Before visiting any country, it’s always wise to do your ‘homework’; learn basic phrases and words, something about the culture of the country, weather – so you know which clothes to pack, etc.
Visitors to Greece usually ask me questions about tipping, how safe it is to walk around, what to see and do and how to go about it.
Knowing the basics certainly helps make one’s visit or stay more enjoyable.
Tipping in Greece
There is no rule as to how much to tip in Greece. If you feel you need to tip the waitress or waiter who served your table, by all means do so. About 10% is a reasonable amount.
Taxi cab drivers are not normally tipped – it is necessary to check that the meter is on and you should ask for a receipt too.
If hiring a taxi to take you on a tour of the city or elsewhere, you should pre-arrange the cost involved and then there is no need to have him/her turn on the meter.
Make sure that tolls are also included in the quoted price if going out of Athens and having to go through tolls.
Hotel staff is normally tipped and that all depends on how pleased you are with their service. All in all, tipping is a personal issue; tip or don’t tip and the amount depends on how satisfied you are with the service offered.
Areas to Avoid
Omonia Square is notorious for drug smuggling, trafficking and pick-pocketing.
You should also avoid or just be on your guard when being on a bus, the metro or crowded areas and streets, Ermou Street – the main shopping street at Syntagma square is where many cases have been reported.
I believe it is because we are so preoccupied looking at the lovely shop windows that we become easy bait for pickpockets; they are very skillful – before you know it, your wallet is gone and your holiday ruined.
This is not something one wishes to experience.
As is the case with most big cities, you just need to be careful.
I suggest you do not carry your passport around; keep it in the safe deposit box which you most probably have at your hotel. Any money or credit cards you carry around – just make sure to have them all on your body – in a money pouch or zipped inner jacket pocket.
Carry a photocopy of your ID or passport on you at all times and I also advise you have a business card of the hotel you are staying at.
Shoes to wear
Greece is a country you will want to walk around a lot; it’s the best way to see everything. I advise you to have a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes.
When walking on the Acropolis and other ancient sites, you will notice it can be extremely slippery at times, especially in the early morning before the sun has dried up the marble or if it has rained a bit.
There are also lovely walking or hiking tours you can take so, if you’ve forgotten to pack any comfy trainers, you will either be missing out on a lot, or rushing around looking to buy a pair.
With 360 days of sunshine in Greece – if you are not used to the sun, you’d be wise to wear sunscreen at all times. Throughout the year, Greece is generally sunny – that is why solar heating is such a major issue here – take precautions and don’t go back home looking like a ripe tomato.
Be warned! Most Greeks don’t adhere to road-safety laws. It’s like a cat and mouse game with the traffic police, who have a very hard job trying to keep order on the streets.
Notice that most road signs are in both English and Greek, however, the further into the countryside you go, the fewer English signs you’ll see.
If you need directions, do stop and ask the locals – they are most times very eager to help out.
Drive safely and keep to your side of the road – to the right. Fast lane and overtaking takes place on the left but always be cautious of the “clever” driver who thinks he’s on a F1 race track.
If you’re planning to rent a car, by all means do so – just keep in mind that not all drivers are law-abiding.