Greece Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide For First-Timers

Greek Island Bucket List is an Amazon Associate and participant in other affiliate programmes. I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see my disclaimer for more information.

If you’re travelling to Greece for the first time you probably have all sorts of questions. Whether it’s how to travel within Greece or more to do with day-to-day etiquette and practicalities. I’ll answer some of the most common questions here and give you some essential Greece travel tips.

Note that this Greece travel guide for first-timers is HEFTY so pin it to refer back to.

When is the Best Time to Visit Greece?

If you’re going to the islands, the season runs from around April until November however it does vary a bit from place to place.

Best Time for Everything to Be in Full Swing

Mykonos, for example, has a shorter season and things are really packing up by mid-September. The season in Santorini runs for longer and activities are still being offered well into November.

In most other places I’d expect to see a distinct difference in what’s open after the 15th October.

The best time for everything to be open and the sea to be pleasant is from June to late September. Before and after that the weather can be changeable and fewer places are open so plan accordingly.

Although the sea in April and May can be cold, it holds its temperature through October and November.

Read about Paros and Santorini in October

Best Time for Hiking

If you’re interested in hiking the islands, the best months are April, May, the beginning of June and then September, October and the beginning of November.

Late spring and early summer are lovely times to go because you can generally expect good weather, blossoming bougainvillaea, warm seas and services that are up and running.

At the same time, you’ll avoid the blistering heat of July and August and the biggest onslaught on visitors.

Hiking on Anafi

What to expect in High Season

July and August are the peak months when you can expect summer crowds. In the first three weeks of August, Greek people flee the summer heat of Athens and head for the islands too.

The main tourist areas can be overwhelmingly busy so consider some of the smaller islands. July and August will be much busier than normal for them too. But it’s also when you’ll find sea taxis running to take you to some of the most beautiful places

Many Greek beaches are only accessible by boat, so you’ll have a hard time getting to them outside of July and August.

How Do I Decide Where to Go?

Since there are a number of different island groups it can be hard to decide which is the best option, especially for your first trip.

What Are You Looking for?

My advice is to start with what are the most important things to you. For example, are you looking for amazing beaches?

Perhaps you want somewhere with good hiking trails, masses of history, a great nightlife, particularly delicious food or that’s perfect for families.

Maybe you’re looking for the perfect place to hide away and relax, far from other tourists. Once you know what you’re looking for from your trip you can start to narrow down the best places for those things.

Then you can look at how to travel between those places or find alternatives that are closer to each other.

How Long Do You Have?

Another big consideration is how much time you’ve got. If you’re really limited and are spending time in Athens then hopping about the Saronic Islands might make the most sense.

Alternatively, if you’re besotted with social media pictures and videos from the Ionian Islands then just go ahead and book there and cross it off your bucket list!

What Temperatures Do You Want?

Be aware that like other European countries, Greece in the summer season gets HOT. The Peloponnese is renowned for its scorching temperatures. One of the reasons some of the islands are so popular is because of the winds that help keep the temperatures down.

Less is More

My biggest piece of advice though is not to try and cram too much in. Less is more when it comes to deciding on how much of the mainland to explore or how many islands to visit.

Ferry travel can take up a lot of time. And although it’s a quintessential part of Greek travel, you don’t want to be spending more time on a ship than at your destinations.

Although you might be keen to see as much as possible, make time to just absorb the Greek culture, sample local food and watch the world go by. You can always add places to your list to visit next time.

Should I Avoid the Main Tourist Destinations?

People will tell you that Santorini and Mykonos are overrated, touristy and not the real Greece. I can’t deny they are touristy and that there are many other islands to discover (not to mention mainland Greece).

Greece is a beautiful country and there are many popular destinations to choose from as well as off-the-beaten-track options.

But I can’t say that Santorini is overrated. It’s about the most popular tourist destination in Greece for a reason. The view of the caldera is truly spectacular and it’s something I think is worth seeing once.

Similarly, Mykonos is a rather unique and diverse place. I used to think it was a really tacky destination for package holidays from the UK.

But having been, there’s something about seeing all the wealth and the way other people live that always makes me want to up my game.

I think it’s fun, glamorous and inclusive and it does have beautiful beaches. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Delos next door is really special too.

I think it’s nice to go to Mykonos for a short time but include some other islands in the mix. Tinos right next door is a great place to combine with.

Should I Fly to the Greek Islands or Take the Ferry?

The most common way of getting to the islands is via ferry. I recommend it although I know it’s not the easiest way for everyone. If you have children then flying might be easier than the sensory overload and organised chaos that comes with getting the ferry in high season.

For more information about flying see the Best Greek Airlines For Island Hopping.

Things to keep in mind about flying:

  • some of the large islands do have national or international airports but lots of islands don’t
  • if you’re going to smaller islands like the Small Cyclades you could fly to Naxos and then get the boat from there
  • Athens is a hub and most island flights radiate out on “spokes” so you’ll have to fly in and out of Athens to get from island to island
  • there can be a few exceptions in peak times like flights directly between Santorini and Corfu
  • leave enough time between arriving on an international flight and your departure time for the islands (about 3 hours)

If you decide to fly then I recommend Skyscanner to book your plane ticket. They show you all the flights to a particular location on the date you specify, or across the whole month.

If you’re booking connecting flights then they also offer you options to buy tickets through travel agents.

That can be helpful if you’re booking connecting flights as you’ll have more support if you’re delayed on the first leg and miss your connection. Note that Delta has partnered with SKY Express to offer tickets all the way through to your final destination.

What is the best website for Greek island hopping?

If you’re heading to the Greek islands then get on, I love it. It’s the easiest site I’ve found to search for dates and several “hops” at once.

Plus they send you an email with all your booking details filled out so it’s super easy to check in online with just a single click.

Once you check in they’ll send you e-tickets so you don’t have to go and collect paper copies. (There are a few exceptions to this but you can see when booking if e-tickets aren’t available.)

When Should I Book my Ferry Tickets?

If the ferry schedules are out, then the best time to book your tickets is probably as soon as you’ve booked your hotel. If the schedules for the month of your visit aren’t yet published then just keep checking back.

See: Greek Ferries Guide for People Who Don’t Know Where to Start

People will tell you it’s fine to get your tickets on the day of travel. And while I am a last-minute person I wouldn’t advise leaving this too late.

One, if you do need to collect paper tickets it’s better not to be rushing about trying to get them. And two, tickets do sell out. It doesn’t happen all the time, but in the summer season, I have seen sold-out trips.

Plus there are finite numbers of economy seats, cabins and pet cabins, so if you want any of those you need to book when they’re available.

What do I need to hire a car in Greece?

I’ve answered all your Greece car hire questions here and tell you everything you need to know about driving in Greece here. Depending on where you’re coming from you probably won’t need an International Drivers Permit now but do check.

For many islands, it can be good to hire a car to really explore. But it depends on how long you’re staying and how comfortable you are about driving in Greece whether it’s worth it.

People can find driving on the islands a unique experience and sometimes one that’s more stressful than it’s worth.

Think twice (or three times) before hiring an ATV/quad bike. They’re really not safe and there are tons of accidents each year (many fatal).

See Do I Need a Car in Naxos?

Using buses on the islands

Bus facilities on the islands vary greatly. Places like Paros and Syros have good frequent buses around their islands. Mykonos has good transport to the various popular beaches there.

Where I stayed in Tinos there were only buses on Mondays. But the more popular parts for tourists had pretty regular routes. I’ve included bus information as part of many of the island guides.

During July and August, there are usually a lot more buses serving popular routes. Outwith these months buses can be cut right down or entire routes stopped altogether. If there are a few of you travelling together it can often work out cheaper to get a taxi.

Bus stops

Often there’s a small bus stop/shelter on one side of the road where you can wait for the bus. If you need to travel in the other direction just wait opposite it if there’s no obvious sign of a stop on the other side.

Luggage on Buses

In Greece, you put your luggage or any big or bulky items in the storage areas under the bus. If there are handles on the doors just open them up and put your suitcase in yourself. If there are no handles then the driver will open them up from the dashboard.

Keep valuables with you but I’ve always felt comfortable leaving the rest of my stuff under the bus. It was the same in Spain when I lived there.

Don’t try and take your stuff onto the bus with you. You can’t take up a seat for your bags and there’s not much space to put them anywhere else.

Paying your fare

On some buses, you pay the driver directly. On others, you take a seat and a conductor comes round and takes your money. I’ve seen both options on the same route too, sometimes. It’s usually ok to pay with notes if you don’t have change.

All About the Money

How can I exchange dollars or access Euros in Greece?

Euro only in Greece

Just to clarify, Greece uses the Euro. I’ve seen a surprising number of people ask if it’s possible to pay in US dollars when you get here. The answer is no.

However, if you’ve been travelling in Turkey, I can understand why you might think you can use alternative currency.

Exchanging money at the airports

You can exchange money at Athens airport. If you fly directly to an island then this is also possible in some places like Rhodes, Crete and Mykonos.

However, it’s always likely to be more expensive than if you were to exchange money with your bank at home before travelling.

Withdrawing foreign currency from the cashpoint/ATM

As I fly by the seat of my pants a bit, I tend to withdraw money from the cashpoint when I arrive. You get charged a fee each time but I don’t think it’s more than what you would pay to an exchange place.

Because of the fee, make sure that during your stay you pull money out in chunks rather than frequent, small withdrawals. The ATM will usually ask if you want the conversion to be in Euros or your home currency converted.

My bank won’t let me do this, but if you can choose the Euros option for calculating the amount.

(Side note: same when you’re paying by card. Sometimes the card terminal will ask if you want to be charged in Euros or your home currency like Dollars or Sterling. Choose the Euro option as it’s pretty much guaranteed to be cheaper for you.)

Have Cash When You Arrive

It’s probably sensible to have at least a bit of cash on you when you arrive in Greece. Many taxis won’t take cards. So at least if you have some physical money on you, you can get to your hotel. (Assuming you haven’t already organised some kind of transfer.)

The airports have ATMs but from time to time these things don’t work and the smaller airports won’t have a lot of options.

Having said that, I’ve asked taxi drivers to stop at ATMs on the way to where we’re going plenty of times (because I’m highly disorganised at times). Although, perhaps it’s not ideal for a female traveller, especially if you’re travelling at night in an unfamiliar area.

Avoid Euronet ATMs

Look for a normal bank ATM rather than these yellow and blue convenience ATMs. They’re installed in smaller, touristy areas, often next to tourist supermarkets. Usually, they’re seasonal too and only operate from April to October.

The exchange rates aren’t good and they charge a much bigger one-off fee to use them. They’re ok if you’re stuck – hence paying more for convenience – but I’d advise against using them regularly.

Paying by card in Greece

I use my contactless bank card for most things in Greece. However, I heard that a lot of US credit cards don’t have this facility. You can still use chip and pin or you may be asked to sign the receipt.

A lot of taxi drivers won’t accept cards and some smaller shops and restaurants may not either. Of those that do, American Express and Diners Club are probably less widely accepted than others.

As I mentioned above, if you get the option on the PDQ machine, it’s usually the most cost-effective to pay in local currency. I.e. choose the option to pay in euros rather than in dollars or pounds or whatever you’re home currency is.

How Does Tipping Work?

Tipping is different to what you’re used to if you’re from the USA. It’s normally just to round up your bill after a meal and just leave the change. Otherwise leaving 1 or 2 euros in the dish when you leave the table is normal.

For tour guides and private drivers, you can leave more but all of it is up to you and the type of service you received. People won’t be expecting the type of tips you might leave in the US but they will appreciate anything you do give them.

What to Pack and Wear

My first piece of advice here is to pack light. If you’re going in the winter months that’s a bit easier said than done. And if you’re hiring a car and exploring only on the mainland then it’s less of a worry how much you take. You can chuck everything in the car and off you go.

But if you’re going to the islands in the summer months then I’d really aim to only take hand luggage. It’s the best way to do things since you’ll encounter lots of steps, uneven pavements, dirt roads and the like.

Having said that, if you’re arranging transfers everywhere to your hotels and someone else is taking care of your luggage, it’s less of a concern.

Just tip well if someone’s traipsing up and down the caldera steps in Santorini with loads of heavy luggage. And don’t make the donkeys do that work either.

Pack things that:

  • will help keep you cool
  • are suitable options on particularly windy days
  • can be washed and dried easily
  • that work well together so you can make a number of outfits from the same pieces

See What To Wear In Santorini Greece For A Happy Trip, and if you’re travelling in the summer the Ultimate Summer Greece Packing List: What to Pack for the Greek Islands

You’ll also want:

  • some cooling shorts to stop your thighs chaffing
  • comfortable flat shoes/sandals – you’ll walk miles round ancient ruins and archaeological sites not to mention village steps
  • skirt/sarong that covers the knees or that you can use for your shoulders to enter monasteries and churches
  • light jumper or jacket for the evening in the shoulder season

On The Beach

Are you imagining yourself on a beautiful golden sand beach by the Ionian Sea, or maybe the Aegean Sea? If so, here are a couple of things you might want to know about Greek beaches.

See also: 11 Top Black Sand Beaches In Santorini for a relaxing day read up on the 10 Best Beach Clubs In Santorini For A Luxurious Day and for golden beaches near Santorini Anafi Island: Beautiful Beaches A Hop From Santorini

Organised and unorganised beaches

These are the categories that Greeks split their beaches into. Unorganised means it’s a normal beach with no beds/umbrellas etc. There may or not be facilities nearby to get drinks or snacks.

An organised beach is one where you’ll find sunbeds and umbrellas and often a beach bar of some kind. Sometimes that’s a little hut and sometimes it’s a full-on restaurant or beach club.

They’re normally a cost involved in taking a bed. It’s either a set charge for a bed and umbrella and prices can be set differently for each row, i.e. you’ll pay more for a front-row spot next to the sea.

Or, you can use the sunbeds if you buy food or drink from the bar. Prices can vary wildly depending on the island.

Usually, there’s some space on the organised beaches where you can lay down a towel so you can go without having to pay for a bed.

Nudist Beaches

Technically these don’t exist in Greece although you might find some on Google Maps. People go topless or fully nude on some of the tucked-away beaches or at the far end of some more popular ones.

Solo Travellers at the Beach

As a solo traveller, I always leave my belongings unguarded on the beach. There are waterproof pouches you can get to take things with you while you’re swimming, but I worry more that I’ll lose everything in the sea.

Make up your own mind about what you’re comfortable doing but know that it’s common for people to do this without a thought. You can always leave your valuables in your hotel room safe.

Dogs on the Beach

Unless it’s a Blue Flag Beach, dogs are allowed on Greek beaches so be aware of that.

Getting Around

There is an Uber app in Athens but it will just call you a normal yellow taxi. I haven’t used it but have used the Free Now app many times which is the same sort of thing.

See also the 15 Best Apps For Greece Travel In Athens & The Islands If you’re heading to Santorini this is a must-read Santorini: How To Get Around By Car, Quad, Bus & Taxi As is this if Mykonos is on the agenda Get Around Mykonos Easily: Travel the Famous Island |

Public transportation in Athens is good with an easy-to-use Metro system, train travel, a tram network and many buses. On the islands, the quality of public transport really varies, particularly on the small islands. Check my island guides for getting around before you go.

Do I Need to Be Concerned About Petty Crime?

Like all big cities, Athens does see some petty and opportunistic crime, particularly in touristy areas. When you’re in the city centre wherever you’re visiting be sensible with your belongings.

I’ve heard of a lot of tourists from the United States who like to use a money belt under their clothes. I haven’t done that, but I do tend to keep my valuables zipped away in an internal pocket in my bag.

Keep your bag close if you’re enjoying a meal at a Greek restaurant in tourist area or when you’re around tourist sites. Don’t make it easy for someone to grab your stuff.

Also, keep your wits about you on the Metro and around the city in general. Some groups have scams where they’ll divert attention and then pickpocket.

In rural areas like on the islands, things are very laid back. It can be one of the best things about them! You might be asked to leave the keys under the mat in your rental car when you go.

Or if you arrive at your hotel late at night, they’ll just leave the key in the door for you.

Accommodation FAQs

Why am I being asked for my passport number?

It’s quite common in Greece to give your passport number for things so don’t be alarmed. It’s not about recording you, it’s about the recipient allocating payment for tax purposes.

Hotels will normally take a copy of your passport when you check-in. That’s normal in many countries.

Every Airbnb needs to take your name and passport number to be recorded for tax. I’ve also had to give my passport or Greek ID when I’ve booked a car through an app (using iMove in Mykonos, for example) or other private transfer.

What is the city tax I’m being charged?

City tax is a compulsory charge that you often have to pay in cash at your accommodation even if you’ve paid for your room online. Sometimes, it’s included if you’ve paid upfront on or similar.

The listing will tell you when you book whether the city tax is included or not.

If you need to pay it when you leave, it’s usually around 50 cents per night, although I think Santorini’s is a bit higher. You need to pay your city tax in cash.

Why am I being asked to pay by wire transfer?

In the UK and Europe, it’s not at all unusual to pay friends or sometimes businesses by bank transfer. That might be different to what you’re used to if you’re from the US. But don’t immediately think you’re being scammed.

Even established hotels might ask for you to pay this way. I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses in Greece use a Facebook page as their website. So many simply don’t have the facilities set up to take payments online.

If you feel uneasy about any transaction, then go with your gut. But just be aware it’s not necessarily an unusual request. I saw a thread in a travel group on Facebook where someone asked about this and all the advice was that it must be dodgy and to stay well clear.

People were saying this particularly because the accompanying email was written in less-than-perfect English. Understand that the culture is different in different countries.

Also, be aware that if someone is responding to you in a second or third language, their English is unlikely to be perfect. It doesn’t mean there’s an issue.

Day-to-Day Practicalities

When are Greek public holidays?

You can see upcoming Greek public holiday dates here. Shops and businesses are normally closed although tavernas remain open. During the summer season, touristy places will run on.

Orthodox Easter is usually end of April/beginning of May and can be a busy time for accommodation and ferries.

15th August Holiday (called the Fifteenth of August!) is also a huge day in Greece. The islands can be ferry crowded as Greeks are usually on holiday with their families at that time anyway. Tinos is mobbed on this holiday.

Do shops/Stores close on Sundays?

Sundays are also public holidays, but touristy places during the summer season will open all week. In the off-season, you might find some mini-markets / small stores that are also open on Sundays.

Chemists/pharmacies on the islands are usually closed at the weekend, although it varies. When I lived on Paros, they were open on Saturdays, but that wasn’t the case when I lived on Naxos. There are phone numbers on the door for each weekend though, that will tell you which pharmacy is on call for emergencies.

Main supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays.

Are the opening hours on Google Maps accurate?

Be aware that many businesses are seasonal. Often they put in their opening hours for summer and then leave them year-round. Probably they don’t expect people to be looking in the off-season.

If you’re travelling in the winter, you can see if the business has updated its hours recently. (You can see if there’s a message from Google saying the hours have been updated X number of days or weeks ago by the business).

If there’s no message and you’re making a special trip, then call before you go. Other restaurants and tavernas are really helpful and mark themselves as temporarily closed.

What are afternoon quiet hours?

Quiet hours are like Spanish siesta times. They change with the season but are usually around 3/3:30pm – 5-6pm.

Because it gets so hot in summer Greeks stay up late to take advantage of the cooler air and then sleep in the hottest part of the day. You’ll see whole families, including toddlers, going for a walk or a meal at 10pm.

Business hours for shops are usually along the lines of Monday and Wednesday 9am – 3pm and Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday 9 – 2pm and 5:30pm – 9pm. It can vary a bit and some places don’t open again on Saturday evenings. Department stores and supermarkets tend to stay open all the way through.

The quiet hours between 2/3pm and 5:30pm are taken seriously. You aren’t allowed to blare music from your car radio, talk loudly outside etc and builders can’t usually work through quiet hours. It’s like breach of the peace after 11pm in the UK would be.

Please be respectful of quiet hours. In island villages, holiday accommodation is often mixed in with residential accommodation and in very close proximity.

Be aware that people in the apartments around you might be sleeping in the afternoon. They usually have to get up early after being up late so they need the extra nap time.

Power Sockets, Plugs and Voltage

The plugs, sockets and voltage in Greece are different to many areas of the world. Unless you’re coming from somewhere with European appliances you’ll need a travel adapter for your device plugs. You might also need a converter so that your items work on the Greek voltage and electrical frequency.

See also: Power In Greece

Where can I do laundry/washing?

If you just want to do a little bit of handwashing during your stay, don’t bother bringing travel wash. Pick up a small box of powder from the shop. It’s really cheap, I think it’s more effective, and many places will provide a small washing bowl in your room

Hand-wash soap powder tucked away at one of the village springs

Chuck everything in overnight, rinse it and hang it out to dry in the morning.

For a mid-stay load make sure you book at least a night or two in an apartment with a washing machine. Or head to the local laundry/laundrette.

Note that not every island will have a laundry, and many that do literally are laundries, not self-service laundrettes. I’ve used a few in different places, and the turnaround time has been about 2 hours.

On average, I’ve paid between 5 euro for wash up to 15 euro (Santorini) for wash and dry. Although I think one place in Mykonos was something ridiculous, like 18 euro. If you don’t want them to use fabric softener you need to really insist that they don’t.

I usually just get my stuff washed and I dry it where I’m staying as I think that’s much nicer to dry it outside. However, it will depend on the size and facilities of your accommodation plus the time of year you visit.

Easywash is a brand of self-service laundrettes and you can see all their locations here. You can also use Google Maps to find laundries in the area you’re visiting. This post on 15 Best Apps For Greece Travel might be helpful.

How do I open the windows/doors?

Ok, this sounds like a random one. But I know from my experience in the hospitality industry, and now in Greece, that windows and doors can flummox visitors in different countries!

The type of window below is quite common in Greece (and Europe), and the same design is used for doors too.

If you’re playing around with the handle to see how it works, you can get a fright when the door angles back from the top. The first time I encountered a door like this in the UK, I thought the whole thing was falling on me!

Close the window with the handle down

Turn it 180 degrees, and it opens at the top only (secure but lets air in)

Turn it 90 degrees, and it opens normally

How do I get hot water?

Solar-heated water is common in Greece. You’ll have water when the sun has had a chance to heat the tank. In that case, you might not have water first thing.

Once the water’s heated, it could cool down in the evening if it’s not hot enough outside to keep it warm. So, you may need to be strategic about when you have a shower.

Some water tanks are heated electrically, like an immersion heater. More than likely, the switch on the fuse board will be kept off until you need it.

If you’re staying in an apartment or villa, this might be the case. If so, you’ll need to flip the switch for about 20 minutes to let the tank heat up.

Your host will tell you which switch to flip for hot water if necessary

Make sure you turn off the switch before you get in the shower. Water and electricity don’t mix, and standards of installation might not be as high as you’re used to.

Can I drink the tap water?

The general answer you’ll find on the islands is no, however, there are exceptions. Like on Paros. But don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to buy single-use plastic bottles for your whole stay.

The Greek water supply is subject to the same levels of cleanliness as the rest of the EU. Unless you’re somewhere remote you’re getting water from the mains.

So cleanliness isn’t really the issue. It’s more that seawater can mix with the mains water. Many islands don’t have desalination plants and don’t remove any of the excess minerals/salts that the water contains.

If you’re in cities like Athens, it’s ok to drink the water from the kitchen tap. However, on most islands, you’ll be told not to do that. The villages have public taps in the street but check locally whether this is good to drink.

In some places, I understand they’re supplied by a spring, and it’s fine to drink. In other places I’ve stayed, the public taps in the village were the same as the kitchen tap water, and I was told it was not a good idea to drink from.

10 litres of water for 10 – 20c in Syros and Paros, Free in Andros

In the supermarket, a 1.5l bottle of water will cost about 30c. Although there’s a big awareness campaign on Paros to show people the water is safe to drink, you might still prefer filtered. In which case you’re in luck.

Syros and Paros both have big units in several points across the islands where you can get 10l of water for 10c (Paros) or 20c (Syros). You’ll obviously need a few bottles to fill, or ideally a 10l container. Find out more about the locations in Paros here.

In Syros, I’ve seen them on the road to Vari (just before the village, travelling from town) and on the big roundabout along from the Lidl and the bus station, where the taxis stop. Ask about them at your accommodation.

In Androsthese machines are free to use.

Is it true I can’t flush the toilet paper?

Yes, it is. Greece was ahead of its time and invited toilets before toilet paper was a thing. Therefore, the pipes used were really narrow. As things changed, it didn’t make sense to overall the entire country’s plumbing system so the same tiny pipes are still used today.

You’ll find a small bin in the toilets where you throw your toilet paper (and anything else you need to dispose of).

The bin bags get thrown out with the normal rubbish when they’re full. If you’re staying in a hotel or serviced apartment, housekeeping will come in regularly to remove and replace your bin bags.

I hate it, and as a rule, I take the bin bag out myself. What a horrible job for someone else to have to do for me. If that’s not practical, I always tie the top to try and make it marginally less unpleasant.

Are public toilets easy to find?

It’s generally quite acceptable to pop into the nearest taverna and ask to use their loo. I always think it’s polite to buy a drink to take away, but I’m not sure it’s expected.

You will find public toilets on the more popular islands, but the state of them can’t be guaranteed. I’d recommend always having some tissues in your bag. Oh, and they’ll likely be holes in the ground with a porcelain plate to stand on.

Public toilet in Paros

There’s often a toilet at the port of the larger islands. In my experience, they’re generally not awful during the peak season.

Alternatively, petrol stations usually have public toilets. The larger chains like BP mostly keep them in good condition. Local ones might ask you to wait a moment while they clean it for you!

Supermarkets are another option you can ask in. AB Supermarkets always seem to have a decent customer toilet.

🧻 I wrote a while article about what to expect with toilets around Greece to have a read if you’re interested!

Travel Insurance

All I have to say about this is make sure you get some for Greece travel adventure. Get something that repatriates you to your home country if you have an accident or get ill with something like COVID.

Historically I’ve been really rubbish with this because a lot of my travel was within the EU while the UK was part of it. But I’ve heard a lot of horror stories recently about people travelling without insurance. (Globally, that is, not necessarily in Greece.)

Insurance will cover you if there’s an issue with your flights or baggage (check the terms carefully) as well as medical issues. So it can really save your vacation if things go awry.

Animal Welfare

Stray Cats

It’s really common to see stray cats all over Greece. They’re supposed to be cared for by the local Municipality (council) who should provide water and dry food.

But often, the responsibility is, wrongly left to animal welfare associations. These are usually set up by foreigners.

You can help by taking a cat to the vet to get neutered; perhaps talk to the welfare association first. A clip in the ear means that a cat has already been sterilised.

Neutered strays in Tinos

If you’re self-catering for any part of your trip and are eating anything from a tin can, please crush it before binning it. Many cats live in and around the bins, and they will scavenge anything.

If there is the tiniest bit of food in a can, they’ll get their head in to eat it. The problem is, they can’t always get their head back out again. So please crush your cans.

Stray Dogs

Although there used to be an issue with packs of stray dogs, over the last 10 years, that’s really changed. At least on the islands. On the mainland, particularly in the north, I’m aware that you might still encounter packs of dogs.

However, you will still see stray dogs on the road. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether they really are stray. Many Greek owners let their dogs run about on the road. If a dog has a collar on then that usually means it belongs to someone.

Dog on the road in Paros

If you see a dog in a bad way, regardless of whether it has a collar, report it to the island’s animal welfare association.

Stray in Naxos that got rehomed in Germany

Farm animals

Many Greek farmers are using modern farming techniques and treat their productive animals well. But something you might see is hobbling, where horses, goats, sheep and cows have their front and back legs tied together with rope or wire.

This is illegal and you can report it to the local police. You need to take pictures but there are guidelines you can read here

Visiting Greece in Winter

A lot of the travel tips I’ve given above hold true whatever time of year you visit the Greek isles. But if you’re thinking of visiting Greece in winter, there are things to know.

Paros in the Snow

Greek Islands in Winter – Do they Close?

This is such a common question. The answer is that no Greek island “closes” in winter. People live on the islands all year round.

But, in terms of what’s available from a tourist point of view, many of the restaurants, shops, services, hotels and tours provided for them do close down over the winter.

If you want to visit the islands between October/November and April, then be aware you’re going to have a different experience than in the summer.

Here’s what it’s like in Santorini in October and November and Paros in October.

You can still enjoy Greek culture and indulge in Greek cuisine. The incredible beaches are still there. But unless you’re a hardened cold-water swimmer, you’re not going to be doing anything other than going for a bracing walk along the sand.

If you want to visit Greece in the winter, you’re best doing a city break in Athens or exploring the mainland.

Here’s what to expect from Greece in November, and Christmas time in Athens.

Island-hopping is still possible if you stick to a particular ferry route. For example, Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini. But you’ll be going for the views, hiking and food and not beaches, boat trips and partying.

Important Greece Travel Tips for Winter

  • staying in island accommodation that’s designed for the summer isn’t fun in winter. A lot of homes are drafty, damp, have no heating and only have hot water if the sun shines for long enough.
  • most touristy tours and trips don’t run in winter. For example, if you visit Mykonos after October/November there’s no way to get over to Delos to see the ancient ruins
  • local public transport routes can reduce after the peak season
  • ferry routes and flight options vastly reduce after October and sea journey times can be much longer than in summer
  • generally, it doesn’t snow on the islands although it can. Mostly, it’s rainy and windy, although it can vary between the island groups
  • If you’re particularly looking for snow and cosy cabins, then head to the mainland for ski resorts and mountainous destinations

Do I Need a Visa?

Currently, citizens from the UK, USA, Australia and the EU do not need a visa to enter Greece for a period of up to 90 days within a rolling 180-day period.

From 2025, you still won’t need a visa, but third-party nationals from countries like the US, UK and Australia will need an ETIAS. This is a visa waiver and is required before travel. You apply online and once approved, the ETIAS is valid for three years.

Greece Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide For First-Timers

Suzie Young

Suzie writes informative posts for solo, nervous or first-time travellers to Greece, Turkey and other countries on her 50-before-50 bucket list. She became a Greek resident in 2020 and intends to visit every inhabited island (13 down!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.