Driving to Greece from the UK

If you haven’t made the journey to Greece on four wheels, then you absolutely should! Travelling by car from the UK couldn’t be easier or more exciting.  Luke and I drove for the first time from our little country village of Rougham, 2 years ago and we haven’t flown since! Apart from the odd occasion when we have to make a mad dash back for a wedding or two! 

How to Get there

There are regular ferries sailing from Dover to Calais or Dunkirk at around £50 for two people and a car.  From there you can travel down through France, pay an extortionate amount in tolls and be in Italy around tea time, ready to catch the ferry the following next day.  Ferries run daily from Venice and Ancona to Igoumenitsa and both are less than a five-hour drive from the city of Turin in the north west of Italy.  It will cost you somewhere in the realms of £170 from Venice and take approximately 25hours.  So, if you fancy spending the time exploring a little more of Italy, and why wouldn’t you?  Drive east via Bologna to the city of Rimini.  From here you can cruise down the coast stopping off whenever the mood takes you before choosing to travel from either Bari or Brindisi over to Greece.  The sail from Brindisi takes seven and a half hours and departs at 13.00.  We just booked our crossing at a cost of £112, not too bad really.  You’ll find out why we have decided to travel via Italy this time a little later… 

If the ferry’s not for you why not go via Belgium and Germany, stopping off in Salzburg Austria and enjoy a night of Lederhosen fun!  We spent a night at the Goldenes Theatre Hotel and were glad that we did!  It was late when we arrived and as we walked to the hotel, we past a beautiful old building set just down below the pavement, with steamed up windows and warm glowing lights shining through the net curtains, it looked so cosy and inviting.  Naturally after we had dumped our over-night bags in the hotel, we decided to pay the pub a visit.  The place was packed with locals, which I always take as a good sign.  We squeezed ourselves through the mass of people and nabbed the last remaining table.  And it was brilliant! The food was amazing, they brewed their own beer which they served in big frothing jugs, the staff wore traditional clothing and greeted us with a cheery Mein Freund!  We couldn’t have been happier after our 10hour drive.

Take the Coast Road

From Austria you can travel south through Slovenia and into Croatia and either take the fantastic motor ways straight through to Montenegro or and I can’t urge you enough to do so, take the coast road.  If you haven’t visited Croatia, then you haven’t witnessed the shear beauty of its coast line.  Its stunning cliffs and its turquoise waters are breath-taking.  Along the way you must visit its ancient towns, most famous of all of course, Dubrovnik.  The first time we made this journey to Greece we decided not to stop in Dubrovnik, it was raining pretty hard and that is a city to be seen on foot.  Instead we carried on to the city of Budva in Montenegro.  This is the beauty of travelling by car.  We would never have thought of this city for a weekend away or summer destination, but it is now one of our favourite places we visited.   Make sure to stay in the old fortress town that juts out into the sea.  With its cobbled streets and untouched buildings.  Go searching for hidden bars and restaurants.  There are many fabulous ones to be found. 

We did eventually visit Dubrovnik on our return journey in 2018.  We found a great little place to stay, set just above the old town, with parking right outside, a quaint apartment set in its own walled garden, it was perfect for a flying visit of this awe-inspiring city.  After leaving Croatia and suffering the beauty of The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro you come to the reason, we are taking the ferry this year.

Fun in Albania

When travelling to Greece on four wheels there are of course a few different routes that can be taken depending on how much time you have for instance or which countries you wish to see or avoid entirely. 

For example, our two most recent road trip adventures have seen us travel via Albania.  Now, before I get started, I must explain, our first foray into this country resulted in a few choice words being spoken between myself and Luke whilst trying to navigate through the city of Vlorë, where they have decided to rip up the entire road system without a single alternative route being provided.  I must also explain, that sat-navs do not work in this mad land of pot holes and unchartered roads.  So, if you’re thinking it’s a good idea to listen to yours instead of throwing it out the window, then you may very well end up on the same death road as we did. 

You see during the few choice words that were being spoken we found ourselves driving on what can only be described as a rubble track, with no markings or apparent sense of direction.  We persevered, passing roadworkers and diggers, we couldn’t not believe the rubble track would end and we would be blessed with tarmac once again, oh! how we now missed those pot holes!  And of course, it had been my husband’s decision to take this short cut during the choice spoken words that had resulted in us driving down this potato-rumbler of a road.  So, being the supportive wife that I am, I pointed this out at every given opportunity.

After an hour or so the rubble did indeed take on a different form, only this time it was thick mud and we were now 2000feet above sea level on the side of a mountain.  The wrong side of the mountain I must add.  Because just over the crest of our soon to be resting place was the glorious coastal road that we should have been cruising along, with the windows down, the music playing, with smiles on our faces, winding its way perfectly parallel to our goat track.  We did in fact encounter a few herds along the way, who’s confused faces watched as we bounced and skidded past disappearing around the hairpin bends. 

Towards the end of our time on the mountain we met a very helpful Albanian family who had clearly been visiting relatives in one of the mountain villages and were now heading back down to safety and civilisation when we came across them.  Each time we would discover a baulder blocking our way they would stop, and their two young daughters would hop from the car, run ahead and clear the path of any hazards.  Brilliant!  We waved our farewells to our travelling companions once we finally emerged into the valley below, a nerve shattering three hours later.  There were times when we thought our little Ford Focus that had only cost us £600 wouldn’t make it, there were times when I feared more for my life then I did when we were hit by a cellular storm off the coast of Sicily.  But we had made it.  We had survived Albania! 

We decided to swap over the driving, Luke having driven for the past few hours.  Once we had pulled our shaking legs and bruised behinds from the car, we were able to see the state that the death road had left our poor Focus in.  After surveying the wreckage and checking that there was no serious damage done, we climbed back in ready for the last leg of our journey.  Then came the sharp tap-tap on the window.  Looking up, I came face to face with the steely eyes of a very fierce looking policeman.  I wound down the window and gave him my cheeriest of smiles.

“Passports!” He barked

We handed them over and hoped we weren’t about to be arrested and appear on the series Banged Up Abroad.

“Get out.  Open back of car”. He ordered.  We obliged, joining him at the rear and lifting the boot.

His face went from an angry scowl, to a deep frown and then to a very disconcerting smile. 

“Thank you”. He said handing back our passports and strolling back to his beat-up Peugeot 106.

We exhaled the lungful of breath we’d been holding since he tapped on the window and closed the boot.  To this day we’re still not sure what he thought he might find in the boot of our little Focus.  He probably wasn’t expecting a ladder, two tool boxes, a multitude of power tools and a cuddly toy.  But to be honest if I had been sitting there on my tea break minding my own business when a silver hatchback that looked like it had been driven through a war zone appeared from the mountains with two very British and dishevelled looking 20 somethings behind the wheel, I would have checked out our boot too!

Please don’t get me wrong, Albania has some of the most breath-taking scenery I have ever seen.  Our drive took us through the stunning National Park, across vast open valleys and over roaring rivers.  It’s an amazing country to experience, trapped somewhere between the modern world and the past and I urge you not to be afraid, to step out of the box and to take the road less travelled.

So, you see we have rather differing opinions on just how terrible driving through Albania really is.  Luke would much prefer to avoid it at all costs where as I think, well, we didn’t die did we?  But you can be sure, I will never listen to one of my husband’s short cuts again.

Here’s some handy links to help plan your road trip adventure to Greece!

Direct Ferries

Goldenes Theater Hotel Salzberg

Driving in France & French roads – Essential information for driving in France

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