You’ve planned a trip to Greece and you’ve probably read everything you could get your hands on about this country. Either this or you are the type who books a flight and then figures out what to do and what to see once you land in Greece. It really doesn’t matter which type of a traveler you are, but you should know at least some basics before you arrive in Greece.
Payments are mostly in cash
Although large hotel and restaurants do accept credit cards, most payments are mad in cash. In tavernas you can forget about using a credit card. If you travel to a remote island, don’t expect to use the credit card at all. So always have enough cash available.
Hotel ratings aren’t standard
If you are used to the standard hotel ratings and you know what a 2-star hotel should offer…think again. In Greece, there aren’t such standards so you may end up finding a cheap 3-star hotel with fewer facilities than a 2-star hotel. Make sure to read the description and what you get for the money paid.
Also, don’t expect each hotel to have free wi-fi. Some hotels in the large cities do offer cable internet or wi-fi for free, but in many cases you’ll have to pay for the service. You can find free hot spots in Malls and squares.
You will need to use the public transport
Greece comprises both the mainland and the islands. There isn’t any way around it: you’ll have to use the public transport to get from one point to another. Most travelers take the ferry to get to the islands and between them. It’s cheap and comes with lovely views. Plus, in many cases, that’s the only way to get to a certain place.
Unless you plan to drive, you’ll have to use the buses or trains to get from one city to another on the mainland. On the islands, you are limited to the buses. Or donkeys. Some islands are small enough to be tackled on foot, though.
In Athens and Thessaloniki, the cheapest way to get around is the public transport. Make sure to get a map of the public transport and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Greeks will help and many of them speak English (especially the younger generation).
Time is relative in Greece
While everybody expects the buses, trains and ferries to be late, they also arrive…early. So you should arrive early and be ready to wait. Ferry schedules can change due to weather – if the weather turns bad, they’ll rather depart early than cancel the trip should they have left on schedule.
Know the travel dress code when visiting churches and monasteries
Religion plays an important role in Greece. Even on a tiny island you’ll find at least a church. If you want to visit such establishments – and trust us, you will – pay attention to what you are wearing. Women should wear long skirts – a sarong tied over a short skirt or shorts should do the trick. Men should wear long pants. Women should have the shoulders covered – so no tank tops, please.
Greece is not a dangerous place to visit
During the civil unrest many travelers have asked me whether they should cancel their vacation in Greece for fear something would happen to them. My answer was very simple: “don’t cancel your vacation, but don’t spend time in the affected areas”. I know from someone who has been in Athens during the riots that tourists shouldn’t worry. Basically, he was told to avoid some of the streets near the square as it’s not a safe place to be.
Are there pickpockets and cheats in Greece? Yes, there are. But it doesn’t mean you’ll fall right in the trap. Smart people know how not to get their wallets stolen or pay too much for a taxi ride. There are things you should know to now fall in the traps but that doesn’t mean you have to live in constant fear. Just practice common sense and you’ll be fine.
You will not see everything there is to see in Greece
Greece is not a small country and it’s impossible to “see everything” during a vacation here. If you’ve been to Greece before, you probably know this by now. If you haven’t, it’s a good idea to know: you won’t be able to “see it all” during your Greece trip. In fact, you won’t be able to see all of Athens or Thessaloniki regardless of the length of your trip. Sure, small islands can be tackled quite easily, but not the entire country.
What does that mean? You’ll have to read about the 10 best things to do in Greece and then prioritize. If you want to focus on Athens, start by reading about the top 10 attractions in Athens and then make the plans. Put the things you want to do in the order of importance to you. And it’s ok if what you think is important isn’t on everyone’s list of things to do. That’s normal.
Toilets aren’t very…advanced
If you are used to throwing the paper in the toilet and flushing the water…don’t. The toilet system is not that advanced in many places and you’ll end up clogging the system. You are nicely asked to the business in the toilet and put the paper in the waste basket. Also, it often takes detective work to find out how to flush the toilet.
No drinking age limit
There isn’t practically drinking age limit in Greece, although by law you have to be 18 to purchase alcohol. No one obeys the law, though. Some clubs have signs that say they won’t sell alcohol to persons under 18 but no one checks the identity cards.