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Greece Country Information
The Olympic Games were spawned in ancient classical Greece, along with democracy and the fundamentals of philosophy, science and mathematics. Modern Greece is better known as a great place to vacation rather than a centre of learning and culture. Today the country attracts by offering simple pleasures: delicious food at reasonable prices, local wine, beautiful beaches, sunshine, quaint villages, a seemingly endless lacework of coastline and little islands full of scenic surprises.

The country exudes traditional charm, particularly on its ever-popular islands, which cling to their stereotypical architecture and way of life despite being often over-run by tourists. Black-clad women still deliver vegetables to island tavernas on panniered donkeys, while bronzed, lined fishermen sit in the sun, drink thick coffee, and play dominoes or dice. The tourist infrastructure has intruded in many respects, but the timeless aspect of whitewashed buildings clustered on hillsides around narrow pebbled alleys has been retained. The myriad islands in the Aegean Sea are easily accessible from Piraeus, the historic harbour of Greece's mainland capital, Athens, by ferry or hydrofoil, offering a unique chance for 'island-hopping'. Many of the larger islands also have airports with connections to Athens or seasonally with major European cities.

Basic Information
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 between the last Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use including the European-style two-pin and the round three-pin.

Money: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change are widely available and travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining euros.

Language: Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.

Travel Health: There are no specific health risks in Greece, but visitors who plan to walk through forested areas are advised to consider vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis. Medical facilities in Greece vary; those in major cities are excellent but many of the islands are some distance from a decent hospital. Food and water are safe, but those visiting for short periods should consider sticking to bottled water. UK nationals are entitled to a refund on emergency hospital treatment under a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Greece, and a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should be taken on holiday for this purpose. Despite this, all visitors are advised to take out medical insurance. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for those arriving from infected areas.

Tipping: A service charge is often included in the bill at restaurants in Greece, it is best to see if this is the case when tipping. If not, leave between 10 to 15%. For drinks at cafes, round the bill up to the nearest euro. Taxis expect change as do cloak room attendants and porters.

Safety Information: There is a safety risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and visitors are urged to be vigilant in public places, including tourist sites. The bombs that exploded in central Athens outside a police station on 5 May 2004 were not targeted at tourists, but visitors could be caught up accidentally in such incidents. Greece is otherwise considered a safe destination, but the height of the tourist season does usually see an increase in petty theft cases, particularly in crowded areas. Visitors are advised not to carry valuables on them. Violent crime is infrequent, but there have been incidents on some Greek islands and lone visitors are advised not to accept lifts from strangers.

Local Customs: Indecent behaviour is not tolerated and the police will not hesitate to arrest or fine offenders. Some form of official identification should be carried at all times.

Duty Free: Travellers from non-EU countries do not pay duty when entering Greece for 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with alcohol volume over 22%, or 2 litres of dessert wine not exceeding 22% alcohol volume and sparkling wine, and 2 litres of table wine; 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette; and other goods for non-commercial value to the value of €175 for adults and €90 for children under 15 years.

Business: Business in Greece is conducted in a similar fashion to Italy or Spain rather than their northern European counterparts. A formal dress style is adhered to; dark, conservative suits for men and women are best. Punctuality is not often practiced in Greece and often hosts arrive late to meetings. A firm handshake with eye contact is the norm for greeting men and women for the first time. Business cards should be printed in both Greek and English, although there is no ritual surrounding the exchange. Greeks like to get to know their business colleagues before conducting any serious business so don't expect to close a deal at the first meeting. Greek culture adheres to a hierarchical structure and respect should be shown accordingly. The giving of gifts is common in social circumstances though not necessarily in business. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Communications: The international access code for Greece is +30. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The city code for Athens is 210. There are often surcharges on calls made from hotels and it is generally cheaper to use OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) offices for local and international calls. Calls can also be made from public card phone booths and cards can be bought from kiosks or OTE offices. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Coverage is exceptional. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts and are cheaper than accessing the Internet from hotels.

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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens require a passport valid for at least three months after the end of their stay. No visa is required for a stay of up to three months if coming as a tourist.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals require a passport valid for the period of intended stay. British Citizens do not require a visa, and visa exemption is for three months for those with passports endorsed British National (Overseas), or British Overseas Territories Citizen and British Subject with the right of abode in the UK.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians must have a valid passport (must be valid at least three months beyond period of intended stay). No visa is required for a stay of up to three months, provided coming for touristic purposes.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australians require a passport valid at least three months beyond period of intended stay. A tourist visa is not required for a stay of up to three months provided coming for tourism.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must have a passport valid at least three months beyond expiry date of the visa. A visa is required. Greece accepts visas issued by other Schengen States according to the Schengen Agreement.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens require a passport (must be valid at least three months beyond period of intended stay). No visa is required for a stay of up to three months, provided coming for touristic purposes.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals must hold a passport valid for the period of their intended stay, but no visa is necessary.

Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. Non-EEA travellers to Greece must hold visible means of support. It is also recommended for non-EEA members to hold return/onward tickets. If arriving with a one-way ticket, passengers may be asked for proof of sufficient funds for the return/onward journey. Passports, other than EEA passports, must be valid for at least three months after period of stay. Visitors requiring a visa are also required to have medical insurance.

Greece Attractions

  • Acropolis - Those arriving in Athens for the first time generally head immediately for the Acropolis. There are very few visitors who are not already familiar with the image of this distinctive citadel of ancient Athens, perched on its steep flat-topped rock above the sprawling city.
  • Ancient Agora - Clustered below the Acropolis (enter from Odos Adrianou, east of Monastiraki Square) is the remains of the Agora, ancient Athens' commercial and civic centre, where once walked and talked the great philosophers Socrates and Plato.
  • The White Tower - The city's most famous landmark, the White Tower was originally built as part of the city walls. It now stands, no longer white but still imposing, on the seaside promenade south of the Archaeological Museum, having been restored and offering panoramic views of the city and harbour from its rooftop café.
  • Benaki Museum - Established in 1930, the museum houses prehistoric to modern Greek art and artifacts, occasionally hosting exhibitions, and restoration and conservation workshops. The collection features Paleolithic and Neolithic relics, and covers the late Roman Empire as it merged into the Byzantine Empire.

Events in Greece

  • Athens Festival - The city of Athens' cultural showcase is the two-phase Athens Festival, held every summer since 1955 at the magnificent 2,000 year old Herod Atticus Odeon, built in 161 AD, as well as other venues throughout the city.
  • Lycabettus Hill Festival - A perfect way to spend the hot summer nights in Athens in stunning surroundings and with first class entertainment is to attend some of the items presented at the annual Lycabettus Hill contemporary arts festival.
  • Traditional Greek Dance Festival - The warmth and energy of the Greek people is nowhere better demonstrated than in their traditional dancing, and this can be witnessed in fine style each summer night (except Mondays) at the theatre established by Greek folk expert, Dora Stratou, on Philopappus Hill in Athens. The dancers in each show do full justice to the costumes and ancient routines that make up each packed performance.

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Airports in Greece

  • Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH)
  • Location: The airport is situated 20 miles (33km) south east of Athens city centre.
  • Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 between last Sunday in April and last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +30 210 353 0000.
  • Getting to the city: The easiest and quickest way to reach the city centre from the airport is on board Athens' new Metro. Metro Line 3 connects the airport with Syntagma Square and Monastiraki. The airport is also served by six public bus routes, which connect to destinations in the greater area of Athens and Piraeus, buses running frequently day and night. Athens International is connected to Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station) by the Suburban Rail line. Finally, there are plenty of taxis to be hired at the ranks in front of the airport terminals, fares charged on a per kilometre basis.
  • Car rental: Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar and Sixt are all represented at the airport.
  • Airport Taxis: A taxi to the centre of the Athens costs €15 to 25 and takes roughly half an hour to an hour depending on the traffic. There are plenty of taxis to be hired at the ranks in front of the airport terminals, and fares charged on a per kilometre basis. Either agree on the fare before departure or make sure the driver sets the meter uses the correct rate. A '2' will display before the meter between midnight and 6am and means you pay double the price. Avoid touts and unlicensed taxis. Private hotel shuttle companies also run from Athens International Airport.
  • Facilities: The airport is well supplied with cafes, restaurants, bars and shops, including duty free. There are branches of two banks providing full services at the airport, and numerous ATMs and currency exchange bureaux are also available. Non-EU nationals can get VAT refunded at the EUROCHANGE currency exchange unit located at the Departures Level. Several travel agencies operate from the airport, and there is a Greek National Tourist Board information desk. Conference facilities are available and there is a business centre with Internet access, photocopier machines, faxes and secretarial services. A meeting room is also available. Disabled facilities are good; those with special needs should contact their airline in advance.
  • Parking: Short-term parking (up to four hours) is available right outside the arrivals level of the main terminal. Long-term car parks are the other side of the airport access road with free shuttle buses. Passengers can also opt for an executive valet parking service whose personnel receive and deliver vehicles at the main terminal's departure level.
  • Departure Tax: €12.15 (international), €8.51 (domestic). A security fee of €1.52 is also charged.

Weather and Climate in Greece

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 are severe.

Athens is known as one of the sunniest cities in Europe, with a semi-arid climate and low average annual rainfall. The rain that does occur falls during the winter months, between mid-October and mid-April, usually as short, heavy showers. Summers are very hot, exacerbated by smoggy conditions, and heatwaves are common during July and August when the mercury soars to over 104°F (40ºC). Winters are mild although frost can occur and nights can be cold. The best time to travel to Athens is during the cooler, fine weather of spring and summer.

The climate in Corfu features hot, dry summers and mild winter weather. Temperatures in July and August range from 90ºF (32ºC) during the day to 64ºF (18ºC) at night. Rainfall is unlikely during the peak summer season, but heavy showers can be expected between September and April.

Santorini is part of the Cyclades Island group, where the climate lends itself to hot, dry weather in summer and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August range from 86ºF (30ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and April.

The Rhodes climate ensures hot, dry weather in summer and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August range from 82ºF (28ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and March.

The Mykonos climate is characterised by hot, dry summer weather and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August range from 86ºF (30ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and April.

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent or more it is a criminal offence. A lower unit of 0.02 per cent applies to drivers who have held a licence for less than two years, and to motorcyclists.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK licence holder may drive temporarily imported car and/or motorcycle (over 50cc) 17.

Police can impose fines but not collect them on the spot. The fine must be paid at a Public Treasury office within 10 days. You can be fined for the unnecessary use of a car horn. Vehicles may be towed away if parked illegally, or if violating traffic regulations.

Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane) and diesel (petreleo) is available. No leaded petrol (lead replacement petrol available as 'Super 2002' 98 octane). It is forbidden to carry petrol in a can in a vehicle. LPG may not be used in private cars, only in taxis. Credit cards accepted at some filling stations. Check with your card issuer for use in Greece before travel.

Driving Distances:
Athens to Patras - 210kms (2 hours / 40 minutes)

Athens to Delphi - 210kms (2 hours / 30 minutes)
Patras to Thessaloniki - 480kms (7 hours)
Thessaloniki to Athens- 500kms (5 hours / 40 minutes)

Rhodes to Lindos - 48kms (1 hour)
Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility. The use of undipped headlights in towns is strictly prohibited.

Use of dipped headlights during the day compulsory. The wearing of crash helmets is compulsory.

Motor Insurance:
Third-party compulsory, including trailers.

Passengers / Children in cars:
It is prohibited for children over three years of age and under 1.50m to travel in the front seat of a vehicle. Children under five years of age must use a child restraint appropriate for their weight in all cars, vans and goods vehicles, except when travelling in the rear of taxis. They cannot be transported in the vehicle otherwise.

Approved child restraints are those conforming with standard ECE R44/03 (or later). Children measuring 1.35m or over can use a seat belt. Placing a rear-facing child restraint in the front passenger seat is allowed only on condition that the passenger airbag is deactivated.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front-seat occupants to wear seat belts.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers. In built-up areas; 31 mph (50 km/h) for cars, 24 mph (40 km/h) for motorcycles. Outside built-up areas: 55 mph (90 km/h) or 68 mph (110
km/h) for cars, 43 mph (70 km/h) for motorcycles. Motorways: 80mph (130 km/h) for cars and 55mph 90 km/h for motorcycles.

Compulsory equipment in Greece:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • First-aid-kit
  • Warning triangle

Other rules / requirements in Greece:

The police are empowered to confiscate the number plates of illegally parked vehicles throughout Greece. Generally this only applies to Greek-registered vehicles, but the drivers of foreign registered vehicles should beware of parking illegally.

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