7 things to be aware of when backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Sleeping in the wild - Glifa, Greece

7 things to be aware of when backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Visas

As a member of the European Union and a member of the Schengen treaty, the same visa rights apply as in other EU countries.

EU nationals are not required to get a visa and can stay as long as they like.

Stays of 90 days or less, also do not require a visa for nationals from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Other nationalities should check with the Greek embassy in their own countries.

Further information can be found here or here.

Temple of Zeus, Athens, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

 Food & Drink

A meal at a restaurant will set you back about $20, $30 if you include wine. Common dishes include moussaka, baked dish of aubergine, minced meat, tomato and white sauce, pastitsio, a type of lasagna and stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stewHowever, there are street food options available which can save you a lot of money. Gyros (γύρος, GHEER-ohs), roast pork or chicken wrapped in a fried pita with filling and Souvlaki (σουβλάκι, soov-LAH-kee), grilled meat on a skewer are both extremely popular and cheap quick eat options.

To drink, beer is consumed all over the country but the locals prefer imported northern European products such as  Heineken and Amstel to locally produced varieties such as Mythos, Vergina, Alpha and Fix. Locals tend to drink wine with popular local produce including Imiglyko (half-sweet red) and Retsina (resinated wine with a strong, distinctive taste) furthermore almost every taverna has its own barrelled wine, which is usually good quality and fairly priced. The most famous local liquor is Ouzo, a transparent anise-flavoured spirit, which turns milky white when mixed with water. Raki or tsikoudia is very similar to Italian Grappa and is served cold in the summer months.

Be warned that in almost all cafés, there is a cover charge (ranging from 0.3-2€) just to sit down.

Eating times are later to what you would expect in Northern Europe, so bear this in mind when planning when to eat:

1) breakfast – very light, usually just coffee and a pastry
2) lunch – around 2 p.m.
3) dinner – main meal of the day, eaten late, usually around 9 p.m.

View over Athens from Mount Lycabettus - Athens, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Accommodation

The price and quality of budget accommodation in Greece depends an awful lot on time and place but be prepared to pay anything between 15-60 €. Be warned that during the high season (Jun – Aug) prices are much higher than in the rest of the year and prices on the Greek islands are generally higher than the mainland. In the larger cities (Athens, Thessaloniki…) hostels are available and are the cheapest form of accommodation When there are no hostels, be ready to camp. There are numerous campsites around the country, failing that you can camp wild (although it is illegal, so hide yourself well).

Sleeping in the wild - Glyfa, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Weather

The weather in Greece is, on the whole, Mediterranean typified by relatively mild winters and very warm summers. However, due to the unique local geography a number of micro-climates are also in action over the peninsula.

The northern reaches of the country have a climate similar to the Balkans, with extremely cold winters and very hot, humid summers. To the west of the Pindus mountain range, the climate is generally wetter and to the east it is generally drier and windier in summer. On the Attica Peninsula, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, and in central and eastern Peloponnese exists a more typically Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and milder winters.

The Etesians (also known as meltimi) are annual winds that blow roughly from May to October and sweep the eastern coast of mainland Greece. Their highest frequency are in July and August and they serve to lessen the temperature fluctuations in summer. The wind is both a blessing and curse as although it reduces the humidity during the summer months it also plays havoc with ferry schedules and blows away everything that isn’t tied down.

Beach in Glyfa, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Gestures

In Greece, one gesture you should never use is an open palm with fingers slightly spread, shoved toward someone’s face. It is called a moutza and is a serious insult. Another slightly confusing gestures is nodding to mean ‘no’! Greeks also commonly wave goodbye with their palm facing them, something akin to the English language ‘come here’ sign.

Evzone - Greek guard in front of the Parliament, Athens, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Political Situation

Greece’s relations with three of its neighbours are quite strained and the prejudice that exists can sometimes be quite uncomfortable to endure. Greeks, on the whole, seem to mistrust Albanians and the feeling is more than mutual. The ‘naming dispute’ with Macedonia, stems from the Greek claims to historical and territorial claims over the name Macedonia and all its Alexander the Great associations. Greece demands that a geographical qualifier be used, the Republic of Macedonia refuses and this conflict will run and run. Relations with Turkey have been marked by mutual hostility and then reconciliation since Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Since that time the countries have fought 4 separate wars and the Turkish annexation of northern Cyprus has strained relations further. However, in recent years things between the two countries have improved.

Problems with other countries is one thing, problems within Greece itself is another. Strikes, demonstrations, protests, both violent and non-violent, are common place in the economic disaster that is Greece. Confrontation between the police and the people is sadly all too frequent. If you do get caught up in a protest, use your common sense. If looks like it might get violent, run.

The Hellenic Parliament, Athens, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

Ferries

The archipelagic nature of Greece and the subsequent ferry rides can be a hurtful expense to the penny pinching traveller. The cheapest tickets are normally available for around 30€, though it does depend greatly on the distance you are planning to travel. From Athens most ferries will set you back around 50€. Savings can be made if you book in advance, take the slowest options and for longer journeys taking the night boats. Ferries are often late or cancelled at the last minute, complaining about it isn’t going to help, so just relax you’re on holiday, remember?

The silent port and beach parasol at night - Glyfa, Greece, backpacking and hitch-hiking in Greece

written by: Jon

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