PERISCOPE OF GREECE

General Information and Practical Tips

GREECE AT A GLANCE - USEFUL INFORMATION
Athens is the capital city of Greece.
Official language is Greek. It will be hard to find a Greek that doesn’t understand or speak English.
Euro (€) is the currency of Greece.
Time zone in Greece is GMT +2
You can call someone in Greece by adding the code +30 before the ten digit local number.
The climate zone is totally Mediterranean!
Greece's population is about 11 millions
Athens International Airport (A.I.A.) “Eleftherios Venizelos” is the airport of Athens.
Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Patra, Larissa, Volos, Kalamata, Ioannina and Alexandroupolis are among main cities of Greece.
Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu  are probably the most popular islands of Greece.
WHERE IS GREECE - LOCATION
Greece is located in southeastern Europe where the three continents -Europe, Asia and Africa- meet. It is surrounded by the seas of Ionian and Aegean which are all parts of the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Greece consists of:
Greek mainland. It includes A) the northern part of the country, B) central Greece and C) the Peloponnese to the south
 
Greek islands. An archipelago of more than 6000 islands and small islets scattered throughout the Aegean, the Ionian and Cretan Seas. Only 227 islands are inhabited. Most of them are located in the Aegean Sea (Cyclades, Dodecanese, North-East, Argosaronic, Sporades, and Crete), while the Ionian Sea is the home of the 7 islands cluster (Heptanese).
 
Greece in numbers
> 130.000 km2 – the total area of Greece
> 13.000 km – length of Greece’s coastline, half of which surround the islands
> 80% of Greece’s territory consists of mountains or hills. This is a true paradise for worldwide trekkers and for the fanatics of mountain sports & activities.
WEATHER IN GREECE
Greece is a synonym to sunshine. Mild/wet winters and warm/dry summers is the typical weather scenario of the country.
 
Seasons are basically divided in two:
It’s the warm season (from April to October), with sunny/warm days and seasonal winds at the Aegean during August.
And it’s the mild/winter season (from November to March), with various temperatures between 0-15°C, depending on the region. In northern and mountainous areas of Greece, it’s definitely colder and you may have to use an extra jacket!
HISTORY OF GREECE
The roots of much of the Western world lie in the civilizations of the ancient Greece and Rome. Here are few small pieces of those rich roots of the Greek past:
 
The Greeks or "Hellenes" were the inhabitants of 700 or more city-states in the Greek peninsula and at the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Homer first used the name “Hellas”. In historical times the name "Hellenes" denoted not only the inhabitants of Central Greece, but also of Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, Asia Minor, the isles of the Aegean Sea and of the Ionian Sea.
 
Life in Greece first appeared on the Chalkidiki Peninsula dated to the Middle Paleolithic era (50.000 B.C).
 
Highly developed civilizations appeared from about 3000 to 2000 B.C.
 
During the Neolithic period, important cultural centers developed, especially in Thessaly, Crete, Attica, Central Greece and the Peloponnese.
 
The famous Minoan advanced prehistoric culture of 2800-1100 B.C. appeared in Crete.
We see more artistic development in the Bronze Age (2000 BC), during which Crete was the centre of a splendid civilization. It was a mighty naval power, wealthy and powerful. Ruins of beautiful palaces are found in Knossos, Phaistos, and Mallia.
 
Soon after that we see the marvelous Mycenaean civilization in the Peloponnese, rich in gold, with impressive palaces, great fortifications, and works of art, many of which have survived until today. The costly Trojan Wars (about 1100 B.C.) led to the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization.
 
During the next several hundred years the Greek polis or city-state evolved.
Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Argos, and Corinth were the principal city-states. Eventually two city-states emerged to dominate Greece: the city of Athens, a democracy and a sea power, and the city of Sparta, a militaristic society and a land power.
 
In the fifth century B.C., a Persian invasion united the cities briefly, mainly under the military leadership of Athens. The united Greek cities won a brilliant victory over the Persian invaders (490-479 BC).
 
The 5th and 4th centuries BC constitute the Golden Age, the Classical Miracle, which was an explosion of cultural and intellectual achievements that formed the basis of Western civilization. Rightfully, Greece is considered to be "The Crucible of Civilization." The influence of Athens radiated everywhere, for here flourished letters, arts, theatre and philosophy. Political institutions were formed, culminating in the triumph of Democracy!
 
The increasing political power of Athens and its rivalry with Corinth and Sparta was one of the several causes of the catastrophic Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), which struck a mortal blow to the development of the cities.
 
The sad side of ancient Greek history was the persistent disunity that resulted in continuous wars among the main Greek city-states such as Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Thebes.
 
King Philip II of Macedonia (359-336 BC), and his son Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) were the ones who succeeded in persuading the majority of the Greek cities to unite and form a Pan Hellenic state and army which, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, spread the Hellenic civilization to the East, and establish new cities like Alexandria of Egypt. The philosopher, Isocrates, is considered the one who influenced King Philip in this direction, and Alexander the Great materialized the dreams and plans of his father. Alexander the Great was able to defeat the Persian Empire, march through near and Middle Eastern countries and reach as far as Punjab in northern India. During his life and following his death at age 32, education and development of the arts were the most important achievements of the citizens, thus creating what is known as the Hellenistic period. After Alexander's death, his vast empire passed to his successors, who divided it into states.
 
In Greece proper there was an alliance of confederations (Aetolian-Achaian), which did not succeed in uniting the cities. As a result Imperial Rome conquered the Hellenistic world (146 BC). It’s important to mention that the victorious Romans accepted the values of the Hellenistic civilization!
 
From AD 395 Greece constituted part of the Byzantine Empire and many cities such as Patras and Corinth, in North Peloponnese, reached their acme. Others, like Mystras (1348-1460), near Sparta, became intellectual centers, and others like Monemvasia, in South Peloponnese, and Nafplion, in East Peloponnese, became commercial centers. During this period barbaric invasions and piratical attacks were a constant plague throughout the land. With the Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople by the Franks (1204), Greece was divided into Frankish and Venetian states, while a few areas such as Epirus remained in Byzantine hands.
 
Constantine the Great built Constantinople, that great city famous in world history, which was named Istanbul by the Turks in the early 1920’s, in 330 AD in the place where the Ancient Byzantium used to stand (an Athenian colony at Bosporus). Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire 330-1453, and after conquest by the Turks it became the capital of the Ottoman Empire 1453-1923.
 
When the Byzantine Empire was completely defeated by the Turks (15th century AD) a large migration occurred. During this time Greeks were spread all over the then-known world (Greek Diaspora). While living in other countries, most of them did not lose their Greek identity. They always hoped, and sometimes tried, to free their country from Turkish rule. Many attempts for freedom took place on the mainland as well as the islands during the centuries and the Orthodox Church played a very significant role during foreign rule by keeping alive the ethnic consciousness among the Greeks, and by teaching the Greek language (reading and writing) to the children through their network of secret schools called “Kryfo Sholeio”, a school that functioned at night! The responsibilities of the clergy were not only religious but also judicial, which provided the Greek people the opportunity of enjoying some autonomy, at least in some areas of the land.
 
The War of Independence officially started on 25 March 1821.
The Greeks were fighting against the Turks who often would be assisted by Albanian troops, and Egyptian fleet.
 
After a heroic struggle, independence was finally achieved in 1829, and the Greek nation was established (1830). Under European guidance a monarchy was established in 1832. The capital of the newborn nation was Nafplion. In 1834 the viceroys decided to relocate the capital of Greece to the city of Athens. The Greek people objected to the absolute monarchy and eventually a revolt took place on 3 September 1843, which lead to the birth of the first Constitution (1844) and the change of the king (Danish king George I instead German king Otto). The second Constitution was established in 1864.
 
Since 1832, the boundaries of Greece have enlarged as follows:
In 1864, the Ionian Islands were ceded to Greece by Great Britain.
In 1881, Thessaly, and part of Epirus, were ceded to Greece by Turkey.
In 1913, Macedonia and the Aegean Islands were ceded to Greece by Turkey together with Crete which was under Turkish rule since 1669.
In 1918, Western Thrace was ceded to Greece by Bulgaria.
In 1920, Eastern Thrace, Smyrna, and other towns of Asia Minor were granted to Greece. However in 1923, these areas were returned to Turkey.
In 1947 the Dodecanese Islands were ceded to Greece by Italy.
 
Greece was faced with great financial problems. Many citizens left their homeland in an attempt to live a better life, and to help financially those family members who remained in the homeland. Some went to Europe, others to Egypt, South Africa, Australia, and most of them went to the U.S.A. The peak of emigration was during the first and second decade of the 20th century.
 
In 1917, Greece entered World War I on the side of the Allies and took part in the Allied occupation of Turkey where many Greeks still lived. In 1922, the Greek army tried to expand from its base in Smyrna toward Ankara but was forced to withdraw.
 
During World War II Greece was again on the side of the Allies. On October 28, 1940, Mussolini requested the Greek government to bring the Italian troops into Greece in order to enhance his war effort in Egypt. The answer was "NO" (ohi in Greek] therefore Mussolini attacked Greece at the Greek-Albanian borders. The Greek army was victorious however Hitler attacked Greece from the Greek-Yugoslavian borders, and by the end of May 1941, the Germans had overrun most of the country. At those times Greek resistance costs Germany precious weeks in its schedule for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
 
Greece was liberated from the German occupation in 1944.
 
After the war, Communist attempts to take over Greece led to civil war. The civil war ended in 1949. Then, in the 1950s Greece experienced a period of political stability and economic growth. The internal conflicts again arose in the 1960s and in 1967 a military junta took control of the government and king Constantine was expelled from the country.
 
Greece was declared a republic in 1973 and democracy was re-established.
 
On 1 January 1981 Greece became the tenth member of the European Community.
The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic.
HEALTH & SAFETY IN GREECE
Greece is a safe country and is highly ranked in terms of security, hospitality and friendliness of it’s people. You can enjoy your travel in every possible way, you are free to live your myth without fear!
 
You should only exercise normal safety/common sense precautions and look out for suspicious behavior.
 
Protests and demonstrations can occur and, although most of them are peaceful, you should probably avoid being close to the “action”!
 
Strikes are a regular phenomenon in Greece and they could affect your visit or plans. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on the news and maintain contact with the people or companies involved in your program.
 
It is critical to organize comprehensive travel insurance in advance. Please check what circumstances and activities (hires/sports/visits/etc) are covered by your insurance policy.
 
Visitors from European Union member states must be holders of the European Health Card (EHIC). You can find more information about the EHIC here -> http://ec.europa.eu/social/
 
Visitors from other countries must consult their social security agency for information before travelling.
 
In the event that you may need medical care in Greece, necessary treatment can be provided by IKA’s (the Greek social security institute) health units, by the regional clinics or health centers of the national health system and by the outpatient departments of hospitals.
PASSPORTS AND VISA FOR TRAVELLING TO GREECE
In order to visit Greece, it’s obligatory to have the following documents subject to your country of origin/your nationality/etc:
 
Your ID card In the case that your country of origin is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, you may use your national ID to enter the country and you may stay for a three-month period. In these cases a passport is not necessary, although you will need it in a variety of other transactions, including currency exchange, shopping etc.
Important details & updates about Schengen Agreement here -> http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/index_en.htm
 
Your Visa If your country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, make sure you obtain further information from the Greek embassy or consulate in your country before your trip, or from your travel agency. A suitable insurance coverage for emergency medical or other needs should be also in your preparation plans.
 
Your Passport If your country of origin is one of the following non-EU countries, your passport allows you to visit Greece and remain in the country for up to three months (90 days) within a six-month period:
 
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, ,Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Vatican, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela
HOW TO COME TO GREECE
You can travel to Greece by car, by plane, by train and by ferry.
 
This is some useful information to make your visit more enjoyable and stress-free:
 
By car
The main motorways link Northern Greece with the Balkan countries and Europe, while the eastern routes connect Greece with Turkey. The route from/to Italy is also very easy and popular but you have to combine the car drive with a ferry service. There are daily departures to/from the western ports of Greece like Patras (Western Peloponnese) or Igoumenitsa (North West of Greece).
There are plenty of gas stations, restaurants and parking areas all along the Greek road network, so you can expect hassle-free drives and comfortable travel.
 
These are the most commonly used crossing points to enter or leave Greece with your car:
Bulgaria <-> Greece through 6 crossing points along the borders,
F.Y.R.O.M (Bogorodica) <-> Greece (Evzones/Kilkis),
Albania (Kakavia) <-> Greece (Ktismata/Ioannina prefecture),
Turkey (İpsala) <-> Greece (Kipi/Evros)
 
Greek highways are extending both to the east and the west are constantly being expanded and improved. The main road axes in Greece are assigned with a European highway number:
Athens - Thessaloniki (E75), Athens - Corinth (E94), Corinth - Patra (E65), Corinth –Tripoli – Kalamata (E65), Patra – Pyrgos – Olympia (E55), Thessaloniki – Kavala – Alexandroupolis (E90), Igoumenitsa – Alexandroupolis (Egnatia Odos), Chania – Agios Nikolaos (Crete E75).
 
Notice that citizens of non EU countries must have an international driving license along with their valid national driving permit.
 
By plane
Athens International Airport is the international hub that connects Greece with the whole world. After arriving in Athens, it’s very easy to get to the city center or go to the ports or just go to the intercity busses station. Please refer to the section “TRANSPORTATION”.
 
Aside from Athens, many other Greek cities and islands have international airports: Alexandroupolis, Chania and Heraklion in Crete, Corfu also known as Kerkyra, Kalamata, Kavala, Kefalonia, Kos, Limnos, Lesvos also known as Mytilene, Rhodes, Samos, Thessaloniki, Zakynthos also known as Zante.
 
There are also national & public airports all around Greece that are frequently connected with flights to/from Athens: Astypalaia, Chios, Ikaria, Ioannina, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kassos, Kastelorizo, Kastoria, Kythera, Kozani, Leros, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Nea Anchialos/Volos, Paros, Patra, Preveza, Santorini, Skiathos, Skyros, Syros. During the summer, some of these smaller airports are also connected with direct flights to/from major European cities (for example London-Mykonos).
 
By train
Railway network connects quite few prefectures of Greece (from Patras to Alexandroupolis in the Northeast and Dikaia to Florina in the Northwest). TRAINOSE which is the official train carrier provides connections to destinations in Central Greece. There are high quality Intercity/express trains and regular trains performing the scheduled routes. Important information & updates, here -> http://www.trainose.gr
 
By ferry
Piraeus (the biggest port of Athens), Thessaloniki, Volos, Patras and Igoumenitsa are the main ports of Greece. They connect the country with Europe (mostly with Italy) and with Turkey, and of course they link Greek mainland with the Greek islands. Ferry routes from/to/within Greece are numerous as well as cruise itineraries and private boat sailings.
 
Among many choices, passengers can book a cabin or just an air type seat.
All ships offer a comfortable and modern environment (air-conditioning, bars, restaurant and baggage storage facilities) plus an experienced and friendly staff to serve/help you during the trip.
Majority of the ferry routes are operated by big ships that can transport your vehicle (motorcycle, car, 4x4 jeep & SUV, caravan, etc) as well.
 
The main ports linking Greece to Italy are located at the Ionian Sea. These are:
Patras with connections from/to Ancona/Bari/Trieste/Brindisi/Venice
Igoumenitsa with connections from/to Brindisi, Bari, Ancona/Venice
Corfu, Kefalonia and Zakynthos with often connections (mostly as stopover points) from/to Bari.
 
The main ports linking Greece to Turkey are located at the Aegean Sea. These are the most popular ones:
Lesvos with connection from/to Ayvalik (daily)
Chios with connection from/to Cesme (daily)
Kos and Samos with connection from/to Kusadasi (daily)
Rhodes with connection Bodrum and Marmaris (about day after day)
Kalymnos with connection Bodrum (about day after day)
TRANSPORTATION IN GREECE
To travel a long distance throughout the Greek mainland, you may use an inter-urban bus (National Bus Network - KTEL) or a train (Hellenic Railways Organization -OSE/TRAINOSE).
 
For short distances, you may use one of the many taxis that you will easily find in every Greek city or island.
 
In order to visit the islands, you may use a ferry from Piraeus (Piraeus is the main and biggest port of Athens) or Rafina or Lavrio (these two are smaller ports of Athens).
There are frequent ferry routings during the summer and less frequent ones during winter.
There are also connections to go from an island to another island which are operated by local ferries.
 
In Athens, you may use the metro, the suburban railway, the tram and the buses (including the electrical trolleybuses) to go everywhere you want.
 
There are single use tickets and smart trip fares (weekly passes, all-day tickets etc). Please consult the info/ticket offices at the nearby stations.
 
Public buses, metro lines (including the airport line) & and trams operate daily from very early in the morning to almost midnight, while the buses that connect the city of Athens with the Athens International Airport operate on a continuous 24 hour basis.
 
How to go from Athens city centre to the Athens International Airport or vice versa? You may either use the combination of metro/suburban railway (45 minutes total trip time) or just get on board the express busses Χ93/X95/X96/X97 (about 70-90 minutes total trip time, depending on the traffic) that connect the airport with various areas of Athens and it’s port (Piraeus).
 
SHOPS OPENING HOURS IN GREECE
Opening hours vary between different regions/seasons/types of businesses. In the busy cities or places, this is the usual set of opening hours:
 
Downtown shops, department stores and supermarkets are open daily from 09:00 to 21:00, except Saturdays when they close at 20:00. On Sundays, they are mostly closed.
 
Local shops are open every morning from 09:00 to 14:30 and every Tuesday/Thursday/Friday from 17:30 to 20:30. On Sundays, they are mostly closed.
 
Local mini-markets, tobacco shops and street kiosks, some of which operate almost 24 hours a day, especially in tourist areas are usually open daily including Sundays.
BANKS/CURRENCY EXCHANGE/ATM’s IN GREECE
Banks working hours are typically from Monday to Friday between 08:00-14:00 and they are closed on weekends and during public holidays.
 
Currency exchange offices are situated in most airports & central ports as well as in various points at the big cities and major islands. Remember that a passport is required when exchanging currencies.
 
ATM’s are easy to find in each city or island. ATM’s of the banks accept your VISA/MASTERCARD and other commonly used types of credit cards.
NATIONAL CELEBRATIONS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN GREECE
Fixed dates:
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 6 Epiphany/Theophania
Mar 25 Independence Day
May 1 Labor Day
Aug 15 Dormition of the Holy Virgin
Oct 28 The Ochi day
Nov 17 Polytechneio
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Synaxis of the Mother of God
 
Movable dates:
Ash/Clean Monday (on the 41st day before Orthodox Easter)
Orthodox Easter (movable holiday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday)
Holy Spirit Monday (movable holiday)
SMOKING IN GREECE
Smoking and consumption of tobacco products has been banned in enclosed public places in Greece. This applies to all workplaces, hospitals, schools, public transport (including stations), taxis and passenger ships, restaurants, bars and night clubs. However, many companies, especially cafes and bars have smoking areas.
ELECTRICITY IN GREECE
The electricity voltage in Greece is 220 V/50 Hz and the plugs are of type F.
It wouldn't be a problem to purchase an adapter of any kind in Greece but we strongly suggest that you take care of this in advance.
TIME ZONE GREECE DETAILS
Greece belongs to the Eastern Europe Time Zone.
Local time is identified as GMT +2.
Daylight Savings (DST) occurs on the last Sunday of March, when clocks move one hour ahead. They move one our back on the last Sunday of October.
EMERGENCY - SOS NUMBERS/TELEPHONE DIRECTORY GREECE
In case of an emergency, you may call:
Ambulance service: 166
Duty hospitals, clinics and pharmacies: 1434
Poisoning first aid: 2107793777
European emergency number: 112
Fire service: 199
Police: 100
Tourism Police: 171
 
An excellent idea is to call your insurance provider as well.
CUSTOM REGULATIONS GREECE
Please read carefully the custom regulations* before visiting Greece:
 
Cash controls/Currency declaration
If you plan to enter or leave the EU with € 10.000 or more in cash (or its equivalent in other currencies) you must declare it to the customs authorities. Important details & updates here -> http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/customs_controls/cash_controls/index_en.htm
 
Alcohol & Tobacco, Restrictions of products of animal origin, animals and plants
When travelling from one EU country to another, you can transport tobacco and alcohol products for personal use but not for resale. You should only carry quantities as described at the EU website.
 
Transportation of animal products within EU does not fall under general restrictions since all EU countries have to adhere to the same strict veterinary standards. But, if you are transporting meat or dairy products and are not travelling from an EU country, there is danger that you may enter with animal diseases.
 
You have the right to transport animals and plants. However, given that the majority of EU countries have strict rules in place regarding the transportation of endangered species and products derived from them, you will need a permit to travel with them.
 
General travellers’ information
Important details & updates here -> http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm