Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. We have put together this handbook with general information about Greece for your reference. You’ll find information about currency exchange, what type of weather to `expect food and more. We hope you’ll find that this handbook answers most of your questions about Greece and what you may expect to encounter.
Greece is a country and people of controversies. Keeping that in mind, it will be easy to understand the laid back attitudes or the passionate responses you will encounter. A walk to a local store or an afternoon at a café can be a window into this unique culture. Greece and the Greeks are some of the most hospitable people in Europe. All you need is an open mind and you'll be sure to have an unforgettable journey
U.S. citizens do not require a visa. All you need is a valid passport. Please be sure that your passport will be valid through your return. Information about obtaining or renewing your passport is available at www.travel.state.gov.
Non-US Citizens may require a visa. For visa requirements please contact the Embassy of Greece at, 2221 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. Washington, DC 20008, tel. 202-939-1300 or visit their website at www.greekembassy.org.
The Greek currency is the European currency –the Euro. One Euro is approximately 1.15 US dollars but because of constant change in currency rates it is best to check before your departure.
When in Greece you will find many locations to exchange money, from the airport to several banks, post offices, hotels, and exchange offices. But exchange commissions vary, it is best to exchange money at a bank. No fee is charged for exchange at the Bank of Greece.
Credit Cards & ATMs
Many experienced travelers will be surprised by how much cash they use while in Greece. Many of the shops (especially in the smaller villages) do not accept credit cards. We recommend before leaving for Greece, that you change at least $200 into euros for immediate personal expenses.
All major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and commercial shops.
ATM’s are available in all cities and on most islands
Greece has a Mediterranean climate. It is sub tropic, with wet mild winters and hot dry summers. In the north of Greece the winter can be less mild and harsher, while in the south and especially Crete there is practically no winter at all. Nonetheless, throughout Greece, the weather is sunny and pleasant.
From about late April through late May and September and October the temperature fluctuates between 15-20 degrees Celsius (59-62 Fahrenheit). In June, July and August the temperature jumps to about 21-28 degrees Celsius (70-84 Fahrenheit).
These are average temperatures only. The weather can be unpredictable. But even then, unpredictable rain or cold doesn’t usually last long
During May, June, July, August and September you will not need any heavy clothing. Shorts, short sleeved shirts, comfortable shoes, a bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a light jacket for the cooler mornings and evenings should be enough.
If you’re visiting in April, October or November, heavier clothing is needed. Long trousers, a few sweaters and a good waterproof jacket would be sufficient along with an umbrella.
If you are planning to visit any mountain villages, any time of the year, you should bring some heavier clothing and hiking boots. It has a tendency to get cooler in the mountains
Greece is seven (7) hours ahead of the Eastern Standard Time. The time is the same throughout the whole country.
To call internationally from Greece, dial 00 For example, if you were to dial Walkabout Excursions from Greece, dial 00-1-212-444-2216.
To call Greece from the United States, dial 011-30 and the number (including the area code) you want to call.
All telephone numbers in Greece (including cell phones) consist of ten digits. Unlike the U. S. when you accept a phone call on a Greek cell phone you are not charged (the caller is).
For domestic telephone information, dial 11888. For international telephone information dial 139.
Walkabout Excursions will provide a cell phone with which you can contact Walkabout Excursions staff and services providers or give to your family and friends to contact you. The phone will be filled with a 10 Euro card. Should you require more than the 10 Euro on the phone you can purchase a phone card at any newsstand (Kiosk)
Greek National Tourism Organization – 7 Tsoha st., Athens, tel. 210-870-7000, weekdays 8:00am-3:00pm, or visit www.gnto.gr. Or their info desk, at 26 Amalias street, tel. 210-3310392, 3310716, 3310347, every day 08:30am-8:30pm , e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
United States Embassy -91 Vasilisis Sofias Ave., Athens, tel. 210-7212951, www.usembassy.gr.
Paramedics – dial 166 in Greece
Police – dial 100 in Greece
Olympic Airways (210) 353-0000, www.olympicairlines.com
Aegean Airlines 801 11 20000, www.aegeanair.com
Acropolis Radio Taxi in Athens: 210-8668692, 8668696
Apollo Radio Taxi in Athens: 210-3389055
Railway Organization (OSE), dial 1110 in Greece, or visit www.ose.gr.
Tourist Police Service: 171
- All government offices, public services and banks operate Monday – Friday from 8: 30am to 2:00pm. Always remember when entering a public service office or a bank to pick up a priority number ticket, otherwise you could be waiting for hours in vain.
- Post offices are open Monday – Friday from 8: 30am to 7:30pm.
- Large commercial centers (malls) and supermarkets are open all day (9:00am to 9:00pm) Monday through Saturday.
- Smaller shops are open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30am to 2:30pm, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:30am to 2:00pm and again from 5:00pm to 8:30pm.
- Shops geared toured tourists are open all day including Sundays in the summer.
- Farmer’s markets: are open only from 7:00am to 2:30pm.
- Restaurants: All restaurants are usually open all day until late at night for the summer. With the exception of some restaurants that open only in the evening, you won’t have any trouble finding something to eat even in the middle of the night. Some restaurants will be closed on Sundays.
- Kiosks (newsstands): These are a part of the everyday life in Greece. They are open all day and some of them all night. You can always find an open kiosk around the clock in every neighborhood, and in every city or village. They sell mainly tobacco, newspapers and magazines, water, soft drinks, beer, snacks, first aid supplies like bandages and aspirin, stamps, film, telephone cards for both mobile phones and phone booths, some even sell soap and shampoo.
- Archeological sites, monuments, museums: For most archeological sites, monuments and museums, operating hours are from 8:00am to 3:00pm, and in some cases till 7:00pm, every day. During the winter, the timetables changes. However, since there are no standard operating hours for archeological sites, museums and monuments, it is best call prior to a visit. You can also obtain this information by calling the Greek National Tourism Organization. Entrance fees vary.
- Churches and monasteries: All large churches are open all day, while smaller churches and monasteries are open only in the morning. Every church or monastery though, regardless how small or big it is, is open on Sunday morning for mass
There are very strict dress codes for visiting churches and monasteries. In general churches do not allow visitors wearing shorts. Some monasteries do not allow women in pants or bold dresses, or men in shorts to enter. Taking photographs or videos is prohibited.
Tipping is not compulsory. In coffee houses and snack bars, most people round the bill up.
In restaurants the service is figured into the price of a meal. However it is customary to leave a tip of 8 – 10% if the service was satisfactory
It is strongly recommended that you get travel insurance prior to your visit. Walkabout Excursions will be happy to advice you in order to select the best insurance option to meet with your needs
Doctors and pharmacies can be found throughout cities, towns and villages in Greece. Pharmacies in every area rotate 24-hour duties. That is, if you find that you are in need of medication in the middle of the night, there is a pharmacy open somewhere in the vicinity that will be able to help you. Unlike the US, pharmacists in Greece are allowed to dispense lighter medication such as allergy pills and even antibiotics – all you need do is describe your symptoms. The vast majority of pharmacists and doctors speak English so you won’t have a problem communicating with them. For medical emergencies dial 166 – an ambulance will be dispatched to you immediately. Hospitals can be found in all major cities and towns.
However, there are some remote villages in the country where a doctor is not always available. In these locations, a doctor arrives once a week from the closest .
Tap water is potable in Athens and other large cities on the mainland. The water on most islands and smaller villages is not. Springs throughout Greece, however, found in most villages are potable and even tasty. Bottled water is readily available at every newsstand and supermarket.
Note: If you are taking any special medication please be sure to bring sufficient medication to last the duration of your stay. Although most of the medication available in the United States can be found in Greece, they are often sold under different names which can lead to difficulties in finding a match.
Greece is a fairly safe place to be. Some attention though should be paid in major cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki where you shouldn’t leave your baggage unattended. In case of emergencies, dial 100.
A note should be made here regarding safety on Greek roads. Due to various factors, driving can be a frustrating and dangerous experience in Greece, especially in major cities. Please be sure to take extra care while driving. Always wear your seat belt or helmet (motorbike) and take every precaution
Getting around by car in Greece is no easy task. The best case scenario is to have someone else do the driving for you. However, if you do chose to drive there is a wide variety of car rental agencies with cars that will meet any budget. Please, pay extra care on the roads in Greece, they can be dangerous.
Gasoline is quite expensive. You can find gas stations almost anywhere, except in remote villages high in the mountains or on very small islands.
Parking spaces are limited anywhere in Greece especially in major cities. Parking garages can be very expensive.
Taxis are yellow in Athens, burgundy in Thessaloniki, and gray or blue in the rest of Greece, depending on the location. But in all places, it can be difficult to find one that is available, or one that will take you where you need to go. To avoid any hassle it’s a good idea to call a taxi service. In Athens you can call Acropolis: 210-8668692, 8668696 or Apollo: 210-3389055. Every taxi driver is obligated to have a price list located on the dashboard of his taxi.
If you choose to hail a taxi, keep in mind that taxis in Greece pick up multiple fares.
There are two major airline companies in Greece, Olympic Airways and Aegean Airlines. They both have a fairly developed network of domestic flights. There are flights for almost every major city and island in Greece on a weekly basis in the winter and on a daily basis in the summer. Reservations must be made in advance to guarantee availability. For more information call Olympic Airways (210-3530000) or visit www.olympicairlines.com, Aegean Airlines (801 11 20000) or visit www.aegeanair.com. There is also a hydroplane company, Air-Sea Lines, with flights that connect most Ionian harbors, and a few Italian harbors. You can find further information on this at www.airsealines.com.
If you are visiting Athens the best way to move around is the Metro. It is fast, clean and relatively cheap. Buses (blue) and trolleys (yellow) are also a good way to move around.
If you intend to move from town to town within Greece or from Greece to other countries a good way to do so is by train. Trains are cheap and most of them are new and fast. For more information call OSE (dial 1110), or visit www.ose.gr
Food drink and restaurants
As a part of the European Union there is an exuberance of goods in Greece. You can find a farmer’s market almost everywhere in Greece—these are called “laikes agores.” These markets are not only places to purchase everyday needs but also gathering spots for homemakers who chat about prices and exchange recipes.
These markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables, freshly caught fish, olives and olive oil, honey, home made wine, a variety of sweets made of fruits or vegetables, dried fruits, various aromatic herbs and plants, spices, even live chicken and turkey. You can also find clothing, linens, electrical equipment, tools and other useful items.
For those of you that would like to bring home a fraction of the tastes and aromas of Greece, here are a few suggestions: honey from Kalamata or Attica (thyme honey); various jams (fig or cherry, apricot or peach); pistachios from Aegina; red wines from Peloponnese or Thessaly; white wines from Santorini and Thessaly; jarred sweets (fig, orange, apple, quince, marons and others); various liquors such as qumquat, morelo (sour cherry); dry sweets such as almond macaroons; pasteli (sesame covered with honey); olive oil from Crete and Peloponnese; and spirits like ouzo from Lesvos, tsipouro from Thessaly and tsicoudia from Crete. There are small shops in every major center of Greece that sell these goods, besides the street markets that we mentioned above.
The Greek’s taste for good food and drink originates in antiquity. The wealth of ancient Greece and the high level of trade and commerce of the time gave the ancient Greeks access to a wide variety of the goods. Over the centuries this developed into a wide array of dishes specific to Greece. As the Greeks glorified the “pleasant way of life,” eating and drinking became a favorite pastime and still is today. Because of this, you will find restaurants everywhere in Greece, offering a variety of Greek and international dishes. Most restaurants are open only for lunch and dinner. Lunch is usually around 2:00 pm. while dinner starts around 9:00 pm.
There are a variety of styles of food and restaurants in which to eat. Below are some of the major categories.
Drinks – Retsina is a white wine flavored with resin – some drink it with seltzer, ginger ale, or 7-up. At many traditional restaurants you will find home made wines. These are served in ½ or one liter carafes. In addition to ouzo, many enjoy tsipouro, a clear alcohol, sometimes flavored with anise and raki which is almost identical to tsipouro and is strongly flavored with anise. Add ice and/or water to ouzo, tsipouro (flavored with anise) or raki gives the drink a milky white color.
Mezedes – Mezedes are small dishes that usually escort a drink such as ouzo, wine, tsipouro, raki or retsina to name a few. Most restaurants serving Greek food will have some mezedes, but they can always be found at restaurants called mezedopoleia (a restaurant serving only mezedes), ouzeris (bars/restaurants that serve a variety of homemade wines and ouzo), tsipouradika (bars/restaurants that specialize in tsipouro) and tavernas (taverns). There are over a hundred different mezedes. Some favorites are:
tzatziki – yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip
melitzanosalata – eggplant salad (dip)
scordalia – potato and garlic salad (dip)
taramosalata – fish roe salad (dip)
saganaki – fried hard cheese
dolmadakia – vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice
keftedes – Greek meatballs
fried zucchinis, egg plants and peppers
Tavernas – Most Greek restaurants are known as tavernas. Friends and families gather any time of the week and often during holidays for meals that can last hours. Oftentimes, tavernas specialize in certain types of dishes. Below are the different types of tavernas and what you can expect to find there.
Psistaries – Psistaries specialize in grilled meats such as pork chops, lamp chops, steak and grilled chicken among other things. These are usually served with fries and a classic Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, olives, and feta cheese. Gyros and souvlaki – spicy grilled pork chunks served in pita bread filled with onions, tomato, and tzatziki – are popular after-hours snacks.
Psarotaverna – Psarotavernas specialize in fresh fish. Most villages by the sea will have at least one psarotaverna. They serve a variety of seafood mezedes. The main courses, however, are usually grilled fish flavored with salt, pepper and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Oinomageireion – Here you can find a little bit of everything. Although some areas of Greece have their own recipes depending on outside influences, some of the classic dishes you’ll find everywhere are: mousaka – layers of fried potatoes, eggplants, mince, and a cream top; gigantes – lima beans with tomato sauce; kokinisto – beef stew with a tomato based sauce. You will also find various cooked vegetables such as okra, peas, flat beans cooked with a lot of olive oil and tomato sauce.
Desert – There is an unlimited list of deserts available in Greece. Everything from tiramisu to panacotta can be found. As for Greek deserts, there are a number of deserts similar to baklava which are pastries filled with almonds, pistachio and/or walnuts wrapped in filo and drenched in a syrupy mixture. Ravani a sponge cake and karydopita a walnut cake are also popular and drenched in syrup.
In a nutshell, Greece is packed with tastes, aromas, ingredients and cooking traditions that can satisfy the most demanding gourmand
In every developed area of Greece you will find shopping areas. Some sell souvenirs and tokens of the Greek culture, while others are geared towards jewelry, clothing, food, or house wares. Souvenir shops as well as the food agoras are usually located in the old parts of a town or village while most other shops are located in the more modern parts.
Souvenirs shops can be found all over Greece. Although they are geared towards visitors, they are open year round. Among the things of interest at these shops are replicas of statues from various periods of Greek civilization; various items made from olive or pine wood, such as cutlery, salad bowls, and chopping boards; marble chess or backgammon playing boards; and leather goods such as bags, belts and sandals
Jewelry shops are a common sight in Greece. Everything from silver to gold, semi-precious to precious stones, ancient styles to modern jewelry can be found to suit any budget. Aside from shops such as Bulgari and Lalaounis in Athens, some fantastic traditional style jewelry can be found in the city of Ioannina and the surrounding area of Epirus which has a long history in jewelry making. Besides traditional jewelry you can find shops with contemporary jewelry in almost any city.
Byzantine Iconography refers to the distinct tradition and style of Orthodox religious images painted during the Byzantine Empire which lasted from the 5th century to the fall of its capital, Constantinople, in 1453. This rich tradition continues to this day. You can find icons in small shops near larger churches and in some museums.
Greece is the land of entrepreneurs and artisans. Small shops selling one of a kind crafts can be found in most areas of Greece. In some areas such as the more mountainous areas of Greece you can find shops that sell throw rugs, fabrics and embroidery. In other areas you’ll find clothing, bag or shoe designers selling their own creations. You’ll also find potters, artists, and many more entrepreneurs, all over the country selling their unique creations.
In most cities and large towns, especially Athens, you’ll find mainstream shops and malls with everything from shoes and clothing to furniture. In Athens the best areas for clothing and accessories is downtown Athens and Kolonaki. For traditional Greek goods such as A, B, and C try the northern suburbs of Athens (Kifissia), the west coast of Athens (Glyfada), or the old part of Athens (Monastiraki
With a surface of approximately 82,024 sq. miles (132,000 sq. km.) of which more than 80% is mountainous, a coastline of more than 9,321 miles (15,000 km.) and over 430 islands, Greece offers a huge variety of activities. The ideal climate, forests, rivers, lakes, uninhabited islands with unbelievably beautiful beaches, tiny picturesque villages and numerous historical sites make any activity an amazing opportunity to combine the outdoors with leisure or history.
Beginning in the northeastern region of Thrace heading southwest one comes across a seemingly never ending series of mountain ranges. Some that you may have heard of are the eastern and Western Rodopi Mountains that border Greece and Bulgaria; sacred Mount Athos in the Chalkidiki region; Tymfi in the Epirus region (known for its hiking); legendary Mt. Olympus in the center of Greece; Ossa (Kissavos) and Pelio, home to the ancient Centurions; Parnitha, one of the many surrounding Athens; and the Peloponnesian mountains of Mainalon, Parnonas and Taygetos. These mountains are decorated with numerous rivers, lakes, forests, paths, trails, national parks, monuments, historic and contemporary sites, pictorial guest houses, peaceful villages, friendly inhabitants, extensive flora and fauna, and all of them offer a first class reason to explore them.
Most mountain activities take place in the Epirus area. There are several reasons for that. First, the scenery—several mountains of various heights, beautiful rivers, unbelievably beautiful lakes, a breathtaking gorge, two National parks, the historic town of Ioannina, the ancient oracle of Dodoni and the numerous traditional villages of Zagori, it is the best playground for outdoor activities, and it’s the best place to get a taste of a traditional way of life in Greece. Another reason is that the area is dotted with traditional guest houses that are luxurious while remaining discrete within the natural environment.
If you are an experienced hiker or a peaceful walker there are limitless options and a wide variety of trails and pats for you in Eprius. Our expert representatives can organize anything from a 2-hour stroll around the villages of Zagori to a physically demanding 8-hour hike. You won’t need any special equipment, just a pair of light hiking shoes or boots and a good jacket in winter or a sweater in the summer.
Keep in mind, especially for those who wish to do long trails, that hiking is a physically demanding activity. High altitudes, lower temperatures and rocky and uneven paths and trails, can sometimes be exhausting. So if you intend on doing extended hiking, please check with your physician.
Greece has hundreds of miles of coastline – what better way to discover Greece than in the privacy, luxury and independence of your own boat – you’ll have blue skies, turquoise waters, golden beaches, colorful fishing villages at your disposal. You can move around from one harbor to another or from one beach to another, and stay as long as you like wherever you like without any limitation at all. You can have lunch or dinner on your boat, or you can disembark if you wish to visit a tavern or a restaurant.
Whether you are an experienced yachtsman or a first time enthusiast, the experience of sailing in clear waters beneath a blue sky is unique. The sensation of freedom and independence can compare to nothing else – the wind that pumps the sails, waves slapping against the side of the boat, the wind at your back and the horizon will be yours for the taking.
If you are an experienced sailor you will appreciate the sturdy winds and choppy waters of the Aegean Sea. With five main island groups, the Saronic Gulf islands, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Dodecanese and the north Aegean islands, and Crete the largest Greek island, the Aegean Sea promises a hearty sailing experience.
If you prefer a mild and pleasant sailing excursion, you will appreciate sailing the calm waters of the Ionian Sea. With light winds, shorter distances between islands and a chance to discover Venetian influence in Greece, sailing the Ionion Sea promises a pleasant experience.
Rafting is an excellent way to explore nature. Despite of what you may have heard, rafting does not require any special skills or experience, unless you are aiming for high degrees of difficulty. There are six degrees (1-6); the first two are for beginners and novices.
Rafting can be a very pleasant and unforgettable experience. If you can overcome the initial nervousness it can be very rewarding for you, your friends or your family (children over eight can participate). For those of you that are experienced, little can be said. We urge you to come and find out for yourselves.
Mountain biking is another good way to explore nature. The possibilities are limitless since you can go almost anywhere on a mountain bike. It’s very easy, very good exercise and every one can do it. The sensation of the wind on your face combined with the sights and sounds of a mountain forest can make mountain biking an unforgettable experience.
For those of you that wish a less ordinary experience, these two climbing techniques are perfect adrenaline providers without the risk. No necessary skills are required.
Numerous cultural activities and festivals take place in Greece in the summer time. In the ancient theatres of Athens, Epidaurus, tragedies by ancient Greek authors, such as Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles, and comedies by authors such as Aristophanes’ take place all summer.
Many music festivals and concerts also take place during the summer months in ancient sites and modern arenas or modern concert halls such as Megaron Mousikis in Athens.
Religious festivals occur throughout the year in Greece. The largest of these celebrations is in August and celebrates Panagia (mother of God), on the fifteenth of August. These celebrations are will have processions known as litanies which are accompanied by marching bands that play classical and church music.
Each village also has a festival, in honor of their patron saint, called panigiria. At these festivals the whole village congregates in the main square and listens to music, grills lamb, and occasionally dances.
Once you are in Greece don’t miss out the opportunity to watch a movie at the many summer cinemas. They are open air cinemas, where you can watch movies from around the world while sitting at a table enjoying a beverage or a drink.
Night life and Greeks go hand in hand. A typical night out usually starts at ten in the evening with a coffee at one of the numerous cafés. Around midnight it is time for drinks at the preferred bar, with friends. After a few drinks people either go home or move on to a nightclub or to the bouzoukia (the word comes from a traditional stringed musical instrument, the bouzouki). Bouzoukia are places where one can eat or drink, listen to popular Greek music played by a live orchestra, dance (occasionally on the tables), break plates (a Greek tradition), or throw flowers on the musicians or singers. The atmosphere at these places is very festive and definitely a cultural experience.
For those of you who prefer a more moderate evening out there are taverns with excellent food and wine, and live music. They are called rebetadika from the genre of their music, rebetika. Rebetica is a kind of the Greek blues which originated in Asia Minor. Again, an excellent opportunity for those who wish to broaden their cultural horizons.
Greece is a country full of cultural and geographical diversity. As a result, Greeks are easy-going people who love to meet new people and learn about new cultures. Henry Miller said it best in the Colossus of Maroussi:
“…the Greeks are an enthusiastic, curious-minded, passionate people…. [they] experiment for the sake of experimenting…Wherever you go in Greece the people open up like flowers.
As Miller so beautifully described, Greece and the Greeks is a country of controversies. Formalities and the protocol are the least of their concerns. With this in mind and an open mind during your travels you will experience one of the best journeys of your life