It seems, these days, as if everyone and their mother has been taking a trip to Greece. And it’s to no one’s surprise once you see all the flight deals that Emirates and other airlines have been offering. If you’re one of the many people looking to capitalize on this cheap airfare, here are the 5 things you should know about Greece before you go:
1. You are at the Mercy of the Ferries
The main form of transportation between the Greek islands are the ferries. A novelty or a necessary evil, well, that’s up for debate. The ticket prices can be high, the ferries can be late and depending upon the weather or if they feel like striking that day, your ferry may not come at all – so plan accordingly.
I had no problems with ferries during my trip but my other friends were not so lucky. One of my friends almost missed his flight home because the ferries stopped running due to inclement weather. Hearing this and other stories, I decided our safest bet would be to end our trip in Athens. However, if you do find yourself in my friend’s position, there are flights between Athens and the main islands but they’re limited and can book up quickly. Try not to take a chance if you don’t have to.
You should also note that ferry schedules change depending upon the season. During high season there are more times and routes whereas on the shoulder season there could be only one ferry going to your destination that day. A great resource to check the ferry schedules is Greek Ferries but I’d recommend booking directly on the company’s website such as Blue Star Ferries or Sea Jets just to be safe with your credit information.
2. The Islands are Expensive
Yes, the sunsets in Santorini are beautiful and the beach clubs in Mykonos are popping but there are downfalls that come with being on an island full of tourists. Fine dining establishments are pricey and if you happen to forget some necessities be prepared for some price gouging.
You are welcome to eat gyros for every meal but if you truly want to enjoy yourself you’ll have to eat at a fine dining establishment once in a while. A meal for two including appetizers, entrees and wine cost about $50-$60 per person. Coming from New York these prices are easier to swallow but I know not everyone in the world is accustomed to paying this premium.
And if you’re a bad packer, you will likely find yourself paying double the price on certain items such as sunscreen or toothpaste. A bottle of Neutrogena sunscreen at a market in Mykonos was on the shelf for almost $20! Make a list and check it twice.
3. Most of the Stores Sell the Same Things
It’s always nice to bring home souvenirs for friends and family but it never feels nice when you buy something and the store next door is selling it for half the price. Most of the stores sell the exact same things but at all different prices. I picked up an ashtray for my friend for $10 in Oia and after wandering around some more I found the same ashtray for $4.
This extends across the islands and even in Athens. If you’re looking at soap sets, magnets or Grecian style dresses, chances are they’ll have it at your next destination. Walk around, shop around and don’t be afraid to haggle.
4. Expect to Rent a Vehicle On the Islands
Public transportation on the islands is minimal; there’s usually a bus that the locals take and privately run taxis. From what I saw the buses were infrequent and I had the personal pleasure of waiting almost 2 hours for a taxi. As such, I’d recommend renting either an ATV or a scooter to get around.
Be sure to research the vehicles, rental companies and rates beforehand since there seems to be no regulation and you’ll often get quoted a price depending on how the owner feels that day. If there’s two of you I’d recommend getting at minimum a 300cc ATV or scooter, anything less and you’ll have trouble climbing up hills.
5. Athens is Tiny!
Unless you’re a history buff, I’d recommend planning to spend at most one and a half days in Athens. There isn’t much to do aside from visiting the Acropolis and wandering around Plaka, Monastiraki Flea Market and Syntagma.
To put things in perspective, you can join the Athens Free Walking Tour and cover all the major sights in 2 and a half hours. You’d have to enter the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum on your own but the free walking tour is a great way to quickly see the city and learn a little bit about each place.
If you’re looking for more inspiration for your upcoming or dream trip to Greece, feel free to watch my vlog below and leave me any questions you may have in the comments.