First Time Travelling to Greece? Most FAQ!

posted in: Travel Planning | 2

Updated September 12th, 2021 by Travel the Greek Way

You are first time traveling to Greece, you have started planning your trip, and all the preparations can be both very exciting and overwhelming!

I know the feeling so well myself. Even going away for a weekend in Poros Island (my favorite!), can make me a bit nervous. I always stress out that I will forget important objects or not make the right preparations, or ask the appropriate questions. Let alone going on a trip abroad or overseas!

So to make your visit to Greece, as carefree and easy-going as possible, I have compiled useful tips and travel suggestions, especially for the first time traveling to Greece and as only a local can offer.

*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. Please see my full disclosure policy for more information*

First Time Travelling to Greece

As a first-time traveler to Greece, you will find in this post handy information on Greece itself, the culture, the needed budget, and even if you need any vaccines.

Furthermore, where to go to Greece for the first time, what to do if you are traveling Greece alone, safety advice about pickpocketing in Greece,  the best places a first-time traveler must-see in Greece, island-hopping, where to stay, and examples of a Greece trip itinerary.

I have even collected a few not-to-do’s while traveling in Greece.

So, let’s get started about visiting Greece for the first time:

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 English)
  • Religion: Eastern Orthodox Church
  • Geography: 80% of the land is covered by mountains
  • The plugs in Greece are Type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the frequency is 50Hz. It would be good to purchase a World Travel Adapter Kit like this one in Amazon
  • Known as the ‘Cradle of the Western Civilisation

Is Greece/Athens safe to travel?

Yes, Greece is one of the safest countries in the world. However, there is a petty theft issue, especially in large cities, like Athens and Thessaloniki.

During the day, be extra careful of pickpocketing especially on the Athens train/metro. They usually strike when you have just gotten off the airport, you have all your belongings with you, you are a bit dazed from the trip and unsure of your bearings.

It is important to remember that you need to be very careful while going to Athens by metro or try to gather all together if you are a group. They usually bump into you and take your wallet off or your backpack at such moments.

Some tips that you may find helpful:

  • Avoid putting your wallet in your back pocket, or leave your backpack on your feet and start looking at your mobile or around, they may snatch your possessions.
  • 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 in the metro
  • Leave your valuables to your hotel and walk around with minimum money, or a card with a small amount available and a copy of your passport to minimise any probable loss.

Purchase an excellent 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.

What is the best time to go to Greece?

All year round is fantastic in Greece!

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

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.

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

Top Must-See Sights all over Greece

A list of the best Greek sights:

  • Delphi, Hosios Loukas Monastery, Livadia Town
  • Meteora, Pelion, Plastira Lake
  • Zagorochoria, Ioannina, Papigo
  • The Peloponnese: Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Nafplion, Monemvasia, Mystras, Messini, Pylos, Methoni, Epicurios Apollo, Lake Kaiafa, Ancient Olympia, Kalavryta, Dimitsana, Cave of Lakes
  • Olympus Mt, Litochoro, Chalkidiki, Dion, Vergina, Philippi
  • Islands: Syros, Milos, Patmos, Corfu, Samos, Sifnos, Rhodes, Sikinos, Santorini, Mykonos, Delos, Amorgos, Folegandros, Koufonisia, Antiparos, Andros, Kea, Karpathos, Symi, Kastellorizo, Thasos, Skopelos……..
  • Argo Saronic Islands

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

  • Acropolis Hill (Parthenon, Erechtheion, Athina Nike, Propylea)
  • Ancient Agora, Plaka, Temple of Zeus, Kallimarmaro, Parliament and change of guards, Athens Trilogy.
  • Museums: New Acropolis, National Archaeological, Benaki, Byzantine, Modern Art.
  • Lycabettus Hill, Kolonaki area (for posh shopping)
  • Athens Riviera, Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

Related Article: The Complete List of Athens Best Monuments & Landmarks

How long do I need in Greece?

The more the merrier!

However, between 7 to 14 days should suffice, especially if you are visiting Greece for the first time.

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.

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?

Can I drink the tap water?

Yes, you can and this is what I always drink as I am an Athens resident.

For out of Athens destinations, you better ask the locals if the water is drinkable. If you are uncertain, buy bottled water. It is in ample supply everywhere and it is quite cheap. 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.

However, in churches and monasteries shorts or very short skirts is not an accepted attire, so better try a longer pair of trousers or a longer skirt if you are visiting a religious place. Also, please do remove your hat/cap inside a church.

Can I Be a Safely Solo Female Traveler to Greece?

Now that traveling has started again all over the world, you are thinking of venturing 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 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.

Needless to say, that we, women, should always exercise our common sense and trust our gut feeling. If something looks suspicious or sketchy, go in the other direction

Mykonos or Santorini? Or both?

If you have the time, why not both? They are very beautiful Greek islands, with white Cycladic houses and a Greek ambiance. Both are on the overdeveloped side of tourism though.

Santorini’s beaches are the volcanic type of beaches, dark-colored with imposing cliffs behind you, some love it some find it intimidating. Mykonos, on the other hand, has amazing, sandy long beaches.

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

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 drink 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!

First Time in Greece. Where to Go?

Find below an 8-day sample itinerary for visiting Greece first time.

Athens and Island Combo – great for a first time visitor in Greece

  1. Athens 1 full day, overnight.
  2. Ferry/Flight to Santorini, overnight
  3. Santorini, overnight
  4. Ferry to Mykonos, overnight
  5. Mykonos overnight
  6. Return to Athens, afternoon trip to Sounion
  7. Delphi – Meteora overnight
  8. Meteora, Thermopylae, Athens overnight

9-day Classic Itinerary for Visiting Greece First Time

Focus on the mainland, stunning classical sights. Great to know real Greece and off-the-beaten-path places (9-day tour).

  1. Athens full day, overnight.
  2. Peloponnese: Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth, Mycenea, Epidaurus, Nafplion overnight
  3. Sparta, Mystras, Monemvasia overnight
  4. Ancient Messene, Gialova, Voidokoilia, Pylos, Methoni, Ancient Olympia overnight
  5. Ancient Olympia, Galaxidi, Delphi, Hosios Loukas Monastery, Delphi overnight
  6. Meteora, Lake Plastira, Trikala, Pelion overnight
  7. Pelion villages, Agios Ioannis overnight
  8. Pelion villages return to Athens overnight

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.

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

What shoes shall I wear?

Flip flops for the beaches, hiking shoes for the islands, and comfortable leather sandals for everyday strolling the Greek islands.

Where to Stay in Athens

Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon? Check out this list:

Find out everything about the Best Plaka Athens Hotels and the nearby sites and landmarks!

Did you find my post on Greece useful? Feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog!

Some of my favorite travel resources for Greece:

  • All the archaeological sites in Greece can be found on the official Greek Ministry’s website here. If you are an EU member, you might be eligible in reduced or free entrance.
  • Map of Athens Metro here
  • 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: Book your ferry transfer with FerryHopper, and get the best price 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
  • 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!)
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
  • Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100

More Inspiring Readings on Athens Sites

Not Sure where to Go to Mainland Greece?

Grab below your free 5-Day classic itinerary in mainland Greece. It includes sites, relative informative posts, and hotel recommendations!

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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.