Ancient sun-bleached ruins pierce blue skies as the Aegean laps at the endless coastline. Greek culture is alive with passionate music, inspired cuisine and thrill-seeking activities.
All citizens (even infants) of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand need only a valid passport to enter Greece for stays of up to 90 days. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of your stay.
CURRENCY & EXCHANGE
Greece uses the euro. Under the euro system, there are eight coins: 1 and 2 euros, plus 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents. Euros are pronounced “evros” in Greek; cents are known as “lepta.” All coins have the euro value on one side; the other side has each country’s unique national symbol. Greece’s images range from triremes to a depiction of the mythological Europa being abducted by Zeus transformed as a bull. Bills (banknotes) come in seven denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. Bills are the same for all EU countries.
Off Syntagma Square in Athens, the National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, and Pireos Bank have automated machines that change your foreign currency into euros. When you shop, remember that it’s always easier to bargain on prices when paying in cash instead of by credit card.
If you do use an exchange service, good options are American Express and Eurochange. Watch daily fluctuations and shop around.
At Restaurants: It is customary to tip maximum 5–10 percent depending on the amount of the bill (10 percent for an inexpensive bill, and 5 percent for a more expensive meal).
Our suggestions for daily tipping are the following:
Drivers: $ 2.00 to $ 5.00
Tour Guide: $ 10.00 to $ 20.00
House Keepers: $ 2.00
Porters: $ 1.00 per luggage
Greece’s strong summer sun and low humidity can lead to sunburn or sunstroke if you’re not careful. A hat, a light-color long-sleeve shirt, and long pants or a sarong are advised for spending a day at the beach or visiting archaeological sites. Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen are necessities and be sure to drink plenty of water. Most beaches present few dangers, but keep a lookout for the occasional jellyfish and, on rocky coves, sea urchins. Should you step on one, don’t break off the embedded spines, which may lead to infection, but instead remove them with heated olive oil and a needle. Food is seldom a problem, but the liberal amounts of olive oil used in Greek cooking may be indigestible for some. Tap water in Greece is fine in most urban areas, and bottled spring water is readily available. Avoid drinking tap water in many rural areas.
In greener, wetter areas, mosquitoes may be a problem. In addition to wearing insect repellent, you can burn coils (“spee-rahl”) or buy plug-in devices that burn medicated tabs (“pah-steel-ya”). Hotels usually provide these. Citronella candles are usually an effective and more natural way to keep insects away. The only poisonous snakes in Greece are the adder and the sand viper, which are brown or red, with dark zigzags. The adder has a V or X behind its head, and the sand viper sports a small horn on its nose. When hiking, wear high tops and hiking socks and don’t put your feet or hands in crevices without looking first. If bitten, try to slow the spread of the venom until a doctor comes. Lie still with the affected limb lower than the rest of your body. Apply a tourniquet, releasing it every few minutes, and cut the wound a bit in case the venom can bleed out. Do NOT suck on the bite. Whereas snakes like to lie in the sun, the scorpion (rare) likes cool, wet places, in woodpiles and under stones. Apply Benadryl or Phenergan to minor stings, but if you have nausea or fever, see a doctor at once.
Tap water is drinkable and safe in much of Greece but not always in small villages and on some of the islands. Always ask locally if the water is safe and, if in doubt, drink boiled or bought water. Even when water is safe, the substances and bacteria in it may be different from those you are used to and can cause vomiting or diarrhea. Bottled water is widely available.
The electrical current in Greece is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. Wall outlets take Continental-type plugs with two round oversize prongs. If your appliances are dual-voltage, you’ll need only an adapter; if not, you’ll also need a step-down converter/transformer (United States and Canada).
Consider making a small investment in a universal adapter, which has several types of plugs in one lightweight, compact unit. Most laptops and mobile phone chargers are dual voltage (i.e., they operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts) so require only an adapter. These days the same is true of small appliances such as hair dryers. Always check labels and manufacturer instructions to be sure. Don’t use 110-volt outlets marked “for shavers only” for high-wattage appliances such as hair dryers.
Do not take much luggage with you because the trip might be long. Getting on and off planes or ferries will be very tiring if you have to drag your over-packed suitcase. Moreover, the paths in the islands are paved and it will difficult to carry many things. After all, you will not need but a couple of swimming suits, some light summer clothes and a couple of flat shoes or comfortable sneakers for walking. Also, have a light sweater for some chilly evenings because the wind blows often in the islands.