This country has left a legacy on worldwide history that far belies its modern importance. From Greece sprang the fundamentals of modern philosophy, maths and science as well as significant contributions to art and engineering. The ancient Greeks are responsible for large chunks of what is now international culture such as the spread of democracy and western values.
This of course means that visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing ancient Greek ruins and artefacts however there is plenty more to do whilst in Greece. Most visitors these days are attracted by the gorgeous beaches, the Aegean Sea and all night parties. With Greece becoming an increasingly popular destination you can expect the comfort and conveniences of modern Europe yet stood side by side with both relics of a glorious and ancient empire and the simple life of many Greek citizens.
- Currency: Euro (€) 1 euro = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 2
- Language: Greek
- Telephone Services: Country code +30, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 112 for all services
Situated in the Mediterranean Greece has the climate you would come to expect. Be prepared for dry hot days with the occasional cool breeze in summer. Athens is especially hot due to the smog during the summer. Evenings can get quite cool in the summer so be prepared for this! In the winter the northern part of the country can be quite cold, the south however is much milder. Throughout Greece the rainy season occurs between November and March when you can expect high levels of precipitation.
Things to see and do
The capital Athens was according to Greek mythology won by Athena (goddess of wisdom) from Poseidon. The story tells of how Athenaís victory was honoured by the construction of a temple on the Acropolis. The Acropolis is a large stony hill at the centre of Athens, it was the site of the original settlement and is now home to the pantheon which is a temple depicting ancient Greeceís many gods and goddesses. The traffic and smog can be quite bad in Athens but it is worth enduring for some of the most varied and bustling restaurants and nightlife in the country. The best thing to do in Athens is spend a few days checking out the sights during the day and living it up at night, then head out for some fresher air in other parts of Greece.
Elsewhere in Greece there are plenty of other attractions to see, one of the most popular is Delphi. This ancient city supposedly marked the centre of the Greek world and is located high on Mount Parnassos. Famously the site of the Oracle of Apollo the ruins are now a major tourist attraction and for just over £10 you can get entrance to the actual ruins themselves and the associated museum.
A short ferry hop from Athens can take you across to the Island of Crete. By far the most interesting place on this sunny little Island is the city of Knossos. This city was built by the ancient Minoans and was reputedly home to King Minos, the labyrinth and the mythical half-bull half-man known as the minotaur. Large parts of Knossos have been restored and there is visitor access to the Palace of Knossos, the royal villa, the house of frescoes and the Temple Tomb.
Finally most travellers like to take in the birthplace of the Olympics, Olympia. This remarkable site is situated in the Peloponnesus Valley, about 200km west of Athens. There are numerous famous buildings to see here including the famed hippodrome and the magnificent temple of Zeus. While here why not try to make time to see some of the lesser known sites as well like the Palaestra (wrestling school) and the Heraeum.
The Greek rail network is quite poor by European standards. You will find no service at all on the Greek Islands, a reasonable system on the Peloponnese peninsula. There are a few international rail connections from Greece but you will find connection to Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey from Athens or Thessaloniki.
If you are travelling by rail always try to book your seat a few days in advance and ask for a free seat reservation. The trains can be quite busy and in the heat of a typical Greek summers day you will definitely not want to be standing up for a couple of hours on a train. Whatever you do donít purchase your ticket on the train as you will be charged 50% extra on the price served at stations.
The European train passes are all valid in Greece although if you are travelling only in the Balkans (Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey) then a Balkans rail pass may offer better value for money. This pass is a flexi-pass style ticket and allows between 5 and 15 days travel within a 1 month period. A youth discount is available for under 25ís and prices start as low as £65. These passes are available online from railkey.com.
Due to the somewhat lacking train service most travellers find bus a much more convenient way to get around in Greece. KTEL runs most domestic Greek routes while OSE serves international routes. Almost all cities of any size have a central bus depot with left-luggage facilities. Larger cities such as Athens may have more than one such station (Athens in fact has 3).
Prices are generally cheaper than taking the train and you wonít normally have to book in advance unless it is exceptionally busy. There have been a few cases of luggage theft from buses so take normal security precautions such as if you intend sleeping ensure your baggage is stowed securely in the luggage compartment or out of sight of potential thieves.
Hotels in Greece range from the luxurious and high class common on the larger Greek Islands and the southern mainland to small seasonal chalets available almost everywhere. In the summer tourist season you will definitely have to book in advance or prepare to be disappointed. Self catering chalets and houses are a common form of accommodation on the Greek Islands and can usually be booked on the spot.
Paradosiakoi oikismoi or traditional settlements can be found throughout the country. These are traditional Greek hostels and most offer single, double or triple rooms or a four bedroom house depending on numbers. These are a little more expensive than youth hostels but the quality is generally quite a bit higher and you wonít find any dorms in these type of lodgings.
Greece has only one hostel which is recognised by the International Youth Hostel Federation, this is located on Victor Hugo street in Athens, you can find more information at itís hostel website.
The Greek Youth Hostel Association does maintain a list of their own with a lot more hostels on it but unfortunately they donít have a website at the moment. The best method of contact at the moment is postal or by phone and you can find the Greek Youth Hostels Associationís address in our useful addresses section at the bottom of this page.
The Greek National Health system provides medical service to Greek NI contributors and operates a reciprocal agreement with the British NHS. This means with an EH 111 form you should receive medical attention should you need it. Be aware that many services which would be done on the NHS in the UK may require a private doctor in Greece so it is wise to have comprehensive travel insurance.
The standard of healthcare whilst 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).
The Greek National Tourism Organisation offers travel advice and tips in Greek, English or Spanish.