The currency used in Greece is the Euro which is made up of 100 Cent. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
The official language is modern Greek but English, French, German and Italian are widely spoken in the tourist areas.
Thanks to its geographic location, Greece is fortunate to experience a climate that brings with it mild winters and warm summers. Even in summer, however, it never becomes unbearably hot thanks to the cool seasonal breezes which keep everyone comfortable. The weather usually stabilises in early summer and brings bright sunshine and very little rainfall. From April to October the weather is more changeable as the winds vary from area to area.
Greece is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
It is difficult to give a guide to opening hours in Greece as they are somewhat erratic. What follows is an extremely general guide. Most shops still remain closed on Sundays but tourist based stores are now beginning to do Sunday trade. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, opening hours are between 9.00 and 3.00pm and from Tuesday to Friday they are between 9.00am and 2.00pm and 5.00pm and 7.00pm. The traditional siesta usually takes place between 3.00pm and 5.00pm but again in tourist centres, this is usually not the case. In fact, some tourist shops remain open from 8.00am until 10.00pm. Office hours are open from Monday to Friday between 8.00am and 3.00pm but you also need to check the particular office beforehand to confirm.
Electricity in Greece is 220V - 50Hz, AC
Unless otherwise state, all accommodation prices include a service charge which usually amounts to about 12%. In most restaurants the service charge is 13%. Again this should be included in the price. Purchases include VAT of between 4 and 18%. If you are a non EU national and purchase an item costing more than 40,000dr then you are entitled to most of the money back if you export it within 90 days of purchase. In order to do this, you should shop in places that display the ‘Tax Free for Tourists’ sign or obtain a Tax-Free Check Form which you complete in the store.
American, Canadian, Australian, Israeli, New Zealand and EU nationals can stay in Greece for a period of up to ninety days without a visa. All you will need is a valid passport. After this period, you should apply to the Aliens Bureau or the local police for an extension at least twenty days before your original stay expires. Residents from all other countries should check with the Greek Embassy in their home country before travelling.
There are two organisations in Greece which oversee the tourism trade – the Greek National Tourist Organisation (GNTO) and the tourist police. The GNTO, or EOT in Greek, supply general tourist information about the country and their main office is in Athens at No. 2, Amerikis Streeet (Tel: 01 322 41 28). The tourist police deal with more specific issues such as bus timetables, lost passports etc and their phone number is 171 if you’re in Athens, or 922 77 77 if you are outside the capital.
In Greece, traveller’s cheques can be cashed at all banks and also in a number tourist agencies and shops. Banks are normally open between 8.00am and 2.00pm from Monday to Thursday and from 8.00am until 1.30pm on Fridays. Certain branches in the major cities and tourist areas offer exchange facilities later in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings. Commissions can vary considerably, banks usually charge between 400 and 600dr while travel agencies may give a less competitive rate.
As well as traveller’s cheques, you can use your credit card or your ATM card. Again, this is most applicable in the resort areas and in the case of the latter you will have to ensure that your card is compatible. This is usually stated clearly on the ATM and on the back of your card. The most convenient way of obtaining money, this is usually the cheapest too, despite the fact that you pay a minimum fee each time you withdraw cash.
The country code for Greece is 30 but if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 30, the local area code and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within Greece.
All public phones use phone cards which can be purchased at OTE telephone offices and kiosks. Cards come in three denominations – 100, 500 and 1,000 units priced 1,300, 6,000 and 11,500dr respectively. The phone system is modern and efficient and has a facility which explains all the instructions clearly in English. You can also make direct long distance and international calls from all public phones. When you are on some of the more remote islands some travel agencies will allow you to use the phone but you should be aware that you will pay a rather costly rate.
Although a service charge of between 10% and 15% is included on all restaurant bills, it is customary to leave a further 10% as a tip. Even if the bill is quite small you should leave change up the nearest 100dr. You should also tip taxi drivers about 10% or leave them any small change that you might be owed.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Greece they take place on January 1st, 6th, the first Monday during Lent, March 25th, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1st, Pentecost, August 15th, October 28th and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.