There is no denying the magnificence of Greece. The warm climate, exotic islands, endless beaches, and sprightly spirit cannot be compared. This is why Greece is a popular choice for travelers. Regardless of its popularity, there are things to know before you book your trip.
From sinkhole warnings to plenty of sunshine, get the inside scoop on traveling to Greece here by reading below our Greece travel tips: 15 things to know before traveling to Greece.
Tip no.1 for traveling to Greece: Pack your sunscreen!
Everyone lusts after a golden summer tan. In order to achieve it, however, it takes some finessing. Surviving the blazing summer sun of Greece is easier said than done. You may think that exposing yourself as much as humanly possible to the sun will help you achieve the dream of being a bronze goddess/god, but this is not exactly right.
In order to save yourselves from 3rd-degree burns, you have to make your no.1 priority to lather yourself with plenty of sunscreen. We highly recommend you start off with an SPF of 50 and work your way down to an SPF30 or SPF20 as the days go by and you’ve got some color on you.
If you skip sunscreen or use low SPF sunscreen, all you’re going to achieve is a raging burn. You will turn the color of lobster red and have skin peeling off of you for days. With tanning, as with anything, you need to be patient and trust the process!
Be Sure To Plan Ahead
There is a Greek saying that goes ‘a good man cooks before he gets hungry’. In other words, planning ahead is the key to a successful trip. And since we’re experts on planning, here is what we suggest you do:
Before rushing to a single destination, write down two - three or more destinations that you think fit your travel goal and start studying. With all the Greek islands and cities and villages, you’ll have a rather hard time deciding where you want to go.
For better or worse, your final decision will be judged by finding accommodation. Do a quick internet search and find accommodations or trust your trips on the hand of experts and check out our recommendations here.
It is important in the organization of your trip to find the accommodation that suits your budget but also to pay attention to the area where it is located. You want to explore the place, but not exhaust yourself going from one place to another.
Do the same with the tickets. Check all the companies to get an idea of the prices, the itineraries, and the duration of the trip. Do research on the sights, beaches, museums and parks you want to visit, but also the most special beauties of each place, as well as the activities and excursions that you can do there.
What’s most, list the restaurants and cafes based on the reviews, so that you can decide when you see them up close, what is best for you.
Greece Has Amazing Ancient Ruins
The Acropolis rock - boris/Shutterstock.vom
Counting thousands of years of history, it is no wonder that Greece boasts some of the most fascinating ancient ruins in the world. The country’s fascinating archaeological sites will help you gain insight into the local culture. They will also make your itinerary a lot more interesting.
No matter where you decide to go, whether it is a Greek island or a region of the Greek mainland, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to marvel at thousand-year-old exhibits that will leave you in awe.
The Acropolis rock with the famous Parthenon in Athens, the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio, the archaeological site of Delphi, the archaeological site of Olympia in the Peloponnese, the archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini, the ancient royal city of Aiges in Macedonia, the island of Delos in the Cyclades, and the Knossos Palace in Crete are only some of the most fascinating Greek ruins.
Don’t leave the country without visiting at least a couple; you will be introduced to a world of ancient magic.
No One Does Hospitality Like the Greeks
Greek dance - NDT/Shutterstock.com
Since antiquity, the Greeks have the reputation of being one of the most hospitable populations in the world. The Greeks love the country’s visitors and try their hardest for them to feel welcomed. Their main goal is to make everyone fall in love with Greece the way they have.
For that reason, no matter what you need, all you have to do is ask a local for it. Whether it’s directions, recommendations, or useful tips and tricks, all you have to do is stop a passer-by and ask them anything you want.
Not only will you receive the information you need, but also a great smile and probably an invitation for coffee or a drink. Greek people are loud -sometimes obnoxious- but most of all they are incredibly friendly. If you’re lucky you may make friends with the locals in a traditional tavern.
There, you will get to hear amazing stories accompanied by indigenous wine, ouzo, and small bites. It may sound like a dream scenario, in Greece; however, it is very much possible.
The Greek Beaches are Gorgeous
Vlychada beach - Industry And Travel/Shuttertsock.com
And anybody who claims otherwise is flat out lying. Endless sandy shores, turquoise water so clear you can see both your reflection and the bottom of the sea. The Greek beaches make Greece the paradise destination it is.
Despite popular belief, the Greek islands are not the only ones that boast incredible beaches. You can find wonderful waters enclosed by striking landscapes even on the mainland.
Some of the best beaches in Greece include Falasarna, Balos, and Elafonisi in Crete, Myrtos in Kefalonia, Mylopotas in Ios, Sarakiniko in Milos, Porto Katsiki in Lefkada, Plaka in Naxos, Navagio or ‘Shipwreck’ in Zakynthos, and Voidokilia in Messinia.
Whether you want serenity or day-long parties on the beach, in Greece you’re bound to find it. Most of the aforementioned beaches are organized, offering you the opportunity to enjoy the service of the beach bars while sunbathing on your luxurious sun lounge.
But even those that are not organized will offer you seclusion and a relaxing ambiance you’ve never experienced before.
Enjoy the Greek Cuisine and Wine!
Greek food - credits: Esin Deniz/Shutterstock.com
Greece has gained worldwide recognition for its delicious and nutritious cuisine. Greek cuisine has a variety of dishes that satisfy foodies from around the world. For example, the well-known ‘souvlaki’ finds fans in all lengths and breadths of the earth. Homey recipes such as ‘pastitsio’ and ‘moussaka,’ ‘yemista’ and ‘papoutsakia,’ ‘dolmades,’ and ‘gigantes’ are some of the basic dishes that reveal the riches of Greek cuisine.
At the same time, fresh ingredients offer an endless journey of flavors. Fresh fish, seafood, seasonal fruits, and vegetables all offer rich flavors that evoke memories and create memories for a lifetime. These are complete experiences for all the senses and not just for taste. That is why so many travelers long to try Greek cuisine and always return to it.
Moreover, Greece is known across the world for its rich wine production since antiquity. With the island of Santorini and the region of Nemea in the Peloponnese having the leading role, there are incredible Greek wine varieties that will satisfy even the most demanding of wine lovers.
If you want to try as many local varieties as possible, accompanied by local delicacies that will tease your senses, a food tour or a wine-tasting tour in Greece is exactly what you’re looking for!
These tours will take you around the best eateries and bars in the country, which only the locals know about. Hidden from the curious eyes of the tourists, you will get to experience the authentic face of Greece away from the tourist traps.
What to Pack for Greece?
Suitcase packing - credits: Africa_Studio/Shutterstock.com
Packing for your trip requires having decided the best time to visit Greece. The weather in Greece is one of its best characteristics. Regardless, summertime in Greece can prove to be too much for those who are not used to a warmer climate.
In the dead of summer, the temperature can climb up to 40℃. As a result, packing with you your lightest clothes is the best idea. Additionally, try bringing breathable fabrics, such as cotton, as they will minimize sweating.
As much as you want to get half the wardrobe, because it is "necessary", be content with the basics. Make a list of sets for each day and at the end choose your most important and favorite. Don’t forget to bring as many swimsuits as you own, a couple of beach towels, and as much sunscreen as you can. Of course, even if you forget anything you can buy it in Greece. Regardless, coming prepared is always a good idea.
We can’t be talking about travel planning and leave out the gadgets! Prepare your camera and cell phone. Choose your favorite travel gadgets and prepare them for their big mission. Empty your memory cards or get a new one and charge all of your electronics. Please don’t forget to take with you all your chargers, extra batteries and to fill your mobile phone with useful applications.
Make Sure You Have Cash On You
Plastic money is not as popular in Greece as in other countries, although things are becoming progressively better in that respect. Although nowadays, most shops and eating establishments accept credit cards, there is a high chance that if you visit small shops, mini markets, and most establishments in the countryside, they will require cash.
For that reason, it is the wisest choice to keep some cash on you in case of an emergency. Of course, you should try to avoid having a large amount of cash in one place. Instead, you can spread them out across different wallets and take with you only a small amount that you think will be necessary. In other words, make sure to have cash with you at all times, but don’t make the job of potential robbers easy!
Everything is Closed on a Sunday
Unlike most countries, Sundays in Greece are reserved for rest and repose. As a result, everything is closed on a Sunday, including supermarkets. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.
The shops remain open the first Sunday at the beginning of each regular discount period, the two Sundays before Christmas, the Poor Sunday, and the last Sunday of each year.
Even if you’re not visiting during those times, you can find some supermarkets and pharmacies open on a Sunday if you search hard enough. There are certain establishments in each neighborhood that remain open in order to serve the needs of the citizens. Ask around and the locals will provide you with all the information you might need.
Eating Habits – Much Later Meal Times
Eating and drinking - credits: monkeybusiness/Depositphotoscom
We’re not quite sure why, but the Greeks enjoy their meals much later than most. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Greece is a county that never sleeps and staying up until 4 in the morning is a common occurrence for most.
Breakfast is usually served at 9-10 am, lunch at 3-4 pm, and dinner from 9 pm at night until midnight. If they go at night for drinks, it is most likely that an additional meal will be added at the time of their return, most likely from a street food cantine nearby.
What’s more, in addition to the bizarre eating times, the eating etiquette is also much more informal than one might think. Greeks love sharing food, so everything they order is to be shared. It is very common for Greeks to order the whole menu but not order a main dish for themselves.
Additionally, unless you’re in a high-end restaurant, you are free to eat with your hands. Now, be reasonable; we don’t mean you can eating pasta with your hands, but if a pork chop is difficult to get around with your utensils, nobody will judge you if you use your hands.
Sailing the Greek Islands
Sailing across the Greek island - credits: Syda_Productions/Depositphotos.com
If you want to feel on top of the world, there is no more effective way to do so than by sailing the Greek islands. Imagine lying on the deck, letting the sun warm your skin and the salty breeze ease the heat.
All you have to do in order to achieve this dream is join a sailing adventure across the Greek islands. You can sail across the different island complexes, like the Cyclades, the island of the Saronic gulf, and the Dodecanese, or you can just start from Athens and sail towards your end destination with joyful breaks in between to admire the Greek islands on your way there.
By doing so, you will get to solve another major problem: you will be able to combine a visit to more than two Greek islands with ease while enjoying the journey from one destination to the other. Sailing might be one of the slowest but most beautiful and luxurious ways to indulge in a Greek island-hopping exploit.
Driving Can Be Difficult
Nobody’s perfect, and Greece’s flaw is its driving culture. Overtaking from the right, ignoring the safe distance between the vehicles on the road, a lot of rude gesturing, cursing, and pointless honking are common occurrences on the Greek streets. The Greeks are known for being over the top, and when it comes to driving, that doesn’t go away.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Most times it’s the knee-jerk reaction of Greeks to become defensive on the street, but they tend to be open for people to talk some sense into them. Especially if they realize that you’re tourists, they are more than likely to change their demeanor and help you find your way to your destination. In any case, the spirited mentality of the Greeks is something you should keep in mind while driving in the county.
Greece Isn’t the Most Disability-Friendly
Another major flaw (there are very little compared to the assets, we promise) is that Greece is not the most disability-friendly country in the world. Not even close, unfortunately. There is poor infrastructure for the specially-abled citizens and visitors which is frustrating, to say the least.
Frankly, the country is inhospitable to people with disabilities. A simple walk through the eyes of a person with mobility difficulties will convince you: The sidewalks are broken and are not suitable for canes or wheelchairs. Ramps that exist on one sidewalk do not exist on the next.
And this is only the scenario that concerns the person with mobility difficulties -and the reality of the elderly and the parents with wheelchairs, too. When we talk about visually impaired people, then you should know that they are called to face the same problems and even more.
If you dare to follow the specially-designed strip of sidewalk that is meant for those who suffer from their vision, you are sure to bump into a flowerbed, or even word, a column! In the special lanes for visually impaired people, on their way, one encounters many things. You can fall on a pillar. Or on a tree. You can, much more often, fall on a dining table that belongs to a local tavern.
By All Means Drink, But Behave
We understand that the free spirit of Greece is intoxicating. So are its delicious drinks. However, you need to keep in mind that although during your vacation you can let your hair down and drink to your heart’s content, you need to maintain some self-control and act civilized.
After all, retching and having a raging hangover the next day -or more- can potentially ruin your exotic vacations, which is not ideal.
The most popular tourist destination in Greece makes the news each year for the uncontrollable situation the tourists find themselves in after hours of careless drinking. We’re all about partying.
We recommend and applaud it. However, you need to drink within reason and behave yourselves like you would in your own country. Bottoms up, people!
The Roads Can Be Crazy
If you have no sense of directions, the Greek streets will give you a wild ride. The signs are not too clear, and unless you take the advice of a map or a local, the chances of successfully reaching your desired destination are slim to none.
What’s more, you might come upon dangerously narrow streets that hang from cliffs in the Greek island or the countryside, where the road network is not as refined as in the big cities.
The problems faced by the country's road network can be many and great, but great is also the progress that has been made with the completion of major roads.
Many of these highways have been opened to traffic in the last five years, creating a network of roads that can be used to move quickly, within the framework of the Traffic Code, and - most importantly - safely, crossing the whole country. A network that greatly facilitates the transport of goods and passengers.
Some advice for our first-time visitors
If you’ve never been to Greece before, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind to make your time here as enjoyable as possible and your travel smooth as silk.
Of course, everyone talks about the magnificent warm weather of summer in Greece. However, this perfect weather comes with some downfalls. Namely, the bright sun that tends to burn light-skinned people and the heat that exhausts those who are not used to it.
For that reason, we would highly recommend you bring lots of sunscreen bottles and don’t forget to lather on sunscreen before every outing. Additionally, it is extremely helpful always to wear a hat and have water on you.
Another thing to be aware of is the tourist traps that can be found in the most popular spots of each destination. As a rule of thumb, we would recommend avoiding eating in eateries that frequent central tourist spots and have any reference to Zorba -the name, a picture, the world-renowned song from the famous movie. Anything with Zorba in it, steer clear from; it reeks of a tourist trap!
Your best bet before taking any major decision on your trip to Greece would be to ask the locals. Yes, no matter how awkward it may sound, asking the locals is the way to go! From the reception of your hotel to random strangers on the street, they will have the best input to offer and will be more than eager to do so; we are not known for our hospitality by accident!
Last but not least, when it comes to transporting around Greece for the first time, you need to know that grabbing a random taxi from the cabstand is not the safest or cheapest option. If you want to avoid public transport, we would highly recommend you book private transfers, or at least download a local app for taxis that will keep a tab of your driver for your safety.
In all honesty, I am jealous of you; seeing Greece for the first time must be a magical experience!
We guarantee you that choosing Greece as your holiday destination is a decision you will never regret. Everyone and their dog have Greece as the ultimate country to enjoy carefree vacations, and there is literally no way for them to not be successful.
However, there are certain tips and tricks that will make your life a lot easier and will help you get the most out of your Greek experience. Read our Greece travel tips above, and come to Greece well-prepared to have the time of your life!