210) 528-4030
Hours: Monday to Friday 8:00 to 14:00; Saturday 8:00 to 12:00
— Greek ID, national ID card from an EU country, passport from any country
— Proof of residence: Usually a utility (OTE, DEH, EYDAP) bill in your name, lease/rental contract or last tax statement
— Car registration
The card/permit is valid for two (2) years, unless a notice has been sent to revoke it sooner.
“Eπιστρέφει από 9 Σεπτεμβρίου ο δακτύλιος” — Naftemporiki
*Supermarket and retail trucks weighing over 1.5 tons must stay out of the small ring between 7:00-10:30 from June 19 to December 31, 2013. Varvakeio excluded. — To Vima
“Αιτήσεις για άδειες εισόδου στον Δακτύλιο” — To Vima
“Ο δακτύλιος επιστρέφει τη Δευτέρα” — Ta Nea
“Επανέρχεται ο «δακτύλιος» στις 6 Σεπτεμβρίου” — Eleftherotypia
“Τη Δευτέρα επιστρέφει ο δακτύλιος” — Ta Nea
“Ερχεται Δακτύλιος για τα Ι.Χ. στο κέντρο της Θεσσαλονίκης” — Kathimerini
“Όρια Μεγάλου Δακτυλίου” and “Εξαιρέσεις του Δακτυλίου Αθηνών” — livebetter.gr (Website removed)
“ΥΠΕΚΑ: Νέο «πράσινο» δακτύλιο θα φέρει η πετρελαιοκίνηση” — To Vima
“Έναρξη του μέτρου του δακτυλίου στο κέντρο της Αθήνας από 03-09-2012” — Astynomia/YPEKA
“Τι προβλέπει ο «πράσινος Δακτύλιος» που θα ισχύσει από τις 3 Σεπτεμβρίου” — To Vima
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