We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

first time to Greece - many questions

Orlando, Florida
Level Contributor
5 posts
12 reviews
Save Topic
first time to Greece - many questions

Hi. My husband and I have been planning our first trip to Greece for many months. This will be our first international trip and we're both excited and a little apprehensive. Recently, a friend took a trip there and wasn't as enthusiastic about it as we would have expected. We're starting to wonder if it's the best place for us to go right now - we really want to see Greece but we've saved for a long time and don't want to spend the money right now if it's not a good time to visit. I was hoping to get some more opinions from people who know, instead of reading generic travel information.

Our friend was surprised at the cost of street food and small restaurants - I'm wondering if that's because he stuck to the touristy areas or if we should expect high food costs? Our friend went with a tour group (as we plan to) and he was recommended to stick to a 9 PM curfew for safety. Is that conventional wisdom or just over precaution on the tour's part? Finally, he said that the hotels they stayed at outside of Athens (Delphi, Nafplion, Kalambaka/Meteora) were very out of the way so not much to do once dropped off there. Does anyone have experience with that?

Thank you for your time...and your patience with a couple of travel novices! :)

South Pole
Destination Expert
for Lesbos, Zagorohoria
Level Contributor
13,742 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

Welcome to the forums! All kudos for you for obviously taking on board what your friends had to say, but have not taken it as gospel. There has never been a better time to visit Greece, but it sounds to me that your friends may have plumped for an organised tour & perhaps not the best available at that. With some effort on your own part & a willingness to accept experience & input from members here you can tailor a memorable holiday that will have your friends green with envy!

First of all decide which places you want to see. Don't try to cram in too much (unfortunately this is exactly what organised tours often do - whicking you from site to site with no time to stand & stare). Greece is very easy to "do it youirself".

Start with telling us when you plan to travel, for how long & whether your style is splurge on the best hotels, or happy with modest accomodation that leaves more spends on the things you will best appreciate. Large tourist hotels can be anonymous & sterile. Traditional Greek rooms can be small & friendly family run places where you are made to feel part of a community. What are your interests? What sort of age are you? Into history, nature & scenery or bars & nightclubs?

Food is very reasonable & it may well be that your friends did stick to the more touristy offerings. Always opt for where you see the locals eating & don't go for the smart tablecloths & pushy waiters.

Lots of people here ready to guide you, but you must do some work in deciding your main requirements. You can be shown how to arrange your flights/ferries/hotels & where you may prefer a guided tour we can point you at the best ones that will give you a real Greek experience.

Devizes, United...
Level Contributor
40,216 posts
340 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

Hi there

Sounds like the information given to your friend and passed on to you is a bit alarmist to say the least. I, and my wife have walked around central Athens at midnight or later, and never felt safer. There are a couple of sketchy areas of the city but there's nothing there of interest to visitors anyway, so no reason to go there.

As for the islands, I can scarcely think of any more safer and more relaxed places anywhere. We have travelled to Greece at least once a year for more than 20 years and I have to say that over the last 3-4 years, we haven't noticed anything being any dearer except for taxi fares and bus rides as fuel has increased in price quite dramatically. But for restaurant and street food and drinks, we have seen no difference at all, and as long as you steer clear of the really touristy areas, you will find great food readily available at very inexpensive prices.

Greece is a welcoming and hospitable country full of honest and friendly people who need all the tourist Euros they can get right now. So please, go to Greece, have a great holiday, and spend that cash in the local businesses where it will help the most.

Oslo, Norway
Destination Expert
for Oslo, Naxos, Norway
Level Contributor
21,562 posts
45 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

Hi,

and welcome to the forum.

For Athens look up the "Top questions about Athens" on the top right of this forum. You will find similar top questions in connection with the most popular destinations to get a first idea for questions you may have.

Everyone will have their own idea and expectations of what to experience in a new country or part of the globe. An angle to get the best advice in forums like this is asking yourself why you have chosen this destination - what are you looking for, what are your own preferences to do and see ? Someone like your friend may have had his idea and been disappointed, while the same kind of experience can prove to be the very top for another person.

"he was recommended to stick to a 9 PM curfew for safety" This is absolutely rubbish. Greece is probably the most safe country in Europe, as is Athens among capitals and major cities.

Cost in Greece is generally very low compared to other destinations in Europe.

For hotel locations you should first check with your tour operator. Also remember that many of the main archeological sites and attractions are located in the countryside - thus accomodation will be in nearby villages and the like.

Stay assured that Grece is friendly and welcoming, and doing your homework to find information about where you want to go should assure you a fantastic experience of a lifetime.

Athens, Greece
Level Contributor
1,302 posts
11 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

No offense but the 9pm curfew sounds ridiculous to me. Apart from some dodgy areas that you should avoid at any time of day, Athens and even more the greek islands are perfectly safe and lively through the early morning hours. 9 pm is practically afternoon for Greeks. Most of us will be having dinner at that time and the restaurants, cafes, streets etc will be crowded.

Nanaimo, Canada
Destination Expert
for Chania Town, Naxos
Level Contributor
4,808 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

Welcome

You sound pretty much like my wife and I as we planned our first trip to Greece a decade or two ago. It was our first great international adventure and being novices we had no idea what we were getting into however Greece was always on our wish list so we went for it and have returned 9 times since.

We thought being with a group would provide us with safety structure and guidance and would be the best way to go so we booked an escorted tour but in the second week we just picked an island and went out on our own. Only then did we discover Greece as it should be experienced.

I re read your post and you indicated your friend had a recent experience in Greece. Since this years tourist season has not even started can you tell me when your friend was in Greece. A winter experience is going to be different from a summer one.

Our tour experience did provide us with the security we desired however your friends experience was similar to ours stuck in hotels outside of the places we were supposed to visit and we also found ourselves eating in tavernas selected by the tour company. For sure you are going to find inflated prices in these locations. If your need for security and peace of mind is of overriding importance then by all means book the tour because just being in Greece is worth it.

Having said that I encourage you to listen to the advice you are receiving here and consider going to Greece on a do it yourself basis. This is where you find small family run hotels and tavernas with good inexpensive food. Learn to eat as the Greeks do. Dinner starts between 8 and 10 O'clock and is a long drawn out affair something to be experienced. Order a Greek Salad and share it, order a couple of the wonderful appetizer dishes (mezies) and share them as well. Then order a main and share that. You will be well satisfied and an expensive dinner with a liter of house wine is probably gong to cost you around 25 to 30 euros. Dining out is certainly not expensive.

Personal security is not an issue in Greece with the exception of pickpockets in Athens. They are very good. Keep your wallet in a money belt under your clothes and take normal precautions and you will be fine. On the islands we have never had any safety issues whatsoever.

My advice is to determine exactly what is a priority for you (Ancient Sites, islands) and narrow down where you would like to go then come back and ask some specific questions. If you have an island you want to visit then there are lots of people here who can give you specific advice and even provide hotel recommendations and tips on what to see and do. In addition once you have determined what place you want to visit there are good booking engines out there like booking dot com where you can find all sorts of hotels. Booking flights and ferrys is also very simple to do from your computer at home. For ferrys you can pretty much book them right at Athens airport at a travel agency there or at any island port.

Just to get you started here are images of Athens. All of these sites are located within a short walk as everything is centered around the Acropolis. Just imagine yourself waling through these streets and think about all the history and all the lives that have been lived in this ancient city. We have nothing like it in North America.

Athens

flickr.com/photos/…

Bristol, United...
Destination Expert
for Messenia Region, Laconia Region, Magnesia Region
Level Contributor
4,709 posts
57 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

9pm curfew, I've never heard anything so ridiculous! Most Greeks don't eat dinner until around 10pm! Also the comment about "not much to,do", what were they expecting to do? The way to spend your evening in Greece is to join the locals in their "volta" (evening stroll)' and visit a few shops to look at local crafts, jewellery clothes or whatever takes your fancy. Stop somewhere for a long, relaxed drink, then find a lovely taverna and spend a couple of hours over a meal of delicious local food. Then maybe somewhere else for another drink or an ice cream. What else do you need?

Don't go on an organised tour where you will be herded around like sheep and never get to see the real Greece. Hire a car and explore this wonderful country for yourselves, you will love it.

London, United...
Level Contributor
16,930 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

What the others have all said. In addition, I'm guessing that if your friend was put into hotels that were "out of the way" in Delphi, Nauplion, etc, it's pretty likely that he was on a pretty poor tour. Also, I cannot imagine any knowledgeable, responsible tour guide in Greece advising a 9 pm curfew. That's simply laughable, in what has always been and still is one of the safest countries in the world to travel in. Nor need food be expensive - except, perhaps, on a pretty poor tour.

Please don't be influenced by these things, or by any of the other misleading tips you've been given.

It is a perfectly good time to visit Greece, and I too would encourage you to do it independently. It will be more work for you than taking a tour: you will need to invest in a couple of good guide books, and have a long, hard think over the next few weeks about what interests *you* about Greece, about which placesappeal to you, and about what *you* want to see and do. Then come back here with specific questions so that we can help you tailor your trip to your own wants and needs.

Regarding costs: in some areas prices are actually going down, as accommodation and restaurant owners struggle to keep their heads above water in the ongoing economic crisis. As GB has said, the Greeks badly need tourist euros. If you stay in simple but clean and adequate accommodation, and eat where local people eat (just follow your nose and go where you hear most people speaking Greek) it will not be expensive: it should be cheaper than a tour.

Enjoy your planning - and your trip.

Orlando, Florida
Level Contributor
5 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

Thank you all for your warm welcome and thoughts. I'm looking at some of the resources you've recommended. Our current plans are to tour mainland Greece with a group that spends seven days "in country". After the tour ends, we plan to spend an additional 2-3 nights in Athens - we can go back to some of the tour stops if we felt rushed with the group. Or, if there's nothing we feel the need to re-visit, we can visit some places not included on the tour - museums, markets, day trip to a nearby island, etc. The last hotel night under the tour is at the Divani Palace Acropolis, so we plan to just stay there for the additional nights on our own. We don't have unlimited means, but we don't want to try and do this trip "on the cheap", either. We really want to enjoy it.

Our friend literally just got back from Greece a few days ago (last week of March) - we plan to go in early October. Another comment he made was that he recommended taxis over walking because the layout of the city could be confusing (I'm assuming because of the age and the lack of urban planning that could account for hundreds of years of growth!). Is it feasible to walk around without looking like tourists with maps or iPhones out all the time?

South Pole
Destination Expert
for Lesbos, Zagorohoria
Level Contributor
13,742 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

I really would encourage you to drop a group tour that does not give you time to really see places. And why spend time trekking back to say Delphi if you felt you did not get anough time there. Please look at a map & understand that Greece might look small, but you cannot just use Athens as a base from which to make short trips to places like Meteora, Delphi etc. without wasting an awful lot of your holiday in transit.

Athens is very walkable (forget taxis - it's no way to enjoy the atmosphere of this amazing city!) & there are some great guided tours within the city which does mean you don't spend all you time looking at a street plan & feeling confused. Look at this site as an example - they get excellent reviews of their tours & really will give you memories of a Greece your friends missed. A friend of mine did their food tour & it's now top of my list of "must do's"

http://www.athens-walks.com/

Others will advise on the better tours to other parts of Greece - try to retain quality over quantity by not trying to cram in too much.

Nanaimo, Canada
Destination Expert
for Chania Town, Naxos
Level Contributor
4,808 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: first time to Greece - many questions

I may be exaggerating a bit but most of the important stuff in Athens is clustered around the Acropolis so as long as you can see the acropolis you are within walking distance of everything and you aren't really lost, just on an exploration of discovery.

Because everything is so central you do not need to take a taxi unless you want to go to the National Archeological Museum. Athens is a totally walkable city.

A map isn't a bad thing and everyone in the tourist trade will speak English so it is easy to ask for directions.

I think that your friend may have been a bit early with a March vacation it is still very early season. If you can do your trip in early October which is at the tail end of the shoulder season you will likely find Greece a bit more lively.

I am still looking for ways for you to do this trip with the security of a tour but with some element of independence. Perhaps you could find a hotel in Athens near the center. There are lots of different price ranges. Then from Athens you might try a day trip or two on a bus tour. There are one and two day bus tours to places like Mycenae, Corinth Epadarus and Naplion or Delphi or Olympia that will give you that introduction of Greece but properly spaced out so that you have time to really explore Athens. Personally i would be tempted to do Athens and Nafplion on a two center vacation with a couple of bus day tours thrown in than take a 7 day tour but that is just me.