I had a most UNFORTUNATE EXPERIENCE with my car during our 2018 family summer holidays.
Our first destination was a small village in Achaia, near the famous Kalogria beach. A few days later, the car (which had just undergone a major service) developed a problem with leaking coolant. Following locals’ advice, I took it to a local repair garage, and just when I was right outside the garage gate the crankshaft belt went off! Good grace… I was fortunate enough to escape an entire engine overhaul. The mechanic had it fixed within two days (as he had promised, which was nice of him), during which time we employed the local bus service to and from the beach (the service was punctual and the buses were ultra modern: thumbs-up Achaia KTEL !)
After collecting my repaired car I immediately noticed a severe stalling effect which was occurring randomly. My air-conditioning was also inoperative. I took the car back to the mechanic who saw no fault with the car whatsoever, and attributed the stalling problem to “bad quality local petrol”, while the air-con problem had to be checked by an electrician. Nevertheless, I didn’t have time for more repairs, since we had to move to our next destination in Kavos, south Corfu.
Throughout most of the 300 km trip, the car was doing OK, but the last 50 km stretch was a nightmare, since the stalling effect was back in full swing: it was like being hit from behind by a lorry. We barely managed to drive the car up to the Igoumenitsa-Lefkimmi ferry port, and then to Kavos.
From that moment onwards, I knew I had to fix the damage. Following the locals’ advice once more, I took it to a local repair garage. They tried their best but DID NOT solve the stalling problem. The car was able to cover short distances, but once it reached normal operating temperature the engine would start stalling, and driving would become next to impossible. So we had to use local bus and supermarket facilities only, and forget about visiting far away beaches (apart from one day, when we rented a car to visit beautiful Corfu city downtown).
The journey back to Athens for my family and I was made by intercity bus service (KTEL), which was excellent, smooth and punctual with modern coaches. The car had to be repatriated by Road Assistance, and those guys were also extremely professional. They even told me what the possible damage may have been: a problem with the car’s electrics. My trusted car mechanic back home, eventually fixed it!
The bottom line, if your car breaks down during your holidays, is:
ask the locals for any information that you may require, or for emergency assistance: they will be more than happy to assist you
find a good garage (stay away from off-the-beaten-track cowboys), but since local mechanics may lack specialized expertise with your car, there is no guarantee that either the problem will be fixed or that new problems will not arise
insist that they take good care of the car and that they try their best to fix the problem
ask them specific questions about the nature of the damage and the type of spare parts required, as well as a breakdown of the costs involved (spare parts, man-hours etc)
you need to have a plan B regarding transportation: check out local bus service timetables to and from your desired destinations, as well as car or bike rental facilities
be flexible and make alternative plans regarding sightseeing and visits to local landmarks or hotspots
have some spare cash handy, in case you need to grab a taxi or book a local hotel in an unknown place
have a reputable road assistance service, which will come hand if you find yourself being stranded in the middle of nowhere or you need to repatriate your car and your family
throughout the whole ordeal, don’t lose your positive attitude: a car breakdown need not ruin your holidays too