Greece is a country where the locals are as warm as the sunny Mediterranean climate. The cuisine is colorful, the architecture is stunning, the history is fascinating, and the culture is rich and wonderful. Mainland Greece and the Greek Islands should definitely be on your bucket list, but there are a few things to know about this gem of a country before you visit.
As long as you respect the local culture and embrace the different attitudes, you should have no problem adjusting to the flow of Greece! Check out these 10 things you have to know before going to the land of the gods.
10 BE RESPECTFUL IN CHURCHES & MONASTERIES
Greece is known for being laid-back and easygoing, but there’s one thing that the locals do tend to take seriously: Religion. When visiting churches and monasteries throughout the country, always practice basic respect, just like you would in any other religious site.
Sometimes people can get carried away on the Greek Islands, where there’s often a party vibe. The islands also happen to host some of the most mesmerizingly beautiful churches and monasteries. It’s definitely worth seeing them, just remember to dress conservatively and remember your manners when going inside.
9 THE ROADS CAN BE CRAZY
This is something worth knowing if you’re planning on doing any driving in Greece. The roads are intense and driving is probably nothing like what you’re used to at home. In fact, most travel bloggers recommend avoiding driving in Greece if possible. If you are going to drive, make sure that you always pay constant attention to the road and stick to the speed limit. You can’t afford to make any mistakes!
On many of the Greek Islands, travelers simply walk from village to village. This depends on their size, of course. There are also buses and other methods of public transport available.
8 THE WEATHER CAN GET SERIOUSLY HOT
Many people visit Greece in the summer to enjoy that glorious Mediterranean climate. This is ideal if you’re planning on relaxing by the pool or the beach. But if you’re going to Greece primarily to go sightseeing and visit some famous historical landmarks, you may want to consider traveling in a cooler season.
The summer in Greece is usually extremely hot. As in, so hot that a trek up to the Parthenon will just about give you heatstroke. If you do plan on traveling during the summer months, always pack sunscreen and breathable clothing.
7 DON’T TRY TO SEE EVERYTHING IN A SINGLE TRIP
This is a common mistake that rookies make in every destination, not just Greece! It’s easy to get overexcited and plan to see everything imaginable on your trip, but you’ll get more out of it if only a few stops are chosen. It’s better to have enough time in only a few locations than to see everything in a rush.
If you are in the country for a week, stick to only a couple of islands and maybe one mainland city. It’s good to plan your itinerary in advance so you don’t waste time making decisions when you’re there. Just plan it so you’re not rushed.
6 THE PLUMBING IS DIFFERENT FROM THE USA
This is something that all travelers to Greece should be aware of before they go, especially when coming from places like the United States or Britain. The plumbing in much of Greece is very different from that in other countries. As such, it often won’t be able to handle toilet paper.
If you flush your toilet paper after using the restroom, you risk causing a blockage that will have major consequences. Instead, restrooms will be equipped with a bin. The common practice is to deposit used toilet paper in the bin rather than the toilet.
5 DON’T RIDE THE DONKEYS ON THE GREEK ISLANDS
A lot of people line up to ride the donkeys on the Greek Islands. It does sound tempting, as you can’t have much more of an authentic experience than riding a donkey on a historic island in the Mediterranean. The problem is the donkeys might be mistreated. Riding them only supports this.
If you’re an animal lover, you might also want to avoid having a fish pedicure in Santorini. According to PETA, the fish used in these pedicures only eat the dead skin off your feet because they are starved. There is also no way to properly sanitize the tubs when the fish are swimming inside them.
4 MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CASH ON YOU
Credit and debit cards are becoming the norm. While in some countries you’d be hard-pressed to even come across people paying with cash, in Greece, it’s still the most common method of payment. In fact, there are still many establishments throughout the country which will not accept a credit or travel card.
For this reason, you should always make sure that you’ve got cash on you before traveling. You can find ATMs scattered in the streets and outside banks, but some hotels and restaurants will also provide an ATM.
3 ALLOW TIME FOR DELAYS
The Greek way of life tends to be a little more relaxed than what Americans are used to. Even in major cities like Athens, always allow time for delays. Being prompt isn’t exactly on the Greek priority list. Don’t be surprised if your tour is late to start because your bus driver is having a smoke and a chat with somebody he’s bumped into on the street, even if he’s got a bus full of tourists waiting for him.
Always allow extra time for transport in Greece. This means getting to the airport as early as possible, as you could also be facing long lines of confused travelers.
2 THERE WILL BE A LOT OF SMOKE
One thing that some tourists find hard to get used to in Greece is the amount of smoke. According to The Culture Trip, around half of all locals smoke. This means your chances of walking into a huge puff of smoke as you stroll down the street are statistically quite high.
There’s not much you can do about this, but it’s better to know about it before visiting. If you arrive in Greece expecting pristine clear air, it may take some time to get over the shock of it if you’re a non-smoker.
1 THE OPENING HOURS TEND TO BE DIFFERENT
During your visit to Greece, don’t assume that the hours of operation will be the same as they are in other countries. For example, many smaller stores and local shops, especially in rural areas, tend to close at 2:30 p.m. on some weekdays.
In many cases, shops will be closed on Sundays, unless you’re in a very touristy area. In the major villages on the islands, you can sometimes still stroll through shops until midnight, even on weekdays. Always check with your hotel about opening times to get the best out of the trip.