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Greece

Greece

Greece Travel Guide

Greece has captured the world's imagination with its ancient culture and fantastical myths. Visions of vengeful gods and goddesses, massive armies led by generals riding in chariots, and great philosophers discussing ground-breaking ideas dance in the heads of tourists, who visit in their millions every year. World-famous sites such as the Parthenon in Athens, the Acropolis of Rhodes, the churches of Thessaloniki, and the Oracle of Delphi will always speak to romantics.

Greece isn't just about the past, though, as its warm weather gives it the ideal climate for beach holidays. Islands such as Santorini, Crete, Mykonos and Corfu are popular cruise destinations in the Mediterranean, where beach lovers can expect roughly 200 days of sunshine every year, during which they can enjoy pebbled coastlines, seaside tavernas and a vibrant nightlife.

Gastronomes can feast on meze staples such as saganaki (fried haloumi cheese), kleftiko (lamb slow-baked on the bone), and souvlaki (shaved pork wrapped in a pita) and, of course, no visit is complete without a taste of Greek spirits. Loud, friendly locals are always ready to welcome visitors for an unforgettable experience in the 'birthplace of Western civilisation'.

Best time to visit Greece

The most popular time to visit Greece is the summer (June to August) when the weather is beautiful and sun is guaranteed. Late spring (April and May) and early autumn (late August through September) are also lovely times to holiday in Greece, as crowds are thinner and the sun is gentler.

What to see in Greece

-Spend a few days marvelling at the ruins of the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens, and wandering through the archaeological museums nearby.

-Visit the site of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, where there are still ruins of arenas, gymnasiums and changing rooms.

-See the tomb of King Leonidas in Sparta, along with other relics of the famous warriors of the Peloponnese Peninsula.

-Explore the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos, where the Apostle John is said to have written the Book of Revelation.

What to do in Greece

-Take a cruise to Crete and lounge on the beaches in Hania, Heraklion, and Agios Nikolaos.

-Follow the trail of Homer's Odyssey with a visit to Ithaca, and enjoy the lively village of Vathy.

-Let loose in the trendy tavernas and nightclubs of Mykonos.

-Watch a stunning sunset off the coast of Santorini.

Holiday resorts in Greece

Greece has many popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Each resort has its own character, varying from lively nightlife, to laid-back and secluded. Options range from single's heaven to family friendly.

Getting to Greece

There are direct cheap flights to Athens and Rhodes from many UK airports. Direct flights to Greece from the US are harder to find, but there are many connecting options.

Read

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Odyssey by Homer, Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berni√®res and The Magus by John Fowles.

Watch

Shirley Valentine (1989), Agora (2009), and My Life in Ruins (2009).

Drink

Ouzo

What to buy

Greek wine and products made from olive oil or olive wood. Ouzo and Metaxxa brandy. It is illegal to take historical artefacts out of Greece.

What to pack

A swimming costume for the islands, sturdy hiking shoes for the ruins, and plenty of sunblock.

What's on in Greece

Athens is the hub for Greek festivals. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival from May to October showcases the best in Greek music and culture. The Lycabettus Hill Festival hosts contemporary music and dance all summer long in the capital, and the traditional Greek Dance Festival takes place in Athens every year for a weekend in July.

Did you know?

-Greece has more archaeological museums than any other country in the world.

-More than 16 million tourists visit Greece annually, which is more than the country's whole population.

-Nearly 80 percent of Greece is mountainous.

A final word

Sunny beaches and sparkling seas combine with the rich history of a 3,000-year-old civilisation to create the ultimate holiday destination.

Language

Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.


Currency

The official currency is the euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. All major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are widespread.


Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts and 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin and the round three-pin.


Tipping

A service charge is automatically added to most restaurant bills and an additional tip is not expected, though it's always welcome. Rounding up the bill is sufficient for drinks at cafes; taxis, porters and cloakroom attendants will expect a tip.


Safety

Though Greece is a safe destination, peak tourist season usually sees a spike in petty theft cases, especially in crowded areas. Visitors should conceal valuables or store them in hotel safes and watch out for pickpockets. Violent crime is rare but there have been incidents on some islands; visitors travelling alone should not accept lifts from strangers.


Communications

The international access code for Greece is +30 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Free WiFi is available at cafes, hotels, restaurants and similar establishments throughout Greece; purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option to paying high international roaming costs.


Health

There are no specific health risks but everyone 12 years of age and older should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before visiting Greece. Most health problems come from too much sun and too much food or alcohol, though there's also the risk of encountering sea urchins, jellyfish and mosquitoes. Medical facilities in major cities are excellent but some of the smaller islands are a long way from a decent hospital. Larger towns and resorts have English-speaking private doctors and the highly professional local pharmacies can usually deal with any minor complaint. Travellers should take along any necessary prescription medication. Food and water are safe, but those visiting for short periods should consider sticking to bottled water. After Brexit, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance.


Public Holidays

20212022
New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Epiphany6 Jan6 Jan
Independence Day25 Mar25 Mar
Orthodox Good Friday17 Apr30 Apr
Orthodox Easter Sunday19 Apr2 May
Orthodox Easter Monday20 Apr3 May
Labour Day1 May1 May
Assumption of the Virgin Mary15 Aug15 Aug
Ochi Day28 Oct28 Oct
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Synaxis of the Mother of God26 Dec26 Dec
Clean Monday2 Mar15 Mar
Holy Spirit Monday8 Jun21 Jun


Business

Greeks prefer to dress formally in dark-coloured suits for men and stylish outfits for women. Punctuality is important to them though meetings may not start immediately. Visitors should offer a firm handshake and maintain eye contact when greeting Greek men and women for the first time, and print business cards in both Greek and English. There is no ritual surrounding the exchange of business cards.

As Greeks like getting to know their colleagues before conducting any serious business, it's unlikely a deal will take shape at the first meeting. The local culture follows a hierarchical structure and visitors should show respect in the same way. Gift giving is common in social settings but not necessarily in business.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. All of these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries.

Non-EEA travellers to Greece must hold visible means of financial support to cover their stay in the country. It is also recommended that non-EEA members hold return or onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Passengers not holding onward tickets may be asked for proof of sufficient funds for their return or onward journey. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Customs

Though more traditional than the British in some ways, most Greeks are friendly and welcoming enough to seem intrusive to reserved British tourists. Greeks are also the heaviest smokers in Europe and will often ignore the smoking ban in public places. Swimwear is expected on the beach but tourists should dress properly in bars and restaurants.


Duty Free

Travellers visiting from inside the EU can bring in 800 cigarettes, or 200 cigars, or 400 cigarillos, or 1kg of tobacco, 10 litres of spirits with an alcohol volume over 22 percent, 20 litres of spirits with an alcohol volume under 22 percent, 90 litres of wine and 110 litres of beer.

Visitors arriving from outside the EU and are over the age of 17 will not pay duty for 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 100 cigarillos, or 250g of tobacco, 1 litres of spirits with an alcohol volume over 22 percent, 2 litres of spirits with an alcohol volume under 22 percent, 4 litres of wine and 16 litres of beer.


Contacts

Greek National Tourism Organisation, Athens: +30 21 870 7000.

112 (general European emergency number); 1571 (tourist police)


Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid three months beyond the period of intended stay. No visa is required for a touristic stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, only need to be valid for period of intended stay in Greece. All other endorsements require at least three months validity beyond the period of intended stay in Greece. A visa is not required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days in a 180 day period for holders of passports with any other endorsement. Holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar authorities, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom', do not require a visa to visit Greece.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Greece. No visa is required for a touristic stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Greece.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Greece. No visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Greece. No visa is required for a touristic stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.


Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Athens: +30 21 721 2951.

British Embassy, Athens: +30 21 727 2600.

Canadian Embassy, Athens: +30 21 727 3400.

South African Embassy, Athens: +30 21 617 8020.

Irish Embassy, Athens: +30 21 723 2771.

New Zealand Consulate-General, Athens: +30 21 692 4136.


Embassy Consulates

Greek Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 1300.

Greek Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7313 5600.

Greek Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 6271.

Greek Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 348 2352.

Greek Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 676 7254.

Greek Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 7775.

Attractions

Greece is easily one of the world's best destinations. From historic sightseeing to glorious beaches, travellers truly are in for a treat. Most visitors begin their trip in Athens, where Classical Greece colours the modern capital through famous structures such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis. There are also many wonderful museums; Syntagma Square is the city's social, political and commercial hub.

From Athens, many venture out to the islands. Mountainous Crete is the most popular and features sparkling beaches, spectacular green outcroppings, ancient Minoan sites, and the famous Samaria Gorge Trail. Other popular island destinations include Corfu, for its mythic significance, Santorini, for its volcanic history and vibrant nightlife, and Rhodes, which is a World Heritage Site. History buffs should head to the Peloponnese Peninsula for the region's ancient ruins and battlefields.

Climate

Greece's Mediterranean climate gives it long, hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer temperatures are tempered by breezes called 'Meltemia', and the Etesian wind which blows north across the Aegean Sea. Rainfall is generally low in most of the country and heaviest in the mountainous regions, where snow is likely and temperatures can get severe. Mercury on the mainland regularly hits the high spots.

Summer (between June and August) is Greece's peak holiday season and draws millions of beach lovers to its gorgeous coastline. Autumn is pleasant for travellers who prefer smaller crowds and milder conditions, while winter (December to February) sees the coldest, most variable weather and is the least popular time to visit. Travellers looking to explore Greece's cultural and historical attractions should not be put off by the winter months.

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