10 tips for traveling in greece
So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and venture into the mysterious realm of traveling in Greece, where mythological creatures roam and plate-smashing is considered a legitimate form of entertainment. Congratulations on choosing a destination that will test your linguistic skills, your ability to decipher road signs, and your talent for not starving while attempting to order food.
I mean, who needs basic necessities when you can spend months grappling with a language that has its own alphabet? Mondly may have tried to save me, bless its heart, but let’s face it, my brain is more forgetful than a goldfish with short-term memory loss.
Sorting Through the Chaotic Web of Contradictory Advice for Foreign Travelers
Oh, the conflicting information I found during my extensive research! It’s like any information about Greece enjoys playing mind games with unsuspecting travelers. But fear not, my weary friend, for experience is the cruel yet efficient teacher that will shape the journey. I’ve gone through the ups and downs, the triumphs and catastrophes, and am now here to share the wisdom acquired through trial and error. Greece travel tips abound in this travel guide from the lessons I learned from traveling there.
Greece: Where Travel Mistakes Become Valuable Lessons
So buckle up, my fellow language-challenged adventurer, as I regale you with tips and tricks that may or may not save you from awkward language mishaps and the perils of misinterpreted road signs. Let’s dive headfirst into the Greek abyss and pray that our stomachs remain full, our pronunciation remains somewhat comprehensible, and our sense of humor remains intact.
Because if there’s one thing Greece guarantees, it’s a wild, unpredictable ride filled with unexpected surprises and enough feta cheese to fuel your travel dreams. Opa!
1. Knowing Where to Go in Greece Before Traveling in Greece
I don’t know if it was because I had just traveled to New York City the weekend before or the fact that my immune system turned on me in the months leading up to traveling to Greece, but I was not prepared. Planning to sleep on a plane never seems to actually work for me; so, I was jet-lagged and feeling like I was going to die from who-knows-what. Together, this made for an amazing recipe to just sit and do nothing aside from driving a few minutes here and there in the free days I had before my travel conference.
If I would have planned better, I would have known that Nafplio is a romantic and beautiful Greek town that is known for its architecture and majestic Venetian castles. Or I could have booked some adventure travel like hiking to the Polyamnios Waterfall. Alas, sometimes our bodies betray us at the worst of times, but we just have to roll with it.
Geographical Layout: Navigating Greece’s Maze of Mythical Proportions!
Greece effortlessly rocks both the mainland and the islands. It’s like getting two bucket-list destinations in one! On the mainland, get ready for a myriad of geographical wonders. From the steepest mountain ranges that would make Zeus himself jealous to lush valleys that could have been crafted from Persephone’s hands, Greece’s mainland has it all. But wait, there’s more! (Infomercial salesy voice)
Brace yourself for the captivating islands sprinkled like gems in the sapphire-blue Aegean and Ionian Seas. Santorini’s iconic white-washed cliffs and Mykonos’ vibrant beaches are just the tip of the Greek island iceberg. So whether you’re a mountain lover or a beach bum or something in between, Greece’s geographical layout promises a travel experience that’s filled with endless adventure.
My most recent travel destination was Kalamata in the Peloponnese Peninsula for the TBEX convention. The Peloponnese Peninsula is located in southern Greece – a land steeped in ancient tales and natural beauty. Driving from Athens to Kalamata (which is basically the southernmost point of the Peloponnese) took about 3 hours. It was so interesting going from the big city areas, passing by the small towns, and going through and around mountains and valleys.
Embark on a historical journey as you explore Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, or discover the mighty ruins of Mycenae, a once-powerful civilization. The region also boasts charming seaside towns, such as Nafplio, where Venetian and Ottoman influences mingle in a captivating fusion of cultures.
Prepare to be awestruck as my adventurous friend, Carolina Makepeace of Y Travel, traveled to Nafplio, Greece and unleashed the holy grail of travel wisdom: Guide to Visiting Nafplio in 2023 + Things to Do! Don’t even think about missing out on this treasure trove of knowledge that will unleash your inner explorer and reveal the enchanting hidden gems of Nafplio!
My time in Athens was just long enough for my flight to land and drive through it since I arrived in the evening and had a three hour drive ahead of me. Athens is the bustling capital of Greece – an enchanting blend of ancient wonders and modern flair. Prepare to be awestruck by iconic landmarks like the majestic Acropolis, where the Parthenon stands as a symbol of Greek civilization’s golden age.
Wander through the lively streets of Plaka, a charming neighborhood brimming with vibrant shops, cozy tavernas, and lively street performers. Athens is a vibrant metropolis where history seamlessly intertwines with contemporary culture, offering a captivating mix of museums, lively markets, and a vibrant nightlife scene.
Crete, one of the Greek islands renowned for its beautiful beaches, leaves an indelible impression on all who venture to its shores. With its immense size and captivating allure, Crete stands tall as a destination that truly captivates. Here, myth and reality merge, creating an irresistible draw for visitors. Immerse yourself in the ancient Minoan civilization at the Palace of Knossos, where the remnants of a powerful empire come to life.
Indulge in the island’s delectable cuisine, sip on locally-produced raki (so, so strong), and embrace the warm hospitality of the Cretan people. Don’t just stop at this one island, take to island hopping to enjoy all kinds of different Greek experiences.
2. When is the Best Time to Travel to Greece?
spring (march to may)
Springtime in Greece is like a burst of fresh air after a winter hibernation. The weather starts to warm up, flowers bloom, and the whole country seems to awaken from its slumber. With fewer crowds and pleasantly mild temperatures, it’s the perfect time for explorers who want to beat the summer rush and snag some Insta-worthy shots without having to Photoshop out the crowds. The weather in the first week of May when I visited Kalamata was about 60F (15C) in the mornings and evenings with highs of mid-80F (29C) in the afternoon.
summer (june to august)
This is when the country turns up the heat, both literally and metaphorically. The sun shines brightly, beaches are abuzz with sun-worshippers, and the islands become party spots in the Mediterranean. Brace yourself for bikini-clad beachgoers, lively nightlife, and the sweet smell of souvlaki sizzling on the grill. It’s peak season, so get ready to share the spotlight with fellow travelers from around the world (so many people).
autumn (september to november)
As summer winds down, Greece embraces the season of change with open arms. Autumn brings cooler temperatures, but still with plenty of sunshine. The crowds start to thin out, making it a prime time to savor the tranquility of Greece’s historical sites and stroll through charming streets at a leisurely pace. Plus, you might even catch a glimpse of the locals celebrating the harvest season with traditional festivals and wine tastings. Opa!
winter (december to february)
Winter in Greece is like the country’s well-kept secret. While some parts may be quieter, the magical charm is still very much alive. Athens puts on its festive coat, with twinkling lights and busy markets, creating a cozy atmosphere that invites you to warm up with a cup of Rakomelo, a local drink akin to our mulled wine. And don’t forget the snowy mountains of northern Greece, perfect for winter sports and cold adventures.
No matter the season, Greece is an unforgettable destination with lively people. So, pick your favorite time to visit, pack your bags, and get ready to experience the ever-changing moods of Greece like a true VIP traveler.
3. Greek Festivals
carnival in patras
Get ready to party at the Carnival in Patras, Greece’s most iconic and vibrant cultural festival. Held in the weeks leading up to Lent, this extravaganza of parades, costumes, and music transforms the city into a spectacle of merriment. Get ready to be pulled into dance by the locals, who are sporting elaborate masks and flamboyant outfits.
The energy is contagious, and the festivities lead up to the grand parade on Clean Monday, where massive floats and lively performances take center stage. Embrace the spirit of joy and opa, and immerse yourself in this colorful festival that truly embodies Greek zest for life.
athens epidaurus festival
For those who want to immerse themselves in culture along with a dose of artistic flair, the Athens Epidaurus Festival is a must-attend event. Held from May to October, this famous cultural celebration showcases a diverse range of performances, including ancient Greek tragedies, classical music concerts, contemporary theater, and dance.
Get the feel of Greece while sitting in the open-air amphitheaters of Athens and Epidaurus, where ancient history meets contemporary creativity. From the breathtaking acoustics of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to the atmospheric ruins of the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, this festival offers an unforgettable fusion of art, history, and emotion.
easter celebrations in corfu
Experience a truly unique and moving celebration during Easter in Corfu. With roots dating back centuries, this religious and cultural event is proof of Greece’s deep Orthodox traditions. The island comes alive with processions, rituals, and symbolic events that come to and end in the Resurrection ceremony.
Witness the “Pot Throwing” tradition on Holy Saturday, where locals smash clay pots to symbolize the banishing of evil spirits. The lively atmosphere, illuminated streets, and the sound of church bells create an unforgettable experience that displays the deep cultural and spiritual heritage of Greece.
4. Travel Documents
Ah, the thrilling world of visa requirements! Travelers, gather ’round as we dive into the bureaucratic labyrinth that is entering Greece. Now, depending on where you’re from, you might be lucky enough to waltz into Greece without a care in the world, or you might need to navigate a convoluted visa process that would make even Sisyphus raise an eyebrow.
Let’s start with the fortunate ones, those who hold a passport that Greece warmly welcomes with open arms. If you happen to be a citizen of the European Union, congratulations! You can skip the visa shenanigans and waltz right into Greece like a well-dressed Zorba. But wait, don’t celebrate just yet. Non-EU citizens, gather ’round, because this is where the fun begins.
For those from countries with visa-free agreements, rejoice! You can pack your bags, book your flights, and bask in the Mediterranean glory without the hassle of a visa. Just make sure to double-check the duration of your stay, as overstaying your welcome is about as fun as stepping on an olive pit.
Now, let’s talk about the brave souls who hail from countries that require a visa to enter Greece. Brace yourself, my friends, because you’re about to embark on a journey that will test your patience, your organizational skills, and possibly your sanity. First, you’ll need to gather an array of documents that rival the collection of a Greek god’s conquests. Think proof of accommodation, travel itineraries, bank statements, and a copy of your birth certificate just for good measure.
Once you have these prized documents in your possession, it’s time to dance with the Greek consulates and embassies in your home country. Schedule appointments, wait in long queues, and prepare yourself for a series of interviews that would make even the Oracle of Delphi break a sweat. And just when you think you’ve conquered all the obstacles, there’s the matter of visa fees that could rival the price of a Dionysian feast.
5. Driving in Greece
Navigating the Greek roads requires the driving skills of a Formula One racer, the patience of a saint, and the ability to dodge scooters, people, and Zeus knows what else – get ready to put your driving instincts to the ultimate test!
Growing up in Florida, I was used to people driving like literal bats out of hell nearly hitting you at every turn. Once on the road, I realized that the behavior of Florida drivers and Greek drivers aren’t all that different. Both are speed demons who could definitely give Nascar a run for their money. The best thing to do? Match the speed or get out of the way! Locals treat road signs and traffic lights as a suggestion; so, don’t stop suddenly at a red light or you’ll risk getting rear ended
As far as the logistics of it all, there is not much in the way of city traffic once you leave the rental car area of the airport (although the signs to leave could be better as they lead me to turn the wrong way). Prepare for long distances between petrol stations once you get further away from the cities. I made that mistake and nearly ran out of fuel before stopping.
Gas stations are operated differently than the U.S., as there are attendants that fill your tank for you. This was amazing since I had overfilled the tank in Ireland with gasoline spilling out everywhere making me hope that there weren’t any sort of flames nearby.
In the end, renting a car is the best way to tour the whole of Greece as it gives you more freedom to explore. You will love the scenery as the drives are beautiful.
6. Transportation in Greece
Airplane, bus, ferry, or renting a car? Choices, choices! Greek airports serve as gateways to paradise, while buses, cars, and ferries connect you to hidden gems. Feeling adventurous? Rent a car and navigate the winding roads like a Spartan warrior. Just remember to avoid Greek drivers who think they’re in a chariot race. The best way to deal with this? Join the race!
7. Air Conditioning and Heating in Greece
When I arrived at my hotel for TBEX Europe 2023, my pampered air conditioning princess self was in for a wild ride. Even though we were in the second week of May with highs reaching mid-80s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the mid-60s, the heat still ran through the night much to my horror. Even though I am from Florida, I have never gotten used to the heat (I actually get hives with it). So I need to be at a frosty 70F or below at night to avoid my body looking like bubble wrap.
As it was hotel policy, they refused to change it which left me with sleepless nights and bugs buzzing around my room since I had to have some sort of air flow. By the heavens above, I was sent a miracle when on the third night, there was cool air coming from the vents. I do not know who to thank, but they saved my soul.
8. How to find the best stays
Hotels, resorts, or maybe a private villa? Greece spoils you with a plethora of accommodation choices. From luxurious hotels fit for the gods to budget-friendly options that won’t break your gyro fund, there’s something for every kind of traveler. And let’s not forget the allure of private villas, where you can live out your Mamma Mia fantasies and dance like nobody’s watching.
Beware, intrepid traveler, for the allure of remote and secluded destinations comes with a catch! As you venture into the depths of untamed wilderness, be prepared to face the harsh reality of limited accommodation options. Yes, in these off-the-grid havens, finding a cozy bed to rest your weary soul might feel like discovering a mythical creature – elusive, rare, and often requiring sacrifice of comfort and convenience.
9. Greek Culture: Avoiding Awkward Encounters Like a Pro
Ready to tackle the Greek cultural maze like a pro? Here are some hilarious dos and don’ts to help you avoid those awkward encounters and navigate Greek culture with finesse. Do learn a few basic Greek phrases like “efharisto” (thank you) and “parakalo” (please), but don’t worry if your pronunciation leaves locals raising an eyebrow—just embrace your inner Zorba and add a flourish of enthusiasm to compensate.
And speaking of enthusiasm, do indulge in the Greek custom of plate smashing during festive celebrations, but don’t attempt to recreate a Hollywood movie scene in a quaint taverna unless you’re prepared for bewildered stares and a dent in your travel budget. Remember, it’s all about finding the right balance between blending in and embracing your own quirky travel style.
So, keep these dos and don’ts in mind, and get ready to conquer Greek culture with a mix of humor, curiosity, and just a hint of Zorba-like charm. Opa!
10. To Flush or Not to Flush?
Ah, the timeless tale of the toilet paper conundrum in Greece. Brace yourself for a quick-witted sardonic twist on this bathroom etiquette rule! In Greece, you’ll discover a charming tradition where toilet paper takes on an adventurous journey. Yes, that’s right, hold onto your seat (or roll) because the rule here is: “Don’t flush toilet paper in Greece!”
Prepare to bid farewell to your instinctive reflexes and embark on a whimsical odyssey of used tissues and bin-bound wipes. It’s a dance between the urge to flush and the reality that Greek plumbing prefers a more delicate fate for your paper companions. So, remember, when nature calls, embrace the art of the graceful toss into the designated receptacle, and let your discarded paper reach new heights of, well, trashy fame.
Just another quirk in the tapestry of Greek culture that’ll leave you with a wry smile as you navigate the uncharted waters of toilet paper diplomacy.
11. Greek Health Care when Traveling
Lucky for you, comprehensive travel insurance swoops in like a superhero, ready to save the day in Greece’s private facilities. With top-notch healthcare standards, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that quality care awaits. Plus, here’s the icing on the baklava: emergency care in public hospitals is on the house, no strings attached!
It’s a generosity extravaganza that knows no borders, as anyone, regardless of nationality, can indulge in this medical treat. Welcome to the Greek Healthcare System, or as we like to call it, ESY. Brace yourself for a generous dose of free healthcare that even expats, EU citizens, and the unemployed can enjoy.
While in Kalamata for TBEX, I had a colleague who had come down with bronchitis within days and needed medical care ASAP. She went to a public hospital in Athens through the Emergency Room. The whole experience took less than two hours being both efficient and speedy – words the American healthcare doesn’t have in its vocabulary. So, sit back, relax, and let Greece take care of you like a VIP – no citizenship required!
Unconventional Wisdom from My Time Traveling in Greece
Now, you’ve unlocked the secrets of planning a trip to Greece. Now, it’s time to embark on an odyssey of your own, uncovering the wonders of Greece’s rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture. May Zeus be with you as you conquer this Hellenic paradise! Now, pack your bags, don your travel sandals, and let the exploration begin! Opa!
Do you have any adventures that have given you great tips when traveling? Comment them below!