If you are visiting Greece these are some things you may want to know and rather than make people search all over the web to find it I have decided to get it myself from the various organizations and put it all together in one convenient location. The ones that are in bold are the ones you may find most valuable.

Electricity

The electricity voltage in Greece is 220 V/50 Hz and the plugs are of type F. To avoid the risk of a short circuit, be sure to have transformers and adaptors for your electronic devices or ensure that your chosen accommodate will provide you with them.

As a member state of the European Union and the Eurozone, Greece uses the EU’s common currency, the euro (€). 

Cash can be obtained from:

  • All banks that accept currency exchange (Monday-Thursday: 8am-2.30pm & Friday: 8am-1.30pm, closed on weekends and public holidays).
  • Exchange offices situated in airport, central ports, big cities, as well as at many tourist destinations. A passport is required when exchanging currencies.
  • The ATMs of the banks that accept your credit card.

Shop Opening Hours

Although the opening hours of shops vary from region to region, in large cities they are usually as follows: 

  • Downtown shops, department stores and supermarkets: 9am-9pm, except on Saturdays, when they close at 8pm.
  • Local shops: 9am-2.30pm & 5.30-8.30pm (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) and 9am-3pm (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) 

Shops are closed on Sundays, except for local mini-markets, tobacco shops and street kiosks, some of which operate almost 24 hours a day, including Sundays, especially in tourist areas.

Public Holidays

National celebrations and holidays

  • New Year’s Day: January 1 
  • Theophania/Epiphany: January 6 
  • Ash Monday, the 41st day before Orthodox Easter (movable holiday)
  • Independence Day: March 25  
  • Orthodox Easter Sunday and Monday: Movable holiday
  • Labor Day: May 1 
  • Assumption of the Virgin Mary: August 15
  • National Holiday: October 28 
  • Christmas holidays: December 25 & 26

Smoking

Legislation in Greece prohibits smoking in workplaces, transport stations, taxis and ferries, as well as in all enclosed public spaces. Smoking is also prohibited in large entertainment venues, such as restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Many, however, have smoking areas.

Time Zone

Greece belongs to the Eastern Europe Time Zone and local time is identified as GMT +2.

Daylight Savings (DST) occurs on the last Sunday of March, when clocks move one hour ahead. They move one our back on the last Sunday of October.

Emergency Numbers - Telephone Directory

In case of emergency call:

  • Ambulance service: 166
  • SOS doctors : 1016
  • Duty hospitals and clinics: 1434
  • Pharmacies: 1434
  • Poisoning first aid: 210 77 93 777
  • European emergency number: 112
  • Fire service: 199
  • Police: 100
  • Tourism Police: 171

Health & Safety

Prior to your visit to Greece, prepare for the event that you need medical care:

  •  If your country of origin is an EU member-state make sure you are a holder of the European Health Card (EHIC) or any other legal EU document issued by your nation’s social security agency. You can find more information about the EHIC here. In such cases, the necessary treatment in Greece is provided by:

- IKA (Social Security Institute) Health Units (polyclinics) or doctors’ clinics in the region of travel;

- Regional clinics (formerly rural clinics) or the Health Centres of the National Health System

- The outpatient departments of hospitals

  • If your country of origin is not an EU member-state, make sure you have consulted your social security agency for information before travelling.

General Infomation

Capital city: Athens

Official language: Greek 

Currency: EUR (€)

Time zone: GTM +2

Calling code: +30

Climate: Mediterranean

Population: 10,815,197 (2011 estimate)

Central Airport: Athens International Airport 

Main cities: Thessaloniki, Patra, Larissa, Herakleion, Volos

Georgraphical Location

Located in southeastern Europe and at the meeting point of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – Greece borders Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) to the north, Albania to the northwest and Turkey to the northeast. The western borders are formed by the Ionian Sea, the southern by the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern borders by the Aegean Sea.

Greece consists of:

  • A peninsular mainland (extending from the southern region of Central Greece to the northern region of Thrace)
  • The Peloponnesian peninsula that is separated from the mainland by the Corinth Canal
  • An archipelagos of approximately 6,000 islands and islets, scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, of which 227 are inhabited. Most of them are located in the Aegean Sea and divided into seven clusters: Northern Aegean islands, Sporades, Evia, Argosaronic islands, Cyclades, Dodecanese and Crete. The Heptanese cluster is located in the Ionian Sea.

Greece in numbers

  • 131,957 km2 – the total area of Greece 
  • 13,676 km – length of Greece’s coastline, according to the CIA World Factbook, 7,500km of which surround the thousands of islands in the Greek archipelago 
  • 80% of the country consists of mountains or hills, making Greece one of the most mountainous countries in Europe.

Weather

Greece is a country with long periods of sunshine throughout the year and is characterised by a having a typical Mediterranean climate: mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

Climatologically, the year in Greece is divided in two seasons: 

  • The warm season (April–mid-October), characterised by sunshine, high temperatures and seasonal winds, mostly found in the Aegean during August (known as meltemia).
  • The winter season (mid-October-March), when the average temperatures range, depending on the geographic region, between 0-10°C (even below 0°C in northern regions). The weather is limited to mild snowfall and rainfall of short duration, often interrupted by sunny days

 (Source: Hellenic Meteorological Service: www.hnms.gr)

History

Discover Greece through the marks of its history

The evolution of Greece’s history – from the Paleolithic Era to today – can be traced at hundreds of archaeological sites and museums and through the myriad collections scattered throughout the country. Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches and monasteries, Ottoman buildings, charming Frankish castles and traditional settlements – of which quite a few retain their Ottoman, and even sometimes part of their Byzantine, structure…  It’s a narration of history that will tell one of the most interesting and beautiful stories you’ve ever experienced.

The creation of Greece’s historical map begins as early as the Paleolithic Era (approx. 120,000 – 10,000 BC) when the first traces of human habitation appear. By the Neolithic Age (approx. 7,000 – 3,000 BC), this translated into buildings that spread throughout the land, as witnessed by constructions and cemeteries discovered in Thessaly (Sesklo, Dimini), Macedonia and the Peloponnese, to name just a few locations.

The Bronze Age (approx.3000-1100 B.C.) is marked by the appearance of the first urban centres in the Aegean region (Poliochni on the island of Limnos), as well as by the flourishing settlements on Crete, mainland Greece, the islands of the Cyclades and the Northeastern Aegean. It was in these regions that characteristic cultural constructs were formed, among them the Cycladic civilisation, one of the most ancient in Europe.

Amid the cultural bloom that marked the beginning of the 2nd Millennium BC, organised palatial societies appeared on Minoan Crete, a byproduct of which was also the development of the first writing system. With the Palace of Knossos at the centre of this movement, and through their interaction with countless peoples from the East Mediterranean region, the Minoans adopted different elements that in turn decisively influenced cultures on the Greek mainland and the islands of the Aegean. And subsequently, the Mycenaean civilisation prevailed and flourished after the enormous destruction caused to Crete and the Minoan civilisation by a massive volcanic eruption on Santorini (around 1500 BC)

During the last centuries of the 2nd Millennium BC, the Mycenaean Greeks became the dominant force in the Aegean – a dominance that lasted for approximately 500 years and ended around 1200 BC. It was at this point that the extensive destruction of the Mycenaean centres led to the decline of the Mycenaean civilisation. As a result, this also forced a large part of the population to migrate to the coastal regions of Asia Minor and Cyprus (the 1st Greek colonisation).

Approximately two centuries of economic and cultural downturn (often referred to as the country’s Dark Age) was followed by the time known as the Greek Renaissance years. It was a period marked by the formation of the Greek city-states, the creation of the Greek alphabet and the composition of the Homeric epics (end of the 8th Century BC).

The years that followed were a period of major social and political change. The Greek city-states established colonies as far as Spain to the west, the Black Sea to the north and North Africa to the south (the 2nd Greek colonisation) and laid the foundations for the upcoming prosperity of the Classical Period.

The Classical Period was marked by the cultural and political dominance of Athens, which was so prevalent that the second half of the 5th Century BC is known as the Golden Age of Pericles. But the greatness of the period was not only for Athens but also for the history of mankind. The achievements in all sectors of science and art during that period are the cornerstone of modern western civilisation.

However, at the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC, Athens had lost its place as the prominent city of Greece. The military actions of Philip II during the 4th Century BC catapulted the Macedonians into the leading role in Greece. During this time, and with his guidance, the scene was set for the grand expansion of Macedonian hegemony to the East. The military genius of Philip’s son, Alexander the Great, who campaigned in the East and conquered territories that extended up to the Indus River, resulted in the creation of a majestic empire. An empire that radically changed, not only the world as it was at the time, but the course of human history as well.

After the death of Alexander, the vast empire he created was divided among his generals, leading to the creation of the kingdoms that would prevail during the Hellenistic Period (3rd -1st Century BC).

During the years of the Hellenistic Period, the Greek city-states remained more or less autonomous but lost much of their old power and prestige. The appearance on the scene of the Romans and the final conquest of Greece in 146 BC forced the country to join the vast Roman Empire, most of whose emperors acted as benefactors to the Greek cities (especially Athens) due to their admiration of Greek culture. During the 1st Century AD, Christianity, the new religion that would depose Dodekatheon worshipping, began to spread all over Greece through the travels of Apostle Paul.

When, in 324 AD, Constantine the Great opted to move the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, the focus shifted to the eastern part of the empire. This ultimately marked the beginning of the Byzantine Period, during which Greece became part of the Byzantine Empire.

After 1204, when Western crusaders occupied Constantinople, parts of Greece were apportioned to western leaders, while the Venetians occupied strategic positions in the Aegean (islands or coastal cities) in order to control the trade routes. The reoccupation of Constantinople by the Byzantines in 1262 marked the last stages of the empire’s existence.

Along with the abovementioned hostilities, the Ottomans gradually began to seize parts of the empire from the 14th Century AD, finalising the dissolution of the empire with the capture of Constantinople in 1453. In regard to Greece, Crete was the final area to be occupied by the Ottomans in 1669. The Ottoman occupation would continue until 1821, the first year of the Greek War of Independence.

The result of the Greek War of Independence was the creation of an independent Greek state in 1830, but with limited sovereign territory. During the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, areas with Greek population were gradually inducted into the Greek State. Greece’s sovereign territory would reach its peak after the end of Word War I, in 1920, with the substantial contribution of the then prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos. The Greek state took its current territorial form after the end of World War II, with the addition of the Dodecanese Islands.

In 1974, after a seven-year military dictatorship, a referendum was held and the government changed from a constitutional monarchy to a presidential parliamentary democracy, and in 1981 Greece became a member of the European Union.

Language

Greek is the official language of Greece and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. 

Greece has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, so foreign languages such as English, German, French and Spanish are warmly received, especially on the islands and in areas of high tourism. 

The language widely used in the tourism sector is English, in which Greek people are often fluent or comfortable.

Custom Regulations

Before visiting Greece it would be useful to have a look at customs regulations* referring to:

  • Currency declaration upon arrival: According to EU law, if you’re carrying cash valued at €10,000 or greater, you are required to declare that sum to the authorities of the Member State you are entering or exiting. Therefore, upon arrival at a Greek airport and prior to exiting the Baggage Claim area, it may be necessary for you to proceed to the Customs Office for a currency declaration.
  • Currency declaration prior to departures: If you are flying to a non-EU destination, after passing through Passport Control you are required to proceed to the Customs Office for currency declaration. In addition, in case you are travelling to an EU member state and carrying cash of a value of €10,000 or more, you must also declare that sum to the Customs Office. 
  • Alcohol and tobacco:  When travelling from one EU country to another, you can transport tobacco and alcohol products for personal use but not for resale. Under EU law, you do not have to prove that the goods are for your personal use if you are carrying quantities below than those defined on the EU website. 
  • Restrictions of animal products: When traveling within the EU, transportation of animal products does not fall under general restrictions since all EU countries have to adhere to the same strict veterinary standards. If, however, you are transporting meat or dairy products and are not travelling from an EU country, there is danger that you may enter with animal diseases.
  • Animals and plants: When travelling within the EU you have the right to transport animals and plants. However, given that the majority of EU countries have strict rules in place regarding the transportation of endangered species and products derived from them, you will need a permit to travel with them. 

*Further information on the above, can be found at the corresponding links of the European Commission website:

For currency declaration

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/customs_controls/cash_controls/index_en.htm

For Alcohol & Tobacco, Restrictions of products of animal origin as well as animals and plants:

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/travellers/enter_eu/index_en.htm

For general travellers’ information: 

http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm

Passport and Visa

In order to visit Greece you are obliged to have the following: 

  • ID card In the case that your country of origin is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, you may use your national ID to enter the country and you may stay for a three-month period. In these cases a passport is not necessary, although you will need it in a variety of other transactions, including currency exchange, shopping etc.
  • Visa If your country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, make sure you obtain further information from the Greek embassy or consulate in your country before your trip, or from your travel agency.*
  • Passport If your country of origin is one of the following non-EU countries, your passport allows you to visit Greece and remain in the country for up to three months (90 days) within a six-month period: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Vatican, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela.

*In case you are visiting Greece with a visa, make sure you also have suitable insurance coverage for emergency medical or other needs.

By Car

Greece connects with Europe and Asia through a vast road network that today is 117,000km long. Highways extending both to the east and the west are constantly being expanded and improved. The main motorways link Greece to Balkan countries and from there to the rest of Europe, as well as to the European part of Turkey via the eastern routes. Another route to Greece is from Italy through the western border via one of the many ferry services.

Recent surface quality upgrades to the two major national highways and the construction of a major section of the Egnatia Road, from the weastern coast to northeastern Greece, has made life easier for motorists. Visitors who wish to discover Greece can expect comfortable and hassle-free travel (numerous gas stations, restaurants and parking areas along the length of the road network).

The four border crossing points through which one can enter the country by car are: From Bulgaria – Exochi, Drama; from Fyrom – Evzones, Kilki; from Albania – Kakavia, in the Ioannina prefecture; and from Turkey – Kipi, in Evros.

The main road axes in Greece are listed below, along with their assigned European highway number:

Athens - Thessaloniki (E75)
Athens - Corinth (E94)
Corinth - Patra (E65)
Corinth –Tripoli – Kalamata (E65)
Patra – Pyrgos – Olympia (E55)
Thessaloniki – Kavala – Alexandroupolis (E90)
Igoumenitsa – Alexandroupolis (Egnatia Odos)
Chania – Agios Nikolaos (Crete E75)

* EU citizens may use their national driving license, while citizens of other countries must have an international driving license along with their valid national driving permit.

By Plane

Airplane journeys are particularly popular because they offer both comfort and speed. Athens International Airport (www.aia.gr), one of the most modern in the world, connects to the suburban railway and the metro and is the starting point for many bus routes that run to central destinations in Athens. The aforementioned modes of public transport connect to the ports of Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrion, particularly convenient for passengers intending to depart the same day for the islands.

Aside from Athens, many other Greek cities have airports that offer flights to domestic and even international destinations. Some airports may also have charter flights. Both the number of destinations and the frequency of charters increase during the summer period.

International airports

  • Alexandroupolis
  • Chania, Crete
  • Corfu (Kerkyra)
  • Heraklion, Crete
  • Kalamata
  • Kavala
  • Cephalonia (Kefalonia)
  • Kos
  • Limnos
  • Lesvos (Mytilene)
  • Rhodes
  • Samos
  • Thessaloniki
  • Zante (Zakynthos)

National and public airports

  • Astypalaia
  • Chios
  • Ikaria
  • Ioannina
  • Kalymnos
  • Karpathos
  • Kasos
  • Kastelorizo
  • Kastoria
  • Kythera
  • Kozani
  • Leros
  • Milos
  • Mykonos
  • Naxos
  • Nea Anchialos (Volos)
  • Paros
  • Patra
  • Preveza
  • Santorini
  • Skiathos
  • Skyros
  • Syros

By Train

Approximately 2,500 km long, Greece’s railroad is served by high-quality Intercity-type trains (express), as well as regular trains (high-speed and speed rail etc) performing regularly scheduled routes. The service provides for the transportation of passengers and accompanied vehicles in much of the continental part of the country. For further information, please visit the webpage of Hellenic Railways Organisation.

By Ferry

Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Patras and Igoumenitsa are the sites of the main ports of Greece. Every year Greek ports welcome a huge number of passengers from all over the world, thus connecting mainland Greece to Europe and all inhabited Greek islands by ferry. Although ferry routes to Europe are numerous, many cruise ships and private boats opt to dock in Greece as a favored destination. In order to better cover the ever-increasing demand for mobile home transportation, shipping companies have scheduled ships with specially configured areas for campers and caravans (towed and automotive).

The majority of European tourists travelling to Greece by car use modern ferries that sail between Greek ports and ports in neighboring Italy. As far as the quality of the trip is concerned, these ships offer a comfortable and modern environment, with experienced staff and high levels of hospitality ensuring relaxation and pleasure at very reasonable prices. Various categories of cabins are offered – from suites featuring private bathrooms and showers to economy cabins. Regardless of cabin choice, however, your overnight stay will be comfortable. Most ships include air-conditioning, bars, restaurants and storage for baggage, as well as satellite communications (telex and fax), video games and gaming facilities (slot machines, casinos, card rooms), swimming pools, self-service facilities, discos, cinemas, children’s playrooms, escalators etc. Many departures are late at night, providing passengers with an extra vacation day.

Main ports linking Greece to Italy:

  • Patra: One of the most modern ports in the Mediterranean, connecting Greece with the Italian ports of Ancona, Bari, Trieste, Brindisi and Venice.
  • Igoumenitsa: One of the most important ports in the European Union, offering routes to Brindisi, Bari, Ancona and Venice. 
  • Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante: These island ports often function as stopovers on voyages to and from Italy (the port of Bari).

Greece is also connected to Turkey by sea, with ferries (motorboats and hydrofoils) departing from:

  • Lesvos: To Ayvalik (daily schedules)
  • Chios: To Çeşme (daily schedules) 
  • Kos and Samos: To Kuşadasi (daily schedules) 
  • Rhodes: To Bodrum and Marmaris (3 departures per week)
  • Kalymnos: To Bodrum (3 departures per week)

**According to the terms of the Schengen Agreement, to which Greece is a signatory, all passenger ships/ferries sailing regular routes from Patra and Igoumenitsa to Italy and back (without visiting any non-Schengen third-country ports) are included in the category of ships executing domestic routes. As a result, passengers in these ships whose only destination is those ports situated on the sovereign land of the Schengen countries, do not have to undergo passport control.