Greece Travel Tips

Greece Travel Tips

Currency:
The Euro is now the official currency of Greece. Notes are in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 Euro. Coins are in denominations of 2 and 1 Euro; and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent.

Currency Exchange:
Foreign currency can be exchanged at all banks, savings banks and bureau de change. Exchange rates can fluctuate from one bank to another. Many UK banks offer differing exchange rates depending on the denominations of currency being bought or sold.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and other major credit cards are widely accepted (although less so in petrol stations), as well as Euro check cards. Check with your credit or debit Card Company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

To avoid additional exchange rate charges, it is advised to take travellers checks issued in Euros, British Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.

All travellers’ checks can be exchanged easily at banks. Generally, banks in Greece charge a commission of 2%.

Banking hours are Monday-Thursday 08:00am-14:30pm, and Friday 08:00am-14:00pm.

Banks on the larger islands tend to stay open in the afternoon and some during the evening to offer currency exchange facilities during the tourist season.

Currency Restrictions:
The import of local and foreign currency is not restricted provided any amount exceeding Euro 10,000 is declared on arrival. The export of local and foreign currency is allowed although amounts over Euro 2,000 require an Import Currency Declaration Form issued on arrival, and amounts over Euro 10,000 require a Certificate of Tax Clearance or Currency Declaration Form (on import).

Customs:
It is forbidden to bring in plants with soil. One windsurf board per person may be imported/exported duty free, if registered in the passport on arrival. The export of antiquities is prohibited without the express permission of the Archaeological Service in Athens; those who ignore this will be prosecuted.

Standard duty-free allowances apply to tobacco, alcohol and perfume.

Health:
The biggest health risk in Greece is sunburn and dehydration. Drink plenty of water, wear a hat if you are outdoors and bring high UV protection sunscreen - it can be hard to find and expensive.

Tap water quality varies from area to area, depending on the source, but is excellent in most regions. Bottled water is available and is advised for the first few weeks of your stay. Milk is pasteurized and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are considered safe to eat.

The standard of healthcare while generally good does lag behind Western Europe in some ways. In particular the ambulance service is stretched and is very basic so if you really need urgent attention and can move freely a taxi to the nearest hospital might be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. If there is any danger that movement might make the patient worse then always wait for an ambulance. For emergencies, ring 166 (public ambulance).

There is a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom, but it is poorly implemented. Therefore, it is wise to have comprehensive travel insurance. Refunds for medical treatment are theoretically available from the Greek Social Insurance Foundation on presentation of form E111.

Local chemists can diagnose and supply a wide selection of drugs.
Vaccinations
 
If you plan on doing much hiking through forested areas, consider vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers over one year of age if arriving from infected yellow fever areas.

Language:
Greek (Ellenika) is the national language. Most people connected with tourism and those of a younger generation will speak some English, French, German or Italian.

Time:
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Electricity:
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.

Telephone:
IDD is available throughout the mainland and islands. Country code: 30, followed by (2100) for Athens, (2310) for Thessaloniki and (2810) for Heraklion (all area codes are prefixed with 2 and end with 0). Outgoing international code: 00.

GSM 900 and 1800 networks exist. Coverage is good around the major towns on the mainland and on many islands. Main operators include Cosmote, Q-Telecom. Stet Hellas, and Vodafone.

Safety:
Greece’s crime rate remains relatively low. Solo travel is perhaps safer in Greece than most European countries. Still, stay aware of your surroundings especially in crowded tourist areas.

There have been a few cases of luggage theft from buses so take normal security precautions if travelling by bus.

The majority of Greek men treats foreign women with respect and is genuinely helpful. Single women will most likely be approached by smooth-talking young men dubbed kamaki(fishing trident) by the locals. These kamaki are more of a friendly nuisance rather than a threat.

Social Conventions:
The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is generally casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.

Visitors to Greece will find the Greeks to be well aware of their strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs differ throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, especially in more rural areas.

Tax and Tipping:
Non-EU citizens can get a refund on Greek VAT (4% on books and 18% on nearly everything else); the process is fairly complex, but well worth it.
Non-EU visitors may buy goods from certain shops bearing the sign ‘Member of the Tax-Free Club’ and have the VAT refunded, in cash, at special refund points at the airport. Ask store owners and tourist information offices for details.
Tipping 12-15% is usual.

Visa:
All travellers must possess a passport that is valid for at least three months after their planned departure date from Greece.

EU nationals need a valid passport or ID card and sufficient funds to support their length of stay.

No visa is required for maximum stays of 90 days for nationals of all EU countries, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Macau, Malta, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and the USA. Most South American countries are exempt from visa requirements as well.

This list may change. Always check with the nearest Greek Consulate/Embassy for current visa criteria.

All other nationalities require a visa.
A uniform type of visa, the Schengen Visa, is issued for tourist, business and private visits. There are three types of Schengen Visa:

  1. Short-stay
  2. Transit
  3. Airport Transit

Visa fees depend on exchange rates, but are around US$20.

Note:
Persons arriving in and departing from Greece on a charter flight risk having the return portion of their ticket invalidated by the authorities if, at any time during their stay, they leave Greece and remain overnight or longer in another country