Traveling to Greece and in search of a few Greece travel tips? Lucky you! It should be no secret the Greek spirit and hospitality are 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 going to Greece!
Greece Travel Tips to Know
If you’re traveling to Greece from the USA, you need to make sure and relax here as things move at a glacial pace. This one goes 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. There’s no need to get mad or annoyed about anything – no one will care! Better to just take every day as it comes and go with the flow.
Learn to Love 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 it 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, of delicious food. Eating this kind of meal is one of the best things to do in Greece.
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? I always like to pack a pair of pants that stretch and try not to gain too much weight, but it’s tempting in Greece! Read more about what to pack for a vacation in Greece.
Don’t Be Shy if Some Beachgoers #Freethenipple
The Greek beaches are pretty famous for those looking to let loose. Although Greeks are Orthodox and tradition sees women dress more conservatively, topless sunbathing remains socially acceptable throughout many Greek beaches, though it’s mainly other European tourists that engage with it.
You’ll see all ages doing away with those annoying bikini top tan-lines, and on several 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 and want to undress on the beach, you can search for nude beaches, many parts of Greece have them. Do your research to make sure it’s acceptable to strip down.
Give Me a Word and I’ll Trace its Meaning to Greek
Americans traveling to Greece may know what that heading means. For those of you who haven’t seen the cult hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you may 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 is 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.
Greece Has Amazing Ancient Ruins
Greece is filled with ancient ruins, medieval ruins, and buildings that easily date back to the turn of the century. It’s a Greek fact that you will find some piece of history pretty much no matter where you step. 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 €30 for the full experience.
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Have a Frappe or Fredo Cappuccino
Any Greece travel guide needs to mention Greek coffee drinks like these. These are the two drinks of choice when it comes summertime. Sure, 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 topped with foamed milk and sugar.
Our personal favorite is a Fredo Cappuccino, espresso poured over ice then topped with cold-foamed milk. A frappe at a good takeaway price should cost about a €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.
Driving In Greece is Not for the Faint of Heart
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, and often they are very narrow, with very fast local drivers driving past you. 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 renting a car in Greece; 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.
But You’ll Have to Learn if You Want to Rent a Car
Driving in Greece is not like driving anywhere else in the EU. Here you ride on 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, 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 years ago. 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 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
One of the best Greece travel tips I can give you is to learn a few local words. 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 just saying “hello.” I would recommend picking up a Greek language book if you want to learn a few more words.
The Greek Beaches are Gorgeous
Now, you will find some pretty attractive people frolicking along the Greek beaches of Mykonos or Santorini, 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 beautiful 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.
Learn to Love the Greek Ferries
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. When we’re traveling around Greece I often like to search Ferry Hopper to see where the ferries can conveniently connect me too and at what cost.
Also if you can book your ferry ticket in advance do it, as it often costs more to book at the ferry terminal than online.
Speaking of Greek Islands…
Speaking of islands, Greece has some amazing ones. You could spend an entire year here and still not even scratch the surface. That’s probably the reason why we keep returning to Greece to see a new island each time.
If you have a couple of weeks to spare while traveling Greece, one of my best Greek travel tips is to hit up a few islands instead of spending all your time on one. Some of the islands are only one hour apart by ferry, while some may take all day. Do your research on sites like Ferry Hopper and see what is best for you. A few of our favorite Greek islands are:
RIP Credit Card Points
We love to use our travel rewards credit cards; however, in Greece, we leave our cards in our wallets. Why? Well the Greek financial market has seen better days. The 2008 crisis 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. Most restaurants, small family hotels and shops will prefer cash, though each year things change and more and more establishments are widely accepting credit cards. Just in case make sure to always have cash on you. Read more about our travel banking tips.
Enjoy the Greek Cuisine and Wine!
When traveling 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 excellent white wines.
Transport Around Greece
Flying to Greece
Getting to Greece from elsewhere in Europe has never been cheaper with budget airlines such as RyanAir servicing Athens. Aegean Airlines also flys all over Greece. If you are traveling from a different continent, you will most likely need to be routed through Athens before you go anywhere. Emirates runs a direct route from New York to Athens. We often grab a direct flight to London, and then continue on to Greece on a different leg. You can also sometimes score a cheap flight to Crete, the largest island in Greece. Santorini, Mykonos, and Corfu also have many flights that connect to mainland Europe.
Ferry or Fly to the Islands
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, and many islands don’t have an airport. 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. I like to check Ferry Hopper to see routes and book tickets.
Get a Rental Car
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 manual 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, and €25 a day in Crete! These were pretty decent deals in my opinion! I generally like to check comparison sites so I can get the best prices.
When is the 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, especially in July and August, 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 plenty 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 many 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. The bad side is many businesses close for the season and the vibe is not what you might expect out of a trip to Greece.
What to Pack for Greece?
Spending a summer on one of the many Greek islands? Lucky you. You may be wondering just what to pack for Greece, and we have you covered!
Greek Travel Planning Resources
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
- Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
- Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Cars to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect us from injury, theft, or a canceled trip. We use HeyMondo for our insurance needs.
- Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.