Traveling to Greece is always very exhilarating. After all, it is one of the most dynamic countries in Europe with its gorgeous beaches, rich ancient history, and myriad of attractions. In Greece, you can climb to the summit of Mount Profitis Ilias, hike an active volcano, ride a donkey up the side of a cliff, visit a waterfront winery, and jump off a ship and swim to a hot spring all in ONE day! The next day, why not visit Akrotiri and Red Beach? Or tour the Acropolis and explore its extensive museum? However, before you make your way to this one-of-a-kind country, there are a few things to be aware of prior to arrival…
5 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Greece:
1. You Can NOT Flush Toilet Paper.
Yep, you read that right. The pipes in Greece are half the size in diameter as the ones in the USA and UK. You really shouldn’t flush paper anywhere in the country— but if you must, you may be able to get away with it in a place like Athens if you use very little. Do not flush any paper in the islands (Mykonos, Santorini, etc.) because you can actually clog the tiny pipes— and you don’t want what you just flushed coming back up, do you?
There will always be a little bin next to each toilet for you to dispose of the toilet paper. Most establishments will have signs to serve as reminders; these signs often have what looks like a devil with a pitchfork coming out of the toilet bowl— and none of us want to piss off the devil (am I right?!).
2. Tap Water on the Islands is Undrinkable.
In the city of Athens, and other parts of the mainland, you are basically fine when it comes to drinking tap water. However, if you plan to visit any of the Greek islands, know that you will always have to pay for bottled water. Do NOT drink the tap water that comes out of the faucets, even if your water bottle has a filter. You are fine to brush your teeth with the tap water, but do not guzzle down a glass of it.
Don’t worry though, you can find really large bottles of clean water on the islands for just 1 euro (sometimes less!). Oh, I guess this is a good time to mention, if you are unaware, that Greece IS a part of the European Union and they DO use the Euro there.
3. Hotels Don’t Supply Conditioner.
During my time in Greece, I stayed at 5 different hotels. I learned very quickly that Greeks (apparently) aren’t big fans of conditioner— only shampoo. Every hotel I stayed at supplied soap, shampoo, and body/shower gel. Four out of the five places had no conditioner, and just one place had a small bottle that read “shampoo/conditioner”; although I really don’t understand how you can combine the two… Moral of the story: Pack your own conditioner! And bring A LOT of it.
Want more tips on what to pack? Take a look at my packing list for Europe!
4. Not All Beaches are Created Equal.
The beaches in Athens, Mykonos, Santori, and Ios, for example, are all different. In Athens the sand is very coarse and chunky, with a lot of sea urchins and pebbles in the shallow parts of the sea. The sea is a bit darker in color. In Mykonos, the sand at Paradise Beach is very rocky and it can hurt a bit to walk on barefoot; I needed to keep my sandals on as I walked along the water. There are many little drop-offs when you enter the water too, so enter slowly; but the water is an incredible bright blue there! In Santorini, the sand is more comfortable to step on than in Mykonos, but not as lush as the sand on the small and not-as-well-known island, Ios.
I had never even heard of Ios until July 2016 (it only has a population of about 1,400 people!) but I promise you it has the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. The sand is light and soft— easy on your feet. The water is a vibrant turquoise and if you go underwater with goggles on, you can see many, many yards ahead of you because it is just so crystal clear.
5. Be Prepared for Extreme Weather.
Again, this differs based on where you are in Greece. In Athens, it will be much, much hotter than on the islands and it is quite rare for you to get a cool, refreshing breeze. I was in Athens in July during a heatwave (of course) and it was between 107 and 112 degrees Fahrenheit every day. If you plan on visiting Greece in the summer, make sure to bring a surplus of sunscreen (you’re going to need it!). Even when there isn’t a heatwave, Athens tends to have a lot of dry heat.
The weather varies on the islands, but Mykonos is known for its very strong gusts of wind. Houses on this island actually have to be constructed a certain way, with rounded corners, to combat this outrageous wind. The wind can be so strong that you are unable to walk forward because you are literally being pushed backward. If you book any excursions or outings on the water (a boat ride or trip to Delos, for example), keep in mind that these trips may be canceled if it is too windy and the water too rough. It is silly to attempt to wear a hat in Mykonos, because chances are it’ll blow away. I recommend wearing your hair in a ponytail or bun when you visit during the day, and if you happen to be there on a less windy day, by all means, let your hair down 😉
Santorini is very warm as well, especially in the peak season, and there will be a nice breeze by the water, but (fortunately) you don’t have to worry about the extreme winds you find in Mykonos. I found the weather in Santorini to be quite comfortable, especially compared to Athens and Mykonos. Ios is similar to Santorini in terms of weather, and the two islands are very close to each other. A ferry from Santorini to Ios is only 45 minutes! Just remember: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Oh, and sunglasses!
Have you been to Greece or are you traveling to Greece soon? Let me know your thoughts or questions below! I look forward to chatting with you about this amazing country.