Greece is a popular summer destination in Europe and for good reason. With a whole range of islands to choose from, you can be sure to find secluded beaches, whitewashed towns, and warm azure oceans.
But if it's summer bliss you’re after, it pays to plan ahead in peak season as everywhere books out fast. In quieter months, road trips through Northern Greece and cultural treasures in the capital of Athens are equally as inviting as the islands.
It’s important to know that nothing happens in a hurry in Greece. But don’t fret, everything works out in the end. Ferries may be late, shops may not be open when they say they are, but there is always a willing local that will have a friend of a friend that can help you out with just about anything. Trust the system.
The tap water isn't safe to drink on many of the islands, so it’s best to always ask before drinking or carry a filtered drinking bottle. The plumbing issues extend to bathrooms, where you usually have to throw toilet paper into a bin (rather than down the toilet) due to the risk of pipe blockages.
To stay connected, you can purchase a Sim card at the international airport in Athens, though many European Sim cards will work in Greece, or get an eSim from Airalo. WiFi in Greece is slow at best, internet cafes, trendy hostels and hotels have the best speeds, but make sure to use a VPN.
Public hospitals are crowded in Greece, so it can be easier to stick to local pharmacies or to go private if you have insurance. You can get many ‘prescription only’ products from pharmacies in Greece, so often a doctor's visit isn’t necessary. Larger islands have hospitals, but some smaller islands only have one doctor.
Whilst it’s best to avoid talk of politics and the neighbouring country of Turkey, Greek people are generally very open and welcoming to all. Greetings are often very thorough, involving kissing on the cheeks and hearty handshakes.
Although tipping is not generally expected in Greece, for taxis, bars, and cafés, it’s courteous to just round up the bill by a couple of euros. A cash tip of 10 % of the bill is a gesture of appreciation in restaurants.
Cash is king, and although most businesses will accept cards, service for card machines and ATMs can be spotty (even on the mainland). It’s best to always have cash as a backup.
It’s important to pack a high-factor SPF sunscreen as temperatures can get high in Greece in summer. Mosquito repellent is also useful.
Dress codes can be quite formal if you're eating out in the evenings, so bring something smart to wear for dinner, while light UV-resistant t-shirts and shorts are essential for the beach and days out in hot weather.
A scarf or wrap is handy to have with you as many churches and religious buildings ask you to cover up when visiting. For the shoulder seasons, and in summer on some of the southern islands, a windproof jacket will be useful when encountering the Meltemi Winds.
Sturdy walking shoes with good grip are essential for negotiating ancient sites and old city centres with cobblestone or marble streets. Even well-known attractions like the steps to the Parthenon in Athens can be extremely slippery in the rain
The Greek people are notoriously friendly and welcoming, and many working in tourist areas will speak English. The Greek alphabet is hard to master, but it’s not hard to know a few key phrases as a traveller.
An essential is being able to order your delicious sweet Greek iced coffee - ‘Ena freddo espresso gliko parakaló.’ Another useful thing to know is that ‘Ne’ means yes, and ‘óhi’ means no - an easy one to get confused with. Here are some other useful everyday phrases:
Γειά σας (Giásas or ‘Yassas’) - meaning: Hello or goodbye.
Καλημέρα/Καλησπέρα/Καληνύχτα (Kaliméra/Kalispéra/Kaliníhta) - meaning: Good morning/Good afternoon/Good night.
Ευχαριστώ/Παρακαλώ (Efharistó/Parakaló) - meaning: Thank you, please or you’re welcome.
Συγνώμη (Syngnómi) - meaning: Sorry or excuse me.
Δεν καταλαβαίνω (Den katalavéno) - meaning: I don’t understand.
Ferryhopper - an app that allows you to book ferries, including showing indirect routes that you can’t normally find through the individual ferry company sites.
Free Now - a taxi booking app similar to Uber that works in many European countries where Uber is banned.
Windy - an app to help you plan around the Meltemi winds. With a 5-day forecast it can help you to know when to avoid booking catamarans and sea crossings.
Wolt - this food delivery app is perfect for those nights when you don’t want to leave the hotel but still want to eat local food. Wolt is available in Athens, Heraklion, Chania, Volos, Patras, Larissa and Thessaloniki.
Planning a trip to Greece? Read our Greece travel guides.
Last Updated 20 August 2023