Travel guide to Greece

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Greece has it all, from beautiful holiday resorts with long, white beaches and turquoise water, to numerous historical sights - all worth visiting. The climate is perfect and the country gladly welcomes the exploring traveller.

Facts

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Local name
Ellás
Capital
Athens (800,000)
Size
131,957 sq km
Principal Languages
Greek
Principal Religion
Greek Orthodox
Inhabitants
10,542,000 (1999)
Government
Republic
Geography
Greece is a dry and mountainous country, with the mainland bordering Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania in the north, and Turkey in the east. Otherwise the country consists of smaller and larger islands, many of which are situated in the Aegean Sea. The western part of Greece extends to the Ionic Sea, whilst the southern part - where the large holiday island of Crete is located - is favoured by the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek climate is warm from April to October, and often gets very dry during the summer.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Greece is wonderful to visit all year around. The sun shines and the temperatures are high from spring to autumn, meaning that the beaches are excellent. During the winter you can explore the many ancient Greek monuments and simply soak up the permeating history.

Literature

Lonely Planet Greece Rough Guide Greece

Local conditions

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Currency

Greek drachma (GRD)

Net cafes

There are quite a lot of Internet cafes in Greece at the moment and still more emerge. Most of them are in Athens, but there are also some in the large holiday resorts, such as Corfu, Crete and Rhodes. It's quite inexpensive to use their computers and most of them have an adjacent café or bar.

In case of emergency

To call for help in Greece, dial the following numbers: Ambulance (166) Police (100) Fire department (199)

Tipping

Although restaurants usually add 15 per cent to the bill, it is considered good manners to leave another five per cent. You should also tip taxi drivers. In other service trades, 12-15 per cent are expected.

Timezone

When it is 12.00 in England, it is 14.00 in Greece

Weight and Measures

The following units of measurement are used in Greece: Length: metre Weight: kilogram Volume: litre

Photography

You can take pictures as you please in Greece, except when photographing individuals and in holy places.

Drinking water

Generally speaking, it is okay to drink the tap water in Greece, but it doesn't taste very good. If you want to be sure not to catch any stomach infections, you should buy bottled water.

Electricity

The following current is used in Greece: 220 volt AC/50Hz

Behaviour

In the resorts you can dress as casually as you like, but when visiting churches you should wear something more appropriate. The Greek Orthodox Church is very dominant, particularly in the more remote areas. Notice that a toss of the head toward the back is considered a negative gesture. Smoking is prohibited in public transport and buildings.

Business Hours

Banks are open 8.00-14.00 (Monday to Thursday) and 8.00-13.30 (Friday). The opening hours for shops vary a great deal, but they're usually open 8.00-14.30 (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday) and 8.00-14.00 and 17.30-20.30 (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). During the winter, shops are open 9.00-17.00/19.00 (Monday-Friday) and 9.00-13.00 (Saturday).

Food and drink

Greek cuisine is among the best in the world - it is simple but often delicious. There is Greek salad with ripe tomatoes, feta and olives. Souvlaki is a national dish - pita bread with flesh, often lamb or pork, and various vegetables. The Greeks flush it down with ouzo (which tastes like liquorice) or retsina.

Disabled travellers

The facilities for the disabled aren't very good in Greece, as, except in a few modern holiday resorts and luxury ferries, there are no wheelchair facilities. It is difficult to get around in a wheelchair in many places, because of the narrow, rocky and steep Greek roads.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Deity Day, 6 January The Greek Independence Day, 25 March Labor Day, 1 May Maria's Admission to Heaven, 15 August Ochi Day, 28 October Christmas Day, 25 December Boxing Day, 26 December Shifting holidays: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, March or April Lent, March

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Greece is teemed with camping sites, and you can pitch your tent on even the smallest island.

Hotels

There are many hotels in Greece, and even though the standard isn't always great, there are plenty to choose from in all categories.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

It is possible to find a B&B in Greece, but there aren't many. You'll find plenty of private pensions, though.

Hostels

Greece also holds quite a few hostels, where you'll usually need an international hostelling card.

Other Accommodation

Many people rent out private rooms in Greece. It's cheap and the standard is usually okay.

Local transport

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Planes

There are domestic flights between Athens and a large number of holiday resorts and cities. Salonikki, also on the mainland, has a good domestic airport, too.

Bus

There is bus service between Athens and all major and medium-sized cities on the mainland and the Peloponnese. The cities have local buses.

Trains

There are two central train stations in Athens, from where you can take the train to a large number of other cities on the mainland and the Peloponnese. Many of the trains are slow and crowded, but they are cheap.

Taxi

Taxis are everywhere in Greece. Most of them have taximeters and the prices are very reasonable. There's and extra charge for trip to and from the airport.

Car rental

The major car rental companies have bases all over the country, and you can also rent a car at the airport. The Greek road network is fine.

Boat or Ferry

There are several departures a day from Piraeus, Athens' port, to all the islands, as well as connections between the various islands. The car ferries are the most slow, but also the cheapest. You can also take the hydrofoil, Flying Dolphins, which is faster but more expensive.

Special conditions

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Greece is a great place to snorkel and dive, look at beautiful corals and maybe, if you're lucky, swim with a sea turtle.

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