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Greece: Athens and the Greek Isles 2 - FAQ
With such a rich and varied itinerary and so many aspects to touring Greece, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Athens and the Greek Isles tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information you'll need as you get ready for your Greek adventure.
Greece is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In reference to North American time zones, it's 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, 9 hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time, and 10 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. Note that Greece does observe daylight saving time, although it may not start and stop on the same days as in North America. The European 24-hour clock is used to measure time, so on schedules you'll see noon as 1200, 3:30pm as 1530, and 11pm as 2300. In informal conversation, however, Greeks express time much as we do, although noon may mean anywhere from noon to 3pm, afternoon is 3 to 7pm, and evening is 7pm to midnight.
There are so many beautiful things to bring back with you from Greece, so make sure you have space left in your suitcase. You do not need formal clothing for this trip, as very few places have formal dress codes in Greece. Some people like to dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants, but this is optional. Some churches may require that you cover your bare shoulders and legs when entering, so it's useful to carry a light scarf with you. Keep in mind that during the Athens and the Greek Isles tour we will be taking two domestic flights and the check-in luggage limit on Greek domestic flights is 23 kilograms (50lbs.), so you should pack light. There is no luggage service on the hydrofoil that we'll be taking from Santorini to Crete, so you should be able to carry and handle your own luggage.
Visitors from the US, Canada and Australia need a valid passport, but no visas are not required for Americans, Canadians or Australians visiting for less than 3 months. If you are a citizen of another E.U. country, you do not need a passport, only an identity card. Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the European Union. Before traveling abroad it's a good idea to make two photocopies of your passport, your driver's license and your credit cards. Leave one copy at home with a trusted person and another in your suitcase.
|ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION |
This tour starts and ends in Athens International Airport (airport code ATH). The tour starts at 4:00PM on Friday, September 13, 2019 in Athens, Greece, and your flight should arrive no later than 2:00PM. You will probably depart North America on Thursday, September 12, 2019. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early. We have arranged for individual airport transfers on arrival in accordance with your flight arrival time, and you will be met by a chauffeur on your arrival in Athens. This tour ends at 8:00AM on Monday, September 23, 2019 at the Athens airport, so your return flight should leave no sooner than 10:00AM on September 23, 2019. If you need help with your flights to Greece, please feel free to give us a call.
To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones) drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight, exercise and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.
The Greece group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 6 women + the tour director. In addition to the tour director, the travelers will be assisted by private local guides and bus drivers, who will accompany the group throughout the tour.
Greece does not offer free medical treatment to visitors. Travelers from Canada and the United States must pay for medical services rendered, but will be reimbursed by their travel insurance. There are very few health problems encountered while traveling in Greece. The tap water is generally safe to drink, the milk is pasteurized, and health services are good. Occasionally, the change in diet can cause some minor diarrhea, so you might want to take along some anti-diarrhea medicine. You should limit your exposure to the sun, especially during the first few days of your trip and between 11am to 2pm. Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor and apply it liberally. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers, with pharmacy labels. Otherwise, they won't make it through airport security. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name.
The public drinking water in Greece is safe to drink, although it can be slightly brackish in some locations near the sea. For that reason, many people prefer the bottled water available at restaurants, hotels, cafes, food stores, and kiosks. The days when Greek restaurants automatically served glasses of cold fresh water are gone, but you can ask for the tap or house water: just be sure to do so before the waiter opens bottled water. If you do order bottled water, you will have to choose between natural or carbonated (metalliko), and domestic or imported. Cafes, however, tend to provide a glass of natural water.
Western-style flushable toilets are the norm in Greece, but be aware that the general Greek method is to put the used toilet paper in the wastebasket located near the toilet, rather than flushing it. Bring your own supply of toilet paper, soap or hand sanitizer as these aren't always provided. Please keed in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them.
The crime rate in Greece is among the lowest in Western Europe. Even though petty crime in Athens is on the rise, it is still one of the safest European capitals. Travelers can become targets of pickpockets and purse-snatchers, particularly at popular sites, in restaurants, and on public transportation. In general, visitors to Greece should carry limited cash and credit cards and should leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at the hotel safe. Travelers should also avoid using ATMs in isolated or poorly lit areas.
Young women, especially singles or in small groups, may find Greek men coming on to them, especially at beaches, clubs, and other tourist locales in a rather forward manner. But in general, Greek men do not attempt any physical contact and sooner or later respect "No." Women should also be aware that some cafes and even restaurants are effectively male-only haunts; the males will not appreciate attempts by foreign women to enter these places.
During the Athens and the Greek Isles tour in Greece, we will travel by bus, by hydrofoil and by air. To be able to fully enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 4 miles throughout the day. You should be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you should be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous, although it is busy. You must be prepared for a couple of full days and some early starts.
Greece has a warm, dry climate. The best time to visit begins in May (when the average temperature is 69 °F (21 °C) degrees and rainfall less than 0.6" (1.5 cm) through early October. The weather on the islands is about 10-15 °F (6-8 °C) cooler than Athens, and can get chilly at night. Santorini may have some strong winds in May and September, and Crete is mild and sunny nearly all year round. It's best to bring summer "beach" clothing, but also a cardigan/light jacket for the evenings which can be chilly.
Greece's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Greece's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.
Voltage in Greece is 200 volts AC (50 cycles) and the plug is the typical European plug with two round prongs. Many stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers and adapters, and they can also be purchased on arrival in Athens airport, as well. If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Any heat generating appliances that you bring need a transformer, and they may still not work properly with the different voltage. Small electronics which are "meant to travel", such as laptops, tablets, iPhones, etc., have dual voltage, so you only need a plug converter.
For English speakers, communicating in Greece is usually not a problem, as many Greeks have studied it and find it necessary to use in their work, particularly in the tourist industry. You should still learn a few words in Greek, and your effort will be rewarded by your hosts, who realize how difficult their language is for foreigners and will patiently help you improve your pronunciation and usage. Reading street signs may be a problem, as Greek uses Cyrillic althabet, but if you know some Russian, you may be able to sound the letters out.
The Euro, the new single European currency, is the official currency of Greece. Each Euro is divided into 100 Eurocents. Some people like to bring local currency with them when traveling to a foreign country, but it is not needed, and depends on what you're comfortable with. We believe that the easiest way to get local currency is on arrival at the airport ATM. ATMs are common throughout Greece, you'll find them inside and outside all banks, in major shopping centers, in supermarkets and gas stations. Before leaving, you should notify your bank/credit company that you will be using your card in a foreign country, so that it doesn't get blocked for suspicious activity. You should have a 4 digit PIN to withdraw cash. Keep in mind that your bank/credit card company will charge you for each withdrawal, so you should withdraw larger amounts of cash less often.
Restaurants and guides gratuities are included in the Athens and the Greek Isles tour price. While dining on your own, it is customary to leave 10% to 15% tip. Also consider "rounding off" on larger bills to the nearest 1€. Good taxi service merits a tip of 5% to 10%. (Greeks rarely tip taxi drivers, but tourists are expected to.) Hotel chambermaids should be left about 2€ per night per room. Bellhops and doormen should be tipped 1€ to 5€, depending on the services they provide.
Greece has a value-added tax (VAT) on most purchases made within the country, and the displayed price already includes it. It ranges from 6% (for books) to 23% (general goods). Known in Greece as the FPA, the amount is almost always written on the bottom line of the bill - you may see it as ΦΠΑ with a % sign. Luxury goods such as jewelry, furs, and expensive imported liquors include a 30% built-in tax. To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify, present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked IVA Tax Refunds at the airport, as you leave the country. You'll get your money refunded right at the booth.
Things to bring back from Greece are: needlework, plaster casts of ancient sculpture, jewelry, especially gold and silver filigree, and Chania has many stores featuring the work of local jewelers; rugs from Crete; olive wood products; thyme honey; icons; organic olive oil, jams, and cosmetics.