You are planning a vacation in Athens and by now you probably have read everything you could get your hands on. Or you’ve book a flight to Athens (most likely because it was affordable) and plan to figure out what to do once you get to Greece. No matter which type of traveler you are, you should know some basics before arriving in Athens.
Greeks also speak English
The official language in Greece is Greek but in the capital you don’t need to worry about finding persons who speak English. All schoolchildren start English in the third grade, so most Greeks under 40 know English (enough to help with directions, for example). Also, those working in the locations favored by foreign travelers have a good command of English. At the hotel or hostel, you really don’t need to worry about this.
Athens is a safe city
According to statistics, Athens is one of the safest cities in the world. No, it doesn’t mean you can walk around flushing all expensive items you own – by the way: don’t bring expensive jewelry and such things. It means that, if you exercise common sense, you don’t need to worry about pickpockets, for example.
Likewise, if you happen to be in Athens during civil unrest, just avoid the affected area. It doesn’t mean you have to leave Athens or Greece. Again, exercise common sense.
You will use the public transport
Athens is not a small city and it would be crazy to think that you can tackle it on foot. Whether you get from the airport to the city or you need to take the ferry from Piraeus port, you’ll have to use the metro.
Most people worry that they would take the wrong bus and get lost. This can be avoided by getting a map. And yes, the tourist maps have the stops spelled both in Greek and Latin alphabet.
Of course, if you choose a hotel or hostel which is in the city center, you’ll most likely walk everywhere. But you still need to get to and from the airport…by public transportation.
>>read more about Getting Around in Athens
You won’t see all of Athens during your trip
Let me remind you that Athens is not a small city and it’s impossible to see “all of it” during your trip. Start by reading about the Top 10 Attractions in Athens and then prioritize. Make a list of what you want to see, starting with what’s most important for you. It is perfectly normal not to want to visit the flee market, for example. You should also read about the Free Things to Do in Athens ,especially if your budget doesn’t allow for splurges.
Greeks drive like crazy, especially in Athens
First time visitors in Athens are advised not to drive in the capital. Especially if you come from a country where driving is…civilized, you’ll have a bit of shock here. Plus, you’ll most likely stay and travel to and from the city center where you don’t need a car. The public transport goes everywhere and you won’t find parking space anyway.
>>read more about Driving in Greece
Some things about the hotels in Athens
Even in the fanciest hotels , you cannot throw the toilet paper down in the toilet. So, you do your business in the toilet and put the paper in the waste basket. Why? The pluming system isn’t created to handle the paper, as well.
Don’t expect to have a bath tub. Most hotels have a small shower enclosure.
The card used to open the door also turns on electricity. So forget about charging things while you are not in the room. And there aren’t many outlets. If you come from North America, bring your own adaptor.
Greeks smoke . A lot
Yes, smoking is banned in most public areas. No, no one cares about the rule. Also, restaurants are required to set aside non-smoking areas. But again, the law is often…banded. So , except for the Airport, metro stations and banks, expect the enclosed spaces to be filled with smoke.