Travelling in Greece

Notes for your comfort and safety

 

Greece has a mediterranean climate which means that it tends to be HOT and DRY.

You will enjoy your stay more if you don't get sunburnt or thirsty.

Take plenty of sun block and apply it to exposed areas of skin before you go out. Do this even if it is cloudy because ultraviolet rays are invisible and can penetrate clouds even when the sun is not visible. If it's hot then use sun block - the highest factor you can buy and not less than 25.

The places where you are likely to get burned are:

  • High places which feel cool
  • On boats and ferries where there is a strong airflow that can feel cold

Take bottled water and drink at least 2 litres per day - more if you are obviously perspiring. Tap water can be drunk but this is not recommended if you can avoid it.

Wear sensible shoes

While on tour you are likely to be sitting or standing for long periods. This can lead to swollen ankles and painful feet unless you take precautions. Wear comfortable walking shoes with laces or fasteners that you can slacken easily. Most journeys take less than two hours between stops but you can request additional "toilet stops" if you need to. We want you to be comfortable so please ask.

Many sites such as Delphi require you to climb slopes and steps in order to see everything. Some sites don't have proper paths. Sandals are nice in hot weather but you really need something more robust for walking and climbing.

Very occasionally you will see a snake on an archeological site. Some of these are poisonous, which is another reason to wear shoes and long trousers!

Toilet facilities

Hotels and modern buildings have toilets just like yours. However, other stopping places may have toilets without seats or, occasionally, without bowls - just a hole in the floor. In addition, you are requested to put toilet paper into the pedal bin provided and not to flush it as most sewerage systems are not designed to cope with paper.

Please understand that this is normal in many parts of Europe and the Greek people are used to it. They are unlikely to understand if you complain or make fun of it. However, the facilities are usually spotlessly clean and you will not often be "inconvenienced". If you need assistance to use a toilet please do ask.

Food

Greek cooking is predominantly based on olive oil. Some of the food is an "acquired taste" but please do try it. You may not like the slightly bitter or salty taste of olives but the "Fetta" cheese (made from goats' milk) is delightful. It's a crumbly, white cheese rather like Wensleydale but salty. Olive oil is not bitter, by the way. You probably won't know it's not butter!

Greek meals usually consist of single items. In other words, if you ask for "a tuna fillet" or "Moussaka" that's what you'll get and little else. It's usual to serve it with very little garnishment - a little lettuce, tomato and maybe a couple of potato slices - but don't expect a pile of vegetables or chips. You will usually be offered a "Greek salad". This is a bowl of salad which is usually shared amongst two or three people. It comprises lettuce, Fetta cheese, tomato, olives, cucumber and sometimes other items. Bread is almost always provided first of all but NO butter unless you specifically ask for it. Bread is normally used to mop up the olive oil left on the plate.

A favourite dish is "Gigantes" - a type of large butter bean - often enough to serve as a complete meal by itself.

In Greece it is not considered impolite to leave some food on the plate. This indicates that your host has provided sufficient.

There is very little dairy farming so you will not always be able to get fresh milk for tea. If you ask for milk with tea it will usually be either prepacked condensed milk or else boiled milk. Some hotels understand the English way of "brewing" tea but don't expect it. Lemon is often provided instead of milk. Coffee is the favourite non-alcoholic drink. It's often ordered as "Frappay" - coffee whisked with ice cubes and a little water. This contains a lot of caffeine so beware. Ordinary coffee is ordered as "Nescafay".

On the tours, we can cater for special diets if you tell us in advance. Unfortunately, some hotel restaurants don't fully understand the requirements of Coeliac sufferers and Vegans. We do our best to explain but you'd be wise to carry "emergency rations" just in case!

What we consider to be an "ordinary" bread loaf is generally not available. Nor are sandwiches. Bread is of the "crusty loaf" type so get your teeth checked out before you leave home!

Illness

Greece doesn't have a National Health service as we know it in Britain but there are adequate facilities available, provided that you have travel health insurance. You can also buy a good variety of drugs - including antibiotics - at any pharmacy. These are to be found in most towns and there's almost always one open on Sunday as well as other days.

Language

Many Greek people speak a little English and some speak it with remarkable fluency. However, you are certain to come across those who can't understand English or, worse, can't understand your particular accent. I'm told by Greek people that they have particular problems with Scottish accents (and why am I surprised!)

It's actually not too difficult to learn the Greek alphabet and a few commonly used phrases. The alphabet is especially useful because it allows you to read road signs and shop signs - some of which you will recognise from the phonetic sounds. "Farmakeio" sounds like "Pharmacy" but, without knowing the Greek alphabet characters and sounds, you won't recognise the shop sign.

"Where is the toilet" sounds like "poo eena ee too-a-letta" in Greek. Of course, you won't understand directions but, hopefully, the person you are asking will point. As a minimum, you should learn "please" (parakalo) and "thank you" (evharisto). The stress is on the final "o" which is a short sound like the "o" in "hop".

The Greek word for "yes" sounds like "neh" and "no" sounds like "ohee" - (that "o" again, as in "hop").

However, Greek people do not naturally shake their heads for "no", although many do so for tourists (when they remember!) So watch out for the typical Greek no which is often to smile, raise the eyebrows, nod slightly and whisper "ohee". It can be very confusing at first!

If you have an interest in languages, you will enjoy learning the alphabet and some useful words and phrases. If you don't, then at least try to remember the information above and ask your tour guide if you have any problems.

There is an excellent book available (by order) from WH Smiths.

"Greek Language and People" ISBN 0-563-16575-8 (price about £13).

You can also order the cassettes to accompany it. These are extremely useful. This package was originally supplied for a BBC language course back in 1983 but it's still (in my opinion) the best basic Greek course available. If you can supplement it with lessons at your local college, so much the better.

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