Athens’ climate is semi-arid and is subject to the continental influences of the mountains that edge the city. Still pretty warm, average temperatures in September go between 20°C at night and 30°C during the day. There is only 3 days of rain in the month of September in Athens with just 7mm of precipitation. With 9 hours of sunshine per day Athens has an excellent weather comfort index score of 87/100. And with the water at 24°c bathing is a distinct possibility.
Practical advice for a stay in Athens:
- Light clothing
- Sunglasses and a light hat
- Good sun cream
Immunization and Medicine
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
There are no immunization vaccines required for a trip to Greece if you are traveling from the USA or Canada. For all other countries, consult the Greek Embassy near you.
Pharmacies in Greece would also be able to provide first aid for simple matters, and would give you competent advice.
Pharmacies are recognized through a “Green Cross” emblem and they are open during normal business hours (8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM).
If you need medicine during the night or weekends, you can find which pharmacy is open by checking the schedule posted on every pharmacy door.
Unfortunately, the list is written in Greek so you might want to enlist the help of a friendly local who speaks your language.
Most staff in the pharmacies speak English, and the medicines are of the same quality as in other western countries.
Before you travel to Greece fill your prescriptions and find out if your medicine is available at your destination in case of emergency (i.e. if you lose your medication).
All visitors to Greece who hold a tourist visa must have travel insurance.
Visitors from EU countries must bring along their European Health Card (EHIC) or their county’s Social Security service documents.
Check to see if your insurance covers you in case of Emergency abroad and if there are any forms you need to take along. Buy travel insurance if you are not covered in transit.
Emergency Phone Numbers
In order to get help in Greece during emergencies you can call one of the following numbers which respond at all hours and in all languages:
European Emergency Number (Police/Medical/Fire) 112
Police-Immediate Response 100
You will find three kinds of medical facilities throughout Greece.
The large cities have the largest and best equipped hospitals, while smaller city hospitals are adequate for emergency situations.
Smaller towns and villages have medical centers adequate for advice and first aid in case of emergencies.
In all Greek hospitals, outpatient services are offered in the morning by appointment (which you can make the same day) with the different specialists. These outpatient offices tend to be crowded and the appointments almost always run late.
If you are dealing with an emergency, go directly to the emergency room.
For simple medical issues you can visit private doctors in just about every town in Greece. Ask at a pharmacy to recommend the nearest one. Most doctors speak adequate English so communication should not be a problem.
Private doctor visits range in price between 30 to 100 Euro. If further lab tests are needed, the doctor would recommend a private lab nearby. Private labs are also crowded and their prices vary.
Keep all receipts to submit to your insurance when you return home.
Insect bites, especially mosquito bites, are the most common health problem you will encounter in Greece. While the bites themselves pose no danger, they can be uncomfortable for children and adults alike.
In certain areas of Greece it is impossible to be outdoors in early evening when mosquitoes are most active. Insect repellant is a good way to save yourself from being “eaten alive” while your try to enjoy yourself.
And for the cases where the “repellent” defense fails, keep a tube of an over the counter hydrocortisone ointment to relieve discomfort.
Greece is one of many European countries which uses the Euro as its form of currency. So, if you have any old drachmas (the Greece currency before Euro), they won’t be of much use to you.
It goes without saying that if you come from any Eurozone country you don’t have to worry about exchanging any money since the Euro is the common currency of the countries in the Eurozone.
No other currency is accepted and it is best to exchange dollars or other currency at a bank or an official exchange shop.
Currency exchange shops and banks in very touristy areas charge high commissions, so make sure you know what the commissions are before you commit to a transaction.
You can expect a commission of around €6 for each exchange at the Athens airport kiosks.
Banks in Greece are open from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM.
Whilst some measures of capital controls in Greece are still in place, none of these affect tourists. You can freely withdraw money from ATM machines, and use your cards as you please.
You can either exchange your local currency to Euros before you leave, or bring along some of your local cash to exchange at a currency exchanger. Just remember that shops and restaurants do not accept foreign currency.
You can find ATMs in every major town and city, and practically every inhabited Greek island has at least one machine.
You will find ATMs in supermarkets, airports, ferry ports, metro stations and other public places.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using ATM machines to access your money in Greece.
The first is that there may be a daily withdrawal limit from the machine as well as your card itself. You may even need to tell you bank that you are travelling to another country so that they will authorise its use overseas.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that some machines will offer two exchange rates. One is normally a lot more than the other! You should do your due diligence and work out what your own bank will charge you for withdrawing cash abroad.
Finally, if travelling to a smaller island, you may find that machines run out of cash from time to time.
Credit card usage in Greece is not as widespread as in other parts of Europe, but in recent years there has been a massive effort to catch up. In fact, the government is actively encouraging and enforcing card use for some businesses, particularly in the hotel industry.
So, you will be able to use your cards in shops and hotels, fuel stations and shops up and down the country.
When it comes to bars and tavernas though, you may need to check their machine is working.
Food and Drink
You will find in Greece the type of food and drinks that you experience in the western world. There are, of course, world ranges of cafeterias and fast-food restaurants (like McDonalds or Starbucks) in the big cities and popular islands, but there are also traditional coffee houses (known as kafenion) and taverns.
Most travelers do not need to take special food or water precautions beyond what they normally do at home. However, travelers visiting rural or remote areas that are served by unregulated water sources such as private wells should take special precautions to ensure the safety of their drinking water.
The tap water in Athens, especially, is very safe along with the cities in mainland. But when vacationing on the islands, you should drink bottled water since the water tanks used on the Greek Islands are for water used for bathing or doing the laundry, but not for consumption.
You will need to consider what to pack, to ensure you can use your personal electrical appliances safely whilst abroad. For Greece there are two associated plug types C and F. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins and plug type F is the plug which has two round pins with two earth clips on the side. Greece operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
Electricity supplies worldwide can vary from anything between 100V and 240V. It can be extremely dangerous to use an electrical appliance that is rated at a voltage different from the supply.
As voltage can differ from country to country, you may need to use a voltage converter or transformer whilst in Greece. If the frequency is different, the normal operation of an electrical appliance may also be affected. For example, a 50Hz clock may run faster on a 60Hz electricity supply. Most voltage converters and transformers come supplied with plug adaptors, so you may not need to buy a separate travel adaptor.
All converters and transformers will have a maximum power rating (AMPS or WATTS) so make sure that any appliance you intend to use does not exceed this rating.
There are three physical network operators (MNOs) in Greece:
- Vodafone Greece
- Wind Greece
All three MNOs have closely attached subsidiaries that resell their offers: Frog Mobile on Cosmote, Tazamobile on Vodafone and Q on Wind. There are hardly independent MVNOs on the market.
You can buy a SIM card in an official branded shop of the operator and from distributor points. As of June 2017, Wind SIM cards are available in the departures lounge (not arrivals) of Athens International Airport in the Public Connect shop if you are making a connection in Athens. The Germanos store selling Cosmote SIM cards has closed.
In order to purchase the SIM card, you’ll be asked for an ID card or a passport, as this is required by law since 2011. Children under the age of 18 can’t activate a SIM card on their own.
Be aware, that many shops prefer to sell more expensive bundles (e.g. with mobile phones or with 3G USB modem sticks) pretending they ran out of stock of naked prepaid SIM cards. But where they sell bundles, they need to have SIM cards too.
With all the three MNO providers you have the choice between a call, text and data SIM card and a data-only SIM with lower data rates but no calls and SMS possible. Each MNO has its own MVNO which only sells one SIM card and doesn’t need to be a better deal. MVNOs are harder to find, don’t have sales points in the countryside and limited support only.
Dress codes and cultural hints
Though dress codes on the beach are entirely informal, they’re much less so away from the sea; most Greeks will dress up to go out, and not doing so is considered slovenly at the least. There are quite a number of nudist beaches in remote spots, with plenty of locals enjoying them, but on family beaches, or those close to town or near a church (of which there are many along the Greek coast), even toplessness is often frowned on. Most monasteries and to a lesser extent churches impose a fairly strict dress code for visitors: no shorts, with women expected to cover their arms and wear skirts (though most Greek women visitors will be in trousers); the necessary wraps are sometimes provided on the spot.
Two pieces of body language that can cause unintentional offence are hand gestures; don’t hold your hand up, palm out, to anybody, and don’t make an OK sign by forming a circle with your thumb and forefinger – both are extremely rude. Nodding and shaking your head for yes and no are also unlikely to be understood; Greeks use a slight forward inclination of the head for yes, a more vigorous backward nod for no.
Bargaining and tipping
Most shops have fixed prices, so bargaining isn’t a regular feature of tourist life. It is worth negotiating over rooms – especially off season – or for vehicle rental, especially for longer periods, but it’s best not to be aggressive about it; ask if they have a cheaper room, for example, rather than demanding a lower price. Tipping is not essential anywhere, though taxi drivers generally expect it from tourists and most service staff are very poorly paid. Restaurant bills incorporate a service charge; if you want to tip, rounding up the bill is usually sufficient.
Smoking also deserves a mention. Greeks are the heaviest smokers in Europe, and although legally you’re not allowed to smoke indoors in restaurants, bars or public offices, in practice the law is almost universally disregarded. Effective no-smoking areas are very rare indeed.
Women and lone travellers
Thousands of women travel independently in Greece without being harassed or feeling intimidated. With the westernization of relationships between unmarried Greek men and women, almost all of the traditional Mediterranean macho impetus for trying one’s luck with foreign girls has faded. Foreign women are more at risk of sexual assault at certain notorious resorts (including Kávos in Corfu; Laganás in Zákynthos; Faliráki in Rhodes) by northern European men than by ill-intentioned locals. It is sensible not to bar-crawl alone or to accept late-night rides from strangers (hitching at any time is not advisable for lone female travellers). In more remote areas intensely traditional villagers may wonder why women travelling alone are unaccompanied, and may not welcome their presence in exclusively male kafenía. Travelling with a man, you’re more likely to be treated as a xéni.
Lone men need to be wary of being invited into bars in the largest mainland towns and island ports, in particular near Sýndagma in Athens; these bars are invariably staffed with hostesses (who may also be prostitutes) persuading you to treat them to drinks. At the end of the night you’ll be landed with an outrageous bill, some of which goes towards the hostess’s commission; physical threats are brought to bear on reluctant payers.