What you Need to Know if you are First-Time Traveling to Greece

posted in: Travel Planning | 2

Updated January 14th, 2022 by Travel the Greek Way

Amorgos Greek Island church
Amorgos Island, Agia Anna

If you are thinking of traveling for the first time to Greece and you would like to know useful tips about traveling to Greece, then this post will give you all the answers!

santorini Experience people swimming
Canoeing in Santorini Caldera

It is always a matter of question where to go to Greece for the first time, what is the best time to travel to Greece, and the best sample itinerary for visiting Greece first time.

Find below information about where best to go in Greece, what to avoid, which behavior is not acceptable in Greece, and best practices about tipping or what to wear in a Greek Monastery.

*Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you click and buy. The commission comes at no additional cost to you. If you buy something, thank you! Please see my full disclosure policy for more information*

Greece Quick Reference

Where to stay in Athens: Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens (luxury),  Radisson Blu Park Hotel Athens (mid-range), Selina Athens Theatrou (budget)

Heading to the Greek Island from Athens? Book your ferry tickets in advance with no-hidden-fees FerryScanner or FerryHopper

The Plugs in Greece are Type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the frequency is 50Hz. If you are unsure whether your appliances will work in Greece, you better purchase a World Travel Adapter Kit

Fast Facts about Greece

European Country, member of EU since 1981. Coin: Euro

Population: 10.724.599 million (2019)

Language: Greek (but everyone in tourism speaks good English and often French, Spanish, or German as well)

Religion: Eastern Orthodox Church

Meteora monasteries in Kalambaka Fall
Meteora Monasteries

Geography: 80% of Greece is covered by mountains, 25% of the total land is covered by natural forests mostly firs, pines, planes, and beeches, has 21 major rivers, 50 natural lakes, about 6000 islands, and islets, 220 of which are inhabited.

ski resort in chania pelio2
Ski Resort in Pelion Mt

Climate: Greece has 4 distinct seasons with hot and dry summers, mild springs and falls, and cold/wet/snowy winters especially in the northern mountainous areas. Athens, Peloponnese, and the southern islands have milder winters.

Karthea Temople in Kea Tzia Island
Karthea Archaeological site in Kea Island

Greece has known ancient history of at least 5.200 years old. The Cycladic (3200-1600 BC), the Minoan (3000-1100 BC), and the Mycenaean  (1900-1100 BC) are some of the oldest European civilizations. Ancient Greek Civilizations, in general, have been the most influential for Europe, and the country is widely known as the ‘Cradle of the Western Civilization‘.

Is Greece/Athens Safe to Travel?

Yes, Greece is one of the safest countries in the world to live and visit.

However, there is a petty theft issue, especially in large cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki, just like every other large city in the world.

There is no need to be under extreme stress, just keep your backpack in front of you instead of your back and keep your belongings with you at all times when you use public transport

Some tips that you may find helpful:

  • Keep your bags close to you at all times, don’t let anyone “help” you with your things
  • Wear your backpack in the front part of your body, so that you have control of your bag at all times while walking in Athens or inside the metro
  • Leave your valuables to your hotel and walk around with some money, or a prepaid card with a small amount available and a copy of your passport to minimise any loss
Plaka Athens Anafiotika whitewashed houses
Plaka Anafiotika Athens under Acropolis

Still not so sure about safety? Purchase an anti-theft design Backpack, offering excellent safety for your wallet and documents due to the securable and puncture-resistant zippers.

Do I need a Visa?

Perhaps you do! Greece has signed the Schengen Agreement. So everyone traveling for up to 90 days from the EU, the US, Canada, and Australia, does not need a visa.

Keep in mind that your passport should have at least six months of remaining validity. In any case, check ivisa.com for general info:

What is the Best Time to Go to Greece?

beautiful bay with fishing boats on Poros island Greece
Poros Island

All year round is fantastic in Greece!

There are great ski resorts in Greece, photographic villages, and striking sights to visit or hike in Greece in winter, autumn, or spring.

Syros island alley with bougainvillea
Kythira Island

If you are a first-time visitor to Greece you would probably choose warm weather, that is between May and October. If you can’t stand high temperatures (32 C – 45 C) July and August should be avoided. The Cyclades in particular has most of the summer the strong north winds, widely known as Meltemia.

Yachts in emerald islets in Paros island Greece
Antiparos Island

August is by far the most difficult month to visit Greece, as it is busy and overcrowded in places like Santorini (and too hot!).

Top Must-See Sights all over Greece

A list of the best Greek sights that can be combined in one trip:

Delphi Oracle, Arachova, Hosios Loukas Monastery, Livadia Town

A woman pointing at Delphi site
Tholos Athinas Pronaias in Delphi Oracle

Meteora Monasteries, Pelion, Plastira Lake (2-3 days trip)

Zagorochoria, Ioannina, Papigo (2-3 days trip)

The Peloponnese:

Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nafplion, Monemvasia, Mystras, Messini, Pylos, Methoni, Epicurious Apollo at Bassae, Lake Kaiafa, Ancient Olympia, Kalavrita, Dimitsana, Cave of Lakes, Kalamata, Kardamyli (multi-day tour)

pelion forest hiking
Pelion Mt. hiking

Olympus Mt, Litochoro, Chalkidiki, Dion, Vergina, Philippi, Dodone (3-4 days)

Zagorochoria and a forest in Greece
Zagorochoria

Islands: Syros, Milos, Patmos, Corfu, Samos, Sifnos, Rhodes, Sikinos, Santorini, Mykonos, Delos, Amorgos, Folegandros, Koufonisia, Antiparos, Andros, Kea, Karpathos, Symi, Kastellorizo, Thasos, Skopelos., Chania Crete…….220 gorgeous islands, each with its own distinct character!

Check out here the Argo Saronic Islands: Aegina, Salamina, Poros, Spetses, Hydra and Dokos

Evgenia pointing at Epidavros Theater
Me in Epidaurus Theater

Book a fantastic 4-Day Greece Highlights Tour: Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Meteora. One of the many happy reviewers wrote in VIATOR:

” The tour was outstanding- the sites were beautiful, the food was good and hotels were very nice. Our tour guide, Anna, was incredible- so educated, friendly, and caring to our group. Her English was excellent, I would highly recommend this tour”.

Top Sights in Athens. What Should I see in Athens?

Even if you don’t see anything else in Athens, you have to visit the Acropolis Hill with its Temples of Parthenon, Erechtheion, Athina Nike, Propylaea

Parthenon Temple north side in Acropolis of Athens a sunny day
Parthenon Temple

Significant sites are also the Ancient Agora, Plaka, Roman Agora, Temple of Zeus, Kallimarmaro, Parliament, and change of guards, the Athens Trilogy.

empty Panathenaic Stadium from above
Kallimarmaro Stadium in Athens

Museums: New Acropolis, National Archaeological, Benaki, Byzantine, Modern Art, National Gallery, Goulandris.

Lycabettus Hill, Kolonaki area (for posh shopping)

Temple of Poseidon in Sounion Cape in sunset
Sounion Cape and Temple of Poseidon

VIATOR Athens Full-Day Private Tour:

Explore the highlights of Athens – Acropolis Museum or National Archaeological Museum included – in a private vehicle on this full-day tour with pick-up and drop-off from your hotel.

See details, prices, and availability in the button below:

How long do I need in Greece?

Yachts in Syros island
Syros Island

The more the merrier and anything less than 10 days will be a very short time especially if you are visiting Greece for the first time.

I have here a sample 4-day Itinerary for the Peloponnese which you might find useful.

Do I need a car in Athens?

If you stay in the center of Athens, no, you don’t. All the important sights are reachable either by metro or on foot.

In case you need to rent a car, better get an International Driving Permit. Greeks drive the right-hand side of a street.

You can also check the RentalCars site who I know offers great deals with many car rentals companies: Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.comGreek Island

Are Credit Cards Widely Accepted?

After the COVID-era the use of credit/debit cards has significantly increased in Greece especially in the bigger cities but also in the most popular places such as Mykonos, Crete, Santorini, or Rhodes.

In smaller villages and islands, where there might not even have a bank but only ATMs, some businesses may take credit but cash is always best to have just in case.

And travelers’ cheques are definitely not a great option either, although you may be able to cash them out in the post office.

Example Island with no banks: Why should I visit Folegandros Island Greece?

7-Day Luxury Catamaran Tour from Athens to 5 Greek Islands (VIATOR)

kolona beach in Kyhtnos from above
Kythnos Island exploring with yachts

Exploring the Greek islands on a sailing yacht is a unique and unforgettable experience.

Sailing the Greek Islands, stopping at beautiful bays, and making a dive, is a wonderful experience! Check this sailing tour on Viator below for prices and availability:

Can I drink the tap water?

Street with old houses in Plaka Athens Greece
Plaka Athens

Yes, you can and this is what I always drink, living in Athens almost all my life.

For out of Athens destinations, you better ask the locals if the water is drinkable. If you are uncertain, buy bottled water. 500 ml cost 0.50 cents (this is by law a fixed price that 500 ml can be sold) in kiosks and next to nothing in supermarkets (0.22-0.30 cents).

**In our battle against plastic, I always recommend you purchase a reusable collapsible water bottle like this free-silicone water bottle.

Is there a dress code in Greece? Can I wear shorts?

Yes, you can wear shorts everywhere, no matter what gender you are and nobody will bat an eye if you are “lightly” dressed.

Are you Visiting Greece off-season? You may find this post interesting about what to wear in Greece:

Is it Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Greece?

Are you thinking of traveling alone to Greece and wondering if Greece is safe for solo female travelers?

Yes, absolutely you can travel alone to Greece! Greece is a perfectly safe country for everyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation.

In addition to that, Greek people are very hospitable, they love their tourists and visitors and are always eager to offer directions to your destination or any other advice if you need one.

Mykonos or Santorini? Or both?

If you have the time, why not visit both Mykonos and Santorini? They are very beautiful Greek islands, with white Cycladic houses and a Greek ambiance. Both are on the overdeveloped side of tourism though and can be very expensive if you are on a certain budget.

Santorini Oia and swimming pools

Best Santorini Budget Hotels

Enjoy gorgeous Santorini in beautiful accommodation in the best budget offers!

Woman walking by Santorini beach
Santorini Beach

Santorini’s beaches are the volcanic type of beaches, dark-colored with imposing cliffs behind you, some love it, some find it intimidating.

The quiet beach mersini in Mykonos
Mykonos Beach

Mykonos, on the other hand, has amazing, sandy long beaches, some of the best in the Cyclades.

Santorini Firostefani calderaa

Santorini has the famous stunning sunset, rugged cliffs, and volcano views which are quite unique.

Mykonos island windmills
Views from Little Venice in Mykonos

Mykonos has also a very romantic sunset in Little Venice, it’s great for nightlife and you can have a couple of amazing days on it.

In a nutshell, if you have the time, visit them both as there is a frequent ferry connection. If this is your first time in Greece and you have to choose one, go to Santorini.

Just avoid going in August, if this is possible for you. If you want to see another volcanic island which is super quiet, you can go to Nisyros.

santorini volcano view with bougainvillea
Santorini

5 Day Mykonos & Santorini Trip:

This is a great package for those who want to take a taste of the most popular island of Greece: Mykonos and Santorini. You will get to stroll around the picturesque Mykonos town and view the world-famous Santorini sunset from your balcony.

Which behaviour is not taken well in Greece

  • Being rude or disrespectful
  • Expecting everything to be exactly like it is in your country
  • Eat or discuss loud in the Athens metro
  • Touch artifacts in museums and at archaeological sights
  • Take photos of military installations
  • Throw paper in the toilet
  • Not wearing your anti-Covid mask!

5-Day Private Tour in Peloponnese by VIATOR

This is a 5-day tour like no other in the Peloponnese because it combines all the must-see archaeological and historical sites with the most beautiful, off the usual touristic track, scenery of the region.

From Corinth, Olympia, Messini, Mycenae, and Epidaurus Ancient Sites to medieval towns of Nafplion, Monemvasia, Methoni, Pylos, and Mystras, to spectacular caves of Diros and the Natural habitats of famous Voidokilia and Peroulia beaches, this is one of its kind experience.

What is the Tipping Culture in Greece

Tipping in Greece is not a requirement or compulsory but the hard-working and usually not greatly-paid people will highly appreciate it.

The price you are paying for whatever service you have been provided doesn’t include a tip.

mouria tavern Epidavros
Greek seaside tavern

As a general rule anything between 5-15% would be satisfactory and the next time you will go to the same place you will be treated even better!

Tip: Make sure to give any tips directly to servers in cash as it is quite common for them not to receive tips included on credit card transactions

Where Best to Stay in Athens

Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?

Or you would like to stay at a beachfront hotel?

Perhaps you are more in-budget hotels interested?

Whichever your preferences I have collected the best options for your staying in Athens below:

How to Get to Greece

Greek dog in an island
Cute dog admiring Santorini’s Caldera view

Like most visitors to Greece, you will probably have to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki International Airports to get to your final destinations.

For the Cheapest, Fastest, Best Worldwide Flights, I highly recommend the Skyscanner search engine site.

A Message from Evgenia

I hope you have enjoyed my post on Greece! If you need local help with organizing your visit, please send me an email at info@travelthegreekway.com and I will get back to you with ideas. Until then stay safe and travel the world!
Evgenia
Travel the Greek Way

Some of my Most Favorite Travel Resources for Greece

  • Airflights: Cheap/Fast/Best Worldwide Flights from KAYAK or SkyScanner search engine site
  • Map of Athens Metro
  • Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals, have info on hotels and Airbnb’s alike, with breakfast or not, free cancellations, and great prices!
  • Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees
  • World Nomads Insurance: I feel insecure traveling to another country without having even the most basic of insurances. Insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations
  • Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.com
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
  • iVisa: For any questions, you may have about your documents, passport if you need a visa, a new photo, or any visa-related matter, iVisa is your man (or woman!)
  • Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100EMERGENCY NUMBER 112

More Inspiring Readings on Greece

fall leaves people walking in Pelion Mt

Visiting Greece in October

Christmas in Athens and decorations

Christmas in Athens

Marathon lake and mountains

Fun Things to Do in Marathon

Aegina

Aegina island is just 15 minutes far from Agistri. Aegina is a beautiful island, full of amazing things to do and see:

Facebookpinterestmail

2 Responses

  1. ANDREA HELEN GILBERT

    Evgenia, I lol when I read the bit about not throwing toilet paper in the toilet (unacceptable behavior). Excellent article, which I wish I had in 2019 when I was organizing an enormous international conference. 400 Pride organizers from 6 continents attended, most in Greece for the first time, and most staying extra days for vacation. I had to provide a lot of information, which would have been so much easier if I could have just forwarded them this link!

  2. Evgenia Mataragka

    Thank you Andrea, fantastic that you found it useful, hopefully, they will read it at the next Athens pride! Yes, I know, toilette paper is a funny thing to add but we have perpetual plumbing issues haha, need to protect the tubes.