Greece Travel Guide
Greece is the country I can endlessly describe and talk about. Especially after my several trips there when I definitely fall in love with Greece, felt its spirit and made an attempt to think and act like a local. I have to admit that I haven’t been able to abandon my northern mentality, so I just enjoyed my stay in Greece and spent most of my days hanging out somewhere.
It might be quite complicated to locate where the East ends and the West begins as the Greeks took too much from the Turks during the years of Turkish Rule. This fact, along with some others influenced the national character. As Greece is washed by the four seas – the Aegean, Ionian, Mediterranean and Cretan, the country is an amazing mix of traditional architecture and ocean landscapes.
The country has everything backpacker may ever need – cheap food, affordable accommodation, delectable mountains with picturesque canyons, rivers and plains. With all this, major attractions are located close to each other that makes traveling through Greece very convenient. With more than 2000 windswept islands in Greece, they cover vast areas of the Mediterranean and possess a huge amount of historical monuments, so it might take some time to discover them all.
The Greeks are very hospitable people. With this distinctive feature and national pride, life in Greece is really hasteless, no one is in a hurry. It might be a bit annoying at first, but you get used to it with time. One should keep in mind that when Greek promises you something, it usually doesn’t indicate his actual readiness to keep a promise. The Greeks are really good at enjoying life. They can savor the good life the way like they savor their morning coffee. The Greeks know how to have fun thanks, to the southern temperament, national music and traditional cuisine. Greek cuisine is really unmatched and very diverse, although much depends on the region. Olive oil, cheeses, coffee and wine should be on your grocery list when visiting Greece. Make sure to spend some extended time in Greece as it totally worth it!
Getting Around Greece
Intercity buses are great for not only getting around Greece, but for reaching other major cities of the Balkans. KTEL is a state-sponsored network of independent carriers, combined together into a dense transport system covering almost the entire country. Buses are efficient, reliable and relatively inexpensive. You can use bus to reach some islands as well, in that case fares include the price of the ferry ticket.
The railway service in Greece is run by the Greek Railways Organization (Organismos Sidirodromon Ellados) and less popular than buses or ferries. In fact, there are only two main lines: from Athens to Alexandropolis through Thessaloniki and the Peloponnese network with a narrow gauge track. The train is convenient to get from Patra to Athens, if you got there by ferry from Italy. There are trains to Kalambaka (Meteora) and the port of Pelion. Expect to pay around 20 EUR for the slow train from Athens to Thessaloniki. Book tickets in advance to get the discount.
Another popular way of getting around Greece is by ferries. The frequency, reliability and availability are highly dependent on the season. That said, the period from January to March may provide unfavorable weather conditions for sailing in the Aegean Sea, so delays may occur. On the other hand, ferries are crowded on the eve of the state holidays (like August 15), so it is desirable to plan a voyage in advance. There are three ports in Athens: the main port of Piraeus and the remote ports of Lavrion and Rafina. High-speed ferries can save you time when traveling across the sea, while by using overnight ferries you can save up to half off the normal price. Consider approaching Santorini by ferry to enjoy an amazing view of the island, which is worth the eight hour voyage.
Food in Greece
Traditional Greek food is mostly about greenery, vegetables, olive oil, feta cheese and yogurt. Gyros are really cheap and come for less than 4 EUR. Most taverns will offer nice local wines to pair your food for around 8 EUR per bottle. The average bill in the tavern is 17 EUR without alcohol. Expect to meet such prices on the islands like Kos. Food prices are affordable in Greece, a hearty meal for two in a meat tavern can be as high as 20 EUR.
Regular customers are often attracted by free fruit platters and bread. It is worth noting that Greek taverns are somewhat different than ordinary restaurants. Taverns have smaller menu, cheaper table covering and lots of wine and conversation. Quiet neighborhoods are usually always about taverns. Expect to pay a bit more for the same dish in an estiatorio, however, you will find these mostly in major cities and tourist areas. Restaurants or estiatorio serve both European and Greek cuisine. Keep in mind that food prices in Greece taverns start at around 17 EUR, but rise dramatically the closer you get to historical monuments. Thus, a meal in high-end restaurant will begin at 35 EUR. By cooking your own meals you can get your weekly grocery expenses at around 50 EUR.
Accommodation in Greece
Greece, with its tradition of family-run accommodation, has not taken, in general, to the idea of chain hotels. If you are looking for budget accommodation, consider staying at domatia, rooms or houses rented by locals. Some time ago, domatia could be found in the homes of the owning family, but nowadays they are usually located within a separate and renovated building. Domatia usually have self-catering facilities that make them a good value compared with hotels or even hostels. Always negotiate with the owner before settling a price and don’t pay until you’ve seen the room.
Prices depend on the region and season, but you can expect to pay about 13-20 EUR for a single (25 EUR for a double) in the more remote areas of northern and central Greece, and 15-22 EUR for a single (25-35 EUR for a double) on the islands. Mainland hotels stay open year-round, except those at seafront resorts, which operate only from May to October. Hotels in skiing areas, conversely, may open only during the winter period. Hostels in Greece aren’t nearly as regimented as hostels in northern Europe. A hostelling membership isn’t of great use in Greece. You can expect to pay around 13-30 EUR for dorm room. If you travel in group, however, domatia is better value.
The Greek mainland has around 150 officially recognized campsites with an attractive seafront facilities that accommodate caravanners as well. The vast majority of campsites provide hot showers, shady landscaping and a snack bar or cafe. Power outlets are generally available for an extra fee. Prices depend on the facilities, so you’ll usually pay around 5 EUR per person, plus 4 EUR per tent.