22 Things to know before visiting Greece

To the land of ancient and medieval ruins with rich history, visiting Greece can make you take a piece of their history with you. They might have crazy and winding roads, but you can surely enjoy the magnificent views while on the vehicle. As the Greeks were known for their sophisticated sculpture and architecture, you’ll surely have a taste of its history just by looking at the ancient sculpture and architecture personally.

In this post, we will talk about the things to know before visiting Greece for you to have a better understanding on why it is one of the best destinations for travelers around the world. From Santorini, the most famous island in Greece, to its neighboring islands who also offers nothing but the best experience, Greece is surely to offer a worthwhile experience!

The official name of Greece is actually the Hellenic Republic. The ancient name of the country is Hellas or Ellada and its official name is the Hellenic Republic. In English, however, the country is usually called Greece, which comes from Latin Graecia (as used by the Romans) and literally means ‘the land of the Greeks’.

Things to Know before visiting Greece

Quick Facts about Greece

1. Currency in Greece

The currency used in Greece is Euro just like any other European country. For €1 is equivalent to $1.16. Click here to know the exchange rate between the Euro and your currency!

2. Language

Greek is the only official language in Greece. Half of the Greeks Speak English. English is the first foreign language Greek students learn from an early age and it is estimated that 51% of adult Greeks can understand and speak basic English. In addition, a number of non-official, minority languages and some Greek dialects are spoken as well. The most common foreign languages learned by Greeks other than English are German, French and Italian.

3. Visa in Greece

US and Canadian Citizens may enter Greece for up to 90-days only for tourist and business purposes without visa. Staying more than 90-days needs visa. Passports should also be valid for at least 3-months beyond the period of stay. EU nationals may stay for an unlimited period, but must register with the local authorities after three months. If you are from a country of citizenship that is not covered under the Schengen Agreement, you’ll need a visa even if it’s just a short stay. Read here our article for the Schengen Visa Philippines where Rachel explained step by step how to get Schengen Visa Philippines.

4. Weather/Best time to visit in Greece

Image courtesy of Theophilos Papadopoulos

The climate in Greece is typical of the Mediterranean climate: mild and rainy winters, relatively warm and dry summers and, generally, extended periods of sunshine throughout most of the year. It is highly suggested that the best time to visit Greece is spring and early summer (mid-April to mid-June) or autumn (September to mid-October). The wettest month is December with an average of 97.6mm of rain. Click here to check the weather in Greece.

5. Cash and ATM in Greece

Many Greek banks have their ATMs in glass-enclosed rooms just outside the bank itself. Getting cash from ATMs in Greece is more popular than any other method of exchanging money and will usually charge €2-3. Street-side ATMs are still the most common, though a few hotels, restaurants, and tavernas may have one. Most merchants would prefer cash but cards are widely used to bigger businesses and shops, so cash can be more convenient per se.

6. Transportation around Greece

On smaller islands, you go around by foot. Taxis are metered and are widely available around Greece except for the smaller islands. The fare can get high or doubled around midnight to 5am. All other local towns has buses but the only places you’re likely to need them are in Athens, Patra, Kalamata and Thessaloniki. Athens is the only city in Greece large enough to warrant the building of an underground system and you can buy tickets for as much as €1.20 each. Ferries & Hydrofoils can get you to any island within Greece but they can be really crowded and is slower. Buses and train tickets are affordable and ferries are little bit more expensive expect to pay €30’40 per ferry trip and €15-20 for a bus a bus or train trip.

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7. Daily Budget in Greece

Things to know before visiting Greece

Athens and Thessaloniki has the cheapest accommodation, dorm rooms or hostels can cost €13-15 a night. Independent hotels and guests houses around Greece can cost up to €14-18. The food is quite affordable and won’t really have a big impact on your budget. Pita with tomato, onion, a few chips and tzatziki sauce can only cost €1 or cheaper. For a nice dinner on restaurants, it can go as €20 whereas if you add wine, it can cost up to €30. Most meals on cafe can cost €11 or so, depending on what you would order. In transportation, depending on the distance of the islands, it can cost from €12 to €32 for farthest via ferry. On the other hand, visiting sites throughout Greece can cost €12-25 per ticket. Other island activities such as banana boats, kayaking and parasailing, it can cost between €22-45.

Daily budget can be okay with €30-40 or you can spend more if you have a bigger budget!

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Things to know before visiting Greece about Culture

Greece is actually a one interesting country. The tales and myths about the Greek god and goddesses might be one of the most well known thing about it, but the people’s hospitality and scenic views and places is also Greece’s strong points. Close to 98 percent of the people are Orthodox Christians, just over 1 percent are Muslims, and there are small numbers of Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, Roman Catholics, and members of Protestant denominations.

8. Philosophy and Science

The Greeks made major contributions to math and science. We owe our basic ideas about geometry and the concept of mathematical proofs to ancient Greek mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Euclid, and Archimedes. Some of the first astronomical models were developed by Ancient Greeks trying to describe planetary movement, the Earth’s axis, and the heliocentric system—a model that places the Sun at the center of the solar system. Greek philosophical culture is exemplified in the dialogues of Plato, who turned the questioning style of Socrates into written form.

9. Laid back attitude

Greeks aren’t just well known for their hospitality, but also because of their laid-back attitude. They are happy and relaxed. They like to do things on their own time thus some people who already went to Greece might say that people would seem to be living a little slow. They know their coffee, and they take their time enjoying it. In Greece, taking a shower needs at least an hour since the water must be pre-heated in the tank.  It also takes more time to get to and from places since most people walk everywhere and public transportation can unpredictable.

10. Philotimo

The concept of ‘philotimo’ also has a strong cultural influence in Greece. Meaning ‘sense of honor’ and cannot be fully describe in English. Philotimo is a person’s inner awareness of their dignity and pride that motivates them to fulfill their social responsibility and duty even if it puts the individual at a personal disadvantage. In ancient Greece, the higher calling of one’s philotimo was thought to explain how people were prepared to die for their country in battles. Today, you’ll know that Greeks sometimes just rely on each other’s words rather than writing contracts as they think that by that person’s Philotimo, they will fulfill their promise.

Things to know before visiting Greece about food

Greeks are also known for their tasty foods and cuisine. If you’re going to Greece, of course, their food is something that you shouldn’t be missed! They like variety of things so there will always be something that will suit everyone’s taste buds.

11. Moussaka

Things to know before visiting Greece
Image courtesy of Allison Jones

Moussaka is an eggplant- or potato-based dish, often including ground meat, in the Levant, Middle East, and Balkans, with many local and regional variations. The most famous version of the dish today appeared in the 1920s with the publishing of Nikolaos Tselementes’ culinary book in Greece. It is a classic comfort food for the Greeks and some usually likes eating it the next day because they find it tastier that way.

12. Feta

Feta is a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep’s milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. Compared to other cheeses, it’s low in calories and fat. It also contains a high amount of B vitamins, phosphorus and calcium, which can benefit bone health. Additionally,feta contains beneficial bacteria and fatty acids. The texture depends on the age which can be extremely creamy, or crumbly dry. So don’t pass the opportunity to taste Feta while going around Greece.

13. Gyro

Things to know before visiting Greece

A gyro or gyros is a Greek dish made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It’s usually a lamb meat that is used by the Greeks although it can have variations now. It is usually served wrapped in a flatbread such as pita, with tomato, onion, and sauce. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crisp shavings when done. You can buy gyros on restaurants and bars for €1 or cheaper!

Places to visit in Greece

Greece’s iconic archaeological sites and ruins might be one of its charms, but there are still a lot of things to explore, see and do in Greece. Composed of different and other smaller islands, Greece offers a whole lot of things to do and places to see to any tourists!

14. Santorini

Things to know before visiting Greece

Santorini is the most popular Island in Greece. Although it is widely known as a romantic spot, it still appeals to every kind of travelers who wants to explore the island. Its sloping hills and cliffs that were formed through former volcanic eruptions were turned into hotels and attractions that charm the guests and travelers. The volcanic eruption also created hot springs that were scattered all over the place. It has at least 10 archaeological sites and its hiking paths connect some of the most interesting spots, while also leading to ancient churches and comfortable hotels.

15. Milos

Beautiful beaches, inspiring views, white-washed Cycladic villages, excellent food and good-hearted people; those were just the few things that will tell you why Milos can be a place for the perfect holiday getaway. Milos is one of the undiscovered gems of the Aegean, but like Santorini, it is an island that is also rich in spectacular sunset views and minerals. There are also a number of hot springs around Milos and the beaches are not only good for swimming but also for snorkeling and scuba diving.

16. Mykonos

Things to know before visiting Greece

Mykonos might be scenic in the morning as the sun shines at the vibrant towns and houses around, it can also boasts the crazy nightlife that it can offer. Some of the best bars are only open from May to mid-October at the latest. Mykonos has a diverse party scene, from modern and elegant bars to crazy beach parties at Psarou, Paradise and Super Paradise. Mykonos is also known for being one of the most gay-friendly party destinations in the world, so you’ll expect to find plenty of gay-patronised spots in the island.

17. Thessaloniki

Things to know before visiting Greece

If you like history Thessaloniki is a place to visit in Greece. Located in the North part of the country. The city is full of life during the day and night. Many places to walk around, museums to visit and places to eat for affordable prices. You can get to Thessaloniki by train and bus from Athens and also by plane if you are coming from other destinations in Europe.

18. Athens

The capital of the country maybe will be your first place to visit in Greece. The Acropolis is a must to see in Athens. There are many options of restaurants and you can go most of the places by foot in Athens. From Athens we suggest to get the ferries to island destinations like Mykonos and Santorini. And also you can get buses or trains on the way to the North Thessaloniki and Meteora.

19. UNESCO Sites in Greece

Things to know before visiting Greece

UNESCO’s official website has listed 16 cultural and 2 mixed world heritage from Greece. Most of the ones on the cultural list are some of the archaeological sites around Greece like the archaeological sites of Delpi and Olympia. One of mixed ones on the list are the Meteora, which is a rock formation situated in central Greece and one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area.

Festivals in Greece

Greeks also knows how to party and to throw festivals every year. If you want to learn more of their culture and how they do certain things especially celebrating events and parties, read on to know which festival or event you might want to experience while travelling in Greece.

20. Thessaloniki International Film Festival

This festival showcases works by emerging talents from Greece and has been in tradition for over 50 years. Over 70,000 people attends the festival yearly. It has become one of the Southeast Europe’s primary and grandest showcases for the work of new and emerging filmmakers and the tradition still continues! Now on its 59th year, Thessaloniki International Film Festival is not slowing down in showcasing talented filmmakers.

21. The Panigiri

The Panigiri is a traditional, unique and centuries old festival that is celebrated in summer in Greece. The host of the festival is the “panigiras”, a local who has the honor to carry the icon of the saint to his home for a year and bring it back on the day of the celebration to be blessed during the liturgy. Good music, plenty food and local wine are the three key elements that make a Panigiri successful. While a modern day panagiri is centered around a saint, ancient Greek festivals were held to maintain a good relationship with the gods.

22. Athens and Epidaurus Festival

Things to know before visiting Greece
Image courtesy of Gichirstof

Athens and Epidaurus Festival is an annual arts festival that takes place in Athens and Epidaurus, from May to October. It is one of the most famous festivals in Greece. The festival includes musical, theatrical and other cultural events. The festival features a top line-up of Greek and international theatre, drama, opera, music and dance performances, held at various.

Related posts: How to get to Santorini from Athens and how to get to Mykonos from Athens.

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Are you planning to visit Malta soon? Tell us your experience or questions! If you continue your trip around Europe to France read our things to know before visiting France or our blog post things to know before visiting Spain.

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Happy travels!

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

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