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Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Minneapolis, MN
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Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

My husband & I are traveling to Greece soon with my husband's parents. The parent's have Greek friends there that are insisting we rent a car w/ an automatic transmission since we are American. I will be doing the driving and I have driven a manual most my driving life and I love it! Even after telling the Greek friends this they still repeat the same thing, "Well, it's really best that American's rent an automatic."

So is there something I'm not aware of? We are flying into Athens airport. The Greek friends are meeting us at the airport and we are following them to Porto Rafti. Is there some crazy mountain road worse than driving the steep streets of San Francisco we'll have to drive on? I drove an automatic mini-van once on those steep streets in San Fran & I wished I had my volkswagen - I would have rolled back less! In other words I'm saying I'm good driving a standard, in case you didn't get that, but I don't want to be foolish if there is something I'm missing.

Oh, and by the way, what's the cheapest & best way to rent?

P.S. Thanks to the forum I will be getting my IDP soon!

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

There is no reason not to use a manual transmission in Greece: the car will be cheaper to rent and will use less fuel. Perhaps the Greek friends have seen what happens when someone who drives only automatics is confronted with a stick shift.

Gold Coast...
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2. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

If a manual car is what you are most comfortable driving, then that's what you should rent. I cannot think of any reason why you should need to drive an automatic vehicle.

Manual transmission is definitely the cheaper option to rent.

Beaumont, Texas USA
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3. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Your in-laws' friends are stereotyping American drivers. If you are comfortable with a manual shift, why in the world would you want to drive an automatic? Especially in Greece where having the extra control the manual tranny gives you is a distinct benefit in tight traffic and terrain often as steep as the streets of San Francisco. Also, manual transmission cars in Greece are often underpowered which is not a good thing on steep and winding roads.

I would not recommend driving in Athens -- too many cars and motorcycles, often poorly marked and narrow streets, and no parking make it a nightmare! But outside of the large cities, you should have no problems.

Do get good paper maps of the areas you'll be traveling, and make a list of any critical village, city, street and hotel names in GREEK letters to make it easier to recognize them while on the road. Almost all road signs are in both Greek and English characters, but having the names you need to watch for written out is a big help (just find them on an online map or website, and copy/paste the Greek text into a text document. You should be able to do this and maintain the Greek characters.. like this: Μουσείο Ακρόπολης (Acropolis Museum). And you'll quickly pick up the Greek alphabet just by reading the map and road signs!

Shop around for the best rental price, but be sure you choose a reputable firm, and get the price totals clearly explained. Also, as you would do renting anywhere, check the car carefully in the presence of someone from the rental company, and make certain they note any scratches/dents before you take possession of the vehicle.

We have the use of family cars when we visit Greece, so the only recommendation I can offer is that my daughter used Swift Car Rentals on her last solo trip and was pleased with price and service. Here's a link to their website:

http://www.greektravel.com/swift/

Only other thing is... be certain you and anyone else who might drive gets that IDP!

A good source for maps:

http://www.road.gr/road_en/index/default.htm

Athens, Greece
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4. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

<Your in-laws' friends are stereotyping American drivers. If you are comfortable with a manual shift, why in the world would you want to drive an automatic?>

Exactly.

And: a manual transmission car will be cheaper.

Athens, Greece
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5. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Go ahead with manual and don't worry. You will have far more car choices this way as well!

canada
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6. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Hubby drives a manual truck here in Canada and it's the same as driving manual in Greece. No difference.....so if you're good at it, you'll be fine.

I on the other hand don't drive his truck very often so although I know how to drive stick, I do alot of overthinking, pausing and sometimes stall in getting going...so I wouldn't drive a manual in Greece. Maybe I'm stereotyping, but being married to a greek canadian and knowing lots of greeks.....only when it comes to driving, patience is not a thing Greek people seem to have. I notice they have to get everywhere first and fast....(probably has to do with always being late)..hee hee

Edited: 15 August 2010, 14:26
Athens, Greece
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7. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

What alpenmicho is suggesting probably runs true of your relatives conception - meaning that driving a manual may give less concentration on other external factors, such as the manner of driving...but if you're comfortable with driving a manual, then you'll do fine here, with the small exclusion of Athens central which is more frustrating due to traffic and road limitations {one way roads, pedestrian} and lack of parking,,

the drive from the airport to Porto Rafti is short and easy,,, don't worry,

re-cost of manual vs automatic, as the others have said, definitely a manual is less costly, more fuel efficient and more options to choose from. Get a smallish car, the price of petrol is ridiculous, it will save you many of your hard earned dollars/euro..

Minneapolis, MN
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8. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Thanks everyone, and the city center of Athens will be avoided! Any good places to park the rental outside of Athens and take public transport in?

Athens, Greece
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9. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

Porto Rafti is ( roughly speaking ) airport side.

You 'll for sure not go towards the center on this airport -> Porto Rafti drive.

If you want to use the car to reach the center, then it may be a good idea to park it on some of the parking stations across the Blue metro line and then use this line to get in the center.

You can do this either on airport ( taking Blue line all the way to the center ), or some other stop. Latest stop i would try to leave the car would be in the area around Doukisis Plakentias station. That means avoiding any of the major avenues getting in the center. Just driving fro Porto Rafti to the highway, leave the car at at exit of highway and get the metro in.

aia.gr/UserFiles/Image/maps/access_parking_2… is a map showing Porto Rafti ) middle right, on the coast ), also airport and metro included.

aia.gr/UserFiles/Image/maps/access_parking_2… is the road access / meaning to park the car at exit #13.

If you use the car to go to Delphi or any of the mainland to the North , you don't have to mix anyway at the center. It's again drive till the highway, take the highway and connect to the National Highway at intersection #8.

In all above, i assume you 'll have Porto Rafti as a base ( which can also get you to Sounion and Northern part of the peninsula anyway ).

Athens, Greece
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10. Re: Some Americans can drive a stick. But should they in Greece?

You can also take the local bus into Athens central from Porto Rafti, from here you can locate the schedules,

{Πορτο Ραφτη -- Αθηνα } Porto Rafti-Athens as no English menu

Edited: 15 August 2010, 16:53