posted by in Greece forum
This article appeared in the Athens News this week ( www.athensnews.gr )
BEFORE getting behind the wheel, first-time drivers must sign up for the country’s mandatory lessons. By law, they’re required to take at least 21 hours of theory and another 20 hours of practical driving lessons.
Driving schools charge between 750 and 1,000 euros for the lessons and the test fees.
The only way you can bypass the driving test is if you already hold a valid driving licence from another EU member state or Canada, Australia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea or the United States. If this is the case, you can convert the foreign permit into a Greek one.
Once you have completed the required lessons, you need to go to your nearest local transport ministry office to submit a driving test application. This is something your driving instructor may do for you.
A statutory declaration stating your name and address must also be submitted. Greek citizens must present their ID card. Foreigners must show their residence permit or certificate. The permits must have been issued at least 185 days before the driving test applications are submitted by a non-EU national and 95 days if the holder is an EU citizen.
Applicants also need to pay two fees, totalling 90 euros, at the National Bank of Greece, and produce those receipts. You also need two receipts issued by the tax office - one for 6 euros and the other for 18 euros.
All applications must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by a doctor and a certificate that an optometrist has tested your eyesight. Both examinations are straightforward. Most doctors simply ask applicants if they have any serious illness.
The applicant also needs two passport-size photographs.
The theory test
Once you’ve submitted your application, you have to sign up for the computerised theory test. The test can be taken in Greek, English, Russian or Albanian. Candidates are required to answer 30 questions, making no more than one mistake.
If you fail the written test you will have to take six more theory lessons. If you fail a second time, you are required to take another three lessons.
The driving test
There are usually two examiners. The driving instructor’s vehicle is used for the test. The instructor sits in the passenger seat and the two instructors in the back. They evaluate the candidate’s knowledge about what is under the vehicle’s bonnet (engine etc, as well as how well they parallel-park, reverse on a turn, brake suddenly, change gears at the top of a hill and make a three-point turn).
The test usually lasts about 10 minutes.
Those who pass the test will be issued a licence that expires on their 65th birthday. The licence can be renewed almost automatically. The holder simply has to pass a health examination and an eye test.
Should you fail the driving test, you will have to take 10 more practical lessons before retaking the test.
The new permit
A single, credit card-sized EU-wide driving licence replaced the old pink paper booklet permits in 2009.
Those who pass the test must display a visible red ‘N’ sign in the back window of their car. This is to notify other drivers and the police that they are a new driver. This applies for the first six months after the completion of the test.
Though very few driving examiners in Greece have been indicted on bribery charges, the system is one of the country’s most corrupt.
The Athens News has spoken to dozens of driving test candidates about the matter. The story is always the same, whether you are in Athens or on an island.
You sign up for lessons and just before the driving exam, your instructor advises you to pay an extra 50 to 150 euros in a bribe for the examiner. If you don’t, the examiner will fail you.
As no money physically changes hands - it’s simply placed in the vehicle’s glove compartment - it is difficult to prosecute.
Surviving Greek driving
BUMPER-TO-BUMPER traffic jams, illegal U-turns and double parking are the main features of driving in Greece. Mad speeds are another. Athens is also the home of slalom driving thanks to the “strategically-placed” potholes.
Here are some (humorous) tips
* Never take a green light for granted. Always look left and right before proceeding (red lights get run frequently)
* Remember, most Greeks see the yellow traffic light not as a signal to slow down, but as a warning to put the pedal to the metal and fly through the intersection before the light turns red
* When in a one-way street, keep to the right to allow for cars and motorbikes coming from the opposite direction
* Never stop for a pedestrian because you could cause a multi-car pileup
* Try not to use directional signals because Greek drivers are not used to them and it may cause confusion
* Speed limits are arbitrary
* Use your hazard lights to signal your intention to park