Beautiful summer evenings with music, theatre, food and dancing. It enchants you, it seduces you and makes you want to stay for a long time with her. Cosmopolitan and beautiful. Sad and joyful. Famous in the outskirts of the world, for the bads and the goods. Special and magical like nowhere else…
Welcome to Greece and the 15 things to know before your trip!
1. Food and Drink
Food: Greek food consists mainly of meat and fish but for the Vegetarians and Vegans I have great news. A big variety of Traditional dishes are in fact Vegan! Oh yes, Vegan. Trust me, I am Greek and I assure you that is 100% true. 🙂 The most popular ones are Gemista, Mpriam, Fasolakia, different kind of soups, traditional bread, homemade desserts and you can find them almost in every restaurant.
Make sure you read print this Vegan Guide – Main Dishes before your head to Greece.
Note —> The original Greek salad is WITHOUT lettuce.
For the Vegetarians, Greek cuisine is famous for its delicious pies, nutritious dips and aromatic pastries. You will get Spanakopita, Tiropita, Tzatziki, Tirokafteri, Galaktoboureko, Karidopita and much more.
Note —> The original yogurt, is just from Greece. The famous name of “Greek Yogurt” which you can find worldwide, is just a marketing strategy.
Drinks: Concerning the coffees, the popular one is the Greek coffee which is served as single or double in every cafe. During summer, Frappe and Freddo Cappuccino are widely served everywhere. Frappe is a Nescafe drink with foam milk, ice and sugar. Freddo Cappuccino is an espresso drink with sugar and thick foamed milk or cream on the top. You can find all the milky coffees in Vegan options, with soya or almond milk, in big cities as Athens and Thessaloniki.
Note —> Greek coffee is originated from Turkey. Despite the fact that the Greeks are proud from their Greek coffee and insist the opposite, the source origin is from Turkey. The taste is different though.
Drinks choices are endless! Regarding traditional alcohol, you can’t leave Greece without tasting of Raki (mainly in Crete island), ouzo and tsipouro! Yamas!! It means “to our health”. These drinks are quite strong and normally are mixed with water (especially ouzo). You CAN’T drink ouzo without mixing it with water unless you want to get drunk straightaway. It is that strong!
Prices: Depending on which town or island you are, you will find various prices. Normally, restaurant prices vary from 10 – 15 euro/person. In some islands such as Santorini, Mykonos and Skiathos, prices are double and in some tavernas and restaurants even triple! If you want street/canteen food, prices are much lower (5 euro/person without alcohol). For reasonable prices avoid the months of June, July, August and beginning of September.
Another option is the supermarkets. You can buy your supplies and cook in your accommodation, in case you have cooking area. Regarding Vegan options, be aware that mainly the big cities of Athens and Thessaloniki have organic and vegan stores. You can find them also in islands and small cities but nothing is guaranteed. Veganism is not popular in Greece unless it’s the Lent season (mainly 40 days before fasting before the Orthodox Easter) and the foods called as Nistisima.
There is a big variety of lodgings. From Airbnb, Hostels, Hotels to Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is normally free depending on your host. Hostels are mainly in Athens and big islands. Regarding Airbnb and Hotels are in every city and island. Please be advised that during popular months of July and August is advisable to book as early as possible. Especially August can be a nightmare!
Prices: Hostel prices can vary from 10 euro/person to 30euro/person. Airbnb and Hotels prices start from 30 euro/person. Avoid the months of June, July, August and beginning of September if you want budget accommodation.
It’s advisable to read the reviews and check the area of each place, prior to any booking.
Generally, Transportation is quite developed in Greece. Specifically, in Athens, there is a Metro, Tram, buses, trains, taxis and KTEL. KTEL is a suburban transportation and it connects towns and big cities. In Athens, the most popular stations are KTEL Kifisou and Liosion.
In small cities and islands, transportation is quite bad so renting a car is advisable.
Taxis are everywhere in Greece and quite expensive. Make sure that there is a meter otherwise the driver can double the original price! In addition, the tariff after midnight up to 5 am is double. Starting tariff is at 1.29 euro, as far I remember. The price from the airport to certain parts of the cities is fixed.
In addition, to avoid any hassle, there are other taxi operators:
- Kosmos taxi. You call at 18300 and the minimum charge is 5 euros. Highly recommended for quick pickups.
4. Driving and Traffic
For the big cities as Athens and Thessaloniki are not advisable to rent a car. Public transportation is good and except that, its a lot of traffic!. Be aware that Greeks are driving like crazy, especially in big cities.
In the Islands and smaller cities is better to rent a car to explore the areas. Sometimes, Public transportation can be a hard task.
Regarding the cars, manual gear is mainly popular in Greece. You can find Automatic ones but the prices are double. The driving side is on the left. Always wear your seatbelt and do not drive if you had a few drinks. Frequent checks applicable through police.
Prices: Ticket bus in Athens, cost 1.40 per ticket, and you can travel with the same ticket in any mean of transportation for 90 minutes.
If you are in Athens and you want to stay longer than 1 month please check with the stations for further information. Please be aware that soon the paper tickets which are in use today will be replaced by paper and plastic smartcards
Most places accept Credit cards but there are a big majority of small cafes, tavernas, markets, hostels and street ventures who accept only cash. Currency is Euro only. It’s better do not make currency exchange in Greek airports as they tend to have high rates. You can find ATM’s everywhere in Greece, except the tiny places. Cheques are seldom in Greece.
One thing is for sure. Υou will never feel bored in Greece!!! Bars, restaurants, tavernas, the famous bouzouki, cafes, clubs, theatres, concerts, galleries, street art, festivals, Greece is full of activities and it is a very livable country. Especially, during Summer the night is young. 🙂 The nightclubs open late and close early in the morning. Beach parties are very popular also. Be aware of your drinks though, sometimes can be badly mixed with other chemical substances.
Prices: Drinks can vary from 3 – 4 euros for a wine. Beer can be a little bit cheaper. Regarding cocktails start from 7 euro. In some big clubs, there is an entrance fee normally 15-20 euros.
If you are planning to shop around, the choices are endless. Big and small stores are everywhere. In addition there a few big malls mainly in big cities.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Greece usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
9. Dressing code
No restrictions here, except in the Monasteries and Churches.
Greece is generally is one of the safest countries in Europe. For Solo females though, avoid walking alone at night to the dark areas especially in the big cities. You should always be aware of your surroundings.
The official language is Greek but as a tourist, you will not face big problems if you speak English. Normally the majority of Greek people, especially the young ones, speak and understand English.
12. Greek People
Greeks are friendly, generous and happy to help you anytime! If you learn a few Greek words they will be very happy for your effort. A few popular words to consider are:
- “Giasou” – Hello,
- “Ti Kanis?” – How are you?
- “Kalimera” – Good morning,
- “Kalinixta” – Good night,
- “Efxaristo” – Thank you,
- “Mou aresi i Ellada” – I like Greece,
- “Mou aresis” – I like you (in case of flirting :))
Besides that, a big majority of Greeks LOVE to nug and complain about everything! Are they are sad? they complain. Are they happy? oh yes, they complain! That’s a fact! 🙂
13. Best Season to visit and the best places
Greece is just awesomely beautiful in any season of the year.
Beaches, mountains, endless sun, great weather and blue skies: During the months of May, June, July, August and September. July and August are overcrowded though. Avoid like hell if its possible! Believe me, can be a nightmare!
Snow, skiing, picturesque villages covered with fog and snow: December, January, February and March in the mountain cities as Meteora, Araxova and Karpenisi.
Flower season festivals: April and May
Greece is not all about Santorini, Mykonos and Athens.
As a Greek, I can definitely say that there are way much better places to visit in Greece. Meteora, Pilion, beautiful Crete and Thessaloniki which is one the most beautiful European cities, are some of them. I will soon write a relevant post.
To be honest, I fed up seeing posts about Santorini and Mykonos. Way too expensive and overrated. Real Greece is not about those places, definitely not…
14. Health and Smoking
In case of emergency, you can head to the nearest public hospital that is functioning for emergencies purposes. In addition, you can find pharmacies everywhere in Greece.
Greeks love Smoking! In the majority of bars and restaurants, unfortunately, smoking is allowed. The are some cafes though in Thessaloniki, where smoking is prohibited. The article is in Greek but you can see the name of the places. Non-Smoking Cafe and Bars
15. Gay, Lesbians, Queer and Bi.
You can find relevant bars in big cities. Greece is still a conservative country. As a result, you will not face any problem as a gay, lesbian, queer and bi. (Except the weird looks…but who cares, right?)