Access for travellers with disabilities has improved somewhat in recent years, though mostly in Athens where there are more accessible sights, hotels and restaurants. Much of the rest of Greece, with its abundance of stones, marble, slippery cobbles and stepped alleys, remains inaccessible or difficult for wheelchair users. People who have visual or hearing impairments are also rarely catered to.
Careful planning before you go can make a world of difference.
Travel Guide to Greece (www.greecetravel.com/handicapped) Links to local articles, resorts and tour groups catering to tourists with physical disabilities.
DR Yachting (www.disabledsailingholidays.com) Two-day to two-week sailing trips around the Greek islands in fully accessible yachts.
Sirens Resort (www.disableds-resort.gr) Family-friendly resort with accessible apartments, tours and ramps into the sea.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Bargaining is acceptable in flea markets and markets, but elsewhere you are expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
If you take the usual precautions, Greece is a safe place to travel and you're more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion or sunburn than from any kind of crime.
- Pickpocketing is an issue; always be vigilant in busy bus stations, markets or on crowded streets.
- Watch out for adulterated drinks made from cheap illegal imports, and drink spiking, especially at party resorts.
- If you need to report something, go first to the touristikí̱ astynomía (tourist police) in cities and popular tourist destinations; at least one staff member will speak English.
Adulterated & Spiked Drinks
Adulterated drinks (known as bombes) are served in some bars and clubs in Athens and at resorts known for partying. These drinks are diluted with cheap illegal imports that leave you feeling worse for wear the next day.
At many of the party resorts catering to large budget-tour groups, spiked drinks are not uncommon; keep your hand over the top of your glass. More often than not, the perpetrators are foreign tourists rather than locals.
The touristikí̱ astynomía (tourist police) work in cooperation with the regular Greek police and are found in cities and popular tourist destinations. Each tourist police office has at least one member of staff who speaks English. Hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tourist shops, tourist guides, waiters, taxi drivers and bus drivers all come under the jurisdiction of the tourist police. If you have a complaint about any of these, report it to the tourist police and they will investigate. If you need to report a theft or loss of passport, go to the tourist police first, and they will act as interpreters between you and the regular police.
Camping Card International (CCI; www.campingcardinternational.com) Gives up to 25% savings in camping fees and third-party liability insurance while in the campground. Valid in over 2500 campsites across Europe.
European Youth Card (www.eyca.org) Available for anyone up to the age of 26 or 31, depending on the country. You don’t have to be a resident of Europe. It provides discounts of up to 20% at sights, shops and for some transport. Available from the website or travel agencies in Athens and Thessaloniki for €14.
International Student Identity Card (ISIC; www.isic.org) Entitles the holder to half-price admission to museums and ancient sites, and discounts at some budget hotels and hostels. Available from travel agencies in Athens. Applicants require documents proving their student status, a passport photo and €15. Available to students aged 12 to 30.
Seniors cards Card-carrying EU pensioners can claim a range of benefits such as reduced admission to ancient sites and museums, and discounts on bus and train fares.
Embassies & Consulates
All foreign embassies in Greece are in Athens and its suburbs, with a few consulates in Thessaloniki.
Emergency & Important Numbers
In Greece, the area code must be dialled for ordinary numbers, meaning you always dial the full 10-digit telephone number. Emergency numbers are shorter, as detailed in the table below.
|International access code||00|
For highway assistance, different highways have different emergency numbers. These are clearly signed along the way, for example Atiki Odos (Athens to Elefsina) is 1024, Egnalia Odos (Athens to Thessaloniki) is 1077.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visitors to Greece with EU passports are rarely given more than a cursory glance, but customs and police may be interested in what you are carrying. EU citizens may also enter Greece on a national identity card.
Visitors from outside the EU may require a visa. Be sure to check with consular authorities before you arrive.
There are no duty-free restrictions within the EU. Upon entering Greece from outside the EU, customs inspection is usually cursory for foreign tourists and a verbal declaration is generally all that is required. Random searches are still occasionally made for drugs. Import regulations for medicines are strict; if you are taking medication, make sure you get a statement from your doctor before you leave home. It is illegal, for instance, to take codeine into Greece without an accompanying doctor's certificate.
It is strictly forbidden in Greece to acquire and export antiquities without special permits issued by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture/General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage (firstname.lastname@example.org). Severe smuggling penalties might be incurred. It is an offence to remove even the smallest article from an archaeological site.
Foreign-registered cars (with non-Greek licence plates) can be brought into Greece to be driven for up to six months over a 12-month period; A ‘green card’ (international motor insurance card) or equivalent proof of sufficient third-party liability insurance is needed for all countries of origin outside the EU/European Economic Area. Your proof of entry into Greece may be a passport stamp at the border station. If arriving from Italy by boat, you may use your ferry ticket stub as evidence.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days; however, travellers from some nations may require a visa, so double-check with the Greek embassy.
The list of countries whose nationals can stay in Greece for up to 90 days without a visa includes Australia, Canada, all EU countries, Iceland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the USA. Other countries included are the European principalities of Monaco and San Marino and most South American countries. The list changes though – contact Greek embassies for the latest. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs publishes an updated list of countries requiring visas (www.mfa.gr/en/visas).
If you wish to stay in Greece for longer than three months within a six-month period, you will probably require a national visa (type-D) from the Greek embassy in your country of residence. You are unable to apply for this in Greece.
- Eating Meals are commonly laid in the table centre and shared. Always accept a drink offer as it's a show of goodwill. Don’t insist on paying if invited out; it insults your hosts. In restaurants, service might feel slow; dining is a drawn-out experience and it's impolite to rush waitstaff.
- Photography In churches, avoid using a flash or photographing the main altar, which is considered taboo. At archaeological sites, you'll be stopped from using a tripod which marks you as a professional and thereby requires special permissions.
- Places of worship If you visit churches, cover up with a shawl or long sleeves and a long skirt or trousers to show respect. Some places will deny admission if you're showing too much skin.
- Body language 'Yes' is a swing of the head and 'no' is a curt raising of the head or eyebrows, often accompanied by a 'ts' click-of-the-tongue sound.
Free wi-fi is available in most hotels, many cafes and some restaurants. A number of cities have free wi-fi zones in shopping and eating areas and plazas. Internet cafes have virtually disappeared – instead buy a local SIM with data to insert in your unlocked device. Some, but not all, hotels offer computers for guests to use.
Same sex unions (but not marriages) were legally recognised in Greece in 2015 and attitudes to the LGBT+ community have grown more liberal across the country. However, the Orthodox Church plays a prominent role in shaping society's views on issues such as sexuality, so you may find your sexuality being frowned upon by some locals – especially outside major cities.
Rest assured, Greece is an extremely popular destinations for LGBT+ travellers for a reason. Athens has a busy scene, but most LGBT+ travellers head for the islands. Mykonos has long been famous for its bars, beaches and general hedonism, while Skiathos also has its share of hang-outs. The island of Lesvos (Mytilini), birthplace of the lesbian poet Sappho, has become something of a place of pilgrimage for lesbians.
The Beloved Republic (http://thebelovedrepublic.com) is a company specialising in organising same-sex unions in Greece. For more info on LGBT+ Greece see https://queerintheworld.com/gay-greece.
Unless you are going to hike or drive, the free maps given out by the EOT and larger hotels will probably suffice, although they are not 100% accurate.
Anavasi (www.mountains.gr) Athens-based company publishing maps with excellent coverage. Hikers should consider its Topo series, which has durable, waterproof paper and detailed walking trails for many of the Aegean islands.
Terrain (www.terrainmaps.gr) Maps published in Athens and offering equally good coverage. All maps can be bought online or at major bookstores in Greece.
- Newspapers Greek current affairs are covered in the daily English-language edition of Kathimerini (www.ekathimerini.com) within the New York Times International Edition.
- Magazines Greece Is (www.greece-is.com) is a free bi-annual magazine available in many good hotels with an excellent website packed with features on tourist aspects of the country. 2Board (www.aia.gr) Athens airport's official magazine, is also worth a browse for listings and features on the capital and surrounds.
- DVDs Greece is region code 2 for DVDs.
Debit and credit cards are accepted in cities, but elsewhere it's handy to have cash. Most towns have ATMs, but they may be out of order.
ATMs are found in every town large enough to support a bank and in almost all the tourist areas. If you have MasterCard or Visa, there are plenty of places to withdraw money. Cirrus and Maestro users can make withdrawals in all major towns and tourist areas.
Note that in small tourist villages, the only option may be a Euronet ATM (yellow and blue). These charge a €3.95 fee (compared to €2 to €3 at bank ATMs), and offer significantly worse exchange rates.
Be aware that many ATMs on the islands can lose their connection for a day or two at a time, making it impossible for anyone (locals included) to withdraw money. It's useful to have a backup source of money.
Automated foreign-exchange machines are common in major tourist areas. They take all major European currencies, Australian and US dollars and Japanese yen, and are useful in an emergency, although they charge a hefty commission.
Be warned that many card companies can put an automatic block on your card after your first withdrawal abroad, as an anti-fraud mechanism. To avoid this happening, inform your bank of your travel plans.
Nothing beats cash for convenience – or for risk. If you lose cash, it's gone for good. It's best to carry no more cash than you need for the next few days. It's also a good idea to set aside a small amount, say €100, as an emergency stash.
Note that Greek shopkeepers and small-business owners sometimes don't have small change. When buying small items it is better to tender coins or small-denomination notes.
Credit cards are an accepted part of the commercial scene in Greece. In fact, since 2018 (as part of the 'management' of the financial crisis) Greeks aged below 65 and earning an income have been required by law to have a credit card. As a result, hotels and commercial ventures must be able to process them.
The main credit cards are MasterCard and Visa, both of which are widely accepted. They can also be used as cash cards to draw cash from the ATMs of affiliated Greek banks. Daily withdrawal limits are set by the issuing bank and are given in local currency only (though you may be given the opportunity to accept or decline a fixed exchange rate of your home currency).
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Restaurants Tipping is not traditionally the culture in Greece, though it is appreciated. Locals tend to leave a few coins. Depending on where you are, you can round it up or leave around 10%.
- Taxis Round up the fare. There's a small fee for handling bags; this is an official charge, not a tip.
- Bellhops Bellhops in hotels appreciate a small gratuity of around €1.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. The following are high-season hours; hours decrease significantly for shoulder and low seasons, and some places close completely. In tourist locations, some shops stay open longer year round.
Banks 8.30am–2.30pm Monday to Thursday, 8am–2pm Friday
Post Offices 7.30am–2pm Monday to Friday (rural); 7.30am–8pm Monday to Friday, 7.30am–2pm Saturday (urban)
Shops 8am–2pm Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; 8am–2pm and 5pm–9pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
- Digital memory cards are readily available from camera stores.
- Never photograph a military installation; some are less than obvious and near to wildlife viewing areas.
- Flash photography is not allowed inside churches and it's considered taboo to photograph the main altar.
- Greeks usually love having their photos taken, but always ask permission first.
- At archaeological sites you will be stopped from using a tripod as it marks you as a 'professional'.
ELTA (www.elta.gr) is Greece's post office, offering a pretty reliable service. To send post abroad, use the yellow post boxes labelled exoteriko (for overseas).
New Year's Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
First Sunday in Lent February
Greek Independence Day 25 March
Good Friday 17 April 2020, 30 April 2021, 22 April 2022
Orthodox Easter Sunday 19 April 2020, 2 May 2021, 24 April 2022
May Day (Protomagia) 1 May
Whit Monday (Agiou Pnevmatos) 8 June 2020, 21 June 2021, 13 June 2022
Feast of the Dormition 15 August
Ohi Day 28 October
Christmas Day 25 December
St Stephen's Day 26 December
- Smoking Banned inside public places, with the penalty being fines placed on the business owners. Greece is home to some of the heaviest smokers in Europe, so enforcement is a challenge. They are often imposed in only a nominal way in remote locations where proprietors fear they would lose business.
Taxes & Refunds
Greece has some of the highest tax rates in Europe, largely due to its economic struggles. Value Added Tax (VAT) is 24% for most things, although hotel accommodation, food and medicine is 13%, and for books and newspapers it's 6%. VAT is included in the price unless otherwise stated.
The Greek telephone service is maintained by the public corporation OTE (pronounced o-teh; Organismos Tilepikoinonion Ellados). You may still find some public phones in central locations (for example, near plazas) in both cities and villages, though as most people now use mobile (cell) phones, these are becoming rarities.
Note that in Greece the area code must always be dialled when making a call (ie all Greek phone numbers are 10-digit).
Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked phones. Most other phones can be set to roaming. US and Canadian phones need to have a dual- or tri-band system.
There are several mobile service providers in Greece, among which Cosmote (www.cosmote.gr), Vodafone (www.vodafone.gr) and Wind (www.wind.gr) are the best known. Of these three, Cosmote tends to have the best coverage in remote areas. All offer 4G connectivity and pay-as-you-talk services for which you can buy a rechargeable SIM card and have your own Greek mobile number. If you're buying a package, be sure to triple-check the fine print. There are restrictions on deals such as 'free minutes' only being available to phones using the same provider.
The use of a mobile phone while driving in Greece is prohibited, but the use of a Bluetooth headset is allowed.
Phonecards & Public Phones
Public phones use OTE phonecards, known as telekarta, not coins. These cards are available at periptera (street kiosks), and some corner shops and tourist shops. Public phones are easy to operate. The 'i' at the top left of the push-button dialling panel brings up the operating instructions in English.
It's also possible to use payphones with discount-card schemes. This involves dialling an access code and then punching in your card number. The OTE version of this card is known as 'Chronokarta'. The cards come with instructions in Greek and English and the talk time is good compared with the standard phonecard rates.
Greece is two hours ahead of GMT/UTC and three hours ahead on daylight-saving time – which begins on the last Sunday in March, when clocks are put forward one hour. Daylight saving ends on the last Sunday in October.
- Nearly all places in Greece have Western-style toilets, including hotels and restaurants. Public toilets at transport terminals (bus and train) sometimes have Ottoman/Turkish squat-style toilets.
- Public toilets tend to be limited to airports and bus and train stations with the very occasional one in tourist-heavy town centres. Cafes are the best option if you get caught short, but in tourist-heavy places, it's polite to buy something for the privilege.
- The Greek plumbing system can't handle toilet paper; apparently the pipes are too narrow and anything larger than a postage stamp seems to cause a problem. Toilet paper etc must be placed in the small bin provided next to every toilet.
The Greek National Tourist Organisation (www.visitgreece.gr) is known as GNTO abroad and EOT within Greece. The quality of service from office to office varies dramatically; in some you'll get information aplenty and in others you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone behind the desk. EOT offices can be found in major tourist locations. In some regions tourist offices are run by the local government/municipality.
Travel With Children
While Greece doesn't cater to kids the way that some countries do, children will be welcomed and included wherever you go. Greeks generally make a fuss over children, who may find themselves receiving many gifts and treats. Teach them some Greek words and they'll feel even more appreciated.
Best Regions for Kids
With ruins to clamber over, plus museums and child-geared sights to explore, Athens is great for kids. You'll also find big parks and gardens, a variety of cuisines and family-friendly hotels.
The island's beaches are long and sandy, Knossos ignites kids' imaginations, and you can explore from a single base, side-stepping the need to pack up and move around.
The magical forts and castles, glorious beaches, laid-back islands, and speedy catamarans linking the Dodecanese daily make it ideal for families. And the Italian influence means an abundance of kid-friendly pasta dishes.
- Northern Greece
Offers slightly lower summertime temperatures, Ottoman patisseries and Halkidiki's beaches. Laid-back Ioannina makes a great base and Parga is popular with families. Sithonia is less crowded but also less family-friendly than the rest of Halkidiki.
Greece for Kids
Sights & Activities
While even the most modern Greek museums are often filled to the gills with relics and objects that not all children will appreciate, the ancient palace-like settings can be intriguing for kids to wander through. The stories behind the objects can also captivate their imaginations – ancient statues hauled up from the depths of the sea or helmets worn by gladiators. Generally more popular than the museums are the many ancient sights where kids enjoy climbing and exploring.
The beach is one of the best sources of entertainment for children in Greece. In summer, many of the larger, popular beaches have bodyboards, surfboards, snorkelling gear and windsurfing equipment for rent. Many also offer lessons or trips on boats or giant, rubber, air-filled bananas. While some beaches have steep drop-offs or strong currents, there is generally a calmer side to each island or a shallow, protected bay that locals can direct you to.
Most towns will have at least a small playground, while larger cities often have fantastic, modern play parks. In many cases, you can admire children's innate ability to overcome language barriers through play while you enjoy a coffee and pastry at the park's attached cafe. Some of the larger and more popular locations (such as Rhodes, Crete and Athens) also have water parks.
Greek cuisine is all about sharing; ordering lots of mezedhes (small dishes) lets your children try the local cuisine and find their favourites. You'll also find lots of kid-friendly options such as pizza and pasta, omelettes, chips, bread, savoury pies and yoghurt.
The fast service in most restaurants is good news when it comes to feeding hungry kids. Tavernas are very family-friendly affairs and the owners will generally be more than willing to cater to your children's tastes. Ingredients such as nuts and dairy find their way into lots of dishes, so if your children suffer from any severe allergies it's best to ask someone to write this down for you clearly in plain Greek to show restaurant staff.
Many hotels let small children stay for free and will squeeze an extra bed in the room. In all but the smallest hotels, travel cots can often be found, but it's always best to check in advance. Larger hotels and resorts often have package deals for families and these places are generally set up to cater to kids with childcare options, adjoining rooms, paddling pools, cots and high chairs.
Greece is a safe and easy place to travel with children. Greek children are given a huge amount of freedom and can often be seen playing in village squares and playgrounds late into the night. Nevertheless, it's wise to be extra vigilant with children when travelling, and to ensure they always know where to go and who to approach for help. This is especially true on beaches or in playgrounds where it's easy for children to become disoriented. It's also prudent not to have your children use bags, clothing, towels etc with their name or personal information (such as national flag) stitched onto them; this kind of information could be used by potential predators to pretend to know you or the child.
Dangers children are far more likely to encounter are heatstroke, water-borne bugs and illness, mosquito bites, and cuts and scrapes from climbing around on ancient ruins and crumbling castles. Most islands have a clinic of some sort, although hours may be irregular so it's handy to carry a first-aid kid with basic medicine and bandages.
- Boat trips Whether it's zipping over the sea in a catamaran, bobbing up and down in a fishing boat or sailing on a day trip to a secluded bay.
- Kayaking Paddle alongside dolphins and visit pirate coves off Kefallonia. Plenty of kayaking, too, around Skiathos and Skopelos.
- Beach time Jump waves, build sandcastles and snorkel. Always ask locally for kid-friendly beaches; Patmos is a great place to start.
- Cycling Use pedal power along the flat, bike-friendly roads of Kos.
- Playgrounds Every city has one and they are most often well maintained and shady.
- Acropolis The home of the Greek gods is perfect for exploring early in the day.
- Rhodes' medieval castles The island of Rhodes is packed with crumbling castles perched on cliffs above the sea – perfect for climbing and make-believe.
- Knossos Young imaginations go into overdrive when let loose in this ruined palace.
- Nisyros' volcano See it hiss, hear it bubble, then visit the nearby museum.
- Yemista Veggies (usually tomatoes) stuffed with rice.
- Pastitsio Buttery macaroni baked with minced lamb.
- Kolokithokeftedes Freshly made courgette (zucchini) fritters.
- Loukoumadhes Ball-shaped doughnuts served with honey and cinnamon.
- Galaktoboureko Custard-filled pastry.
- Politiko pagoto Constantinople-style (slightly chewy) ice cream made with mastic.
- Carnival season Fancy dress, parades and traditional dancing will keep even the oldest kids enthralled.
- Football (soccer) Snag tickets for a game to catch some national spirit. Athens and Thessaloniki stadiums draw the biggest crowds.
- Hellenic Children's Museum Build, bake and investigate alongside Athenian kids.
When to Go
The shoulder seasons (April to May and September to October) are great times to travel with children because the weather is milder and the crowds thinner.
Before You Go
An excellent way to prepare your kids for their holiday and to encourage an active interest in the destination is by introducing them to some books or DVDs ahead of time. Lots of younger children enjoy stories of Greek gods and Greek myths while slightly older kids will enjoy movies like Mamma Mia, 300 or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for their Greek settings. You can also find children's books about life in Greece that include a few easy phrases that your kids can try out.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
What to Pack
- Travel high chair (either an inflatable booster seat or a cloth one that attaches to the back of a chair; these are light and easy to pack away)
- Lightweight pop-up cot for babies (if travelling to remote locations)
- Car seats (rental agencies don't always offer these)
- Plastic cups and cutlery for little ones
- Medicine, inhalers etc along with prescriptions
- Motion-sickness medicine and mosquito repellent
- Hats, waterproof sunscreen, sunglasses and water bottles
Fresh milk is available in large towns and tourist areas, but harder to find on smaller islands. Supermarkets are the best place to look. Formula is available almost everywhere, as is heat-treated milk. Disposable nappies are also available everywhere, although it's wise to take extra supplies of all of these things to out-of-the-way islands in case of local shortages.
Travel on ferries, buses and trains is free for children under four. For those up to age 10 (ferries) or 12 (buses and trains) the fare is half. Full fares apply otherwise. On domestic flights, you'll pay 10% of the adult fare to have a child under two sitting on your knee. Kids aged two to 12 travel with half-fare. If you plan to hire a car, it's wise to bring your own car seat or booster seat as rental agencies are not always reliable for these, particularly on small islands or with local agencies.
If your kids aren't old enough to walk on their own for long, consider a sturdy carrying backpack; pushchairs (strollers) are a struggle in towns and villages with slippery cobblestones and high pavements. Nevertheless, if the pushchair is a sturdy, off-road style, with a bit of an extra push you should be OK.
- Santorini Dave (https://santorinidave.com/greece-with-kids) For plenty of recommendations and hearty discussion on visiting Greece with kids.
- Travel Guide to Greece (www.greektravel.com) Matt Barrett's website has lots of useful tips for parents
- Greece 4 Kids (www.greece4kids.com) Matt Barrett's daughter Amarandi has put together some tips of her own.
Hellenic Wildlife Hospital (http://ekpazp.gr) Volunteers head to Aegina (particularly during winter) to this large wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Mouries Farm Help with the breeding and care of rare Skyrian horses.
Skyros Island Horse Trust Another great project looking for volunteers to assist with their programmes to preserve the endangered horses.
Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece Includes monitoring sea turtles in the Peloponnese.
Skopelos Walks Takes volunteers to help with maintaining and opening up island trails.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms; https://wwoof.gr) Offers opportunities for volunteers at one of over 100 farms in Greece.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Many women travel alone in Greece. The crime rate remains relatively low and solo travel is probably safer than in most European countries. This does not mean that you should be lulled into complacency; bag snatching and sexual assault do occur, particularly at party resorts on the islands.
The majority of Greek men treat foreign women with respect. However, you may still come across smooth-talking guys who aren't in the least bashful about approaching women in the street. They can be very persistent, but they are usually a hassle rather than a threat.
EU nationals don't need a work permit, but they need a residency permit and a Greek tax-file number if they intend to stay longer than three months. Nationals of other countries require a work permit.
Bar & Hostel Work
The bars of the Greek islands rely on foreign workers and there are thousands of summer jobs up for grabs every year. The pay is not fantastic, but you get to spend a summer on the islands. April and May are the times to go looking. Hostels and travellers' hotels are other places that regularly employ foreign workers.
If you're looking for a permanent job, the most widely available option is to teach English. A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate or a university degree is an advantage but not essential. For jobs listings check online at sites such as www.gooverseas.com.
Another possibility is to find a job teaching English once you are in Greece. You will see language schools everywhere. Strictly speaking, you need a licence to teach in these schools, but many will employ teachers without one. The best time to look around for such a job is late summer. In major cities you can check the notice boards of popular bookshops to see if anyone is looking for private tutoring.