Travel to Greece: The Ultimate Guide

Samuel Clennett

Greece is a dream destination, with something for everyone - and a warm welcome, delicious food and a great climate thrown in.

This guide will kick start your research, and get you thinking about what to do, where to visit, and how to plan your trip to make the most of your time in Greece. We’ll also look at how you can save money while you travel with a Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard.

Do your research

To make sure you have the best possible experience in Greece, you’ll want to do some research and get some inspiration before you head off. The official website of the Greek tourist authority is a good place to start, with information about everything from touring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to island hopping, and making the most or a trip to Greece off-season¹.

While it might seem like a bit of a chore, looking at some practical planning in advance will also pay off. Check out ways to get from the airport to your first destination for example, so you’re not wasting time working out local transport when you arrive.

There’s also lots of helpful, practical advice on the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website². Here you’ll find up to date safety information, and details of anything you need to know about travel to Greece from the perspectives of health, legal considerations, visas and consular support.

How to get the most for your money

Compared to other destinations in Europe, a break in Greece can be fairly good value. Accommodation and activities in the cities and main tourist centres are typically more expensive than getting out into a more rural setting, so make sure you’ve planned your budget accordingly. Here are a few tips to make sure your money goes further.

Know your exchange rate

Greece uses the euro, so you’ll need to either exchange your dollars in advance of travel, or have a way to access your money while you’re abroad.

Exchange rates change all the time, so get an online currency converter or app, to keep up with the dollar to euro rate before you travel. The rate you see online will be the mid-market rate. This is a good benchmark, but it’s not necessarily the rate that banks and currency services will offer customers.

Many currency services add their own markup or margin to the mid-market exchange rate, to boost their profits. This can make it more expensive to change your money. You’ll need to compare the exchange rate you’re given by your bank, card provider or other exchange bureau to the mid-market rate to check if there’s any markup.

If you find there’s an extra margin added to the exchange rate you’re offered, you could be better off choosing a different provider. We’ll look a little later at one smart option - the Wise multi-currency account and card, which lets you hold, send and spend dozens of different currencies, all using the mid-market exchange rate. More on that in a moment.

Look for hidden costs

If you’re using your ATM card overseas, or sending international payments to cover the costs of your accommodation or activities, you’ll need to check all the fees involved to make sure there are no nasty surprises.

International transfers made using your bank, for example, may come with steep fees. ATM withdrawals can also have fixed fees, and foreign transaction charges, which are often an additional percentage of the amount you’re taking out in cash.

Avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

DCC is where you’re asked if you’d rather pay in your home currency instead of the local currency wherever you are. So if you’re in Greece you’d be asked if you want to pay in dollars instead of euros.

It might sound like an easy way to keep an eye on your spending because you don’t need to convert the costs yourself. But DCC actually means you’ll usually get a poor exchange rate and may need to pay extra fees - pushing up your costs overall.

Wherever you see DCC, opt to pay in the local currency to avoid unnecessary costs.

Get a specialist account for your travels

You can limit, or avoid many of the costs of spending overseas, with a specialist account designed for travel.

Check out the Wise multi-currency account for a low cost, convenient way to manage and spend foreign currencies. You can simply add money to your account in dollars, and switch to the currency you need using the mid-market exchange rate. There’s just a small transparent charge to pay and no hidden fees to worry about. You can then spend any currency you hold in your account with no foreign transaction fees, using your Wise borderless Mastercard.

Things to be aware of

The advice from the Australian government is to take normal safety precautions if you’re travelling in Greece. Like anywhere else in the world, there is some crime, so you’ll need to look after your belongings, especially in crowded tourist areas and the larger cities. If you are unlucky enough to run into problems take local advice to stay safe.

There are a couple of specific considerations when travelling to Greece which may be worth knowing:

  • If you’re a male dual national, you might be expected to complete military service in Greece. If you’re in this situation, make sure you understand the rules and your rights
  • You are expected to carry ID with you at all times when in Greece so keep your documents handy
  • There are earthquakes and forest fires in Greece - watch local news to make sure you’re aware of any issues where you are
  • Many tourists take part in adventure activities in Greece. If you choose to do this, check your insurance covers the activity, and use a reputable provider
  • Wild camping is technically illegal in Greece. This doesn’t stop people from doing it, on beaches and islands in particular, but be aware the tourist police may show up and clear the site if you choose to try

If you run into trouble overseas, the Australian consular service may be able to help. Learn about what they can - and can’t - do, on the Smart Traveller website³.

Get to know the Visa situation

You can visit Greece as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. If you want to stay longer, or intend to work in Greece, you’ll need to get a visa from the Greek embassy or consulate closest to your home in Australia⁴.

Accommodation in Greece

Greece is a very seasonal destination in many places, so how you arrange your accommodation will depend a lot on where you’re headed and when. On the islands and smaller towns, you might find that most accommodation options shut down from October to April, as demand drops away. During Easter, peak season and summer weekends, however, you might struggle to find somewhere if you don’t book in advance.

In the cities you’ll not struggle to find a place to stay year round, but booking in advance might make life easier. There’s the range of accommodation you might expect - from high end hotels, through to cheaper youth hostels and dorms. The rating system doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the place, so taking a look in person or online before you book is advisable⁵.

In tourist areas during mid and high seasons, you might be able to simply turn up and find somewhere to stay. In many cases, the options will include ‘rooms to let’ which may well be in someone’s home. This can be a relatively cheap and interesting option, but as you’d expect, quality and price varies wildly, so check out the options before you commit.

In the warmer months camping is a popular choice. There are campsites throughout the country, and although wild camping is not allowed, you’ll likely see enclaves of tents strewn around the beaches in your destination if you’re in a more remote area. Tourist police periodically close down these sites if they’re not legal, so check the one you choose is actually allowed to operate to avoid any problems.

Getting around in Greece

If your trip to Greece centres on the major cities, getting around is straightforward⁶. You can use the local bus systems easily, or choose to take taxis. Uber is also available in Athens⁷.

For intercity travel, you can fly, hire a car or take the bus. Flights are relatively reasonably priced, especially during the week. Longer distance bus services are arranged by regional collectives called KTEL - check out the local KTEL website for your destination, to get timetables and prices⁸. It’s worth noting that although there are some intercity trains, the rail network is relatively limited in Greece.

If your trip involves visiting one or more islands, you’ll need to take ferries. There are many different local ferry operators to choose from depending on your route, with timetables and prices available locally or online. It’s worth knowing that ferries will stop running in bad weather, and many routes have limited services - or close entirely - in the winter season.

Sights to see

You could spend your entire time in Greece soaking up the sun, or choose instead to indulge your love of history and culture - or, of course, a bit of both. Here are a few must see destinations to think about.

  • If you’re a history buff you will fall in love with Athens. Spend your time taking a leisurely tour of the historical sites, and enjoy the relaxed local atmosphere as well as some fabulous cuisine
  • Halkidiki in Northern Greece is a great destination if you want a mix of sun soaked beaches, pine forests, and small coastal fishing towns⁹. If you’re male, and fancy a challenge, you can also visit nearby Mount Athos - unfortunately women are not allowed to this religious site, and only 10 permits a day are available for people who are not Orthodox pilgrims¹⁰
  • Snorkel, dive and swim with a dizzying array of options on the Greek islands and off the costs of the mainland. Hire a boat - or take a cruise - to get the best possible experience¹¹
  • Greece is probably best known for the islands and coastal destinations, but there are also beautiful places to visit on the mainland¹² - go kayaking on the rivers in Epirus¹³, or seek some peace and solitude in the beautiful Meteora Monasteries¹⁴

Tips for a great trip

Before you head off for your dream break in Greece, here are a few more tips to make sure you have a fantastic experience.

  • Get a Greek SIM card to cut your costs - Cosmote is the network recommended for the widest possible coverage¹⁵
  • Some medicines which in Australia are sold over the counter, or issued under prescription may be controlled in Greece - Codeine and any prescription opiates are good examples. Carry your prescription and a letter from your doctor if you must take these medicines with you
  • Use the government’s Smart Traveller website for up to date travel information for Greece, as well as a wide range of travel support and resources¹⁶

Greece is a bucket list destination for many people. Whether you’re looking forward to the crystal seas, the fresh meditarrenean cuisine, or really want to soak up the history and culture of the region, you’ll have a wonderful trip.

Make more of your time, with a Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard. Pay less in fees and have more left in your pocket for yourself.

Sources:

  1. Visit Greece

  2. Smartraveller Greece

  3. Smartraveller Urgent Help

  4. Visa Info

  5. Accomodation Guide

  6. Transport around Greece

  7. Uber Greece

  8. Ktel Buses

  9. Discover Greece - Halkidiki

  10. Visit Mount Athos

  11. Yachting in Greece

  12. Visit Greece - Mainland

  13. Canoe in Greece

  14. Visit Meteora

  15. Buying a Local Sim

  16. Smartraveller

All sources accurate as of 10 February 2020


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