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Often regarded as the birthplace of western civilisation, Athens is one of the world’s most inspiring destinations. From ancient sites like the incredible Acropolis, to modern marvels like the 2004 Olympic base, the capital of Greece is bursting with a smorgasbord of tourist treats. The historic districts that rest at the foot of the Acropolis are now pedestrianised to help preserve the significance of Athens’ ancient culture. Nevertheless, car rental in Athens is important for discovering the many historic sites around this sprawling, cosmopolitan city.
Who to Book With
When holidaying in Athens, tourists will find plenty of vehicle rental agencies. Budget and Avis are two of the largest rent-a-car firms within the city centre, but there are also offices near the ferry port. The downtown area also boasts a number of local operators, including Avanti SA and AUTORENT Athens. It is more convenient to book online prior to landing in Athens.
Best Time to Go
The in-between seasons of spring and autumn are commonly regarded as the best times to visit Athens, as the climate is perfect for sightseeing and exploring. However, if you are looking to save money, avoid the crowds, and still enjoy an ancient Athens getaway, head into the city during the winter months of December, January and February. Rentals tend to be cheaper during this period, as does hotel accommodation.
Need to Know Essentials
Athens visitors will need several important documents to rent a car:
- A driving license held for at least a year
- A passport or other form of secondary ID
- Proof of reservation
- Original credit card used for booking
Even though public transportation improvements and greater ring roads around Athens have eased the city’s traffic problems, driving in the city centre is either prohibited by law or challenging. Roads are often jammed, signs can be confusing, and parking is expensive and limited. As tourists get away from the centre of Athens, the roads, such as Attiki Odos and National Road, are better equipped for local traffic. This makes it relatively easy to get around the outer-areas of Athens by car.
Thanks to the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens experienced a major redevelopment of its public transportation system. Since 2001, Athens also implemented an integrated ticket system, which allows commuters to purchase a single, day or weekly ticket to be used on the metro, buses, trams and suburban trolleys. Despite the extensive transportation network within Athens, renting a car is still the best mode of transport for travelling to the outskirts of the Greek capital.
All public transportation requires either a valid ticket or travelcard. Integrated tickets are advised, which can be purchased from tram, train or bus station kiosks and newsstands around Athens. A single intergrated ticket allows travel on any public transport mode for 90 minutes, costing €1.40 per commuter. Be sure to validate tickets at all times, as the penalty for not doing so is 60 times the price of the ticket. Travelcards are available too, giving tourists a 24-hour, week, month, or even year-long pass.
Most of the taxis in Athens can be recognised by their bright yellow colour. They are in abundance, and even though traffic can be congested at times, they offer inexpensive services. Rates within the city are different to rates for routes outside Athens proper. Taxi fraud is not as common as it once was, but still occurs. Always ask for the metre. Spiros Taxi Service is a small but reliable taxi company in Athens.
The Athens Urban Transport Organisation operates the city’s public bus system. For €1, visitors can purchase a 90-minute integrated ticket, allowing for travel across the city with multiple trips. Tourists need to remember that waiting at the bus stop is not enough. You must wave down the bus for it to stop.
The Athens Metro is an underground train network that operates three separate routes. It is actually one of the more modern and efficient subway systems in Europe, and even boasts plenty of museum-like stations. There is also a suburban railway network inside Athens. It begins at Piraeus and passes through the main station in the city, Larissis. The suburban line is known as Proastiakos.
Trams may not be as extensive as buses and trains, but they still provide a reasonably inexpensive and valuable transport service for Athens. They run along the coastline of the city, and are operated by the same organisation that runs the train network in Athens, STASY.
Athens is certainly a destination that is jam-packed with intriguing sites and entertaining districts. However, with car rental in the Greek capital, visitors can easily explore the many fascinating landmarks located just a few hours by car. Some of these sites are among the world’s most enchanting destinations.
Olympia - A spectacular town that shouldn’t be overlooked. It is found in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, just two hours’ drive from Athens, along Highway 7. The original site of the first Olympic Games is found here, so historical buffs will be enthralled.
Delphi - Among Greece’s most visited attractions. The archaeological site was believed by Ancient Greeks to be the centre of the universe at one time, and therefore the Sanctuary of Apollo and Sanctuary of Athena boast some of the most important ancient ruins of the western world. Delphi is, understandably, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mycenae - Less than an hour’s drive from Athens, and built during the second millennia, Mycenae holds a plethora of interesting historical landmarks, including a magnificent citadel, the Tomb of Aegisthus, and an informative museum. This is certainly one of the more interesting towns within the famous Peloponnese region of Greece.