Greece is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations for Greece holidays. It ranks in the world's top 20 countries and welcomes nearly 17 million each year which is a large number considering it is a country of barely 11 million. Travellers to Greece are attracted by the country's beaches, reliable sunny summer weather, its nightlife, historical sites, Greek Islands and natural beauty.
Location: Greece is in Southern Europe, on the southernmost tip of the Balkan peninsula, with extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It shares borders in the north with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey
Population: 11 million. (98% are Greek Orthodox and all other Religions are made up of the remaining).
Official Language: Greek is the official language, but English widely spoken
Passport, Visas and Health Requirements: Australian and NZ passport holders are given 3 month tourist visas on arrival. (All passports require 6 month validity). No vaccinations are required.
Banks: - Are open Monday to Friday 8.00-1.30PM, however there are money exchange facilities available most hours including Saturday mornings. ATM facilities are also widely available through both Greece and the Greek islands.
Currency: The official currency of Greece is the Euro (€)
Smoking: Greeks are to say the least "PROLIFIC" smokers!! - and they see cigarettes as a birthright. Smoking has supposedly been prohibited by law in all public places like restaurants, tavernas and cafeterias since September 2010 - but is generally ignored so be ready!.
Phone & Post: - Phone cards available at kiosks for public phones. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone mobile systems work in Greece. Vodafone & Cosmote have easy to use connections for mobile phones for non-residents. Stamps and postcards are available at both Post Offices and Kiosks.
Tipping: Whilst service charges are sometimes included at restaurants and tavernas, it is customary to tip - though it is optional. Taxis, porterage, drivers, guides and cruises tipping is always expected.
Climate: Travel to Greece and you will notice the varied climate - or as it is called, a "Mediterranean" climate. Summers are very hot and dry with a near 7-month period of constant sunshine from approx April all the way until November. The remainder of the year is relatively cold & rainy which generally starts sometime in November, and lasts until late March or early April.
Voltage and Plugs: 220 volts,50 hertz - 2 prong, european style with cylindrical pins.
Safety and Dress Code: There are no real safety issues in Greece, in fact Athens is known as one of the safest cities in Europe, however, as in any country the general rules of safety apply. Pick pockets come out in the summer months, and always be alert when walking through traffic and across roads. Casual and relaxed attire is common, except for religious sites where modest attire is required.
Transportation: From Airport: The NEW Athens airport of Eleftherios Venizelos is located 30Kms Northeast of Athens. The new metro also links the Airport with the Athens city centre. An airport bus is available every half-hour to either destination from/to Syntagma Square and beyond at a cost of Euro 3 per ticket. Please allow between 60 and 90 minutes for the trip.
Internal Transport: There is an excellent new modern metro network in Athens. Buses operate to all destinations 7days a week. Taxis are available, most are multi-hire taxis (Beware the rip offs). All islands are serviced by modern ferries and/or high speed hydrofoils. Some islands are also serviced by air.
Traffic: One of the inherent dangers for travellers to Greece is probably just crossing the road which can be bad enough in the small towns and villages, absolutely terrifying in Athens and other Greek cities. Accident rates are high. So anyone walking around should be very careful even if crossing at the lights.
Driving: If you travel to Greece, driving is on the right hand side of road. Many of the signs are in both Greek and English, though spelling may vary widely!!. Many of the roads have been modernized in recent years, and well used roads are properly maintained. Australian & international driving license accepted for car rental.
Accommodation: Greece and the Greek Islands offer a huge range of accommodation from 2 star Budget all the way up to 5 Star Luxury. Most hotels include buffet breakfast, though many offer also half board (Breakfast and Dinner) packages.
Major Tourism Attractions and Archaeological sites: Corinth, Mycenae, Epidavrus, Nafplion, Olympia, Patras, Delphi, Meteora, Thessaloniki. Islands: Greece has many islands (Approx 1400). The major groups are the Cycladic islands, Dodecanese Islands, Ionian Islands, Crete Island, Eastern Aegean Sea Islands, Sporades Islands, Saronic Gulf Islands. Popular Islands are Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, Ios, Naxos and Corfu.
Food: Greece also has excellent seafood. Try the grilled octopus. By law, frozen seafood must be marked on the menu. Fresh fish is sold by the kilo and can be very expensive.
Greek salad is a mix of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, onion and some olives, and occasionally green bell pepper or other vegetables garnished with oregano. and dressed only with olive oil; vinaigrette.
Other dishes to consider are;
- Moussaka, an oven-baked dish of eggplant, minced meat, tomato and white sauce.
- Pastitsio, a variety of lasagne stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stew
- Spetzofai, braised sausage with pepper and tomatoes, a hearty dish originally from the Mt. Pelion region
- Saganaki, fried semi-hard cheese
- Paidakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular. They tend to have a gamier taste and chewier texture than North American lamb chops, which you may or may not like
- Baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts
- Galaktoboureko, a custard pie
- Tiropita, cheese pie
- Spanakopita, spinach pie;
- Bougatsa, custard filled pie
- A popular drink is a frappe made with instant Nescafe, water, sugar , and sometimes milk. It is frothed and served over ice.
Shopping: Most popular shopping in Greece is for Jewellery (Gold and Silver) Souvenirs, and leather items - especially sandals. There are a wide rage of modern shopping malls in the suburbs, souvenir shops, and flea markets.
Bargaining: bargaining is considered quite impolite and these days is pretty much ineffective, except possibly for some local produce or flea markets.
2014 Public Holidays:
Wednesday Jan 1 New Year's Day
Monday Jan 6 Epiphany
Monday Mar 3 Clean Monday
Tuesday Mar 25 25th of March
Friday Apr 18 Good Friday
Sunday Apr 20 Easter Sunday
Monday Apr 21 Easter Monday
Thursday May 1 Labor Day / May Day
Monday Jun 9 Holy Spirit Monday
Friday Aug 15 Dormition of the Holy Virgin
Tuesday Oct 28 The Ochi day
Thursday Dec 25 Christmas Day
Friday Dec 26 Synaxis of the Mother of God