July 2015

Traveling in Greece this summer

Photo: Volcano and boat from Santorini, in Greece
I just spent 5 days in the Greek islands and it was super great!! The weather was beautiful, the scenery was gorgeous, and the food was delicious. Contrary to what you might think due to the economic and political protests, being a tourist in Greece is still safe and fun. In general, the issues and frustrations here are with the governments (local and EU), not with you as an individual tourist. One of the things you can do to help the Greek economy is to visit and spend money!

As an English-speaking tourist, I found that many shop owners and restaurant waiters would speak a bit of English with me and ask me where I was from and strike up conversations. I liked how friendly the whole atmosphere was! But maybe if you’re German, don’t tell them you’re from Germany? Or do so but apologize for your country/government? I don’t know, YMMV. But also, welcome to how it can feel to be an American traveling abroad 😕

I’ve compiled some tips for people traveling to Greece this summer (many of them are general travel tips):

  • Don’t be a dumbass.
  • Don’t be rude. You are a guest in their country.
  • Take out cash before you arrive (from your bank at home or from the ATM if you live/stop over elsewhere in the eurozone before Greece). The local currency is euros.
  • Spend your money at local businesses over chains.
  • Tipping in sit-down restaurants is 5-10% if you’re a larger group (≳ 4) and/or if the service was really great.
  • Some things may cost more than what a local would pay due to the unofficial “tourist tax” (price inflation in the heavily touristy areas). You can shop around a bit, but surprise! You’re a tourist! This is just how it goes.
  • Make an effort to learn the basics in Greek and use them: hello (geia), goodbye (antío), please (parakaló), thank you (efcharistó). You can download the google translate offline dictionary to your smartphone, and it will even pronounce the words for you!
  • The local style of coffee is called “Greek coffee” when in Greece, “Turkish coffee” when in Turkey.
  • Tourist info booths are great places to get a map of the town and some tips on what’s worth the visit.
  • As in other European countries, it’s very common for hotels to make a copy of your passport or write down your passport number for their official records. On cruise ships, they actually keep your passport for the duration of the trip. So, don’t freak out.
  • Bring plenty of sunscreen (especially if you’re as pale as I am), after-sun aloe gel, a sunhat of some kind, sunglasses, and carry a water bottle. It’s hot and sunny, so protect your skin and stay hydrated!

Have fun and enjoy!!