The Greek language is one of the oldest European languages. The earliest evidences date from the 14th Century BC. There is no reason to feel worried about not speaking Greek. The locals are used to visitors and most roads, streets and vendor signs are written both in English and Greek. Most, if not all, young persons in Greece speak English and you won’t have any problems finding someone who speaks English.
It’s worth to learn at least one word in Greek: “kalimera”. It means “good morning” and it assures a very good relationship with the hosts. It’s useful to pick up a pocket dictionary with common phrases to understand the culture better.
Name wars: Hellenic Republic vs. Greece
Officially known as the “Hellenic Republic”, Hellas is the southern most country in Europe. However, the country is known as Greece and you won’t have any problems asking or information about Greece in any travel agency. Greece’s capital is Athens and is home to about one third of the country’s population. The population is concentrated in a few major urban areas.
>>more information on the Flag of Greece
Greece is on Eastern European Time, which is GMT plus two hours. During summer Eastern European Summer Time is used, which is GMT plus three hours. When daylight saving time starts, in spring, the clocks move ahead and fall back one hour when it ends in fall.
Counting and Numbers
Dates in Greece, as well as in entire Europe, are written with the day first, then the month, then the year. Hence, 12/11/07 is the 12th of November in the year 2007, not 11th of December.
With written numbers, commas and decimal points are swapped from what you might be used to in the United States. So, ten Euro and thirty cents is written €10,30 and five thousand three hundred Euro is written €5.300.
Greece uses the Metric system for measurements and Celsius for temperatures.
Electricity and Plugs
The power supply in Greece is 220V/50Hz. You might require an adaptor for the round tow-pins sockets used in Greece. So if you live in a country with 110V electricity make sure to bring an adapter with you. You also might need a transformer to be able to use your electrical appliances. If you bring your laptop, make sure to bring a Modular Telephone Adaptor for Greece since many old hotels might still use the older jacks and not the standard RJ11. Most hotels do offer dial-up internet and some places might have wi-fi hot spots. Most cafes do offer internet access for a small fee. If you have a digital camera you will find all accessories for it in Greece. However, it’s better to take your own accessories and pay attention to the voltages.
Greece uses the Euro (€). The banknotes are exactly the same all through the Euro area. They come in seven denominations: 5, 10, 20,50, 100, 200 and 500. One face of the coins is common to all countries and the other face shows national symbols of Greece.
Banks and ATM Machines
The exchange rates are the same all over the country but you might find out that at the airport the rates favor the bank. Banks are opened from 9 AM until 2 PM. At the airport you can find machines that exchange foreign currency and gives Euro.
Some banks in Greece might refuse to exchange $50 or $100 bills but they will accept $20 bills. Traveler’s checks are accepted but you will have a very hard time using them.
ATMs are the best way to get cash in Greece. You can find them all over the country –or almost every where. Needless to say that Visa or MasterCard debit cards can be used everywhere. Make sure you keep all the receipts for a few months. There have been instances when Greek banks double-charged clients but the problem was solved a few days after it had happened.
Some small islands might not have ATMs so make sure to withdraw money once you get to Greece. Some ATMs won’t allow withdrawals over a certain amount ($100 usually). The only thing you can do is to look for another ATM in the area.
Before you leave for Greece, check if you have a withdrawal limit through ATMs (the case of credit cards). And also check the fees associated with withdrawing money in a foreign country.
Credit cards are accepted at hotels and in restaurants but most shop in towns won’t accept them. Always ask if the place accepts credit cards before you make a purchase. Make sure to check the fees because most credit card charge such fees when using the credit card in a foreign country.
Using the Telephone
The country code for Greece is 30. To call Greece from the U.S., you will first need to dial out of the U.S. and then into Greece – so that is 011 + 30 and then the phone number itself (using the local area code). To call to Greece from another European country, you will dial 00 + 30 and then the local number or just +30 and the local number. To call a Greek number from within Greece, simply dial the local number as you have it. To call the U.S. from within Greece, dial 00 + 1 and then the area code and telephone number.
More and more travelers are using mobile phones when they travel, which is easy if you just activate the roaming feature. Also you can purchase a SIM in Greece if you have an unlocked phone. You can rent or purchase a phone when in Greece. Most of these kinds of phones work by loading them up with prepaid minutes (on a prepaid SIM card) or by using them with prepaid calling cards.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Nationals from the following countries don’t need a visa for visits up to 90 days (includes some EU nationals): Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, The Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel Italy, Japan, Lettonia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, U.S.A., Uruguay, Vatican and Venezuela.
If your country is not listed above, you will need to have a Schengen visa to visit Greece.
>>read more Greek Visa information