101 things to know

It is difficult for a first-time tourist in Greece to understand or accommodate some Greek practices, habits, and traditions. That is why we have created an extended list for you with things that you should know or things to have in mind before you travel to Greece and the Greek islands. To make it even easier for you, we have divided this info into various categories. This is a very useful page to organize your vacations better, avoid any unpleasant surprises and familiarize with the Greek reality!

An extended list of things that you should know

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General Info | Packing | Communication | Money | Safety | Shopping | Food and Drink | Driving | Public Transportation | Health and Emergencies

General Info
001

Do not forget your passport

Do not forget your passport and other needed travel documents. Get the phone number of your embassy in Greece, just in case.

002

Do not try to see too many islands/locations.

Enjoy every region and relax, after all that is the meaning of vacations. Do not organize trips every other day to see as many Greek islands / locations as possible. Give every island the time it takes to love it.

003

Make your bookings early

The earlier you book your hotels or air tickets, the cheapest prices you will get. Concerning ferry tickets, it is better to book the Greek ferries early if you plan to travel between mid-July to the end of August. In all cases, book early if you need a cabin or if you are traveling in a car.

004

Hotels ratings

As a hotel rating in Greece may be a bit different than the international hotel rating, make sure the accommodation you book has all the facilities you need. Also note that hotels are rated with stars whiles other accommodations (apartments, rooms, studios, etc) are rated with keys.

005

Persons with special needs

Greece is not organized very well for a disabled person. If you are a person with special needs, book early your special cabin for disabled in the Greek ferries. Unfortunately, ferries in Greece have only a few such cabins. Also, make sure that the ferry and your hotel is easily accessible for you. Moreover, some Greek islands, like the Cyclades, are much troublesome for disabled people. Prefer more "flat" islands.
Read our blog article: Disabled travel in Greece

006

Have cash with you

Make sure you have enough money or you have ways to get some, for example through an ATM. Always have a credit card with you. You will find ATMs but many restaurants do not accept credit cards.

007

Also, visit some mainland areas

Apart from visiting the famous popular islands, it would also be a good idea to visit some mainland, too. This is the best chance to get to know some traditional Greece but also to discover some of the most important ancient sites of Greece.

008

Smoking country

Smoking is a very bad habit of the Greeks and it results very annoying for tourists. Till recently, smoking was allowed almost everywhere but closed public rooms should have special areas for smokers and non-smokers. A law published in July 2009 prohibited smoking in all indoor places and demanded special distinctions be put in restaurants and clubs to separate smoking and non-smoking areas. Note that almost 50% of the Greek population smokes, so it will be impossible to avoid it.

009

Stray Animals

Another problem in Greece is the stray animals. You will see many dogs and cats on the streets of every single city or island. Some sensitive locals may give them food, but the problem remains unsolved and it grows with so many locals abandoning new-born animals.

010

Churches and monasteries

You will find churches and monasteries everywhere in Greece, As the Greeks are much bonded with religion, there are plenty of chapels in all towns and islands. In fact, there is a particular dress code to enter a church or a monastery. Visitors should be properly dressed, that means no swimming tanks, long trousers for men and long skirts for women.

011

Greek toilette system

Have in mind that the toilette system in Greece is not much advanced as in other European countries. Almost everywhere, they ask that you do not throw the paper in the toilet, but instead, there are small bins next to the toilette to put the paper. These bins are emptied by the cleaning staff.

012

Internet connections

Internet connection is pretty easy in Greece. If you have a laptop, you can connect in the several free WiFi spots in many squares or malls in Greece. Moreover, you can buy a prepaid internet card from the kiosk, which also includes an available phone line you can use for the dial-up connection. Have in mind that many hotels also offer internet connection and, of course, you can go to the many internet cafes you will find all over the country and in all large islands.

013

Museums

Get informed on the opening hours of each museum in Greece or archaeological site. Every museum has different working days and hours. The usual practice is that they are open from early in the morning till midday, closed on Sundays and Mondays. Famous archaeological sites are open till sunset, but still, there may be differences between one site and the other.

Packing Back to top
014

Do not forget

There are a few things you shouldn't forget when you travel in Greece: your camera, your sunglasses, bathing suit, and sun cream. Do not worry if you forget anything as you can easily find it in Greece.

015

Pack lightly

Do not take much luggage with you because the trip might be long. Getting on and off planes or ferries will be very tiring if you have to drag your over-packed suitcase. Moreover, the paths in the islands are paved and it will difficult to carry many things. After all, you will not need but a couple of swimming suits, some light summer clothes and a couple of flat shoes or comfortable sneakers for walking. Also, have a light sweater for some chilly evenings because the wind blows often in the islands. Take something even warmer if you going to rent a scooter.

016

Spring and Autumn weather

If you are coming in spring or autumn, make sure you have some heavier clothes with you because the temperature in Greece is still low (about 25-30oC in May and September but nights and mornings are cool). Also have a small umbrella as rainstorms are frequent and sometimes sudden, although they usually last no more than half an hour.

017

Take your camera

You will regret coming to Greece without a camera. You will find camera accessories there (batteries, storage cards, cables). Go home with plenty of memories and photos. Remember that in some archaeological sites or museums, you are not permitted to take photos and in the rest of the museums, you can't use flash because it damages the quality of the marble exhibits.

018

Have some maps

Have a map of Greece and the different regions as well as travel guides with you or collect all the information from the Internet, before you come to Greece.

019

Plug adaptor

A few years ago, if your country had 110V electricity, you would need an electric adaptor because Greece has 220V electricity. Nowadays most current electric equipment (laptops, cell phones, etc) use chargers which adapt to voltage changes automatically, so you do not need a transformer for those. However, you do need a plug adapter, which only changes the shape of your electric plug but not the voltage.

Communication Back to top
020

Easy to communicate

It will be easy to communicate in Greece, even if your English is not fluent. Most Greeks are familiarized with tourists and they will help you if you need directions or an explanation. Moreover, most street signs are in both Greek and English, so no reason to really worry about getting lost? Not exactly as most of the time there are not enough signs and many streets have no names.

021

Greeks are friendly people

The Greeks will be more friendly and eager to help if you try to speak some Greek, too. Just a couple of words are fine, they love it when they hear a stranger speaking their language. So, say kalimera instead of "good morning" and efxaristo instead of "thank you", and you will see some big proud smiles in their faces.

022

Be kind to be treated kindly

The Greeks like tourists and feel proud to welcome them, however, they get mad when tourists bother them. Ask questions nicely and do not cause problems. For example, if you are making noise because you are drunk, the Greeks will probably call the police. The locals expect tourists to be decent.

023

Some Greeks can be rude

The Greeks are generally polite, although in some cases they may look bored or indifferent. Do not take it hard, some people are like this to anyone, locals or tourists. You may encounter such indifferent waiters, for example. Don't be upset. Just ask in a polite way to be served and you will be served, even without a smile on the face.

024

Ask for help

Although the Greeks may see that you are having a problem (e.g. you may desperately search your destination on a map in the middle of the street and look confused), they will probably not deal with you unless you ask them a question. If you do ask a question, they will turn their head with a big smile. Their philosophy is not to bother tourists and to let you make the first move.

025

Hand communication

A very common gesture you will definitely see in Greece is moutza: hand extended, five fingers open. This is a very rude gesture to demonstrate disapproval and frequently used by drivers. Do not do that gesture, the Greeks will consider it very offensive.

026

Monetary unit

The official monetary unit of Greece is the Euro and no other money is accepted, so you will have to exchange your currency with the euro. You can do it in the banks, in currency exchange offices or at the airport.

027

Payments mostly in cash

Although credit cards are widely used abroad, in Greece most payments are done with cash. Credit cards are accepted in most stores (big shopping stores, large supermarkets, malls, restaurants) but do not take it for granted that people will accept it in smaller stores. For example, a tavern in a small/remote island will probably not take credit cards, nor will groceries or a kiosk on the street. Always have cash with you, just in case. Also even if the store window has signs that they accept credit cars, better ask before you buy to avoid any unpleasant surprise in the cashier's desk.

028

ATMs

The best way to get money in Greece is through the ATMs that can be found almost everywhere. There are plenty of them in the large cities and the popular islands, however some small towns or remote islands might lack a bank or an ATM. Make sure there is an ATM in your destination or you should take more cash with you.
You have to know that there is usually a daily withdrawal limit in ATMs, so if you have to pay a large amount (like the hotel bill) make sure you have enough money beforehand. Also better get your money from the ATM a day or two before you need them, do not wait till last minute. What if the ATM has broken down or left out of money?

029

Personal checks

Personal checks are not much accepted in Greece unless you have made an agreement with the other part.

030

Safe country

Although the crime rate is on the increase in the last years, Greece is still a very safe country. No comparison to other European countries or the USA, where there are ghettos and gangs. Except for some neighborhoods in Athens, like Omonoia, where it would be preferable not to walk alone at nights, the whole country is safe. Crime in smaller cities and villages is almost inexistent.

031

Pickpockets

The only crime you might experience (mostly in large cities) is some thefts in crowded places or in the public means of transport. Pay attention to your wallet, especially on the buses or trains, and do not leave it exposed.

032

Drugs

Using or selling drugs is strictly prohibited in Greece. The country has some of the strictest drug laws in Europe. You are prohibited to use even light drugs, like marijuana. Tourists do not form exceptions in the application of these drug laws.

033

Woman travelers

Women do not need to be afraid of walking alone in Greece, just stay away from some specific areas of Athens at night. Any other time in any other place is safe. No reason to worry at all in all the touristy areas like Plaka.

034

Lock valuables in your hotel safes

It would be a good idea to lock valuables in your hotel safes, just in case. Although hotel thefts are pretty rare, there is no need to take the risk.

035

Drivers

Pay attention when you cross a street because car drivers seem to totally ignore pedestrian signs. Do not expect that they will slow down when you cross the street. They are more likely to make an abrupt turn past you than slow down.

036

No bay watchers

Very few beaches in Greece have bay watchers, so pay attention when you swim. The Greek sea is not dangerous but you never know, especially if you are not a prompt swimmer. Better go where the locals go, just to avoid any water wells, urchins or jellyfish. Pay extra attention when the beach is pretty remote or if you go for a night swim. Never go for a night swim at a beach you haven't experienced.

037

Emergency call

In case of emergencies, dial 100 for police and 166 for hospital care.

038

Trekking journeys

It would not be advisable to trek in some areas by yourself. Some parts of the islands and the mainland can be extremely sparsely-populated and it may take you hours to reach a village or meet someone. Always take water with you.

039

Drink a lot of water

Drink a lot of water if you go to Athens in the middle of the summer. Temperatures can get very high and this way you will avoid dehydration.

Shopping Back to top
040

Stores are everywhere

Greece has stores everywhere, you will have no problem finding what you need. There are large malls, regular shopping stores, super or mini markets, frequent kiosks (periptero), groceries and gift shops. There are also flea markets and open grocery markets (laiki) in many areas. The center of Athens in the most popular shopping spot in Greece but the flea market of Monastiraki is also very famous to tourists. However, even in small islands, you will not lack anything.

041

Credit Cards

Most stores accept credit cards but do not take it for granted. For example, people in small grocery stores, in remote taverns and in the flea market will probably not take credit cards, so better ask before you buy.

042

Shopping hours

Shopping hours vary in Greece. The general shopping hours are: Monday/ Wednesday/ Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm, Tuesday/ Thursday/ Friday from 9 am to 2 pm and from 6 pm to 9 pm. The Greek shop owners keep the siesta at noon, which might be inconvenient for some, but yet it is a nice tradition. Large malls in Athens and other big cities are continuously open till the evening in the weekdays and till the afternoon on Saturdays, Sundays closed. Gift shops in the islands are usually open all day, every day.

043

Bargaining

Bargains are frequently seen in Athens and other large towns. If you are seating for a coffee and a bargain approaches you, have your mind for pickpocketing. Kindly ask them to leave.

044

Tipping

There is no rule or norm for tipping in Greece. People do not expect you to tip in anywhere else than in coffee houses, taverns, restaurants and maybe room service in the hotels. But still, it is not compulsory. You can tip as much as you want or you can still no tip at all.

Food & Drinking Back to top
045

All kind of food and drinks

You will find in Greece the type of food and drinks that you experience in the western world. There are, of course, world ranges of cafeterias and fast-food restaurants (like McDonalds or Starbucks) in the big cities and popular islands, but there are also traditional coffee houses (known as kafenion) and taverns.

046

Gyros

The best known Greek food is gyros, a folded type of sandwich with pork or chicken sticks, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki/ sauce. You can find it almost everywhere in Greece and people eat it for lunch and dinner, too. You can ask for the (folded) gyros, just for the stick or for the plate. When you order, make sure you define what you want because if you don't, you will most probably get the plate than the sandwich, which is double or triple in price.

047

Other famous Greek dishes

The most frequent dishes you can order in a Greek tavern is Greek (horiatiki) salad, grilled fish of any kind (pay attention because big fish are sold by the kilo and they can be very expensive), fried squids (kalamari) moussaka and pies (cheese pie or spinach pie mostly).

048

Vegetarian

Greeks love meat. Although there are usually not special vegetarian dishes in the Greek taverns, many Greek dishes are composed only of vegetals. But you will not find many vegetarians restaurants in Greece.

049

Bread

Bread is almost always included in the meal. Even if you don't ask for bread, the waiter will bring a basket of bread slices in your table and you will pay extra for it. It is inconceivable for the Greeks to have lunch without bread.

050

Greek eating hours

Taverns in summer are usually open all day. Greek eating hours are much different than westerners. The Greeks usually eat lunch at about 3 in the afternoon and start dinner from 9 in the evening till after midnight.

051

Greek taverns

The atmosphere in the Greek taverns is very festive, especially if the locals frequent there. The Greeks usually speak loud in the taverns, laugh and start conversations. Even if they finish eating, the Greeks do not leave but stay for an hour or two more to discuss with their company. Greek companies are usually large and include family members and friends. The same happens with cafeterias, where people take their time when drinking coffee. Having a coffee in a cafeteria usually takes from 1 to 2 hours. Leisure is an important issue for the Greeks.

052

Taverns closing time

The Greek taverns usually don't have a closing time, they close when the guests leave. This means that they may close at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. If there is live music, the closing time extends even more.

053

Hotels breakfast

Breakfast is sometimes not included in hotel rates. Therefore, you can either pay for it separately or have breakfast in a cafeteria. Some people just have a cheese or spinach pie from the local bakery for breakfast.

054

Saturday night in Greece

As people eat late, they also go out late. Usually, they go out for a drink after midnight.

055

Nightclubs in Greece

Nightclubs in Greece open in the midnight and close when the sun rises. There is usually a ticket entrance that includes the first drink. Most Greeks prefer Greek music than international ones.

056

Drinking age limit

There is practically no drinking age limit in Greece. Although the legal age limit is 18 and 16 under supervision, the law is almost never obeyed. Some clubs and cafeterias have signs at the entrance saying that the consumption of alcohol is not permitted to people under 18, but nobody asks for an identity card when you enter the club or when you order a drink.

057

Drinking Attitude

Although the Greeks drink frequently, they expect you to be decent even if you are drunk. Public displays of drunkenness are highly disapproved by Greek society and they may call the police if you get too annoying.

058

Wine and beer

People in Greece drink wine or beer on almost all occasions, even in daily lunches. The traditional Greek wine is retsina and the most frequent Greek beers are Mythos and Alpha. Ouzo, tsipouro, and raki are also traditional Greek beverages and frequently consumed by the locals.

059

Water

Water is usually drinkable in most cities of the Greek mainland, but in the islands, you drink bottled water. Most Greek islands are not water sufficient and they have to carry water with the tank. This water is used for bathing or doing the laundry, but not for consumption.

Driving Back to top
060

Greeks drive like crazy

It is a common fact that the Greeks drive like crazy, especially in Athens. If you want to rent a car and drive in Greece, always be careful, particularly if drivers in your country are civilized!

061

Do not to drive a car within the city limits

First-time tourists in Athens are advised not to drive a car within the city limits. Better use public transportation or taxis. Buses go almost everywhere in Athens and it is pretty easy to find a taxi, so why bother? After all, if you are a tourist, it is most possible that you will want to move to the center, where cars will not be of use for two reasons: first, the metro (subway) goes to all the sights you will want to visit and secondly, finding a parking seat is a huge problem in the city center and will probably ruin your mood. Better rent a car if you want to drive in the mainland, away from Athens.

062

Traffic Jam

One of the biggest problems you will face when driving in Athens (and the major Greek cities) is a traffic jam. This is due to many reasons, mostly because the streets are narrow and people do not respect signs.

063

Peak hours

It is a common fact that the Greeks drive like crazy, especially in Athens. If you want to rent a car and drive in Greece, always be careful, particularly if drivers in your country are civilized!

064

Don't miss your turn

If you miss your turn, do not expect that you can circle the block and get back where you wanted. Many streets in Greece are one way, so you may need to pass several blocks until you find a legal turn.

065

Huge trucks, lorries, and vans

Huge trucks, lorries, and vans are allowed to move anywhere at any time, even in the most popular or narrow streets.

066

Don't get upset with Greeks attitude

Even if you think that you bother nobody with your driving, people will do get annoyed: if you drive fast, you will be yelled at that you drive like crazy; if you drive slow, you will be yelled at that you block the cars behind! Try not to pay attention or get upset, just go on!

067

People go fast even if they are not in a hurry

If you are stopped in a traffic line, someone will try to pass through the tiny space between you and the other car, just to get in front of you. People go fast even if they are not in a hurry.

068

Motorcycles

Motorcycles will never stay behind your car. They will either go in front of you or at least at your side. They will squeeze past cars to get in front of the traffic lines.

069

Horns often used

When you are in the traffic line, if red goes to green and you don't leave in the first second, you will hear horns and yellings from behind. Horn in Greece is used in all cases: to prevent an accident but also to greet someone familiar in the street. The noise of horns may drive you crazy sometimes especially in Athens center.

070

Change lines when nobody is watching you!

If you turn on the signal to change lanes when driving, the car behind will speed up to get in front of you. Change lines when nobody is watching you!

071

Motorcycles and taxis must be avoided

Most of all beware of motorcycles and taxis. Taxi drivers spend half a day driving and have too many nerves, so they lack patience and may result in unpredictably.

072

Always wear your seatbelt

Always wear your seatbelt. The accident rate in Greece is the biggest in Europe and extra attention is required. Also, there are frequent police blocks, especially on the highways.

073

Parking

Unless you are in the countryside or the forest, be patient when you are looking for a parking seat.

074

Highways

The national highways around Athens are in a good state, but always pay attention because drivers usually raise the speed a lot. Always conform to the speed signs. Usually, the speed rate in the highways is 100-120 km/h. However, some roads in the mountainsides are one-lined, have a lot of windings and pass through villages, so the speed limit is much lower.

075

The driver might past you on the right

There are more chances that a Greek driver gets past you on the right (illegally) rather than on the left (legally).

076

No signs

Most road signs are written in Greek and English, but there may also be no signs at all.

077

Automatic cars

Most cars in Greece are manual, not automatic. If you want to rent an automatic car, ask it in advance from the agency people. Do not take it for granted that they have automatic cars.

078

Gas stations

Gas stations are usually open from early in the morning till the evening and some stay open 24 hours. In the islands and the countryside, there is usually, in turn, a gas station in the area open all night. Apart from fuel, gas stations offer for the free air pump and a squeegee to wash the windshield. Fuel is expensive in Greece. You are not expected to leave a tip in the gas station. If your destination is far away, make sure you have enough fuel, especially if you don't know where the next gas station is. Lack of fuel is not included in most road assistance contracts.

079

Driving in the center of Athens

Driving in the center of Athens and some major Greek cities are allowed in turns, depending on the days and the number of your plate.

080

Sheep and goats on roads

Do not be surprised if, on rural roads, you have to stop the car and let sheep or other agricultural animals cross in front of you.

081

Tolls

Be prepared to pay tolls on the highways. A lot of them!

082

Map and GPS

Always have a detailed map with you or a GPS.

083

International Driving Permit

An EU or USA driving license is valid in Greece but you must also have an International Driving Permit.

084

Renting a car

You can rent a car in most areas of Greece and the Greek Islands. So need a valid driving license, to be more than 18 years old with at least 2 years of driving experience. Assurance is like in other countries in Europe. You have an assurance for third parties but have to pay an extra assurance for you and the rented car.

085

Renting a bike

Many tourists get killed every summer on Greek roads as they are not experienced with bikes and Greek people drive like crazy.

Public transportation Back to top
086

Developed and comfortable transportation

Public transportation is adequately developed and comfortable in Greece. There are trains, suburban and urban buses, taxis and a subway system (metro) in Athens. Another subway system is being constructed in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, but it is not ready yet. It is not expected to be ready before 2015.

087

Athens Metro

The Metro in Athens serves a lot of neighborhoods and it really is time-saving. Tickets can be bought from kiosks inside the stations. They cost 1,5 euros and they are valid for an hour and a half.

088

Athens Buses

Buses in Athens are very frequent. Itineraries begin from 6 in the morning till 10 in the evening, but there are also a couple of night buses. Tickets can be bought from special kiosks, not inside the bus.

089

Buses on Islands

There are buses on the islands, too, and many towns in the mainland, but the frequency of itineraries vary and in some areas, they may not be that comfortable.

090

Suburban buses (KTEL)

Suburban buses in Greece (KTEL) leave from Kifissou or Liosion stations in Athens. Make sure you know exactly where your bus leaves because these two stations are far one from the other. People usually buy tickets last minute, unless there are few itineraries to some destinations. Suburban buses are comfortable, air-conditioned and clean. Almost always, they leave on time.

091

Tram

Tram is another means of transport that works only in Athens. Trams are like the subway, only above the ground and much, much slower. They go coast by coast from Athens all the way to the southern neighborhoods. Trams have two departure points (Faliro and Syntagma square) and the last station is Voula.

092

Taxis are frequent

Taxis are frequent. You can find them in stations (called piatsa) in Greece or you can stop one on the road. To flag a taxi, you stand on the sidewalk, raise your hand when a taxi passes by and look at the driver in the eyes. Some may stop and wait for you to get in. Others will stop and you are expected to tell the driver your destination. If he doesn't like your destination, he will just leave and you have to look for another cab.

093

Taxi trip sharing but the fare is not shared

Do not be surprised if you share a taxi with other people. In Athens, it is illegal to get as many passengers as the taxi can get but the practice is common. It is possible that you are in a taxi and the driver stops to ask other people where they are going. If the route fits, these other people will come on board. However, you don't share the fare, each one pays the individual taxi fare.

094

Night hours fares

Have in mind that fares are doubled at night hours (12 pm- 6 am).

095

The taximeter must be turned on

When you get in a taxi, the driver usually sets the meter. If he doesn't do it, ask him to, so that you avoid excessive and illegal costs. Sometimes on islands or remote location, taxi fares are fixed so you will always pay the same amount from one point to another. Just ask before in order to avoid surprises. Also, be aware that you have to pay some extra euro for the luggage.

096

Ask info from taxi or bus drivers

Do not hesitate to ask info from taxi or bus drivers. Even if some don't feel like talking, they will eventually answer you showing you the way.

097

Donkey and Horse Rides

A lovely means to get around in the islands is the donkey ride or a horse carriage, which usually have specific routes and fares.

Health and Emergencies Back to top
098

Hospitals

There are three types of hospitals in Greece: large hospitals with all the proper equipment, small hospitals in the country towns and some islands and medical centers for even smaller or remote areas. If a patient needs a special care on an island where there is no hospital, then he is transferred by helicopter to the nearest hospital. There are, of course, private doctors in Greece who offer high-quality services and speak excellent English, so it is very easy to communicate. Private doctors usually work only in the afternoon. Prices are not standard but they usually vary at about 40-50 euros.

099

Emergency rooms

Every hospital has an emergency room and by turns, some hospitals stay open all night. Regularly you have to make an appointment to visit the hospital in the morning, but the date of the appointment may be after a few days, so better go directly to the emergency room. The hospital emergency phone line in Greece is 166.

100

Pharmacies

Pharmacies in Greece work in business hours and they are closed on weekends. You can distinguish them because they have a Green Cross outside. By turns, there are pharmacies open 24 hours in every neighborhood. During the hours that the pharmacies are closed, there is a schedule/announcement with the open ones on the window of each pharmacy, but it is only in Greek, so ask for the help of a local to show you the directions.

101

Prescribed medicine and glasses

Always have your prescribed medicine and glasses with you, when you travel to Greece and something for the mosquito bite. Also, a mosquito repellant would be of great help.

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