Did you know?
- There are about 3000 islands in Greece. However, only a few hundred of them are inhabited!
- The official name for Greece is the Hellenic Republic.
- The impact of Ancient Greece on the Western world can’t be overstated! The rediscovery of Greek classics of philosophy, science and literature in the 14th and 15th centuries had a profound influence on the development of Western thought, leading Europe into the Renaissance. The effects of those revelations are still with us today. The notion of democracy, the concept of the atom, the image of the Earth as round, the scientific method itself – all these and more had their birth in the writings of Ancient Greece.
- Though its recorded history goes back thousands of years, modern-day Greece was largely shaped by the past several centuries. The Ottoman Empire took control of Greece in the 15th century and governed until 1821, when the War of Independence began.
- Greece obtained full membership into the European Union in 1981 and replaced the drachma (Europe’s oldest currency) with the Euro in 2002.
- Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, with a height of 2,919 metres. It is believed to have served as the home of the Gods in the ancient Greek religion.
- The very first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC in southwest Greece, to honour the Greek God Zeus. Originally held on just one day every four years, only men were allowed to compete in wrestling and athletics, and they competed naked in homage to the Gods. Winners were presented with a wreath of laurel leaves, similar to the one worn by the God Apollo.
- Traditionally, Greeks have been known to celebrate their name days, rather than their birthdays.
- Shipping has been one of the most important industries in Greece since ancient times. Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975) was the most famous shipping magnate of the 20th century.
- Before the invention of soap, ancient Greeks used to soak in water and then daub themselves with olive oil. The oil (and accumulated grime) was then scraped off with a curved implement.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Greece do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
Australian Embassy in Greece:
5 Hatziyianni Mexi Street
Athens 115 23
Ph. +30 210 870 4000
Fax. +30 210 870 4111
The official currency of Greece is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.
The recommended currency to take to Greece is the Euro. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Euro’s with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Athens is approximately €2.50 - €3.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €10.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €25.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €4.50 - €5.
The preparation of Greek food is usually quite simple. Olive oil is a staple – after all, the Greeks have an olive-growing tradition that dates back 5,000 years. The Greeks also love to make dishes from fresh vegetables, such as eggplants, beans, lentils and tomatoes. Lamb and fish are also commonly used. This means that there’s more to Greek food than gyros. If you’ve only ever experienced Greek cuisine as a fast food in another country, you’re in for a treat. Athens has a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from traditional eateries to world-class gourmet restaurants. Common everywhere are tsatsiki (garlic-yoghurt spread), souvlakia (meat or fish kebabs marinated in garlic), spanakopita (spinach pie) and tiropita (cheese pie). There is also a huge variety of regional specialties ranging, for example, from numerous pita pies (with several fillings such as meat or vegetables). Pastries made from filo dough, nuts and honey (such as baklava) shouldn’t be missed. Greek coffee is usually quite good, though very strong. You are well-advised to avoid the tourist traps of Plaka and to eat in tavernas frequented by Greeks, such as the ones found in Psiri. Estiatorion are the more expensive conventional restaurants; tavernas are informal, family-run establishments; psistarias offer mostly grilled meats; and psarotavernas specialise in seafood dishes.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
The climate of Greece is Mediterranean, enjoying long hot dry summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures in Greece are tempered by the Etesian northerly wind which blows across the Aegean Sea, and breezes called ‘meltemia’, but the mercury on the mainland regularly hits the high spots. Winters are mild and wet (though rainfall is generally low in most areas). In the mountainous regions, however, rainfall is heavier, snow is likely and temperatures can be severe.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Greek taxis are yellow and all should be run with a meter. Compared to other European cities, taxis are extremely cheap in Athens and other Greek cities. Be prepared that in Athens, the traffic can reach nightmare proportions, so walking is also a wonderful (…less frustrating…) way to see the sights.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Greece…
As Greece is so well known for its statues and monuments, great mementoes are masks, busts and reproductions of famous Greek art. Souvenir reproductions should cost no more than €30. Remember though that the unauthorised purchase of genuine antiquities is strictly forbidden. You’ll also find fabulously priced leather and fur goods almost everywhere. Belts, handbags, hats and other items are best bought in markets where you can haggle for the best deal, but you’ll never pay over the odds in any case. The quality of all such items is generally good.
Show reverence and respect for the elderly - it’s a custom widely observed in Greece.
Make a fuss over children. Greeks adore children.
When visiting churches, please make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. If required, appropriate clothing is usually available at the entrance of churches and monasteries.
Expect to find nude and topless beaches throughout Greece, but be sure you are on one before you strip – Greece is a very religious country.
The Greeks have a work-to-live culture, not live-to-work, so they run to their own schedule! Just go with the flow and enjoy the relaxed pace of life here.
Don’t enter conversations about politics lightly – a few topics are potential sore spots for the Greeks. These include problems with the Macedonian issue, Cyprus and, although to a lesser extent these days, Turkey.
Be careful with hand gestures! To swear at someone using their hands, Greeks hold up their hand as though signalling someone to stop, and if warranted, will use both hands. This essentially means ‘p___ off’, or harsher variations on that theme when both hands are used. To refuse a drink, simply put the palm of your hand over your glass instead of holding your hand up!
Smoking, while technically banned in all public areas including restaurants, is considered a birthright of the Greeks and many people (and some places) ignore this.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
If you notice anything about the Greek’s, it’s that they are always up for a good time and a celebration! Greece is, of course, the home of the ‘two birthdays’ – your actual birthday and the official name day of the saint you were named after. Travel anywhere in Greece and you won’t be far from a festival or celebration.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Epiphany (January 6th)
- Clean Monday (March 2nd)
- Greek Independence Day (March 25th)
- Easter Friday and Easter Monday
- Protomagia (Labour Day - May 1st)
- Holy Spirit Monday (June 8th)
- Assumption Day (August 15th)
- National Anniversary Day (October 28th)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Athens exudes a unique charm, its lively character winning over thousands of visitors every year. Street markets, vine-covered tavernas, souvenir stalls and ancient monuments all form a conglomerate with buildings old and new in this city, which one out of four Greeks call home. For tourists, the greatest advantage is that most attractions are accessible on foot in the central area around the landmark Acropolis. Walking is the best way to soak up the Athenian atmosphere because the traffic can reach nightmare proportions. Athens was named after Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, who according to mythology won the city as a prize after a duel against Poseidon. The city can chart its history back thousands of years and is regarded as the cradle of Western civilisation; the place where democracy was invented and philosophy, art and architecture were refined.
Thessaloniki is a busy, vibrant city and it is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and cultural centre as well as a major transportation hub in south-eastern Europe. As a cultural centre, it is renowned for its large number of monuments of Byzantine architecture as well as for some main Ottoman, and Jewish structures. The city is famous for its International Trade Fair which takes place at the beginning of every September and it is the place where the Prime Minister of Greece gives a major speech to announce the governmental plans for the year to come. Thessaloniki is also renowned for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which is characterised as the most significant cultural event in south eastern Europe, attracting local and international celebrities of both cinema and theatre.
Sitting at the top of the Argolic Gulf, Nafplio is a charming seaside town on a small peninsula in the eastern Peloponnese. Its rich history has left a wonderful mix of ancient walls, castles, monuments, fountains and neoclassical architecture. It has been a strategic port since the Bronze Age and the importance of the city is demonstrated by the three fortresses that dominate the Nafplion skyline. The largest is the Castle of Palamidi, which sits proudly above the city guarding over its residents; Akronafplia fortress and the most photographed fortress, Bourtzi, sitting on a small islet at the end of the peninsula.
Conjuring images of whitewashed walls, blue tiled roofs and the sun sinking into the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, Santorini is a photographer’s dream! The picturesque village of Oia hugs the cliff face and has produced some of the most scenic photos ever taken. The pathway that winds through the village along the cliff face is dotted with cafes, shops and bars and is a wonderful place to watch the famous Santorini sunset.
Small Group Tours
Take an in-depth journey across Mediterranean Greece. Travel from Thessaloniki, via Meteora, Athens and Crete to the sun-bleached island of Santorini.