Introduction to Greece
Located in southeastern Europe, the country of Greece is comprised of a chain of over 6,000 islands and islets. However, only 227 of the islands are inhabited. The four largest and most inhabited Greek islands are Crete, Euboea, Lesbos and Rhodes.
The 6,000 islands are grouped into the following categories: the Argo-Saronic islands (in the Saronic Gulf), the North Aegean islands (located off the West coast of Turkey), the Dodecanese islands (located between Crete and Turkey), the Sporades islands (off the coast of Euboea), and the Ionian islands (in the Ionian Sea). Greece is part of the European Union and its capital is Athens.
Greek traditions, history, culture, and food are cherished by people all around the world and make a trip to Greece an unforgettable experience.
Passports & Visas
Passports are required to enter and leave Greece. Visas are not required for US citizens for visits of less than 90 days. For longer visits, contact the nearest Greek embassy.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
Provides consular assistance to U.S. citizens
Greece Tourist Information
Culture and History
A Brief History of Greece
Currency and Money
As part of the European Union Euro Zone, Greece uses the Euro.
Driving in Greece
Driving in Greece, especially in larger cities such as Athens, can be quite harrowing.
Electricity in Greece
Greek electricity is 220 V AC at 50 Hz. A typical European two-pin adapter will fit most Greek sockets. American travelers will need adapters and converters.
Emergency Numbers in Greece
European Emergency Number (Police/Medical/Fire) 112
Police-Immediate Response: 100
EKAB Ambulance Service 166
Fire Brigade 199
Etiquette in Greece
In general, Greeks are quite warm and welcoming. When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to shake hands, smile and maintain direct eye contact. Typically good friends embrace and kiss each other on the cheek. When invited to someone’s home for dinner, remember that Greeks are typically not punctual. Therefore, it is fine to arrive 15-20 minutes late. Be sure to dress well and compliment the hosts’ home. Offer to help the host and hostess with preparations or clean-up.
Greece is in the Eastern European Time Zone. Eastern European Standard Time (EET) is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).
Tipping in Greece
In Greece, a 15% service charge is typically included in your bill. If it is not included, or if you are very happy with the service, leave the tip on the table as you would in the U.S.
Public Hours in Greece
Banks and government offices are open From 8.00 to 2:00 pm Monday – Thursday, Fridays until 1:30, and are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Though Greece is quite safe and has one of the lowest crime rates in the European Union, larger cities (such as Athens) have experienced an increase in crime during recent years. Violent crime is rare, but small theft and car theft have been on the rise. Be on the lookout for pick-pockets who tend to frequent train stations and touristy areas.
Weather in Greece
For the most part, weather and air quality throughout Greece is clear. However, major cities such as Athens suffer from severe air pollution. Winters (from mid-November to end of February) tend to be cool (in the 40s), however snow is rare. The likelihood of rain is higher in January and February. Summers (from May to September) are hot and dry with temperatures ranging from the 70s to the 90s.
Most travelers to Greece arrive by air, which is typically the least expensive and fastest way to get there. Greece has 16 international airports, but the three main international airports are:
Athens: Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport; code ATH
Iraklio: Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport; code HER
Rhodes: Diagoras Airport; code RHO
Boats and Ferries
For up-to-date information about Greek ferry routes, schedules and services online, visit www.greekferries.gr. Most of the larger ferry companies also have their own websites. Here are some of the most commonly used:
Agoudimos Lines, ANEK Lines, Blue Star Ferries, Fragline, Ferries in Greece, and Ventouris Ferries
Greece is part of the Eurail network. Eurail passes can only be purchased by residents of non-European countries and this should be done before arriving in Europe. Passes can also be purchased in Europe as long as your passport proves that you’ve been in Europe for less than six months.
See the Eurail website for more details on passes and prices. If you are beginning your European travels in Greece, you can buy your Eurail pass from the OSE office at Karolou 1-3 in Athens, and at the stations in Patra and Thessaloniki. Greece is also part of the Inter-Rail Pass system, a good option for those who have resided in Europe for six months or more. See the Inter-Rail website for details.
All of the major car rental companies are in Greece. Typically, drivers must be over the age of 21 to rent a car.
It is typically easy to flag down a taxi in Greece’s major cities. Taxis frequently wait by the airports and train stations and near major hotel/tourism areas.
No permit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Lodging in Greece
Greece offers every type of lodging from couch-surfing, to hostels and agritourism to 5-Star resorts.
Main Sights in Greece
Greece is home to the most stunning ruins in all of Europe. No matter where you go, you will be surrounded by history.
The islands of Santorini and Mykonos are considered to be two of the most beautiful islands of the Greek chain, known for their beaches, vineyards and architecture.
The island of Rhodes is most famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The island of Patmos is home to the famous Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
Telephones in Greece
The pay phones in Greece only accept phone cards, not cash or coin. You can get a phone card for a few euro from many stores including money exchangers. Be aware that calls within Greece use a different kind of phone card than international calls from Greece.
Useful Country Codes:
USA and Canada 1
Returning to the US
Customs,VAT & Duty Free
Value Added Tax (VAT or IVA) Refund Information
The VAT in Greece is approximately 19%. It is possible to get this returned to you at the end of your trip. For any major purchase, make sure you have a receipt and ask the retailer for a VAT form. If Greece is your last stop in the European Union, you can have your VAT refunded at the airport (make sure to get their early). Some companies will actually file for VAT refunds for you.
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.