15 Greece Travel Tips to Know Before You Go

The earliest balconies in the world date back to Greek times! They loved the sunshine and the conversations under the sunlight back then and now too. Their talks can go over hours long if you give them a mug of coffee ( Our large cups are Greek’s medium) or a mug of beer. The typical street scene in Greece is the loud conversations, heartful laughter, and refilling of beer and coffee mugs with a view of a historic site or serene nature.

So here is a list of 15 things you need to know before travelling to Greece.

Index

  1. Currency.
  2. Card payment
  3. Cost of living for Tourists.
  4. Cell Phone Network and Wifi.
  5. Type of Power sockets.
  6. Public Hygiene and Toilets
  7. Roads and Transport
  8. APPS to be downloaded
  9. Food and Beverages
  10. Alcohol and Smoking
  11. Safety & Scams
  12. People and Language
  13. What to see in Greece and when
  14. Tipping Culture.
  15. Bonus tip – Historical ruins aren’t everyone’s cup of tea

Is Greece money in euros?

Like 18 other Schengen countries, Greece’s currency is Euros. You may be asked to show hard cash to prove your financial status at airport immigration. So exchange and take Euros from your country itself.

What credit card is best to use in Greece?

International bank Credit and debit cards work perfectly in shops, restaurants, BnBs and ATMs. Except for petty shopping, you can use your cards for almost everything in Greece

Is Greece cheap or expensive for tourists?

Greece Travel Tips on accomodation : If you stay in a hotel, you have to pay 5Euro/room/night as a tourist tax added extra to your room tariff.

It cost us 50EUROS/DAY /PERSON INCLUDING 3 times food, Entry fees, transportation & little shopping and EXCLUDING international flights, Domestic flights/ferry/train & Airbnb accommodation. Air BnBs are perfect and safe, save you 5 Euro/night, and you may get a chance to live with locals in smaller towns. 

Which mobile network is best in Greece?

We bought two SIM Cards from Cosmote Network in Athens, which had free-roaming in the Netherlands, not in Turkey. Their network coverage was good, and the data package was expensive. I am not sure of other service providers, but Cosmote isn’t the best one.

Type of Power sockets in Greece

Greece uses Type C & Type E power sockets; hence Indians need to carry a Travel adapter.

How clean is Greece?

The pretty spotless private properties in Firostefani

The streets were cleaner but not as spotless as in the Netherlands. You won’t find trash on the roads, but the streets are not well maintained. Other than the private properties, open lands and roads are occupied with dirt. Their sense of graffiti is nowhere close to artsy! It was more abusive language than their opinions in their writings.

What we saw behind a seat on the train to Meteora is super offensive to a particular community. Mentioning what they had written in our post may get us into trouble. It is sad to see the vandalism on monuments and public properties like street benches and train seats.

TOILETS –Nowhere in Greece, do we find squat toilets. It is always EWC with tissue paper and no water spray Jets. After wiping your butt, the worst part is that you need to put the used tissue paper in a dust bin, not in the water closet. Speaking of public toilets, it is rare to find them. You have to use restrooms at cafes and restaurants by buying a soft drink or a salad. Unlike in the Netherlands, not all cafes maintain hygiene. Train toilets were even worse. Avoid using it as much as possible.

How do you get around in Greece?

About 65% of the world’s population are in right-driving countries, and So is Greece. The small towns like  Meteora and Santorini had well maintained two-lane roads. Athens is like the gateway or the starting point to most parts of Greece. So it is better to start your road trip/ferry/train/air journey from Athens.

Ferries and Cruises in Greece.

Greece Travel Tips on transport : The cruises are famous, but expensive and you get to be with tourists more than the locals.

Cruises for those who seek luxury and have plenty of time. Speed boat Ferries are for people like us with less time and money. We took a speed boat ferry from Athens to Santorini. and it was the best decision we ever made.

Airports in Greece

There are two main international airports in Greece. The first is Athens Aiport (ATH) in southern Greece and Thessaloniki (SKG) in northern Greece. Athens is well connected by multiple airlines for various international/domestic destinations. The other city airports like Santorini and Mykonos are connected to Athens airport to change international flights. So don’t expect the smaller town’s “so called’ international airports to be well facilitated.

Santorini airport waiting lounge was so small that we had to sit on the floor or stand in the corner getting pushed by fellow passengers. It was rated one of the worst airports in Europe in 2016. If the place gets overcrowded, you will be asked to wait outside under the sun on the curbs! So don’t plan a sleepover at a smaller town airport because they hardly have any cafe to grab even a sandwich. Many of these smaller towns’ airports in Greece have fixed opening hours.

Are trains good in Greece?

Greece Travel Tips on taking trains – Expect 15 minutes delay, but they are cost savious!

There are only six train routes in Greece, So book separate tickets on Trainose . We took a train from Athens to Meteora. There was a delay of 30 minutes while returning to Athens which is usually expected in Greece. Besides the delay and filthy toilets, train journeys in Greece are comfortable with an onboard cafe that serves coffee and some basic bread.

Is it worth it to buy a Eurail Pass for Greece?

The mistake that most tourists make is buying a Eurail pass for Greece! The Greece mainland is covered with mountains. So the railways are yet to develop in the high terrain areas. There are 6000 islands in Greece. Even if you choose the most common ones, you can’t get there by train. If you are hopping from an Island to an island in Greece, your Eurail passes may fetch some little discount on particular ferries. So don’t buy Eurail Pass for Greece. No international trains are running from Greece as of 2020.

Public buses in Greece

Use public buses to commute to the cities. Athens, Santorini and Meteora had excellent public bus connectivity. Plus, they were cheaper. To get to the city from Athens airports, shuttle buses are running. We took route number X95 to get to Syntagma square from the airport.

Self-driving in Greece

YOU FIND ATVs CRAWLING EVERYWHERE IN SANTORINI – THIS ONE IS at PERISSA

Santorini is infected with ATV, though their public buses are excellent. You will find lots of rental agencies throughout Santorini for ATVs, Bikes and Cars. The standard ones like Europcar are available too. There is nothing better than hiking in the hills of Meteora if you are there for a longer duration. Otherwise, You will need motorbikes or a car to explore Meteora unless you opt for a guided tour.

Apps you need to download before your trip to Greece

You either learn Greek fairly before going or install Google translator! You will need it most of the time. Other than Airbnb, Uber, Google Maps, Whatsapp, and other social media apps, no particular apps are needed.

Is Greece food good?

Frozen Yoghurt in Greece

Greece Travel Tips on food : Have yoghurts with fruits – Healthier-cheaper – delicious

Greeks love larger meals. At Meteora, we ordered two Pasta, which could easily fill four. When we talked to the host at our BnB, he mentioned the large portions of Greek Meals. He said,If they serve smaller portions at restaurants, we locals don’t bother to go there at all. We meet friends at 5 PM for coffee. With a few more rounds of large mugs of coffee till 8 PM. At around 8.30, we will think of dinner. Before dinner, we start with beer. By 10 PM we may start to eat. It goes up to 1 AM for sure.” So when in Greece, a one-person meal is enough for two. Plus, if you think of any famous restaurants at places like Santorini and Meteora, reserve your tables in advance.

What food is best in Greece?

Barbecued octopus

Greece Travel Tips on Seafood! Their Octopus, squid and crabs are one of the best I have ever had.

The Gyro (without beef) is similar to Donner Kebab but a bit less spicy than that. Falafels are different from what you get in Egypt in terms of their filling. When I compare Turkey and Egypt, which were part of ancient Greece, the veg food options are 10% of what Sahana got in those countries. Sahana found it unexciting to be eating that same Fatah cheese+tomato in various forms every time she thought she ordered a new local cuisine. Read our “Greek Gastronomy” post to know more.

What do Greeks Drink?

They love their coffee black, and when with milk, their quantity is huge! Unfortunately, fresh fruit juices (Except Orange) aren’t that famous and are not available much. 

Can you smoke in hotels in Greece?

Irrespective of the locality or location, both men and women smoking up their lungs are what we felt in Greece. Although the Meteora Monasteries have strict rules against smoking, few tourists and Greeks smoke while hiking outside the principal worship place. Public smoking is allowed even on Trains.

Athens is famous for its nightlife. However, the harbour and sea route makes it easier to get in drugs and weeds. So you may see a party happening in your neighbourhood’s park or squares like we witnessed one near Plaka. Their live music was amazing, and we could smell the smoke of weed. Many sell tickets to these parties. Be cautious while attending these parties.

Greece Travel Tips on Alcohol –

They love beer. Whether it’s morning or noon, Greeks enjoy beer. Anywhere and everywhere, you find beer except near the Monasteries of Meteora. Santorini’s wines are one of the finest in the world. We tried Resiina ( wine with resin from a pine tree during fermentation). The locals prefer their native drinks like Ouzo.

How Safe Is Greece for Travel?

Greece stands in 57th position as of 2020 in the Global Peace index out of 163 nations ranked. With the recent refugees and illegal immigrants from a few Middle East countries, Greece has decided to build a wall against Turkey at the border between them. Other than petty Crimes like pick-pocketing and theft, and tourist scams, Greece remains safe for tourists. We lost our way to a village in Meteora on the bike and ended up in an isolated place and met a couple who had camped in their RV last night there. We roamed in Fira and Perissa in the middle of the night. It felt safe. We did take the standard precaution we would take anywhere else. Like – No flashy jewellery, kept ourselves low profile and tried to appear not too touristy.

Tourist Scams in Greece

Like any other touristy place, scammers wait for you in Greece near tourist spots. Unfortunately, some of these are the scams we witnessed, and you should escape these while in Greece.

Densly packed Athens city view from top with lots of white building and green in the periphery
ATHENS HOME OF HIGHEST SCAMS IN GREECE

What should I avoid in Greece?

Skaters – When we walked from Plaka to Zeus temple on the footpath, a group of four skaters appeared from the side streets all of a sudden. Their aim was to snatch our handbags, but we always carry small sling bags or use money belts underneath our shirts while roaming out to their bad luck. Beware of skaters who zoom in to snatch your handbags.

Ladies with Rose Bouquet

At Acropolis foothill, a woman with a bunch of roses in her hands was approaching couples who were taking selfies saying,You are a lovely couple; I was taking these flowers to my home. I feel your lady deserves a flower. Give this to her. I need nothing for this. But if you give me two Euros, I can buy some food for my hungry kid at home.” Walk away from her until she stops following you. A friend of mine who went to Athens in 2019 saw the same thing and believed the lady’s poor story. The lady scammer took 10 Euro from my friend saying, she would get it exchanged in a nearby shop and give my friend 8 Euros back- And the lady scammer never returned with the change for my friend.

Greece Travel Tips on Taxi Scams

Most tourists don’t find Athens ruins attractive. The taxi drivers take advantage of it, saying they will take you around the most important ruins in two hours and drop you at Acropolis for 25 Euros or so. Please don’t fall for it. Hire either a government certified guide or walk around by yourself. You can even book an Uber from point A to B. The taxi drivers hardly give you the change back after you pay, plus what they offer is pricey.

Yellow car standing in front of Meteora railway sation

Taxi Scam at Santorini Thira port

A herd of car rental agencies will be waiting for you to get off the boat so that they can scam you, saying,” Santorini public transport inefficient. You can’t take a bus from town to town. Hiring a car here at the port is cheaper than in the town. Hire the car for five days. I don’t need any of your documents. Give me your phone number and the name of the hotel you stay in.Santorini public transport is one of the most efficient and easy to use. Don’t lose your fortune on hiring either an ATV or a car.

Tired Sahana after escaping Taxi scammers at Thira port

Beware of your luggage – When you load/unload the luggage from the taxi or bus, never take your hands off it. We escaped from a thief in a fraction of seconds at Athens railway station at the night.

Are Greek people friendly to foreigners?

Indian male traveller with a backpack standing with a coffee cup at Athens Railway station platform
AWAITING AT ATHENS TRAIN STATION HOPING WE ARE STANDING ON THE RIGHT PLATFORM

Wondering if we were standing on the right platform because hardly anyone was ready to communicate with us.

We spent 10 days in Greece. During that period, we found most cafe and restaurant staff behaved as if they didn’t want guests! For example, during our week of stay in Santorini, we went to cafe Tranquilo for more than 6 meals. The staff would recognise us but never welcomed us with a smile. If we asked for details about the food, the staff used to get annoyed. When we asked for a drinking water refill, one staff was rude to say,” I can give you only once; get it from the cleaner. I can’t keep serving you water” If it was their policy of serving, they should mention it first or inform us later politely. 

Something similar happened at the “Meteora Restaurant- Gkertsou Family”. The food was good, and the wine was great, but the staff were very serious as if we were some unwanted guests. While paying the bills, the waiter was murmuring something in annoyance.

Lunch on sailing – (From Left) Indonesian, Czechian-American, Us, Russians – all of us had a similar experience in Greece when it comes to how cafe staff behaved with the guest irrespective of our colour/appearance.

The nuns at Meteora (with all due respect) were rude too. It was our mistake of wearing shorts to a religious place. Still, the way they talked to us was as if they were about to push us down the cliff! The taxi drivers were rude. The station master at Athens wasn’t ready to let us know if we were waiting at the right platform. 

All the BnB hosts were reserved and strict in the beginning. When they got to know us, our host at Perissa said, ” I wasn’t sure if you are from India. I thought you are from that country that troubles Greece with its illegal Immigrants.”

The two friendly people we met are – Meteora BnB host and his family and the owner of Meteroa bike rent place – Hobby shop. The BnB host was a little reserved initially. However, once he realised we were there for a friendly conversation and knew more about Meteora. He even invited us to his private office away from the BnB for a coffee to meet his little family.

What language do Greeks speak?

The official language is Greek. Most monument info boards and street names are written in Greek and English. Learn basic few words of Greeks before going.

Religion in Greece

Santorini white church with blue mediterranean sea in the background
MOST GREEKS WHOM WE MET ARE RELIGIOUS – VERY RELIGIOUS

90% of Greece’s population are Greek Orthodox Christians. There are a few Catholics, Muslims and Jewish colonies. The ancient Greek religion “Hellenism”, where they worship Greek gods like Olympus, exists among a tiny group of people. The ancient rituals you see on lighting the Olympics’ torch are among the few ancient traditions followed in modern Greece.

What to see in Greece and when

Meteora and Game of thrones comparison

Untold Greece Travel Tips – There is something related to Game of Thrones in Greece.

What is the best time of year to visit Greece?

That depends on where you want to visit. For beaches, May to September is the best time. For mainlands June to September is ideal. The peak season of tourists is between October and November, so the hotels and BnB s are pricey in those months. April to May are the ideal months with lots of sunshine in the morning, clear skies near the beaches for an uninterrupted sunset and a cold breeze at night. Meteora was a bit tricky as May is the beginning of their rainy season. The sunset after rain is what creates an extravagantly colourful sunset there, though.

What to see in Greece?

Dark blue water with yacths sailing on them beside a black mountain at Santorini

Most useful Greece Travel Tips : Out of the 6000+ islands, only 270+ islands are inhabited. 80% of the landmass is mountains.

All of us have heard of stories of Greek gods like Hercules and Zeus. So now you got a variety of things to do in Greece. Mountains for hikers and trekkers, Turquoise blue water for beach lovers and ancient architectural ruins for history and architecture enthusiasts. If you are in Greece for a week to 10 days, be picky about your destinations

We wanted to have a bit of everything in Greece. So we added Athens (the essential, most countries connect to Greece via Athens), Meteora for floating in the sky Monasteries with brilliantly red and Orange sunset, and Santorini for sunshine on the beaches and blue domes.

Since it isn’t a compact country and full of mountains and a wonderful coastline, it is hard to specify the number of days you need to spend in Greece. However, we suggest 12 to 15 days in Greece to have a bit of all type of places on your list.

Doric columns at Acropolis

Is it customary to tip in Greece?

It is not expected at restaurants, but taxi drivers will force you to tip. So be blunt and say no, if you don’t want to. But when you go sailing or attend a cultural show, they keep a separate box calling it a “tip box” It is up to your wish, and nobody forces you there.

Practical tip : Historical ruins aren’t everyone’s cup of tea

Cat resting on a marble stone infront of Parthenon at Athens

The historical sites aren’t interesting to most people. Places like Delphi and Mycenean ruins are a treasure of stories for history enthusiasts only. Athens Acropolis is one of the finest places to watch the sunset. Athens was heaven to me as a history buff, But I know many of our friends who say.” Acropolis was just a ruin, don’t waste time there.” So before you go, research a bit and know if you like it or not so that you don’t end up calling this cradle of civilisation – “A pile of ruined marbles.”

Found our Greece Travel Tips useful? Let us know in the comment section below.

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