There’s nothing worse than coming home from a trip and finding out you could have had a much better time had you known to make different choices. Here we’ve listed a few things worth keeping in mind when planning and going on a vacation in Greece, along with plenty of useful links to content on our site that will help make your holiday everything you hope for.
Choosing the wrong destination
Greece may not be among the largest European countries, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most diverse. Some Greek destinations are made for families while others are awe-inspiring and romantic, and yet others are loud, bustling, and great for young party-goers. That’s not to mention the paradisiacal regions less trodden, suitable only for nature lovers, the wine regions and the cities with their interesting gastronomy scenes and shopping.
While there’s a reason to love them all, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is booking a trip to the wrong place. For example, Santorini’s Oia may be on many people’s travel bucket lists, but for those whose physique doesn’t allow for constant climbing of steps, and for those who want to spend most of their vacation on the beach, a town like Hora on Naxos might be a better option. Smaller and lesser-known islands, meanwhile, may be gaining popularity, but those who tend to get restless and wish to spend their evenings barhopping may be better off choosing a more established destination like Mykonos or Paros.
In other words, extend your research beyond photos and a hotel website. These articles below are a good place to start:
Choosing the wrong time to go
As with picking the most suitable destination, choosing the right month for your trip can make your holiday infinitely better. Greece is on a mission to grow its tourism season, and the incentives for visiting in low-season are plenty. If, for example, you do wish to go to Santorini, but also want to avoid crowds, a visit in spring is lovely. Islands famous for their scenic beaches, like Milos and Kythira, meanwhile, are wonderful places to go in the fall, when the sea is warm and most Greek and foreign tourists have gone. In addition to this, did you know that Greece has multiple ski resorts, and amazing mountain villages that are more beautiful than ever in the winter?
You can find some of our best tips for destinations to visit in the shoulder seasons and in the winter by typing the season you wish to travel into our search bar.
Having all your meals at the hotel
While there are certainly resorts with restaurants worth dining at more than once, don’t let your all-inclusive deal stand in the way of discovering other nearby gems. We have articles that guide you to the best food and restaurants in most parts of Greece.
Find our gastronomy content here, or type your destination into our search field (most of our destination guides include tips for where and what to eat).
Which brings us to:
Choosing the wrong restaurants, and ordering the wrong food
To be fair, you may be able to find chicken skewers and tzatziki on par with those at your local Greek restaurant at home even at the eateries Greeks typically avoid. However, steering clear of the restaurants catering solely to tourists is a good rule of thumb when you’re looking for a place to eat. Another is to ask your waiter for tips when ordering. You might be hungry for moussaka, but if it’s not eggplant season (find our guide to Greek produce and what to eat when here), another special, like a meaty stew or pastitsio, might satisfy your craving.
Ask about local specialties, not just dishes but products as well. If the taverna uses a local cheese or their own olives, they may bring you some to try.
To get served the best food each establishment has to offer, be aware of the different types of Greek restaurants, and order accordingly:
Tavernas are often specialized in either meat or fish and seafood, but can also excel at both. Here, you’ll also find typical home-style dishes like ladera (vegetable-based, usually vegan, dishes cooked in oil), moussaka, and meat stews. Good tavernas cook with seasonal produce and fish.
Mezedopoleia serve appetizer-sized dishes known as meze, preferably to be enjoyed alongside a few glasses of ouzo, raki or tsipouro (learn what they are here). In some places, especially in the city of Volos, a meze will be brought to you for free with your drink.
Kafeneia are traditional cafés which mostly offer Greek coffee, Greek spirits (see link above), and beer, but often also a few simple meze. Read more here and find a list of three kafeneia worth visiting in Athens here.
Souvlatzidika serve souvlaki, i.e. meat skewers or gyros, most commonly wrapped in pita bread along with other fillings: traditionally tomato, yogurt and parsley, but very often also some fries, leafy greens or cabbage, and tzatziki or mayonnaise-based sauce. You can also get plain skewers. For those visiting Athens, you can find some of our favorite souvlatzidika here.
It’s also worth noting that not only traditional Greek food is good in Greece. If you’re a foodie and visiting a big city or a large island, it’s absolutely worth looking into restaurants serving other cuisines.
Read more here.
Not sharing food
If your favorite quote to identify with is “Joey doesn’t share food,” you may want to adapt yourself on this vacation, because the average Joe might get away with that but the average Greek will tell you that that’s no way to order; plenty of dishes for the table – not just meze, but mains as well – is the best way to experience the local cuisine. This way, you get to try more things at every meal. If you’re goal oriented enough, challenge yourself to try several new dishes every day, find your favorites, and on your last evening, you can create your ultimate Greek dinner to remember.
Overlooking the mainland
When you picture Greece, you picture an island. Or do you? The mainland, in fact, boasts some of the most beautiful coastlines, complete with the sandy beaches and picturesque villages the islands are so famous for. What’s more, the mainland, including the Peloponnese, offers endless opportunities to see more, to easily travel by car from one destination to the next, and see things like winding mountain roads, forests that are home to bears and wild horses, rural areas and vibrant cities, waterfalls and beaches, all on the same trip.
The islands actually make up less than twenty percent of the country in terms of land, so if you haven’t seen any of the mainland, you haven’t really seen Greece.
Type “road” into our search bar for road trip ideas, or check out the Mainland and Peloponnese categories through our Destinations tab, to find out about a plethora of our favorite destinations.
Flushing your toilet paper
While there are hotels and resorts where it may be okay to do this, it’s really not worth the risk. In a majority of places, Greek plumbing consists of dated, narrow pipes which will easily clog if you flush toilet paper or other items down them. Toilet paper should be tossed in the bin next to the toilet. Don’t worry though, the bin usually opens with a foot pedal, and shuts tightly so as not to smell.
Drinking tap water, or Not drinking the tap water
Depending on where you’re going in Greece, your mistake may be one or the other. In cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, and in various other places with their own water supply, the tap water is fine to drink, and purchasing bottled water is therefore both unnecessary and environmentally unfriendly. However, there are also many Greek islands which have limited or no water supply of their own, and the tap water quality there may be quite bad. On some islands, part of the island may have its own water supply, while the rest depends on non-potable water brought from the mainland. The only right thing to do is to ask at your destination. No matter where you go, bottled water can be found and purchased at all grocery stores, kiosks and restaurants.
Spending no time in Athens (or Thessaloniki)
For a long time, tourists treated the Greek capital strictly as a layover – somewhere to spend one night at a hotel and squeeze in a visit to the Acropolis before heading to the islands. Thankfully, in recent years, the world has opened its eyes to the city as a destination in its own right.
While the city isn’t the ultimate place for those looking to spend their whole trip on the beach (although the Athenian Riviera does have some great beaches, other areas offer better backdrops), it has many other attributes. The sights are some of the most renowned on the globe (in fact, they were recently named the best in the world), the museums are great, as is the dining and shopping, and the nightlife is unbeatable (parties here outlive even those in buzzling cities like New York and London, research has shown).
The same is true for travelers heading on holiday at the Halkidiki peninsulas, landing in Thessaloniki. This amazing city is now making a name for itself as a great place for a city break.
You can read everything you need to know ahead of a visit to Athens or Thessaloniki in our magazines dedicated to the cities, available for free though our e-shop, or check out hundreds of articles about the cities through our Destinations tab.
Drinking tax-free wine
Some tourists make a habit of purchasing wine at the airport to bring to their hotel in Greece for evenings on the balcony. But while Greece isn’t France, bringing wine here is still a little bit like taking coffee with you to Brazil, or stocking up on chocolates for your trip to Belgium. Oenophiles know that Greek wine is so much more than retsina served in pitchers at the taverna.
You can read about Greek winemaking in our magazine, Greece Is Wine, available in digital format here, and in the Wine category through our In Depth tab. The articles below are a good place to start:
Not sleeping during siesta
Taking a nap during the day in the summer (preferably inside – passing out on a sun bed doesn’t count) is not about being lazy, it’s about the rhythm of the day. During the hottest hours, doing anything outside is usually a bad idea. Sleeping saves you the energy you need to instead stay up late at night, so that you can enjoy dinner when the Greeks do and experience restaurants and bars in the atmosphere that suits them best. Locals will usually begin the last meal of the day at 21:00-22:00 in the evening in the summer, and if a restaurant has live music, that’s when it will start too.
Buying the wrong souvenirs
Sure, you’ll still find the typical tchotchkes and knickknacks you would buy as presents in the 1980s in dedicated souvenir shops, but there are so many better options. Handmade sandals, bags and hats from local artisans, delicious food products, or candles and soaps with scents that brings back memories from your vacation can be purchased in little design stores at most tourist destinations, as well as online. Find loads of ideas for what to purchase through our Made in Greece tab, or check out the articles below.