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, or if you’ve been or returning.
15 Greece Travel Tips
You need to relax here, things move at a glacial pace. This one goes without saying for pretty much everywhere in this 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.” I’ll never forget our first trip through Greece when we heard this, and how nonchalant the ticket agent was. Opa! (Which, is not cheers, but an expression in Greek.) Hence, the whole breaking plates and yelling “OPA” thing.
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 cheers. It may be awkward at first, but can be achieved in a few cloudy nights.
Wear your stretchy pants
When 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 dress sensibly, topless sunbathing remains socially acceptable throughout most of Greece. 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 really feel like letting it all hangout. You should always be aware of your surroundings, typically this is done at the outer edges of beaches or the less crowded ones. So, 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 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. Which 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’re going to 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, you 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 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 Greece 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.
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. And 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 their language and it means a great deal if you extend the olive branch and greet them in their language 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.”
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 the islands and are your primary form of transportation unless you can afford to shell out money to take flights in between the islands. Or better yet, you’ve got your own personal yacht through Greece.
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.
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 yoghurt is just that, yoghurt. “Greek yoghurt,” 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 yoghurt market (did I just refer to the American yoghurt market in a post?). Let’s move on. 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 islands the microclimates in mountainous areas can produce some good white wines. (See mountains, below, surrounding this vineyard? That’s good news.)
Plan Your Trip to Greece
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation in Greece: Find the best hotel deal at Hotels.com, or to feel more at home in Greece we use Airbnb. Here is a coupon for your first stay!
- Flights to Greece: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Car Rental in Greece: Auto Europe is a car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found the water in Greece perfectly fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommendLonely Planet’s Greece Guide Book.
- Adapter: Remember that Greece uses the Europlug. Make sure you find a good adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.