Requirements Before Traveling to Greece: Top 10 Must-Knows

Requirements Before Traveling to Greece: Top 10 Must-Knows

What You Need to Know Before Heading to Greece

Santorini Greece Photo by jimmy teoh
WRITTEN BY
Dorothy Field
PUBLISHED ONMarch 26, 2024

With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, Greece has long been a favorite destination for travelers worldwide. But before you pack your bags and jet off to this Mediterranean paradise, it’s essential to understand the requirements for a smooth and enjoyable vacation. From travel documentation to cultural etiquette, this guide covers everything you need to know before embarking on your Greek adventure.

Understanding Greece

Geography

Greece sits in southeastern Europe, surrounded by three seas: the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean. This unique position gives it a vast coastline. The country is both mainland and islands—over 6,000 of them! However, only 227 islands have people living on them.

The major cities are Athens, the capital; Thessaloniki; Patras; and Heraklion. Each offers its slice of Greek life and history. For example, Athens is known for ancient ruins like the Parthenon. Meanwhile, Thessaloniki offers beautiful waterfront views.

Climate

Greece enjoys a Mediterranean climate. This means hot, dry summers and mild winters with some rain. But the best time to visit? Late spring (April-May) or early autumn (September-October). These months avoid the extreme summer heat but still offer plenty of sunshine.

However, winters in northern Greece can be colder, with snow in mountain areas. So, if you’re planning a trip there during the winter months, expect a different experience than in coastal regions.

Culture

Greek culture has deep roots in ancient civilizations. History lovers will find plenty to explore from this era alone. The Greeks have strong traditions in music and dance that often accompany celebrations.

Cuisine is another big part of Greek culture, with famous dishes like moussaka or souvlaki being enjoyed worldwide today. Family also plays a vital role in society here, as does hospitality towards visitors, making travelers feel welcome.

Understanding these aspects before traveling to Greece can significantly enhance your visit, allowing you to appreciate the sights and connect more deeply with its people and their way of life.

Travel Documentation

Passport Validity

Before you plan your trip, check your passport’s expiration date. See if it’s valid for at least six months before you leave Greece. This is a standard rule for many countries.

You also need at least two blank pages in your passport for the stamps you’ll get when entering and leaving the country. If you don’t have one yet, look into the steps in securing a passport in Greece.

Visa Requirements

Schengen Visa

Greece is part of the Schengen Area, which includes several European countries and allows you to travel around it for up to 90 days with a Schengen visa.

Good news if you’re from the U.S., Canada, or Australia and staying less than 90 days! You don’t need this visa. But if you need one, apply through your home country’s Greek consulate or embassy.

National Visas

Planning on staying longer than 90 days or going there to work or study? Then, you’ll need a different kind of visa, known as a national visa.

There are various types, such as student visas or work visas. The application process can take time, so start before your travel dates.

Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance is very smart when planning a trip abroad, not just in Greece. It can help cover costs if there’s an emergency medical situation or if something unexpected cancels parts of your trip.

Make sure that whatever activities you’re excited about doing in Greece (like water sports) are covered by your insurance policy, too!

Health and Safety

Vaccinations

Before you pack your bags for Greece, ensure a health check. Routine vaccines are necessary, including MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shots. You probably got these as a kid, but it’s good to double-check.

Next on the list are Hepatitis A and B vaccinations because of the risks of food and water in some places. There is no need for a Yellow Fever vaccine unless you’re from an infected area.

Safety Tips

Greece is beautiful, but stay sharp! Pickpocketing happens in crowded tourist spots and on public transport. Use only trusted taxi services or ride-sharing apps to avoid overcharges or scams. Always keep emergency numbers with you—the European emergency number is 112.

Currency and Payments

Currency Information

The Euro (€) is the official currency in Greece. Knowing its denominations before you travel makes shopping and paying for services easier.

Before leaving, tell your bank about your travel plans. This prevents them from blocking your card due to sudden foreign transactions. You wouldn’t want to be stuck without access to your money.

Card cards might not be accepted in many places in Greece, especially on smaller islands or rural areas. So, it’s wise to carry some cash with you. Having euros on hand can save you a lot of trouble when electronic payments aren’t an option.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are widely used across Greece in hotels, the best restaurants to check out in Greece, and larger stores. Visa and MasterCard are more common than American Express here.

Even though credit cards are popular, always have some cash ready as a backup plan. Finding places that accept credit cards on smaller islands or remote locations can be challenging sometimes.

This ensures that you’re prepared for any payment situation no matter where you go – whether it’s the bustling streets of Athens or a quiet beach on a secluded island.

ATMs

ATMs are accessible in cities and major tourist spots throughout Greece but less in remote areas. Before using one abroad, check with your bank about any international withdrawal fees they may charge.

There could also be limits on how much money you can take out at once from an ATM, which is something else to keep in mind if planning big purchases or outings during your stay.

Thinking about safety when carrying cash around after withdrawing from an ATM is smart.

Communication in Greece

Language Basics

Greek is the official language of Greece. It’s a good idea to learn some basic phrases before your trip. “Thank you” as “Efharisto” can go a long way.

Many people speak English in tourist areas. However, this is rare in rural places. For ease, carry a translation app or phrasebook.

Mobile Networks

Greece has three leading mobile providers: Cosmote, Vodafone GR, and Wind Hellas. SIM cards can be bought at airports or stores.

If you’re staying longer or traveling a lot in Greece, consider getting a prepaid SIM for local calls and internet access.

Before you leave home, check if your phone works with Greek networks.

Internet Access

You’ll find Wi-Fi in most hotels, cafes, and public spaces across Greece. But the quality might change depending on where you are.

Some far-off places have little to no internet connection. If you need the internet during your travels, plan for this situation. It’s also wise to use VPNs on public Wi-Fi for safety and security.

Transportation in Greece

Air Travel

When flying into Greece, Athens International Airport is your starting point. It’s the central hub, welcoming direct flights from cities worldwide. If you plan to explore beyond Athens, domestic flights can take you to islands and other Greek cities. However, these tickets sell out fast during summer, so booking early is wise.

Before you fly, check what you can bring on board. Each airline has its own baggage rules. Also, consider how you’ll get from the airport to your next stop. There are buses, taxis, and trains available.

Public Transport

Getting around Greece without a car is easy thanks to buses, metros in Athens, trams, and ferries that connect islands. You must buy tickets before hopping on most of these rides, though. Look for ticket kiosks or machines near stops and stations.

Remember to use your ticket as you board or enter ferry terminals, where they check it. Public transport schedules change with the seasons, especially for island ferries, so it’s best to look up times before making plans.

Car Rentals

If driving yourself sounds better than public transport, then renting a car is an option too, but there are things to know first:

  • You must have an international driving license for Greece along with your regular license if it’s not from the EU.
  • In Greece, people drive on the right side of the road.
  • Roads can be narrow and winding, especially in mountain areas, so drive carefully.

When picking up your rental car, inspect it closely for any damage and consider getting full insurance if something happens while driving in Greece.

Accommodation Options

Hotels

The best hotels to check out in Greece offer a wide range of options. You can find everything from luxury resorts to budget-friendly places. It’s wise to book your hotel ahead, especially during peak season.

Look at reviews on reputable sites before booking. This helps ensure you get good quality accommodation. Also, check if the hotel has amenities like air conditioning or Wi-Fi if these are important to you.

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are another great option for staying in Greece. They often give more privacy and space than hotels. Many have kitchen facilities, too.

Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO are famous for finding these rentals. When choosing a place to stay, read host reviews carefully. Understanding cancellation policies is essential, especially since travel is uncertain.

Hostels

Hostels are a budget-friendly choice, particularly among younger travelers or backpackers. In addition to dormitory beds, many hostels offer private rooms.

Before booking a hostel room, check what’s included with your stay, such as linens or towels. The hostels’ social atmosphere is excellent for meeting other travelers.

After exploring the transportation options available in Greece, knowing where you’ll stay is just as crucial for planning your trip successfully. Whether you prefer the luxury of hotels, the homey feel of vacation rentals, or the affordability and community vibe of hostels, there’s an accommodation option for every type of traveler.

Cultural Etiquette

Greetings

When you meet someone in Greece, a handshake is common in more formal situations. But if you’re meeting friends or acquaintances, don’t be surprised by cheek kisses as a greeting. It’s a warm way to say hello.

Remember to address people using their title (like Mr. or Mrs.) followed by their surname. This shows respect. You should do this until they invite you to call them by their first name.

Saying “Kalimera” (Good morning) or “Kalispera” (Good evening) is also polite and appreciated. These greetings help make an excellent first impression.

Dining Etiquette

In Greece, finishing your plate at a meal shows appreciation for the food served. Leaving food behind might suggest you didn’t enjoy the meal, which could offend your host.

When raising your glass for a toast, say “Yamas,” which means “Cheers.” Remember to clink glasses lightly and look into the eyes of others doing so; it’s part of the culture!

If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, tell your server upfront. Greeks are known for hospitality and often go out of their way to accommodate guests’ needs.

Dress Code

Casual attire is acceptable in most places across Greece, but remember: swimwear is only on the beaches or pools! Walking around town in just your swimsuit isn’t okay here.

Visiting religious sites requires modest dress—ensure both shoulders and knees are covered as a sign of respect.

For evenings out, especially in upscale restaurants or clubs, smart-casual wear is expected. Think dresses or shirts with trousers rather than shorts and flip-flops.

After settling into one of the accommodation options discussed earlier, you’ll respect Greek customs and significantly enhance your travel experience.

Must-Visit Places

Historical Sites: Acropolis of Athens, Delphi, Olympia

Greece is a treasure trove of history. The Acropolis of Athens, Delphi, and Olympia are must-visits. They’re UNESCO World Heritage Sites for good reasons. Each tells a unique story of Greece’s past.

Visitors should remember to respect the rules at these sites. This means being mindful of photography and noise levels. It helps preserve the solemnity of these places.

Hiring a guide can significantly enrich your experience. They provide insightful historical context that you might miss on your own.

Islands: Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes

The islands offer experiences as diverse as Greece itself. Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, and Rhodes are among the top picks for many visitors.

Planning is critical during the summer months. Ferry or flight bookings can get filled up quickly due to high demand from local and international tourists heading to major cities or idyllic islands.

To truly appreciate what Greek islands offer, venture beyond the main towns. You’ll find authentic local experiences waiting for you there.

Beaches: Myrtos Beach (Kefalonia), Elafonissi Beach (Crete)

Greek beaches like Myrtos in Kefalonia and Elafonissi in Crete are famous worldwide. Their stunning landscapes and clear waters make them unforgettable destinations.

It’s also important to follow local safety and environmental preservation guidelines here—no littering is a big one. These practices ensure that everyone can continue enjoying these beautiful spots.

For beach days under the intense Mediterranean sun, remember three essentials: sunscreen, a reusable water bottle for your water, and hats. These will help protect you from sunburns and keep you hydrated.

Local Cuisine and Dining

Traditional Dishes

Greek cuisine is a feast for the senses. Moussaka, souvlaki, and baklava are dishes you must try. They blend spices, meats, and sweets in ways that will make your mouth water. Enjoy these with local wine or ouzo to embrace the Greek dining experience.

Finding vegetarian options can be tricky since many dishes feature meat. However, don’t worry too much. Ask locals for recommendations. They’ll know where to find the best veggie meals.

Visit traditional tavernas to taste authentic Greek flavors. These places offer not just food but an atmosphere soaked in Greek culture.

Street Food

When exploring Greece’s bustling city centers or beautiful islands, street food is your best friend for quick and tasty eats. Gyros, spanakopita, and loukoumades are popular choices that won’t disappoint.

Street food is delicious and affordable—a perfect snack or meal while on the go. For the freshest bites, look for vendors with high turnover and find ones that use fresh ingredients.

Dining Etiquette

Understanding local dining customs enhances your travel experience significantly:

1. Be punctual if invited to someone’s home, but expect dinner to start late.

2. Always say “thank you” at the end of your meal—it shows appreciation.

3. Tipping isn’t mandatory as it is often included in your bill; however, leaving a little
extra for excellent service is appreciated.

Eating out isn’t just about filling up; it’s about enjoying life’s pleasures—good food, good company, and beautiful surroundings all contribute.

Your Greek Adventure Awaits

Packing for Greece? You’ve got it all covered. From travel documents to savoring moussaka, it’s more than ticking off places. Immerse yourself in the culture, learn a Greek greeting, and make local friends. Greece is more than postcard-perfect scenes; it’s an unforgettable experience.

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