GREECE - GENERAL INFORMATION

Passports/Identification

If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel.

Currency Information

The currency in Greece is the Euro, which is widely available in the UK.

Sterling cash can be exchanged at hotels, banks and exchange offices in Greece. Travellers cheques are not so commonly accepted these days, especially in hotels. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, larger shops and restaurants. We also recommend that you inform your bank/card company of your trip to Greece, in order to avoid any problems when withdrawing cash from ATM’s; as a security method on your behalf, banks occasionally stop withdrawals in the event that they are being used fraudulently abroad.

Means of Payment

When travelling to Greece please make sure you have enough cash to cover the duration of your stay. Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.

Holidaymakers should take appropriate security precautions against theft such as using their hotel safe or splitting cash up between their party. Please note, payment methods such as credit and debit cards are accepted as normal in shops and restaurants.

Visitors to Greece should be aware of the possibility that banking services – including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs – throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice.

Currency Restriction – amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared.

Tipping

Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations. It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done. It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide, hotel staff or in local bars and restaurants. Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it.

Where meals are not included in your holiday price, there may be an additional 10-15% service charge added to your final bill. If a service charge is not added to your bill then you may wish to leave a tip for the service that has been given.

Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.

Duty Free

  • 800 Cigarette’s or 200 Cigars or 400 Cigarillos or 1kg of Tobacco.
  • 10L of spirits (over 22%) or 20L of alcohol (under 22%) and 2L of wine and liqueurs
  • 50g of perfume and 250ml of eau de cologne
  • Gifts up to value of €175pp and €90 if under the age of 15.
  • Up to €10,000 in cash (or equivalent in other currencies)

Note: The tobacco and alcohol allowances above are not available to customers under the age of 18.

Please check these allowances prior to travel as they are subject to change.

Restricted Item’s:

It is forbidden to bring in plants with soil. The export of antiquities is prohibited without the express permission of the Archaelogical Service in Athens; those who ignore this will be prosecuted. One windsurf board per person may be imported/exported duty-free, if registered in the passport on arrival.

Banned Imports:

The import of soil (as well as plants) and certain animals, is restricted. The import of meat, meat products, milk and milk products from outside the EU is also restricted. Firearms, explosives and drugs are very tightly controlled.

Banned Exports:

The export of antiquities is prohibited without the express permission of the Archaeological Service in Athens; those who ignore this will be prosecuted.

Climate & Clothing

Greece has a warm Mediterranean climate. We recommend checking the weather forecast a few days before you travel.

In summer, dry hot days are often relieved by stiff evening breezes, especially in the north, on the islands and in coastal areas. Athens can be stiflingly hot, with temperatures occasionally exceeding 40C in July, so visitors should allow time to acclimatise - the evenings are generally cooler, but can remain very hot during heat waves. Winters are mild in the south but much colder in the mountainous north, where it is not uncommon to see snow and temperatures plummeting to well below zero. November to March is the rainy season, most notably on the Ionian Islands.

If you are planning a beach holiday, the sea is warm enough to swim from June through September, and hardier types will also manage in May and October. Seaside hotels are generally open from Easter through to late-October, as are water sports facilities.

Lightweight clothes (cotton is best) during summer months, including protection from the midday sun and sunglasses. Light sweaters are needed for evenings, especially on the islands. Waterproofs are advised for spring and autumn.

Winter months can be quite cold, especially in the northern mainland, so normal winter wear will be required.

Food & Drink

Eating out is national pastime in Greece. For an informal snack, try an ouzeri, where you can join locals for small platters of savoury appetisers and a glass or two of aniseed-flavoured ouzo. Visit a mezedopolio to feast on a selection of tasty mezes

(Similar to Spanish tapas) which you might accompany with a flask of rakija (a potent spirit made from distilled grapes) or a carafe of hima (barrel wine).

For a more hearty meal, try a taverna, serving generous portions of traditional Greek favourites, often in a rustic (or pseudo-rustic) setting – the best ones have open log fires and stage occasionally live music. A psarotaverna is a taverna that specialises in fish and seafood. Last but not least, an estiatorio is a full blown restaurant, where service will be a little more formal and the menu will probably include a choice of both Greek and international cuisine, as well as quality bottled wines.

Greek food tends to be very simple, rarely involving sauces but with full use of local seasonal produce, olive oil and charcoal grills – just as people have been eating in outlying villages for many centuries. However, Athens and some of the more fashionable islands such as Santorini and Mykonos have seen the arrival of fusion cuisine and so-called modern taverna fare (involving lighter dishes with more subtle flavours and artistic presentation).

Restaurant hours are normally 1200-1500 for lunch and 2000-2400 for dinner. Opening hours vary according to the region and local laws – many establishments in popular holiday destinations stay open all day through the summer. Waiter service is usual.

Those with a sweet tooth should head for a zaharoplasteio (cake shop), where a vast array of syrup-drenched Turkish-inspired goodies such as baklava and slices of chocolate-coated cakes like Black Forest gateaux are displayed behind glass counters. You can choose pieces individually and then have them put in a box to take away – if it’s a gift they’ll tie it with a brightly coloured silk ribbon.

Specialities:

  • Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).
  • Gemista (tomatoes, peppers and courgettes, stuffed with rice and oven-baked).
  • Gigantes (big butter beans baked in a rich tomato sauce with olive oil).
  • Moussaka (aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil).
  • Calamari (deep-fried rings of squid) or htapodia (octopus).
  • Souvlaki (spit-roasted meat, generally pork or chicken).
  • Stifado (a rich beef stew with caramelised onions, cinnamon and cloves).
  • Kokkinisto (a rich stew of either beef, pork or chicken cooked with red wine and tomatoes).
  • Horiatiki (Greek salad: feta cheese, tomato, cucumber, green peppers, black Kalamata olives and fresh olive oil).

Regional Drinks

  • Krasi (wine - lefko is white, kokkino is red).
  • Retsina (wine made with pine-needle resin).
  • Ouzo (an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added).
  • Raki (a sharp and fiery spirit made from distilled grapes, like the Italian Grappa).
  • Metaxa (a Greek spirit, similar to brandy).
  • Greek coffee (thick and strong, and sugared according to taste).
  • Frappe (frothy iced coffee made from Nescafe and drunk through a straw).

Voltage

The electricity supply is similar to the rest of Europe and 2-round pin sockets operate on 230 volts AC.

Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard. An ironing and laundry service may be available in some hotels.

Safety

Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in Greece especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination. We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry your passports/extra cash/credit cards etc unless necessary. These should be left in a hotel safe where possible.

You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.

Excursions and activities

We recommend you do not purchase excursions from hotels or street vendors as these may not have been safety checked, may not meet required local standards or have adequate insurance cover.

If you choose to partake in an activity you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for that specific activity.

We recommend you heed any additional advice specific to your destination, given to you by your Tour Manager or Local guide.

Immunisations

There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Greece however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.

General Medical Advice

Make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays.

Mosquito Advice

As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday. While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.

We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed. We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.

The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming. When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.

Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night. Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.

If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Planning for your trip

We don’t recommend you rely on pharmacies in Greece having specific, prescribed medicines so please make sure to pack more than enough for the duration of your holiday.

Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in and your Tour Manager can help you with this if needed

EHIC

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to get state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge.

In order for the EHIC to be accepted, you must attend a hospital or health centre that provides state healthcare. It is not accepted in a private hospital or clinic. Policy holders are under no obligation to provide insurance details in a state hospital or health centre. You have the right to insist that your EHIC is accepted for all necessary state-provided medical treatment. If you do not have your EHIC with you then you can call the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle who will be able to provide you with a Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Accommodation & Bathrooms

You will find that in some hotels in Greece there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal. We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property.

In a few Greek hotels, you may find there is no shower curtain or screen, in which case please be extra careful in case of slippery floors. Bathmats are not always provided even in some of the modern hotels and you may need to ask at Reception if you need one.

Please also note that some Greek hotels do usually provide tea/coffee-making facilities in their rooms.

Smoking

The main areas of the hotel are non-smoking. However, you are permitted to smoke on the balcony to your room (all rooms have balconies), at the restaurant terrace and at the pool bars / pool taverns.

Light Switches - In many Greek hotels timer switches are used on stairways and in other public areas. You should be aware that lighting may automatically switch off without warning but can simply be reactivated by repressing the timer light switches - these are usually, but not always, illuminated.

Tap Water

Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water. It is safe to clean your teeth with tap water, but it is advisable to ask for drinks without ice.

Hand Sanitizers

It may be prudent to carry a hand sanitizer for use overseas, especially after handling money.

Air Conditioning/Heating

In Greek hotels which are equipped with air conditioning, the period in the season and times of day when it is operational are at the discretion of the management. The provision of central heating is also at the discretion of the management.

Swimming Pools

Where hotels have their own swimming pools, you may wish to arrange to take your own towels, as some hotels do not provide these. Always familiarise yourself with the depth of the pool before swimming. Diving is not recommended.

Time Zones

GMT +2 hours.

Coaches

Some coaches used on our European flight holidays may be equipped with WC and washbasin however this cannot be guaranteed. In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey. Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.

Extra Charges

Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure.

Lost Property

We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.

Shopping

Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods. However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address.

Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of local currency to sterling pounds, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card. Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others.