Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Greece.
Greece’s official national language is Greek.
Greece’s official currency is the Euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted.
Most supermarkets are open from 8am - 9pm daily, and all supermarkets are closed on Sundays. There is a 24% tax on most food, clothes and fuel due to the recession.
Drinking water is easy to find on main roads and in towns in the form of taps or fonts, sometimes near shrines or monuments or outside of restaurants. The water will not usually be marked, but usually is safe for drinking. If you’re not sure ask a local, or stick to bottled water.
“πόσιμο νερό” or “pósimo neró” means drinking water. Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to ΕΛΤΑ (Hellenic Post) post offices in Greece by addressing it as Poste Restante. These post offices may be written as Ελληνικά Ταχυδρομεία, ΕΛΤΑ for short, or Hellenic Post, but they are all the same company. Your post will be held until collection and ID is required. The address format is as follows:
Post Office name, street name and number
ZIP code, TOWN
Addresses for all Hellenic Post post offices can be found on the Elta.gr website (available in English).
Petrol: Βενζίνη Αµόλυβδη (Bentsini Amolibdi) 95 / 98 / 100
LPG: LPG / υγραέριο
There are no supermarket fuel stations in Greece as there are hardly any supermarkets; the majority are companies like EKO, BP and Shell. These are also among the most expensive. We found Aegan (the toll road company), Eteka, Revoil and sometimes Cyclon to be among the cheapest as well as independent stations. The prices are very inconsistent and often expensive due to the 24% tax on fuel, although we found fuel to be cheaper in the North around Thessaloniki.
There is no decent fuel price checker available in Greece. If you have a lot of time and patience, and know which Prefecture, Municipality and Town that you are in then fuelprices.gr can be used, although their prices are not always up to date.
Usually an attendant will come and serve your fuel for you, you just tell them how much you want.
Bottled gas can be found at all petrol stations, but these will have Greek fittings on them. Although is it technically prohibited (and slightly dangerous in case of overfilling), some LPG stations may refill your gas bottles for you if they have the correct adapter. There is also a motorhome service station near Thessaloniki called Zampetas which is recommended highly by travellers who are happy to refill your gas bottles for you, as well as providing free water, free overnight parking and toilet and laundry services. The guys who run it are really friendly and helpful and willing to help you with anything you may need, and performing motorhome repairs.
It is important to calculate how much LPG you will need for your gas bottle before filling up, to let the attendant know the correct amount. Gas bottles must only be filled to 80% capacity, any more than this and you can risk explosion due to gas expansion in cases of high heat or vigorous movement. To figure this out, look at your bottle’s capacity- e.g. 4.5kg. 1kg of gas = 1.96 litres. So 4.5kg of gas = 8.82 litres. Take 20% off this amount and you will get 7.06 litres. This is the amount you should tell the attendant to fill your bottle up by.
It has also been said that the bottle’s capacity already includes this 20% buffer, but as refilling gas bottles with LPG is not common practice it is better to be on the safe side.
Butane and Propane are both classified as LPG; while these are sold separately in the UK, in other parts of the world they are sold as the same thing. There is little difference between the two types of gas apart from Propane burns hotter than Butane, and works better in cold weather.
It is also advisable if you plan to get your gas bottles refilled while abroad that you purchase your own adapter for your type of gas bottle. These can be found on eBay here.
Rubbish bins and recycling facilities are typically easy to find in towns and villages.
Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) or 68mph (110km/h)
Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h)
While it is a legal requirement for motorcycle riders to wear a helmet many choose not to do so.
The general condition of the roads in Greece is consistent with the rest of the Balkans. They are in the process of building many smoother new main roads, but you will often find the smaller mountain roads in poor condition.
In Greece there is a distinct lack of road signs and road markings, such as Stop signs, Give Way signs, Merge Lanes, white lines and Stop lines. This can be confusing and takes some getting used to, but generally the Priority to the Right rule applies.
Road signs directing you to places will often have two or even three different spellings, even when the road signs are virtually next to each other (e.g. Thermopile can be spelt as Thermopylae or Thermopilon, and Larissa can be spelt with one S or two). This can also be confusing when trying to navigate to towns on a Satnav as the spellings vary so much.
Traffic lights often have a double amber light around 100m before them to prewarn you of a red light ahead.
Speed cameras are always marked but not with the speed limit, and come in the form of a light grey box on a stick.
Beware of Greek bridges, as 9 times out of 10 they will be extremely bumpy and uneven to cross.
There is a refreshing lack of police presence on the roads in Greece compared to neighbouring Balkan countries.
Speeding is considered normal, as is using your phone while driving, despite it being illegal.
Navigating the toll roads in Greece can be a tricky business. Generally any road marked as an A road is a toll road, with the exception of the E65. As many of these roads are newly built and privately owned they are not always recognised as toll roads on SatNavs that are not up to date.
If you wish to avoid the often costly toll roads then we recommend using a combination of a Satnav, Google Maps and the Via Michelin Route Planner app to plan your route ahead. It is by no means impossible to avoid the toll roads, but you may still get caught out now again, even with careful planning. That said, when entering Greece from Bulgaria there is a mandatory toll booth which costs €2.40 a few km after entering the country, and there are no alternate routes to avoid this.
To avoid the toll routes you should set up your Satnav to Avoid Motorways as well as Tolls, use the Via Michelin app to plan your route and the expected toll costs, and use Google Maps to search for “Toll booth” in your area as this appears to be the most up to date information, and will allow you to anticipate the motorway exits with toll booths.
It is worth noting that a van will not fall into the same price category as a car; they are charged the same as trucks in the category of vehicles over 2.2m, so you can expect to pay 3-5x more than a car.
It is also important if you plan to use (or get caught out by) the toll roads that you need to carry cash with you as they do not accept cards. If you do not have any cash then you will be issued with a Non Payment and Recognition of Debt form using the details from your passport and your logbook. You will then be required to make the payment in cash the next time you are at that specific company’s toll booth (clever, right?). Alternatively you can contact them via email and arrange to make a deposit to them at the bank, which can be time-consuming.
While the toll system in Greece can seem expensive, confusing and unavoidable, with a bit of careful route planning it is easy enough to navigate.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
First aid kit
Red warning triangle
Wild camping in Greece is officially illegal, but virtually unenforced. The whole time we were in Greece we saw just one area where there was a “No camping” sign. However you will find wild camping a lot easier out of peak season and outside of built up coastal areas as these can be particularly busy in the summer. There are many wild, remote beaches in Greece and plenty of mountains so it it easy enough to park out of the way where you’re not likely to be bothered by police.
As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
Greece has a huge 13,676km coastline to explore and a mild, Mediterranean climate for most of the year. It’s almost entirely mountainous, and although it is a popular tourist destination and a little pricey owing to it recent issues with the EU, it’s not hard to find yourself a remote beach to park up on for days on end.
Hiking up Mount Olympus is an unforgettable experience with incredible views, as is bathing in the thermal waters of Thermopile. It’s possible to drive to and camp on the Greek islands of Lefkada and Euboea (although wild camping is technically prohibited), but Greece’s irregular shape and lack of free motorways can make navigating the country lengthy and costly, as there is no direct route to anywhere. Greece is generally considered a warm, mild country, but be aware that the mountainous areas in the North and as far South as Lefkada can be hit by heavy snow making driving conditions dangerous. The lack of supermarkets can also be annoying, sometimes requiring a 40km drive to the nearest town with a shop, but you won’t find any shortage of fuel.
Our main gripe with Greece was the fact that we were travelling on a tight budget, which limited the things we could do and see. By the time we’d made it down to Athens we’d spent most of our fuel budget already and so we couldn’t continue down to the Peloponnese, plus the price of admission to attractions such as Delphi Stadium is enough to make a tight-arsed traveller’s eyes water, and the cost of food in supermarkets is some of the highest in Southern Europe. But there are still plenty of free things to do, especially if you enjoy wild beaches and rugged mountains. There’s too many to name- you’ll have to just discover them for yourself.
Make sure you take the chance to try Greek baklava, which is absolutely delicious, and wash it down with some Greek coffee for breakfast, which can also be consumed in the form of a frappe, the traditional Greek start to the day. You won’t see a bank, shop or post office where there isn’t an empty frappe cup on each desk. Some other delicious Greek foods to try are tatziki, cucumber slices in Greek yoghurt, and tahini, ground sesame seeds sometimes mixed with honey or chocolate, There’s really too many delicious Greek dishes to try!