Tips and Info

Greece has a Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine, mild temperatures and a limited amount of rainfall. Due to the country's geographical position, its rugged relief and its distribution between the mainland and the sea, there is great variation in Greece's climate.
In summer, the dry hot days are cooled by seasonal winds called the meltemi, while mountainous regions have generally lower temperatures.
The winters are mild in lowland areas, with a minimum amount of snow and ice, yet, mountains are usually snow-covered.
Moreover, a common phenomenon is the occurrence of different climactic conditions during the same season (for instance, mild heat in coastal areas and cool temperatures in mountainous regions).
Spring and early autumn are considered by many to be the best times of year to visit Athens. The weather is remarkably pleasant and the mood of the city is filled with a natural beauty as is apparent by the abundant and fragrant jasmine that pours from the balconied neoclassical buildings.

Athens Weather

Athens weather is relatively warm and dry. Winters are mild and summers are hot in Athens.
Average temperature is 18 – 25C (65F – 77F) all year long, although in July it could climb up to 40-42C (104F – 110F)

Visa Requirements

Greece is part of the Shengen treaty so European Union travellers from other countries members of the treaty do not need a passport. All Citizens of European Union countries have free access. A visa is not needed for visitors from USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand staying of up to three months. Visitors from all other countries have to obtain a visa from the Greek Embassy or the Consulate in their residence country. For duration of stay longer than 3 months, they have to obtain permission from the Aliens Bureau in Athens.

Currency Regulations

The Euro is the official currency in Greece. There is free and unlimited importing of foreign currency in Greece either in traveller's cheques or cash. But on departure, any remaining amount that is worth more than 1.760€, in any currency, has to be declared. Money can be exchanged in any bank, exchange bureaus, some travel agencies or in some hotels. Credit cards are used almost anywhere in Greece for paying hotel or restaurant bills. You can also use them to withdraw cash from ATMs. Smart card credit cards have not been introduced yet by the local banks so take into account credit card readers are not very advanced.

Amenities

Electricity Supply: 220 volts a.c. at 50 Hz. The wall sockets have two or three round holes as in continental Europe.
Telephone dialling systems: Tone and Pulse, wherever the telephone sets are able to interchange between systems.
Television systems: PAL - SECAM - M.
Water Quality: Overall, the water quality is excellent. But you have to be aware that in a few regions and on certain islands, the water is not drinkable. Then, it is preferable to ask for mineral water, even for your coffee.
Communications:
GSM access networks, similar to the ones in Europe, cover the whole of Greece. Mobile phones are very popular and cheap so to avoid roaming charges could purchase local prepaid SIMs to use. You can easily find a public telephone, property of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), that work with a telephone card. Cards for mobile phones and for telephone booths can be purchased from kiosks, local post offices, local OTE offices, or tourists' shops.

Country dialling code : +30


Healthcare and Medical Assistance

Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency ward (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians giving detailed information on the treatments they are following or that may be necessary. Pharmacies (ΦΑΡΜΑΚΕΙΟ), generally follow shop opening times (approx. from 8.30am to 12.30pm and from 3 to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, but in large cities many are open throughout the day. Night time service is provided on a shift basis. Business hours and night shifts are displayed outside each pharmacy and are published in local papers. It is advisable to procure a document certifying coverage by the national health care service before departure.

Newspapers and magazines.

Most western European newspapers and magazines arrive in Athens on a daily basis and they are available in many places.

Time zone

Greece is seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the USA and Canada. Daylight saving time in Greece goes into effect each year usually from the end of March to the middle of October.


Currency exchange

The Universal Currency Converter

Post Offices

All Post Offices are open from 8am-2pm Monday to Friday . Shopping

Greece is an interesting place to shop. Greece has at least 4000 years of manufacturing unique and skilful handicraft gold jewellery. Many shops sell classic and modern gold and silver jewellery as well as antique reproduction jewellery, in 14k and 18k with diamonds and precious stones. Antique carpets and hand made silk on silk rugs, furniture, paintings and porcelain can also be found. Greece is also famous for the leather and fur, bottles, leather coats, fur coats, and mink. Other kinds of goods such as souvenirs, sponges, clothes, shoes, books, and more can be found in the many shops of Greece. And the traditional art workshops for the world famous hand made pottery's-ceramics.

Shops opening times
Although shops are normally open from 9am to 1pm and from 3.30/4pm to 7.30/8pm, in some tourist areas they tend to stay open uninterruptedly from 9.30am to 7.30pm, allowing for slight variations from town to town. Large department stores are open throughout the country from 9.30am to 7.30pm.

Holidays and Feasts.
The following is a list of official holidays, during which all departments of public services are closed:
  • January 1- New Year's Day
  • January 6 - Epiphany.
  • First day of Lent (movable) - in Greek is known as 'Clean Monday'
  • March 25 - anniversary of the revolution for freedom against the Turkish invaders.
  • Good Friday (movable)
  • Easter Sunday, Easter Monday (movable)
  • May 1- May Day
  • Of the Holy Spirit (movable)
  • August 15 - Dormition of Virgin Mary
  • October 28 - anniversary of Greece's refusal to submit to the Italians in 1940
  • December 25 - Christmas Day
Map of Greece

Greece offers a myriad of experiences, landscapes and activities. Often cited as the birthplace of European Culture and Civilization, Greece offers a versatile and colorful mix of museums, archaeological sites, boutique hotels, chic restaurants and rustic taverns, family oriented resorts and hedonistic islands and clubs.
Greece is a country of 11,000,000 inhabitants. Almost four million of them live in Athens, although lately there is a tendency to return to the nature, away from urban centers, especially since the country offers endless opportunities for touristic development outside the big bustling cities. Geography and Environment
Strategically located at the end of Europe, connecting three continents, Greece managed to benefit from its access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Greece is a diverse country; scattered throughout the calming blue waters of the Aegean and Ionian Sea, are the 1,500 islands of the country, each one bearing its own style and history. From the blinding sun and white washed houses in Mykonos, to the earthiness of Ioannina; from the grandeur of Meteora (the suspended rocks) to the cubic houses and the irresistibly stunning island of Santorini; from the gossip at the kafeneia (traditional coffee houses) to the imposing Parthenon, Greece offers a unique and fascinating contrast, as history, melancholy and exquisite beauty blend harmoniously throughout the country.
The northern part of the country is dissected by high mountains that extend southwards to a landscape of fertile plains and pine-forested uplands.
Featuring rugged mountains, inviting trekking, skiing, or hiking enthusiasts to explore them, forests and lush woodland at the northern parts, and islands offering endless opportunities for sea and water sports, Greece is a place to be all year long. Its climate helps anyway, as winters are mild, spring is gorgeous and summers are hot. It is estimated that Greece receives 15-16 million tourists every year.

The Greeks
Greeks are passionate people greek manEqually diverse as their country, Greeks are passionate people; they love with passion, hate with passion and in most cases at the same time.
Greeks laugh loudly, shout, cry loudly and they are the first to jump in a fight if needed.
Greek people enjoy food and drinking, they cherish their free time; you will see them drinking coffees in open air cafes all day long. Greeks adore music.
Greeks adore music, festivals, celebrations and anything that brings them out of their houses. They adore their sea and Greek islands and they are passionately in love with their country, although they do not miss ranting about it.
Vacation time, free time and relaxation are absolutely sacred to people of Greece. Greek hospitality
Greeks are known for their hospitality and their good manners to foreigners and they are friendly, easy going and open hearted.

Respect

Greeks rate politeness with a person's behavior and not their words. Furthermore, there is an air of informality; everybody is treated like a cousin. They use their hands to gesture a lot. Have fun with this. Sometimes over-emphasizing politeness in spoken language will only make the person dealing with you think you are pretentious. It's nice to learn basic words like "thank you" (Ευχαριστώ: ef-khah-rees-TOH) or "please" (Παρακαλώ: pah-rah-kah-LOH).
Greeks generally consider it proper etiquette to let the stranger make the first move. You may find that on entering a cafe or passing a group on the street you feel that you're being ignored, but if you take the initiative by saying hello first, you're likely to find that people suddenly turn friendly.
Greeks take leisure very seriously; it is a work-to-live culture, not live-to-work. Don't take perceived laziness or rudeness harshly. They do it to everyone, locals and tourists alike. Rather than fight it, just go along with it and laugh at the situation. It can be very frustrating at times but also appreciate their "enjoy life" attitude. They do take politics and soccer very seriously.
Dress codes for churches include covered shoulders for women and knees covered for both sexes. This tends to be lightly enforced during the height of the summer tourist season, simply due to sheer volume! In any case, appropriate clothing is usually available at the entrance of churces and monasteries, especially the ones receiving most tourist traffic. Just pick it up going in and drop it off on the way out

Sensitive Topics

Do not say that Greece is part of Eastern Europe; Greece was the only openly pro-Western country in a shore of Communist neighbors, both pro-Soviet and neutral. It is not geographically correct either.
The Macedonian issue is considered a very sensitive topic: Greeks consider that the name "Macedonian" is stolen from them and used by Tito's partisans in southern Yugoslavia to address themselves. The history ---=proves that!!
Also, be very careful when talking about the Byzantine Empire, which is a symbol of their national pride and splendor; however,most will say the polar opposite when talking about the military junta of the late 1960s-mid 1970s. Many Greeks-- not just Communists and other left-wing groups-- have suffered severe repression and view its leaders with utter resentment. Some Greeks also take pride of their ancient history as well, since the ancient Greeks are well known civilization to first develop the concept of democracy.
Likewise, be polite when asking about their relationship with the Turks, the Ottoman occupation and the Cyprus civil war of 1974, as these create passionate, sometimes aggressive, debates, given the past turmoil between the two nations.

Photography restrictions

It is strictly forbidden to take photos of military installations or other strategic locations. Authorities will take violations quite seriously. Obey signs prohibiting photography. In fact, it would be best not to take photographs of anything of military significance, including Greek navy ships, or of airports or any aircraft, even civilian ones: Greek authorities can be very sensitive about such things. Many museums prohibit photography without a permit; some prohibit only flash or tripod photography, and many ask visitors not to take photos of objects (statues, etc.) which include people standing by them, as this is considered disrespectful. But these specific cautions shouldn't discourage visitors from otherwise taking photos in Greece, which is one of the most photogenic places in the world.

Greek Cuisine

Greek cuisine is famous worldwide, due to its variety and amazing tastes. Restaurants and tavernas in Greece cater all flavors, while a vast variety of fusion cuisine is available everywhere. Popular local dishes.
The traditional fast foods are gyros (γύρος, "GHEER-ohs", not "JIE-rohs" as in "gyroscope"), roast pork or chicken (and rarely beef) and fixings wrapped in a fried pita; souvlaki (σουβλάκι, "soov-LAH-kee"), grilled meat on a skewer; Greek dips such as tzatziki (τζατζίκι), made of strained yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped cucumbers and dill or mint; and skordhalia (σκορδαλιά), a garlic mashed potato dip which is usually served with deep fried salted cod.
With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece has excellent seafood. Try the grilled octopus and the achinosalata (sea-urchin eggs in lemon and olive oil). By law, frozen seafood must be marked as such on the menu. Some fresh fish, sold by the kilo, can be very expensive; if you're watching your budget, be sure to ask how much your particular portion will cost before ordering it.
Greek salad (called "country salad" locally, "HorIAtiki"), a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and onion – all sliced – plus some olives, and occasionally green bell pepper or other vegetables, usually garnished with oregano. Traditionally it is dressed only with olive oil; vinegrette or lettuce are added only in the most tourist-oriented restaurants.
Also consider:
* moussaka, a rich oven-baked dish of eggplant, minced meat, tomato and white sauce
* pastitsio, a variety of lasagna
* stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stew
* spetzofai, braised sausage with pepper and tomatoes, a hearty dish originally from the Mt. Pelion region
* saganaki, fried semi-hard cheese
* paidakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular. They tend to have a gamier taste and chewier texture than North American lamb chops, which you may or may not like
Fried potatoes (often listed on menus as chips) are a naturalized Greek dish, found almost everywhere. They can be very good when freshly made and served still hot. Tzatziki is usually a good dip for them, though they are still good on their own.
For dessert, ask for baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts; or galaktobouriko, a custard pie similar to mille feuille. Other pastries are also worth tasting. Another must-try is yogort with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you used to see at Dannon stores. Fruit such as watermelon is also a common summertime treat.
For breakfast, head to local bakeries (fourno) and try fresh tiropita, cheese pie; spanakopita, spinach pie; or bougatsa, custard filled pie, or even a ""horiatiko psomi", a traditional, crusty village type bread that is a household staple, and very tasty on its own too. All are delicious and popular among Greeks for quick breakfast eats. Each bakery does own rendition and you are never disappointed. Have this with a Greek coffee to be local.
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Greek Restaurants

Although one can find different ethnic foods in Athens, the great majority of restaurants in Greece serve only one variety of food: Greek food! To most people who consider "variety" to come from different types of cuisines this might sound rather monotonous, but Greek food comes in many shapes, forms, and varieties to keep even the most demanding traveler satisfied.
Greek Restaurants, Food and Drink in GreeceRestaurants in Greece come in many different sizes and varieties as well. There are the "touristy" restaurants that would normally serve what travelers most often desire, and there are restaurants that cater exclusively to tourists . If you visit Greece as part of a tour group, chances are that you will mostly frequent such establishments. The food quality and service in both cases is exceptional, and the restaurants themselves are very clean. You normally find them in or around the most touristy spots of Greece (like Olympia) and the tour busses automatically unload their passengers at such restaurants before or after a visit to a major archaeological site. The prices vary but as a rule they are high, although they are often included in the tour price for a substantial discount.
There are also restaurants that cater mostly to tourists away from archaeological sites. They are located in the busiest parts of town, such as the waterfront of most coastal towns and islands. They also exhibit exceptional service, delicious food, and moderate to high prices. In fact, the closer you get to the waterfront, the higher the prices seem to climb. But there is no price too high to pay for a late dinner right next to the slithering reflections of the moon over the gentle waves.
A little further wandering around the narrow streets of most cities will reveal the places that the locals frequent. Although there is no written rule that establishes such restaurants as better than others, a little exploration might reward the visitor with a restaurant that offers great Greek food at great prices, and in an authentic local atmosphere. An option worth checking out if you are budget conscious, or if you plan to stay in one place for a long time.
Restaurants are most often referred to as "Tavernas" of "Fish Tavernas" (Psarotaverna) if the main focus on the menu is seafood Vegetarian
In Greece, vegetarianism never took off as a trend, and restaurants catering strictly to vegetarians are practically non-existent. However, Greeks traditionally eat less meat per capita than northern Europeans and North Americans, and there are countless vegetarian dishes in Greek cuisine. Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but because such a large percentage of their diet consists of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruits, a vegan or vegetarian visitor will not have any difficulty in finding a huge variety of vegetarian food all over Greece. The Porto Club travel agency offers a number of tours designed for vegetarians and vegans.

Greek drinks

Those wishing to partake of alcoholic beverages in Greece would be well advised to stick to the traditional domestic Greek products discussed below, which are freely available, mostly cheap by European standards, and usually of good quality. Any imported (i.e. non-Greek) alcoholic beverages are likely to be very expensive if genuine, and if cheap may well be "bomba," a locally distilled alcohol with flavorings which sometimes, especially in island bars catering to young people, masquerades as whiskey, gin, etc. If you drink it, you'll be very sorry.

To be able to purchase alcohol in Greece you must be 17, but there is no legal drinking age.

Wines

Greece, an ancient wine producing country, offer a wide variety of local wines, from indigenous and imported grape varieties, including fortified and even sparkling wines. Greek wines are generally not available on the international market, as production is relatively small, costs are quite high and little remains for export. However, in the past decade Greek wines have won many international prizes, with the rise of a new generation of wineries. Exports are rising as well.

Wine is most Greeks' drink of choice, "Krasi" (inos: οίνος) and traditional spirits like ouzo, tsipouro, raki and tsikoudia (produced in Crete, similar to the Italian grappa). Retsina is a "resinated wine" with a strong, distinctive taste that can take some getting used to; the flavor comes from pine resin, which was once employed as a sealant for wine flasks and bottles. The most well-known and cheap-n-dirty is "Kourtaki Retsina".

Local producers include: * Boutari (regions: Peloponnese, Crete, Goumenissa, Santorini, Naoussa).
* Skouras (region of Peloponnese). Good selection found in several tourist shops in Nafplion.
* Gentilini(region of Cephalonia). Recommended by Dorling Kindesley's Eyewitness Travel Guides: Greek Islands, 2001;
* region of Santorini:
o Canava Argyros.
o Volcan Wines Also, a Volcan Wine Museum.
o Santo Wines

* region of Crete:
o Peza Union
o Sitia Agricultural Cooperatives Union
o Creta Olympias Winery [33]
o Minos Wines.
o Lyrarakis Wines
o Douloufakis Wines
o Michalakis Winery
* Tsantali

Many tavernas have "barrel wine," usually local, which is usually of good quality and a bargain. Bottled wines have gotten increasingly more expensive; some that the beginner may find worth trying are whites from Santorini and reds from Naoussa and Drama.

Beer

Beer (bira: μπύρα) is consumed all around the country. Excellent local varieties like Mythos and Alpha, as well as Northern European beers produced under license in Greece like Heineken and Amstel, are readily available mostly everywhere. (North American beers generally are not.) Heineken is affectionally known as "green"; order it by saying "Mia Prasini." On the quality front, there is also a microbrewery/restaurant called Craft (2 litre jug also available in large supermarkets), and new organic beer producers like Piraiki Zythopoiia.

Liquor
A bottle of ouzo....The most famous indigenous Greek liquor is ouzo (ούζο), an anise-flavored strong spirit (40%), which is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water. As a rule, only tourists drink it with ice. A 200 mL bottle can be under €2 in supermarkets and rarely goes above €8 even in expensive restaurants. Mytilene (Lesbos) is particularly famous for its ouzo. A few to try are "Mini" and "Number 12," two of the most popular made in a middle-of-the-road style, "Sans Rival," one of the most strongly anise-flavored ones, "Arvanitis," much lighter, and the potent "Barba Yianni" and "Aphrodite," more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs.

Raki or tsikoudia is the Greek equivalent of the Italian grappa, produced by boiling the remainings of the grapes after the wine has been squeezed off. It is quite strong (35-40% of alcohol) and in the summer months it is served cold. It costs very little when one buys it in supermarkets or village stores. The raki producing process has become a male event, as usually men are gathering to produce the raki and get drunk by constantly trying the raki as it comes out warm from the distillery. One raki distillery in working order is exhibited in Ippikos Omilos Irakleiou in Heraklion, but they can be found in most large villages. In northern Greece it is also called tsipouro (τσίπουρο). In Crete, raki is traditionally considered an after-dinner drink and is often served with fruit as dessert.

A popular drink is a frappe made with instant Nescafe, water, sugar , and sometimes milk. It is frothed and served over

Water

A glass of water is normally served with any drink you order; one glass for each drink. Some cafes which cater to tourists charge extra for water, especially if it's served in a bottle, even if you didn't ask for it. This is not included in the cover charge, which is normally a separate line item. Tap water in most places a traveler would go today is drinkable; if in doubt, ask your hotel. But often though technically drinkable it doesn't taste very good, especially on some small islands, and many travelers, like many Greeks, prefer to stick to bottled water.

Greek Music

Greek music is of impressive diversity, mostly due to the assimilation of different cultures and needs throughout the mainland and islands. Greeks adore music and it a very important part of their everyday life, even since the antiquity. The most known types of Greek music are:
The Greek folk songs, which originate from the traditional poetry and music; it is a type of songs that refers to older musical movements and is vastly loved and played, especially in celebrations and festivals.
Nissiotika is also a popular type of songs, born in the islands and they are played with Violin, lira, clarinet and guitar. Diversity here is also huge: Crete features its own style, with mantinades, small poems sung in a tone given by the Cretan lyra.

Rembetika is probably the most interesting style of music, born in hashish dens and underground areas in Thessaloniki and Piraeus. Rembetika was created by the refugees that came to Greece after the destruction in Minor Asia, when Greeks were deported by the Turks. Greeks who have never been in Greece, homesick and feeling rejected in their own country created this type of music, singing about poverty, pain, hunger, oppression, betrayals, drugs. Rembetika songs were forbidden for many years in Greece.

Modern Greek music is a mixture of folk, rembetika, laika (Greek popular music) based on bouzouki; it’s a passionate and fiery kind of music, played everywhere, from local taverns to nightclubs, where live music prevails in Greece.