Planning a trip to Greece
Planning a trip to Greece can be both incredibly exciting and completely overwhelming. We’ve done it multiple times and yet each year presents new challenges as we flesh out the best Greece itinerary to include new places to discover and old favourites.
Most people want to include Greek Island hopping but what about Athens and the rest of the mainland? How do get there and then get around? Where are the best places to stay and what are the ideal places to see in Greece? Are there Visa requirements? What about Insurance? How far out should I book? What will the weather be like? What to pack!?
These are just some of the questions you will ask yourself when planning a trip to Greece and here is our planning guide to help you!
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Basic Facts about Greece
It consists of 132,000 sq kilometres of land including 227 inhabited islands. The population is just under 11 million people.
The religion is East Orthodoxy ( Christian) , they drive on the right hand side of the road and the calling code is +30.
Passports and Visas
Other countries such as Singapore, Australia and the USA also do not require one but several countries do. Check the official Government website to be sure.
When is the best time to visit Greece?
Peak season is July and August and Easter.
More information on this is available here.
How to get to Greece
It is also common for visitors to arrive by sea on both cruise ships and private yachts and charters as well as by train, road and even on foot!
What are the best places in Greece to see
Greece has many incredible destinations and is considered home to some of the most beautiful and interesting sites in the world. There are 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites with another 16 under consideration.
Most people want to see the Greek Islands and particularly the much-photographed islands of Santorini and Mykonos in the Cyclades Group of islands.There are actually several island groups – the Cyclades, the Dodacannese, the Saronic islands, the Sporades Islands, the Northern Aegean islands and Crete so island hopping in the Greek Islands is popular but does require some research.
There are also some incredible things to see on the mainland including Athens – ancient sites like Delphi and Olympia as well as places of considerable natural beauty and wonder such as Meteora and Mt Athos. The Peloponnese peninsula is becoming more popular and is thought by many to be the ‘real Greece’.
It is easy to organise your own visit to Greece, using the various tips, links and articles on this website. Some people prefer to have it all organised for them and join tours and that’s fine too.
How many days in Greece do you need?
The fifty million dollar question. Many people will probably say the best length of time to spend in Greece is 3 months, or even FOREVER, but of course that is not viable for most visitors.
We have a number of suggested itineraries for Greece but as a general rule of thumb would say you need the following minimums;
- Greece – 4 days. And you will likely only see Athens and a day trip somewhere else.
- Greek Islands – 5 days, which will give you 2 islands.
- Athens and islands – 7 days
- Crete – 7 days.
Ideal minimum – 2 weeks. Perfect duration 4-6 weeks ( or forever).
Itineraries for Greece
One of the biggest challenges most people face when planning a trip to Greece is landing on the best itinerary. One that maxismises their time, caters to their interests and stays within their budget.
Many first timers will do the Greek Golden Triangle of Athens-Santorini-Mykonos although some may also venture on to popular spots like Crete, Rhodes and Corfu. Then what? With over 220 populated islands and 131,000 km of area there are so many places to go and things to do you can get TOTALLY overwhelmed.
These are some of the itineraries that we suggest and you can also download our FREE 7 DAY itinerary too!
Transport in Greece
Transport around the country varies and can be at times woefully inadequate or exceptionally good. Whilst private drivers are not as common nor as affordable as in come countries, they do exist. The train and bus network is not as modern or efficient as those in say, France or Italy but the Ferry network is probably the most extensive and effective, in the world.
In Athens taxis drivers, like many cities, can be a bit hit and miss so it pays to have the details of a trusted one. I highly recommend a driver called Nikos Mpousdoukos at Mercedes Taxi Club who is very punctual, professional and drives a lovely new Mercedes. For private transfers we use and recommend CATTaxi and if you use the Promo code “GTS” when you book through this link you will receive a further 10% off! That’s less than 2 Euro more than a taxi!
For other transport options to and from Athens airport, read our article HERE.
To fly between destinations, which is often quicker and cheaper than ferries, we use Aegean/Olympic, although sometimes Skyexpress and even Ryanair will be a good choice. Schedules for ferries, trains and planes are often not available until a few months in advance.
Another popular choice of course is sailing and we have a complete sailing the Greek Island guide to get you started.
Tours in Greece
There are many tours to and around Greece. Some focus solely on Greece whilst other may combine other countries such as Italy or Turkey. Some last only a few hours in a single destination whilst other can be your entire holiday. Some move at a frenetic pace whilst others embrace a slow approach to exploring Greece. Some appeal to young people on a tight budget whilst others appeal to wealthy retirees – and everything in between.
Our preferred Private Transfer guys also do some great trips from Athens and can meet you at your hotel or at Pireaus port. They can customize tours to suit your interests and can cater for groups in their brand new Mercedes vans.
We’ve also partnered with a couple of large tour companies that we believe represent good value and have solid reputations. Tour Radar offer great tours between 3 days and 3 weeks from a number of providers including Busabout, Contiki, Insight Vacations and Trafalgar. Intrepid Travel host small group tours and often visit lesser known spots. Get your Guide are great for doing local activities and day trips.
For a full list of our recommendations see our Tours in Greece post.
Accommodation in Greece
We try and support businesses in Greece that are family owned and run when booking accommodation in Greece. This isn’t always possible but when we do we generally use Booking.com. They often allow free cancellation and have the largest portfolio in the country with everything from B&Bs to All Inclusive resorts.
Sometimes it is more convenient to stay in private Villas and apartments, especially if you are a larger group. Many of them are now listed on Airbnb. You may hear some horror stories about Airbnb in the media but we have used them for years as both guests and hosts and have had very positive experiences. Do not let anyone talk you into sending money direct and make sure you use the platform, as it is intended, at all times.
The same goes for VRBO who have a huge range of rentals including some unique converted windmills and traditional Cycladic homes.
Travel Insurance for Greece
We recommend a couple of brands, however make sure to always read the PDS statements and ensure the cover is right for you and your situtation.
Like anywhere the locals appreciate your efforts to learn a few useful phrases of Greek, even if its just the basics like Hello, thank you and Goodbye.
It is a relatively easy language to learn with many Greek words used in English and other languages today. The difficulty of course is in the delivery.
Money in Greece
Cash is still very much appreciated and credit card facilities in remote areas may be scarce.
Legally you must always be given a receipt including and clearly showing, the local taxes.
What to pack for a holiday in Greece
First and foremost you need to pack light. When you’re dragging your bag over narrow cobblestones, up and down ferry gangplanks, and putting it in the back of small rental cars you will be VERY glad of this.
I have a small hardcover Lojel bag which I adore -it’s waterproof and takes a beating. I can usually use it as carryon on the planes but it can also expand if I do some shopping and I can then check it in. It has come in handy as both a table and a chair at times too!
There are some wonderful shops in Greece so if you love shopping you can pack mostly essentials and pick up many things there. As I often say they are the inventors of sandals and togas and their shoes and kaftans to this day are gorgeous!
Things you will need for much of the year are swimwear, sunscreen, insect repellent,light natural fiber dresses/shorts/shirts/tops, toiletries and shoes – flipflops/thongs, reef/surf shoes and a pair of sneakers. I usually buy a hat when I get there and give it away when we leave, the same goes for a cheap towel or two. It also pays to have a reusable shopping bag that can double as a beach bag.
You may also want things like hairdryers/styling irons, heels, and an evening clutch but I have found these things rarely get used, if ever. Things are casual in Greece, especially in summer. It’s not unusual to see people swim over to dinner from their boats on the islands!
Many travellers either choose to buy cheap local ‘burner phones’ on arrival, local SIM cars or use their home carrier. We have a deal with Vodaphone for $5 in many countries including Greece although even this can end up being expensive on a long trip.
Another option is to get a Skyroam Global Hotspot. You can keep up to 5 WiFi-enabled gadgets online simultaneously without the hassle of international roaming fees, SIM swapping, or unlocking devices by purchasing a hotspot and pay-as-you-go (monthly or daily), or rent a hotspot with unlimited global WiFi just for one trip.
Regardless of which method you use make sure you take note of important contacts and emergency numbers in Greece.