Traveling to Greece? Lucky you! It should be no secret the Greek spirit and hospitality is world renowned. Greece has one of the most iconic cultures, histories, and geographies. Greece for us strikes a tender note, it is where Tasha and I fell in love. It launched years of future travel and this very blog.
However, like every destination, there are a few things to know before you travel to Greece. Yes – that’s right before you engorge yourself on feta cheese, olives, wine, and dolmades you should take heed. We’ve compiled this list of our best Greece travel tips to help you out before you go to Greece!
Traveling to Greece? Here are my Best Greece Travel Tips
If you’re traveling to Greece you need to make sure and relax here as things move at a glacial pace. This one goes without saying for pretty much everywhere in the Mediterranean region, but it rings especially true on the Greek Isles.
“Oh, it looks like your ferry failed to show up today, maybe it will show up tomorrow, maybe not – who knows!” I’ll never forget our first trip to Greece when we heard this, and how nonchalant the ticket agent was.
Raki or Ouzo
Depending on what island you’re on you’ll either be drinking tsikoudia or ouzo. All of which is better than the Turkish Raki, or the Balkans Rakija – at least that’s what the Greeks will proudly announce. No proper Greek meal out with friends and family is complete without bottles upon bottles of Raki, whatever the local spirit is.
You can shoot it, sip it, or our favorite and possibly most popular way, mix it with water giving it a cloudy white appearance. Yamas! Which means “to our health” in Greek and is the way to cheers. Oh, for those Americans out there, the rest of the world makes eye contact when they toast. It may be awkward at first, but can be achieved in a few cloudy nights.
Wear Your stretchy pants
While we’re talking about meals out in Greece a proper meal out at a traditional taverna consists of meze. What is meze? It’s small plates similar to the Spanish tapas. Here you’ll receive plate, after plate, after plate, of delicious food.
You’ll get tzatziki, saganaki, feta, salads, lamb, chips, all sorts of grilled veggies, watermelon, calamari, and whatever else is in the kitchen. Did I forget to say lamb? **Side note pack a pair of pants that stretch and try not to gain too much weight. Read more about what to pack for a vacation in Greece.
The Greek beaches are pretty famous for those looking to let loose. Although Greeks are Orthodox and tradition requires women to dress sensibly, topless sunbathing remains socially acceptable throughout many Greek beaches. You’ll see all ages doing away with those annoying bikini top tan-lines, and on a number of beaches, you’ll find full naturists beaches catering to those that really feel like letting it all hang out.
You should always be aware of your surroundings, typically this is done at the outer edges of beaches or the less crowded ones away from families. If you feel comfortable pack your thong and get ready for a full-fledged sun-kissed body.
Give me a word and I’ll trace its meaning to Greek
For those of you who haven’t seen the cult hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you should know the father of the movie famously states that he can trace the root of any word in English to its Greek origin. Now, this is of course not true, but it illustrates just how proud the Greeks are of their history. And it is a great one at that! They gave us democracy and modern philosophy, after all.
There are going to be some old buildings
Greece is filled with ancient ruins, medieval ruins, and buildings that easily date back to the turn of the century. Pretty much no matter where you step you will find some piece of history. Take it in doses, because it can overwhelm you. Many of these archaeological sites are very well protected and restored in Greece; tourism is a big factor in this and you should expect to pay some €€€ to see the most famous sites. For example, the Acropolis costs a whopping €30 for the full experience.
Frappe or Fredo Cappuccino
These are the two drinks of choice when it comes summer time. Sure, the Greek coffee is famous and we love it. However, a local will not be caught with one when it’s 35°C outside. In the summer Greeks drink frappes, a cold Nescafe that is topped with foamed milk and sugar.
Our personal favorite is a Fredo Cappuccino, which is espresso poured over ice then topped with cold-foamed milk. A frappe at a good takeaway price should cost €1 and a Fredo Cappuccino €1.50, if you find yourself paying more it better be sit down service or you’re getting the tourist price.
Hope you don’t get car sick easily
If you’re planning to get around the islands or mainland of Greece you’ll quickly learn that the country is very rough terrain. Meaning that roads wind back and forth and back and forth. They can be fun for the first thirty minutes, but after driving for two hours they can be exhausting.
Be sure to take breaks if you’re driving yourself around, often stopping in the little villages along the way can be some of the most rewarding travel moments. Views along the roads are also stunning, and you will need to pull over to take it all in and grab some photos.
Get out of the way
Driving in Greece is not like driving anywhere else in the EU. Here you ride in the shoulder of the road so those going 60km over the speed limit can fly by. We’re not even sure if there is a speed limit on most Greek roads for that matter, asides from the few national highways. With all the speeding you’d think they’d slow it down along all the narrow and windy roads, but that just isn’t going to happen.
These Greeks have places to be and were born to drive on their crazy roads. After all is said and done driving in Greece can be extremely rewarding and I even learned to drive stick on those crazy roads. So, this is an easy addition to our Greece travel tips; rent a car and blend in with the locals (or at least get out of the way).
No one does hospitality like the Greeks
Between the Balkans, Turkey, and Greece you will find some of the friendliest people who take hospitality seriously. We are always astounded at just how far the Greeks will go. They have this knack for making you go, wow! And the most amazing part, especially coming from America, is that feels genuine. It isn’t some formality to the Greeks – it is a tradition and one they are fiercely proud of. When you are a guest in the hands of a Greek you will undoubtedly be taken care of.
Yasas or Yasu
You should probably learn to say hello in Greek. They are proud of their culture and language and it means a great deal if you extend the olive branch and greet them in Greek even if you can’t speak a bit more. “Yassas” is the formal greeting and “yasou” is the informal singular. You will also find these words are much more fun than then just saying “hello.” I would recommend picking up a Greek language book if you want to learn a few more words.
The more appropriate setting for a show named Baywatch
Now, you will find some pretty attractive people frolicking along the Greek beaches, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Instead, I mean to talk about the abundance of gorgeous Mediterranean bays. The Greeks were historically sea-faring people, largely because of the Greek archipelago and the numerous deep water bays that could harbor their ships.
These small bays are no longer used for harboring ships, but make for a wonderful place to go for a swim (or for the adventurous, cliff jumping). These bays are our favorite place to go for a dip instead of some of the more crowded beaches. They take more work to travel to and they are very small, but you’re almost always rewarded with serenity.
Hop in loser we’re going to the next island
When exploring the Greek Isles expect to be subjected to the mercy of slow and sometimes late ferry schedules. The islands are spread apart and you can’t just hop on a train to the next one. Ferries are the best way to travel between the islands and are your primary form of transportation unless you can afford to shell out money to take flights everywhere. Book your ferry tickets here!
RIP Credit Card Points
We love to use our travel rewards credit cards; however, in Greece, we leave our cards in our wallets. Why? In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Greek financial market has seen better days. This has left harsh stipulations on cash withdrawals and transfers for Greek bank accounts.
In other words, you can hold off on your credit cards points and pay your friendly Greek hosts with cash. After all, their livelihood depends upon it, yours does not. Read more about our travel banking tips!
This should go without saying, but while in Greece you should eat and enjoy as many great local Greek products as you can. Here the yogurt is just that – yogurt. And the yogurt in Greece is among some of the best you will ever taste. “Greek yogurt,” as it is referred to in the U.S. was simply a marketing tactic employed by Chobani that paid off big and changed the American yogurt market.
Greece also has some fantastic white wine. A word to the wise, when selecting a vineyard to visit or buy from find those that are situated in the mountainous regions. Greece is hot, and that doesn’t make for great wine; however, in the right spots on the islands, the microclimates in mountainous areas can produce some great white wines.
Transport Around Greece
Getting to Greece from elsewhere in Europe has never been cheaper with budget airlines such as RyanAir servicing Athens. If you are traveling from a different continent you will most likely need to be routed through Athens before you go anywhere. You can also sometimes score a cheap flight to Crete, the largest island in Greece.
The best way to get to the Greek islands is via ferry or plane. The Greek islands are spread apart and unfortunately you can’t just hop on a short ferry to the next one. Depending on the journey the ferry can take forever, or if it’s the next door island it can take as little as two hours. It’s advisable to book your ferry tickets beforehand, especially in the high season. Book your ferry tickets here!
Once in Greece, the best way to get around is with a rental car. This lets you get to all the destinations you want to get to on your own schedule. An automatic rental car can go for €15 a day in the low season up to €35 a day in the higher seasons and will ensure you get to all the best places in Greece. Knowing how to drive a manual car will get you better prices in Europe. If you’re traveling as a group it is worth your while to hire a car for your trip.
We traveled around Greece for three weeks and paid about €20 a day for a car rental in Crete, which was a pretty decent deal in my opinion! I generally like to check comparison sites so I can get the best prices. My favorites to look at are:
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Greece.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
Best Time to Visit Greece
High season (June-September): Like most places in Europe, Greece’s high season runs from June to mid September. This is when you will find the best sunny weather as noted above, but also crowds, especially on the popular islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete. Days are longer, the weather is HOT, so you’ll want to be close to a pool or ocean. Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (April -May and October-November): The weather in Greece is cooler during these months, some would consider it much more comfortable than prime summertime weather. It’s not as busy as the summertime, but you’ll still see lots of travelers lingering about. Prices on accommodation and car rentals will drop during this time. The shoulder season is typically a fantastic time to visit Greece.
Low Season (Late November- early April): The temperatures are cooler during the low season in Greece. You’ll still see plenty of sunny days but also overcast days and little to no sunbathing. It’s too cold to take a dip in the water, but you can still enjoy the beaches with some clothes on to keep warm in the breeze. The upside is you’ll find low prices and low numbers of tourists.
Where to Stay in Greece
There are so many options for accommodation around Crete it may make your head spin when booking. We were on the island for two weeks staying at a plethora of accommodation options. Here are some of our favorites.
What to Pack for Greece?
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Greece so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
A cover-up is one of those beach vacation clothes you should always travel within your luggage. When packing for a day at the beach, make sure you don’t forget one. Not only do they look cute, but they will also protect you from the suns harsh rays.
Many establishments don’t allow beachgoers to wear just a swimsuit, so this is where the cover-up is essential. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa.
This all depends on where you’re heading to the beach, but a portable Bluetooth speaker is great to have when you’re in a group. We travel with a small BOOM speaker and take it with us when it feels appropriate. We say this because it’s often best to leave it at home on small secluded beaches so not to annoy anyone else with your music — no one’s that good of a DJ.
Of course, what you wear all depends on where you live! For those heading to Greece in the Spring or Fall, you may want something a little warmer. For those days we always reach for a warm fleece jacket.
Patagonia’s Synchilla Snap T Pullover fleece is the best fleeces for the beach in our opinion. The fleece has a classic relaxed cut that has a timeless look for a walk on the beach or evening bonfire. It’s a double-sided fleece that provides plenty of warmth while remaining soft and comfortable.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to Greece then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Greece. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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