The Greek Islands provide multifaceted experiences for the millions of travelers who journey to its shores. From Athens, one can set on a classic tour of the ancient past to be found on the Greek mainland and in the many museums and ruins found in almost every city. And then there are the incredible Greek Islands with its deep blue waters and golden beaches. Many people fly into Athens and step right onto their dream cruise through the Aegean Sea to distant shores. For this adventure, we have turned to the islands to select our top 10 favorites because as a poet said long ago, "Greece rests on the sea." We hope the following tips will help you to sail smoothly from Greek Island to Greek Island.
Flying: The Athens International Airport opened in 2001 and is located 13 miles east of central Athens. Over 15 million travelers per year pass through its facilities. From this location one can make connections to the major Greek Islands or other forms of public transportation to move onto your next destination.
Roads/Rails: Athens is also the hub for trains and buses, not to mention all sizes of ferries and cruise ships in nearby Piraeus. There are car rentals everywhere and most people rent cars for at least some of the time they are on the islands. The smallest size of the little Euro-boxes run around $25 dollars a day. You won't need anything much larger as some of the village streets are just wide enough for one tiny car at time. Motorcycles are much cheaper but we have seen far too many accidents to recommend them. Roadsigns can disappear just when you need them most but the people are helpful and the distances are never great.
Sea: Ferries and hydrofoil boats are the most common way of getting around the islands. Although very inexpensive, the frequent inability to maintain posted schedules can be very frustrating. Travelers should arrive well before departure and pay close attention as the ferries and hydrofoils do not linger long in any port. So whether they arrive late or early, if you are not right on the pier ready to go, you could find yourself spending another day or more in the same location. Until recently, the Greek ferry system had a good safety record. But travelers should be aware that charges have been made that maintainance has become lax and seas can get rough.
Money: The currency in Greece has been the Euro since 2002 and no other currency is accepted. Check for the latest exchange rate but recently it has been US $1=.70Euro. It is a good idea to determine local banking hours but there are now ATM machines located throughout the islands. Keep in mind that most restaurants will only accept cash
Communication: Greek is the official language but English and German are widely spoken (especially in shops and hotels). There are public phones everywhere that operate with phone cards, which can be purchased in many shops. Internet services are available in many cafes, hotels, and tourist offices.
Health: The most prevalent tourist illness is gastric in nature, so appropriate medications should be brought with you. Exercising caution can greatly reduce any onset of short-term discomfort. Almost everyone carries around a cold bottle of water. Another health precaution is to protect yourself from too much exposure to heat and sun. During the hot Greek summers, it can be easy to develop sun sickness, dehydration, or sun stroke relatively quickly but using minor precautions such as sunscreens, drinking fluids or wearing light clothing and hats can prevent most of it. The most common pest is the mosquito, so pack insect repellent. There are pharmacies everywhere that can provide medications and other first aid items that you may not have brought with you.
Security: Theft is a traveler's concern that requires utilizing common sense. We have not found theft to be a major problem in Greece. Most hotels provide safe deposit boxes which should be used for valuables. You can reduce risks by keeping the display of valuables to a minimum when on the streets. Also, it is always a good travel idea to take photocopies of your passport, tickets, credit cards, etc. that you store away separate from the main place where you store or carry these items. Keep an alert eye on your things while relaxing on the beaches.
Shopping: Everywhere you travel in Greece, one finds many sidewalk stores and booths crammed full of things to take back home. The range of goods includes pottery, clothing, jewelry, post cards, local soaps, etc. Like many places these days, there seems to be a decreasing variety of items to buy, but the price and designs remain too attractive to resist.
Lodging: There is a wide range of hotels, apartments, rooms and campgrounds. High season is July, August and September which is always more expensive and crowded. Reservations are not a bad idea. Air conditioning is not always a given. If it is important to you, be sure to ask in advance. In apartments or studios, you might ask to see if you can rent a fan. We have some good hotel guides on our link page.