ATHENS

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Athens is the oldest capital in all of Europe, and it's home to the first known democracy.

Greece is on Central European Time (CET) during most of the year, and Central European Summer Time (CEST) during daylight savings time/the summer.

Greece permits stays of up to 90 days without a visa for tourism or business purposes. Ensure that you have sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. Your passport should have 6 months of remaining validity.

Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (AIA) is the largest international airport in Greece. It receives direct flights from the majority of central European airports as well as passengers from around the world via transfer. The Athens International Airport offers a hotel, a retail park, and access to railway, metro, bus, and taxi services. Flight time from Athens to other airports across the Greek islands ranges from 40 minutes to 1 hour.

One of the most popular forms of transportation from Athens to the Greek islands is by ferry. Piraeus is the central port of Athens, but many ferries also leave from the ports of Rafina and Lavrion. Car rental agencies are also common in popular Greek destinations for those who wish to travel the sunny islands by car. Green KTEL buses also connect Athens to other neighboring locations for tourists, and the Athens Metro provides a rapid transit system which serves the Athens urban area and parts of East Attica.

Athens is considered a very safe city with low levels of homicide, violent crime, and incarceration. The biggest issue in Athens is petty crime, but offenses are typically nonviolent. Athens is thought to be even safer than most American cities with much lower crime rates than New York City. 

Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world with an average of 300 sunny days a year. Warm weather lingers throughout the first half of fall (September-November), making it is one of the best times to travel to Greece on a budget to avoid peak travel season while still enjoying the sunny beaches and coastlines. Winter in Greece (November-March) is mostly mild in the south, though northern regions are cold during the winter months, even receiving snow in some areas.

The spring (March-May) is warm with more frequent rainfall early in the season. Prices are typically low for spring travelers, and beaches are far less crowded, though the ocean stays chilly until early summer.  The summer (June-August) is hot and dry, featuring the highest temperatures, best travel schedules, and biggest crowds. June is the best time to catch great deals on a cheaper vacation while still enjoying the warmth and excitement of summer in Greece.

The official language of Greece is Greek, which is spoken by 99% of the population along with other languages like Albanian, Macedonian, and Turkish. The most common foreign languages learned by Greeks are English, German, French, and Italian. Although most popular destinations in Greece are catered to international tourists with language barriers, here are some Greek words/phrases to help you get by:

Hello: Γειά σου (YAH-soo)

Please/You’re welcome: Παρακαλώ (para-kah-LOE)

Thank you: Ευχαριστώ (eff-kha-ri-STOE)

My name is… : Με λένε (may LEH-neh)…

Yes: Ναί (neh); No: όχι (OH-hee)

Excuse me/Sorry: Συγνώμη (See-GHNO-mee)

Do you speak English?: Μιλάτε αγγλικά (Mee-LAH-teh ag-li-KAH)?

Greeks are known to be warm and hospitable, and most etiquette is common sense. Here are a few important tips before your trip:

  1. Shake Hands. When meeting an individual or group for the first time, shake hands with everyone present–men, women and children–at a business or social meeting. Shake hands again when leaving.
  2. Be conscious of gestures. The “O.K.” sign is a rude gesture; “thumbs up” means O.K. Tilt the head backward once to indicate “no,” and nod the head slightly forward to gesture “yes.” It is best to verbally agree or disagree to avoid confusion.
  3. Dress appropriately. Some churches- especially monasteries, require covered shoulders, so be sure to bring a shawl or scarf when visiting religious sites like the Metropolis Cathedral of Athens.

Greece is part of the European Union and uses the Euro (€). You can use your credit and debit cards in all ATM machines in Greece, but be sure to keep cash on you, especially when traveling to remote islands.

Feel free to tip if you like the service. Though tipping isn’t a widely practiced norm as it is in North America, rewarding good service will be appreciated, but tips aren’t required.

In Greece, the power plugs and sockets are type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. You cannot use your electronics in Greece without a voltage converter because the voltage is higher than the US standard of 120 V.

Your converter should look like this:

Public tap water is safe to drink in most of Greece. The best quality drinking water is located in big cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, where the majority of the Greek population lives. 

Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network is available for public use throughout Athens, and Internet cafes are also common in Athens and is surrounding suburbs.

Athens is home to a very active LGBTQ+ community with four annual pride parades and numerous LGBTQ+ associations. Gay pride is also widely celebrated in Gazi, a small neighborhood in Athens with a bustling entertainment district.

Athens has a large eco-tourism community offering green hotels, organic restaurants, and sustainable businesses. Opt for greener public transportation choices and visit some of the following cultural attractions:

  • The Dora Stratou Greek Dances Theatre: Dora Stratou is an admired Greek artist with heavy influence on traditional Greek dancing and folk music. Be sure to watch a performance to learn about Greek culture at a deeper level.
  • Odeon of Herodes: Herodeon is a Roman amphitheatre in Acropolis, where many concerts, performances, and other entertaining events take place. Visiting the ancient structure and watching a performance will provide you with a glimpse into Greek culture, history, and tradition.
  • Athens Central Market (Varvakeios Agora): Located on Athinas Street, the market features rows of food vendors which serve street food delicacies. Indulge in authentic Greek food and other international street foods.
  • Lycabettus Hill: The hilltop is thought to be the highest point of Central Athens with stunning panoramic views of the city. It offers various hiking and trekking trails, as well as a funicular railway for leisurely travel.

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HOTEL WE LOVE:

Stay in these three neighborhoods: Plaka, Syntagma Square, and Omonia Square.

FOR THE PLANNERS

Spend at least 3 days in Athens so you have a whole day to experience ancient and historic sites.