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The lowdown on all things Greece. This is your definitive guide to holidaying in Greece.
Greece’s beauty lies in its simplicity. From a dazzling coastline which is nothing more than azure water met by angel sand, to a simple platter of feta and figs, it’s the fuss free nature of this nation that makes it so attractive. The locals are gorgeous just because they smile. Food is exceptional, yet uncomplicated; is there anything more delicious than fresh tomatoes, a shake of salt and a drizzle of oil? Can we argue that Greece’s many ancient remains are also simplistic? Probably not. Millennia-old architecture and lasting legacies of ingenuity, they’re simply astounding. In terms of archaeological prowess, Athens is a city which really gives Rome a run for her money. With Acropolis perched above the modern citadel, ancient arenas are borderline common and the entire landscape puts a pulse into a history that usually only exists in museums.
1. How long can I stay without a visa?
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Greece. No visa is required for a touristic stay of up to 90 days. Always a good idea to have a printed itinerary with proof of accommodation and return flights in case requested.
2. What’s the local currency?
3. Do I need to tip?
Tipping is not essential anywhere, though taxi drivers generally expect it from tourists and most service staff are very poorly paid. Restaurant bills incorporate a service charge; if you want to tip, rounding up the bill is usually sufficient.
4. Transport to and from the airport
From to Athens International Airport to Athens city centre
1. Take Metro Line 3: Metro trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6.30am - 11.30pm.
2. The Suburban railway (Proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with the Athens Central Railway Station
3. Taxis stop at the designated taxi rank located at Exit 3 of Arrivals: Level.A. They charge a flat rate of €35 from 5am until midnight, and €50 from midnight until 5am.
We guarantee after a 24+ hour flight from NZ, you won't want to deal with a transfer via public transport. Ask your HoT consultant about booking a transfer before you even leave NZ.
5. Getting around.
Buses: For travelling around, buses offer the most routes on the mainland with basic connections on the islands
Train networks are limited.
Greek taxis: Are relatively cheap for the mediterranean - but keep an eye on the driver. Make sure the meter is on and there are no devices that could be doctoring the reading. There are small charges for things such as baggage, coming or going from the airport and a minimum fare of 1.75 euro. Additionally if you summon a taxi by phone there is a 1.5 euro charge.
Between islands: Flying between islands is relatively expensive but can save you a lot of time on the journey - a couple hours on a plane can equate to over 20 hours by boat.
Hire a motorcycle for the day: But make sure you have a helmet and the brakes work well before taking it. Also if it is under 80cc then it’s not really suitable for more than one person on the hilly slopes of greece - anything over 80cc however and you need a full motorcycle driving license.
Fines: 185 euro fee for not wearing a helmet - not as enforced on smaller islands but the bigger ones have stops set up to catch both tourists and locals.
** Always check your travel insurance before jumping on a scooter/motorcycles.
6. Weather: What can you expect when you go?
With scorching summers with temperatures reaching around 40 degrees, The best time to visit Greece is in May or September-October when the temperature is more pleasant.
7. Top 10 phrases
1) Hello — Yassou (YAH-sue)
2) Goodbye— kherete (KHE-reh-tay)
3) Yes — Ne (neh)
4) No — Ohi (OH-hee)
5) Please — Parakalo (pah-rah-kah-LOH)
6) Thank You — Efkharisto (eft-kah-rees-TOH)
7) You’re Welcome — Parakalo (pah-rah-kah-LOH)
8) Do You speak English?— Milas Anglika? (mee-LAHS ang-lee-KAH?)
9) Excuse me/pardon me— Signomi (seeg-NOH-me)
10) Cheers!— Stin iyia sou (Steen-e- YAH-soo)
8. Rules and customs
A very common gesture you will definitely see in Greece is moutza; hand extended, five fingers open. Don’t do this gesture as it is incredibly rude and Greeks consider it very offensive.
Hours for most areas are around 9am-2/3pm and then 6pm-9pm. This is because the greek like to siesta in the afternoon.
You are likely to share a taxi in Greece but not the fare - this means a driver may have you in the cab and stop to ask others where they are going and take them along for the ride too - don’t expect a cheaper fare though as he will still charge you the same.
Don’t say no to an invitation - the Greek as very welcoming and will invite you to anything from a dinner to a wedding so take the opportunity (safely though).
The O.K sign we use here in NZ is considered rude in Greece - just do a simple thumbs up if needs be.
9. Where to have fun
One of the best times to be in Greece would have to be for Easter - the most important festival for the Greeks of the year. Don’t expect to see chocolate around though, the locals hard boil eggs instead which are then rapped against their friends eggs - the owner of the last egg uncracked is considered lucky. Other things you cannot miss are seeing a sunset on Santorini, admiring the Meteora monasteries, and if you’re up for it - a trip to the Gods (at least at close as you can get at the top of Mount Olympus).
10. What to do in an emergency
Greece is one of Europe’s safest countries, with a low crime rate and a deserved reputation for honesty. Most of the time if you leave a bag or wallet at a café, you’ll probably find it scrupulously looked after, pending your return. Nonetheless theft and muggings are becoming increasingly common, so be alert.
We recommend safely and securely storing three important travel documents (your passport, credit card and driver's license) on your phone. Use an app such as Traveler ID which will store a series of documents in one place. Of course, you might lose your phone, so also store them in the Cloud, or your saved emails.
11. Mobile usage – to roam or not to roam?
12. HOT’s top 5 Greek eats
You might want to bring your marmite along from home as breakfast isn’t a big meal for the Greeks who prefer a snack later on instead. Unless your accommodation is a resort/western environment then the breakfast might not be quite what you expect - all the better to fill up later on the day with these Greek Delicacies:
1. Olives - Can you really go to Greece without enjoying a few olives?
Try it: Lela's Taverna in Kardamyli. Order the enormous horiatiki (what the Greek call a Greek salad) which comes with the most succulent black olives sought from nearby Kalamata. The setting isn't an eyesore either, with beautiful floweing plants, shady trees and stunning sea views.
Address: Kardamili 24022, Greece.
2. Moussaka - A Greek baked dish which includes; sauteed aubergine, minced meat, pureed tomato, garlic, onions, spices, cheese and more! Yum!
Try it: Klimataria in Athens. Follow your nose; this restaurant has been serving authentic home-cooked food since 1927, and to this day, the smell from big metal pots still wafts down the street. They also offer cooking classes, so you can continue making moussaka on NZ soil.
Address: Theatrou Square 2, Athens 105 52.
3. Fish - Being located right by the Mediterranean Sea, can you really ignore the fresh calamari calling your name? Find a nice little (reputable) seaside taverna and settle in for a treat for your taste buds.
Try it: Get ready to have some of the best seafood you'll ever taste at Varoulko Seaside Restaurant. Overlooking the picture-perfect fishing boats in Piraeus, the menu is Michelin starred. And for good reason. It'll tug at the purse strings but your stomach will want to compliment the chef.
Address: Akti Koumoundourou 52, Mikrolimano 185 33.
4. Feta and Cheeses - Let yourself wander through the markets and find yourself a stall where they keep feta in large barrels and treat yourself to a taste - you won’t regret it!
Try it: Athen's Kuzina enjoys seating that spills onto the street and the rooftop, as well as the standard dining room. Absorb the panoramic views of Hephaestus and pick away at the drool-inducing loukoumades: deep-fried doughnuts which are usually sweet. At Kuzina they're savoury and stuffed with silky smooth feta. You're welcome.
Address: 9 Adrianou St, 105 55 Athína.
5. Ouzo - Okay careful now, they give you that water and ice for a reason! Ouzo is something you should give a try but by no means try to keep up with the locals! The have been doing this a lot longer than you have….
Try it: The biggest secret in Athens, not many people know about Ouzeri Lesvos Restaurant, but once found, this little gem delights. Do it like a true Athenian and combine the ouzo with their beautiful Greek tapas.
Address: Emmanouil Benaki 38, Athens.
13. Is the water safe to drink?
Overall the water is not drinkable throughout the country. While you should be fine in areas in Athens and Thessaloniki it’s better to ask when travelling around or buy bottles of water instead to be safe. Or you can follow the footsteps of the locals and find the water springs and fill up a bottle there.
14. HOT’s top insider tips
The winter's mild: Greek winter weather can be downright warm. In the southern parts, daily temperatures can reach 21 degrees which is perfect for exploring the cities or islands.
Skiing is Greece’s best-kept secret: The resorts in the northern part of the country, close to Thessaloniki, are a great place to spend a winter ski break. There are 14 fabulous ski areas; the largest and most popular is Parnassos. Compared to the rest of Europe, the ski passes and accommodation are cheaper, but the scenery is just as breath taking. The ski season starts in December and ends in March or mid-April, depending on the region.
Athen's most underated neighbourhood: A lesser-known Athens’ highlights includes the tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika. More Greek island than Greek city, the sleepy narrow streets are flanked by white stone churches and leafy lemon trees.
Athen's summer outdoor cinema: Cine Paris in Plaka is a seasonal outdoor cinema attracting punters from May through to September, but the best bit its position; affording the best night time views of the Parthenon.
15. Greece for kids
While Greece is an incredibly welcoming environment for children - outside of some resort’s that have programmes for children, there aren’t many activities that are specifically for them. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying Greece though as there are water parks and other spots which would be a dream day for any family.
European Heritage Days
These are annual national events, currently set up by more than fifty countries whereby the public are permitted to visit buildings and other historical places of interest which are not usually open to the public, or museums whose access then becomes free, or reduced in price.
These heritage days are launched every year on the third weekend of September. Also known as Doors Open Days and Open Doors Days. For more information click here.
16. What adapter do I need?
The voltage in Greece is 230 V and the sockets used a type F which means kiwis will need an adapter to use any of our electrical appliances. Italy, mains voltage is 220 volts AC. All sockets take small, round two-pin plugs.
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