A senior self-drive in Greece

By Betty Fashingbauer
This item appears on page 16 of the March 2019 issue.

I have been reading ITN for many years, learning many things, and felt that I should finally contribute.

On Nov. 1, 2018, I returned from an 8-week stay in Greece, where, as a 77-year-old woman traveling alone, I traveled mostly by rental car without a problem.

My first car rental was in Crete for a week. It was a small, automatic Peugeot — a luxury I felt I deserved. (I usually rent cars with manual transmissions.) When that went well, I rented another one in late October, driving from Piraeus to Nafplio, stopping at the Corinth Canal and the Great Theatre of Epidaurus and continuing to Olympia, Delphi, Meteora and Thessaloniki.

The only reason I didn't drive back to Athens was I had a nonrefundable plane ticket from Thessaloniki to Athens.

The cars were from Kosmos Rent a Car (5 Syngrou Ave., 11743 Athens, Greece; phone +30 210 923, www.kosmos-carrental.com), and each rental was arranged through Fantasy Travel (19 Filellinon St., 105 57 Athens, Greece; phone +30 210 331 0530, www.fantasytravelofgreece.com).

Yana Kralis at Fantasy Travel was a breeze to work with. Back in August 2018 I had been up front with her about my age. She said that if I had my regular driver's license plus an International Driver's Permit, easily obtainable from the American Automobile Association (AAA), I could rent a car in Greece with a credit card no matter what my age.

Each of the two men who dropped off the cars went over them with me in detail, as I asked a lot of questions. Each time, before the man left, I took 20 close-up photos of the car. I took another 20 photos of each car when I finally dropped it off at the hotel, just for proof they were still in good shape. Each photo was date-stamped.

It was a perfect trip.

I do not speak, read or write Greek, so I was concerned that I'd have trouble with the street signs. The wording on each sign was given first in Greek, then, on a different sign underneath or following, the name of the place was shown in an alphabet I could read, corresponding to my map.

I included GPS with my rental reservation, which was invaluable. It told me where the speed cameras were. (The speed limit went as high as 120 to 130 kilometers per hour [75-80 mph] on good roads.)

I also used the Rome2rio app (www.rome2rio.com) on my phone to plot out my original routes by public transportation and then later with driving.

When I did not have a car, public transportation worked well. I used it on Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes. Everyone walked on Delos and Hydra, since those islands are "auto-free." The public buses were sometimes crowded. Also the connections could be complicated, but everyone was very helpful in telling me which buses to use.

After my visit to Hydra, I took the ferry to Piraeus, from which I continued by car to Thessaloniki. Few cars passed me, and I passed few cars. The only other place I'd driven with so little traffic is New Zealand, where I shared the road with some sheep.

One advantage of having your own car is you can get closer to sites than a big tour bus can, avoiding lots of steps. Upon the advice of a friend, I also took along a pair of trekking poles. They were invaluable!

I have had a lot of experience driving in Europe and North America. Still, driving in Greece was a piece of cake. If I was able to do this, trust me, anyone can!

Chicago, IL