Greece

Greece essential Information

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

Advantages

Greece is a country blessed with some of the most stunning landscapes that not only Europe but the world has to offer. Travelling across this beautiful land you will soon forget about the doom and gloom of back home. The E-90 from the border of Turkey to Thessaloniki is busy with truck traffic, making it all the more likely to hitch a ride and although wild camping is illegal, there are plenty of beaches and hidden away place on which to pitch a tent and no-one will bother you. Apart from that, buckle up and get ready, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Sunset over a city beach - Athens, Greece

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage about hitch-hiking in Greece is that simply cars do not stop. Well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration. More accurately: cars stop very very very irregularly. Whilst we did have some success travelling from the Turkish border to the city of Thessaloniki, the journey from Thessaloniki down to the Larissa was torturous. The journey from Larissa to Athens – impossible. We acknowledge that this was only our experience. We would love to hear about yours.

English is also not widely spoken in Greece outside of the big cities, and we found that some people knew German so bear this in mind when there.

In summer Greece is hot, so always try and find shade and drink lots of water.

Prejudice towards neighbouring Albania and Macedonia is prevalent (see Political Situation), better just to avoid the subject.

Crossing the Greece-Turkey border will also give you a memorable experience should you choose to try and hitch-hike across. Read more about our experience here

Crossed tree trunks and the sparkling sea in the background - Thessaloniki, 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 Grapa 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, 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 aaccommodation 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 - Glifa, 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 peninsular.

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

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

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. Although, 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

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

Types of roads

Greece motorway sign

1) Motorways (Αρίθμηση, A-roads) There are 10 main routes throughout the Greek mainland and Crete, with numerous branches/auxiliary routes. A few are toll roads, such as the A6 Attiki Odos around Athens and unless otherwise states the speed limit is 120 Km/h Hitch-hiking on them is illegal

Greece National Road sign

2) National Roads (Εθνικές οδοί) The speed limit is 50 Km/h in built up areas and either 90 Km/h or 110 Km/h out of town. hitch-hiking on them is legal.

3) Country roads are often in poor condition and the traffic is absolutely minimal but hitch-hiking on them is legal.

Road Map

road map of Greece

source: ezilon.com

Speed limit on Greek roads

Greece speed limits

Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook

hello – Γεια σας (YAH sahss – frm) Γεια σου (YAH soo – inf)
thank you (very much) –  Ευχαριστώ (πολύ). (ef-hah-rees-TOH po-LEE)
- goodbye – αντίο. (AHN-dee-oh)
- hitch-hiking –  ωτοστόπ (or – TO – stop)
- I don’t have money –  Δεν έχω χρήματα (then ekho KHRI-ma-ta)
- we don’t have money – δεν έχουμε τα χρήματα (then EH-khoo-meh  KHRI-ma-ta)
- money –  χρήματα (KHRI-ma-ta)
Where are you going? – πού πας; (pou’ PA-te)
I’m going to… – Πάω να.. (páo na..)
– We are going to… – πρόκειται να… (PRO-kei-tai na…)
- I am… – Είμαι.. (yme)
– I am from… – Είμαι από… (yme apó…)
– Pleased to meet you! – Χάρηκα για την γνωρημία (Hárika ya tin gnorimía – frm) Χάρηκα (Hárika – inf)
– I don’t understand – Δεν καταλαβαίνω (dhen kah-tah-lah-veh-no)
– now – τώρα (TOH-rah)
– today – σήμερα (SEE-meh-ra)
– yesterday – χτες (khtes)
– tomorrow – αύριο (AHV-ree-oh)
friend – φίλος (FEE-los)
→Very useful when they ask you where you’re staying. The concept of Couchsurfing is often too difficult to explain, so just say you’re staying with a friend. You can also use this word to express the relationship between you and your fellow travellers.
Can you stop? – Μπορείς να σταματήσεις; (bo-REI- te na sta-ma-TI-se-te)
– I want to get out – Θέλω να βγούμε. (THEH-loh na v-GOU-me)
– Turn left – Στρίψτε αριστερά. (STREEP-steh ah-riss-teh-RAH)
– Turn right - Στρίψτε δεξιά. (STREEP-steh dheh-xee-AH)
– Straight ahead - ευθεία (eh-fthee-ah)
– here – εδώ (e-DO)
– over there – εκεί πέρα (e-KEI PE-ra)
– beer – μπύρα (MBI-ra)
→You should know this word, you will be often invited for some.
- bus station – σταθμό λεωφορείων (STA-si  le-oh-for-RI-ool)
→You  should know this word and listen out for it to avoid situations when your driver, in their best intentions, takes you off the road and drives you to a station.
- train station – σταθμό τρένο (STA-si TRE-noo)
- ferry – πλοίων (PLI-oo)

A statue of Athena near somebody's front door, Athens, Greece

Main Border Crossings

Greece – Albania

There are four border crossings between Greece and Albania

→The main crossing is at Kakavia. It is situated on the Sarandë and Gjirokastër to Ioannina road, which passes through the border crossing.

The other crossings are at Konitsa, Krystallopigi and Sagiada, more information can be found here

Greece – Macedonia

There are three land crossings between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia

→The main crossing is situated in Evzoni, 70 km north of Thessaloniki along the E75 European route.

→The other crossings can be found at Niki, north of Florina; and Doïrani, 30km north of Kilkis., more information can be found here

Greece – Bulgaria

There are three border crossings between Greece and Bulgaria

→The main crossing is Promahonas, just over 100 km northeast of Thessaloniki, on the European route E79.

→The other crossings are situated at Ormenio, at the very tip of north-eastern Greece, and a tunnel border crossing at Exohi, about 50km north of Drama. More information can be found here

Greece – Turkey

There are two border crossings between Greece and Turkey.

→The main border crossing is Kipoi, and is the most convenient if you are travelling from Greece to Istanbul. WARNING: crossing on foot can be very problematic as there is a mile of no-man’s-land between the two borders and you are not allowed to walk across. We had a hard time trying to find a car that would take us across. You can read about our trials and tribulations at Kipoi/Ipsala here

→The other crossing can be found at Kastanies, on the European route E85. More information can be found here.

One of the Museums near the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Most Beautiful Nature Spot

We have not travelled as extensively as we would have liked in Greece, so any contributions from our fellow travellers would be well appreciated. Saying that one place we did visit that we thought was particularly beautiful was the small fishing village of Glyfa. We stumbled across this seaside resort after heading for the sea and somewhere to camp.

Its clear water and beach bays were relatively clear of the usual tourists, and bathing in the water in the evening sun was a pleasure.

Beach parasol, taken at dusk - Glyfa, Greece (1)

Best City / Town

It is undeniable the Greek capital of Athens that deserves the title of best city. Its museums and monuments stand alone as vestiges of an ancient history. The Acropolis stands high over the city and is an omnipotent presence as you wander down through the old town. Passing Ancient Roman and Greek ruins, tucked away behind winding alleys, forgotten relics of a bygone time. When the sun sets the people of Athens, shrug off the impending fiscal disaster by filling the cafés, restaurant and pubs of the city, eating and drinking late into the night.

View over the city with the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in the foreground - Athens, Greece

Thessaloniki also deserves an honourable mention and as a big university town, is definitely an enjoyable place to spend a few days.

White Tower of Thessaloniki and seafront - Thessaloniki, Greece

Best area for hitch-hiking

Seeing as our hitch-hiking in Greece was far from a success, it is quite difficult to identify an area in which it was easiest or most rewarding. Saying this, we did have some success travelling from the Turkish border to the city of Thessaloniki in the north. Travelling along the Aegean coast we were treated to some dramatic landscapes and contrasting hills and coastline. The motorway was quite direct from the border and we had no problem in arriving to Thessaloniki

Icon shop with impressive discounts - Thessaloniki, Greece

Our Experience

We hitch-hiked in Greece as part of our The Caucasus – Turkey – Greece by Thumb 2011 with Jon having previously visited in 2007.

In the week that we spent in Greece we visited 3 places, and hitch-hiked a total of 658 km.

This was our route:

This country guide was also published by GReece on 27th April 2012.

written by: Jon

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