Updated January 21st, 2023 by Travel the Greek Way

Are you traveling for the first time to Greece and you would like to know useful tips about Greece, and cultural mannerisms? This post is all about useful information for a first-time traveler to Greece like tipping, which are the best Greek islands, the dress code for monasteries, and when is best to go to Greece.

First Time to Greece, Amorgos Greek Island
Amorgos Island, Agia Anna

It is always a matter of question how to draft the best itinerary, with a combination of sites and beaches, especially if you are visiting for the first time to Greece. In this post, I provide valuable and current information on all your FAQ on Greece and sample itineraries.

*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.

Athens Quick Reference

  • Where to stay in Athens with stunning Acropolis view: Niche Hotel or The Foundry Suites
  • Book your ferry tickets with no-hidden-fees at FerryScanner or FerryHopper
  • Rent a car with Discover cars for reliable new cars at affordable prices
  • Fast Facts about Greece

    First Time to Greece, Ancient Agora in Athens
    Ancient Agora of Athens
    • European Country, member of the EU since 1981. Coin: Euro
    • Population: 10.64 million (2021)
    • Language: Greek (but everyone in tourism speaks good English and/or French, Spanish, or German)
    • Religion: Eastern Orthodox Church
    First Time to Greece, Meteora monasteries
    Meteora Monasteries

    Geography: 80% of Greece is covered by mountains, and 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 but not always! You may find interesting my post on when is the best time to go to Greece.

    First Time to Greece, Plaka Of Athens covered in snow
    Plaka Athens January 2022

    Greece has a 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.

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

    Ancient Greek Civilizations, in general, have been the most influential in Europe, and the country is widely known as the ‘Cradle of the Western Civilization‘.

    Is Greece/Athens Safe to Travel?

    First Time to Greece, Aerial view of Acropolis hill and Parthenon in Athens Greece
    Acropolis Hill At

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

    However, there is a petty theft issue, especially in cities, like Athens, just like every other large city in the world. If you are first time in Greece, you may get stressed or unsure of public transport. You shouldn’t. Just keep your belongings with you at all times when you use public transport, and you will be fine.

    Monastiraki Athens main square with Acropolis view
    Athens Monastiraki and Plaka

    Some tips that you may find helpful:

    • Keep your bags close to you at all times, and 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 at your hotel and walk around with some money, or a prepaid card with a small amount available and a copy of your passport to minimize 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, please check it out with your embassy! 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.

    When is the Best Time to Go to Greece?

    All year round is fantastic in Greece!

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

    Syros island alley with bougainvillea
    Kythira Island

    If you are first time 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 islands have during (most of) the summer strong north winds, widely known as Meltemia, which can be both annoying and cooling from the heat.

    First Time to Greece, 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!).

    For details about the Greek climate read my related post: When is the Best Time to Go to Greece

    Top Must-See Sites all over Greece

    First Time to Greece, Delos Greek Island ancient site terrace of lions
    Mykonos – Delos Archaeological Site

    Find below a list of some of the best Greek sites:

    First Time to Greece, Woman pointing at Delphi site
    Tholos Athinas Pronaias in Delphi Oracle

    The Peloponnese (multi-day tour):

    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

    First Time to Greece, zagorochoria in Ipirus Greece
    Zagorochoria
    • Olympus Mt, Litochoro, Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Dion, Vergina, Philippi, Dodone (3-4 days)

    First Time Traveling to Athens, Greece: The Must-sees

    First Time to Greece, Athens Acropolis Odeon Of Herodes Attikus with Blue sky
    Acropolis Hill: Odeon Of Herodes Atticus

    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

    First Time to Greece, 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)

    Relevant Posts on Athens

    You are reading about First Time in Greece.

    First-time Traveling to Greece Itineraries

    First Time to Greece, A Greek priest walking in Paros island
    Paros Island

    If you are wondering how long should you stay in Greece, you should schedule for at least 10 days, considering the ferry trips and road trips that may take quite a lot of your valuable time.

    I have here a 10-day Athens and Greek Island Itinerary and a 4-day Itinerary for the Peloponnese that will help you organize your visit.

    Do I Need a Car in Athens?

    First Time to Greece, Picturesque alley in Plaka Athens Anafiotika with pots of flowers
    Plaka 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. If you do want to rent a car, I recommend you use Discover cars to rent reliable new cars at affordable prices.

    As for an International Driving Permit, if you come from the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Gibraltar you do not need it. You can rent a car with your national driving permits as long as you are over 18 years old (Article 94 of Greek Law No. 4850/2021 – November 5, 2021).

    By the way, Greeks drive the right-hand side of a street!

    Where to Store my Luggage in Athens

    Try the Luggage Storage in Monastiraki, they charge €4 per case which is quite a reasonable price.

    Are Credit Cards Widely Accepted?

    A woman in Mykonos Island sitting and looking at Little Venice
    Admiring Little Venice on Mykonos Island

    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, and Rhodes. You can use your credit card in taxis and issue a ticket for public transport like the metro or buses.

    In smaller villages and islands, where there might not even have a bank but only ATMs, you may need cash for small items like water which is €0.50 for 0.50lt.

    Popular Credit cards in Greece: Mastercard and Visas. We (usually) do not use American Express.

    Example Island with no banks: Folegandros Island Greece

    Should I Exchange Money in Greece?

    Almost every business in Greece accepts credit cards. Some places require contactless payment and generally speaking the exchange rate is better when you use your credit card anyway.

    There are 4 systemic banks in Greece and you can use their ATM: Pireaus, Eurobank, National, and Attika. Avoid using the Euronet ATM, its fees are the highest, better choose an ATM attached to a bank. You should also avoid exchanging at the airport, as the rate is not great.

    There are a lot of exchange spots around Syntagma Square in Athens without charging a commission. A good card to use while traveling internationally is the Schwab.

    7-Day Luxury Catamaran Tour to 5 Greek Islands

    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?

    First Time to Greece, 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 in Athens (0.15-0.30 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?

    First Time to Greece, Happy young girls in Greek island

    No, there is no dress code in Greece, and you can wear whatever you want and nobody will bat an eye if you are “lightly” dressed.

    However, there are two exceptions: Greek Monasteries and Casinos.

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

    Is it Safe for Women to Travel Solo in Greece?

    Evgenia hiking on Kea island
    Me hiking in Kea Island

    Yes, it is!

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

    Where to Go in Greece for the First Time?

    Most people visiting Greece for the first time go to Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos. Sometimes they don’t have the time to visit both islands so they ask me which one is best. Both islands are beautiful in their own Greek way, on the overdeveloped side of tourism, and can be very expensive if you are on a certain budget.

    First Time to Greece, Perissa black beach in Santorini
    Santorini Perissa Black Beach

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

    First Time to Greece, Ornos Village and Beach in Mykonos
    Mykonos Ornos Beach

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

    First Time to Greece, Santorini Oia impresive sunset
    Oia Santorini’s famous sunset

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

    First Time to Greece, The windmills of Mykonos with people at the beach
    Mykonos Windmills

    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.

    First Time to Greece, Little Venice in Mykonos island
    Mykonos Little Venice

    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.

    You are reading about First Time in Greece.

    Relevant Posts on Santorini & Mykonos

    Which Behavior 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

    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 in credit card transactions

    What Difficulties you may Encounter in Greek Islands?

    There are a few things that a first-time visitor should keep in mind while visiting Cyclades Islands:

    • The roads are not always in good condition or they may be too narrow for what you are used to. You need to be careful especially if you are driving at night
    • Many of the unorganized beaches have no trees or other shade available, water, or food supply. You should carry your own supplies if you are visiting a remote beach
    • When it gets windy (June – August meltemia), it just won’t stop. It can also get a bit chilly in the evening
    • The wind is very variable on islands, on a hot day it’s even more than welcome and it keeps the insects away, remember to have anti-mosquito with you. Many select the beach of the day on Ios taking into account the wind conditions
    • If you go hiking in summer on an island with no trees, you can get very easily heat stroke. For more info on travel dangers and precautions in Greece, read here my post on hiking safely in Greece
    • For Solo Travelers: Greece is a perfectly safe country for everyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. In addition to that, Greek people are gene-programmed to be hospitable and are always eager to offer directions to your destination or any other advice, so ask freely.

    How to get to Piraeus port from Athens Airport

    • Bus: If you are arriving at Athens International airport you can travel straight to the port by taking the X96 express bus (€6, children <6 yo, free entrance), which departs every 40 minutes and the average trip lasts 1 hour – runs 24/7
    • Athens Metro (€10 ) is easily found across airport arrivals (blue line – M3) going directly to Piraeus port. The average trip to Piraeus lasts 1 hour
    • Taxis are available in front of the airport (around €40, take up to 4 people)
    • Rent a car with Discover cars to rent reliable new cars at affordable prices
    • You don’t like driving but love hassle-free solutions? Book a Private transfer with an English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries, or anywhere else in Greece

    Where Best to Stay in Athens

    Looking for the best hotels and apartments near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon? Find your best accommodation in Athens in my full list here:

    Plan your Trip to Greece

    Are you interested in a day or multi-day tour or a transfer anywhere in Greece? We can plan your trip and organize everything:

    • Book your private vehicle with an English-speaking driver
    • Book a professional licensed guide (for the archaeological sites)
    • Organize local thematic tours (food, wine-tasting, hiking, sailing)

    Does this sound like what you are looking for? Please send us your request here.

    Travel Resources for Greece

    Kythera

    Amorgos island chora 2

    Amorgos

    Port in Spetses with ships and buildings

    Spetses

    Aegina

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

    First Time to Greece, Santorini Oia and swimming pools

    Best Santorini Budget Hotels

    Enjoy gorgeous Santorini in beautiful accommodations with the best budget offers!

    Follow Evgenia Mataragka:

    Hi! I am an Athens-based Greek obsessed with exploring Greece and bringing you the best travel experience ever!

    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.

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