Things Americans Should Know Before Visiting Greece
Traveling to Greece has always been a bucket list item of mine. And I’m happy to report that just two short weeks ago I was finally able to cross this beautiful place off my list. Knowing that so many other people out there dream of visiting Greece in their lifetime too, I thought I’d share my experience and the things I feel Americans should know before visiting Greece. My hope is that these useful tips help you enjoy your Greece vacation to the fullest.
My family and I just got back from a trip of a lifetime in Greece and I’ve been chomping at the bit to share absolutely everything with you from our time there. Vacationing in Greece was hands down one of the best experiences of my life and I would literally go back in a heartbeat.
I’m not kidding. Do you have a plane ticket you can send me?!
We visited Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens, during our time in Greece and each location was amazing in its own special way. From vegetating on the beach, watching spectacular sunsets, and seeing structures built all the way back from 400 BC, Greece truly has so much to offer tourists coming to visit.
When traveling to a place you’re not familiar with, there are bound to be some differences you experience that you might not be used to. I’ve found this to be true for almost every trip I’ve ever been on, including trips as simple as driving to a different city within my own state of Florida.
Although the differences may be a little less extreme from city to city or state to state in the United States, I can pretty much guarantee you still take notice when traveling to them. It can be something as small as the way a word is pronounced or the word people in an area use for a certain item like Pop, Coke, or Soda.
We use the word soda in Florida, in case you’re wondering.
The comparisons become a bit more noticeable when traveling to places around the world. The food consumed, the culture of the people and the day to day lives can be extremely different from what you’re used to.
Fortunate for me, my entire family loves the idea of traveling and will fully embrace the culture of wherever we are traveling to. We try our best to “do as the locals do” and really get a feel for the way the people in that particular place live.
As adventurous as my family is with traveling, I know there are many families out there on the complete opposite end. Some families are hesitant to travel for those exact reasons I just mentioned. The unknown of the culture they are stepping into can be intimidating for them.
I’m writing this post in hopes to help ANY AND ALL families wanting to travel to Greece. If you’re adventurous like my family, or even a little timid to try something new, I hope these things Americans should know before visiting Greece will be helpful to you.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Wear comfortable shoes with rubber soles.
I can’t even begin to tell you how important this is when visiting Greece. Unlike Florida, which is flatter than flat, Greece is a very mountainous region with extremely old cobblestone roads. The roads are very uneven and super duper slick.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that all three of us had at least one close call where we almost fell right on our rear ends. If it weren’t for this really nice gentleman standing in the path of my fall, I would’ve face-planted while sightseeing at The Parthenon.
Ladies, spare yourself the room in your luggage and leave your cute stilettos and heels at home. Instead, try a dressier pair of sandals for dinners but please make sure they have rubber soles.
Sneakers are the best option for sightseeing, especially in Athens.
The toilet paper situation.
Okay, so if I’m being honest, this was probably the hardest thing for us to get used to while in Greece.
I first noticed the “Do Not Throw Paper in Toilet” sign at the airport in Athens. It was on a sign behind the toilet bowl in the ladies room underneath some Greek letters.
I assumed the warning was the same as the ones we see here in the US. You know the ones I mean, right? The ones that clearly state that the only thing you should flush down the toilet is toilet paper.
I just figured the wording got a little messy in translation but then I noticed a fairly large wastebasket in the bathroom stall filled with toilet paper. Hmmm, was I supposed to wipe myself and then throw the paper in the trash?
So as weird as it sounds, the answer to that question is yes! Unlike here in the US, the sewage systems in Greece are a lot older and can’t handle the abundance of toilet paper being flushed.
When using the restroom in Greece, you are expected to wipe yourself and then place the used toilet paper in the wastebasket. The courteous thing to do is take your used toilet paper and wrap it up in more toilet paper before tossing it.
This took a lot of getting used to, and I will admit I did flush paper down the toilet out of pure habit, but it’s not as gross as you think. All I can say is, When in Greece…
Your dining experience
Eating in Greece is a completely different experience from what you’ll find in America. The Greeks are extremely hospitable and they expect you to stay and enjoy their establishment for as long as you want.
They also eat dinner much later than Americans. Restaurants usually get super busy at around 9 pm!
Don’t be surprised if you sit and wait for a server to come over to your table for quite some time when first arriving at a restaurant. Because the restaurant assumes you’ll be staying for a while, they aren’t in a huge rush to greet you.
It’s very common to order wine or beer and a couple of appetizers before even thinking about your main dish. We found ourselves getting in the habit of just putting in our drink and appetizer order and then waiting to order a meal once our waiter came back to clear our appetizer plates.
Our main course was always followed by a coffee or espresso and a dessert. All but one restaurant we ate at brought over an after-dinner shot and FREE dessert for us to enjoy. The Greeks definitely like to spoil you!
All in all, every dinner we had in Greece lasted a minimum of two hours, so prepare accordingly. It’s a nice change from the fast-paced meals we have here in the US.
English is widely spoken in Greece
You won’t have a hard time finding Greeks who speak English. Seriously, we had no issues with this at all. We found someone at every place we went to that spoke enough English to help us order food or get directions for what we needed.
Most signs are also translated in English, too! This was especially helpful in places like the airport.
Greeks like their coffee and cigarettes
Coffee and cigarettes go hand in hand in Greece. Almost every Greek you see walking down the street will have one or both in their hands. Kids are openly smoking in the streets in their early teens, which is quite different from the US.
During the summer, Freddo Cappuccino or Freddo Espresso are the drinks of choice. Freddo translates to cold in English so you’re basically drinking a cold cappuccino or espresso. When ordering, make sure to specify if you want cream and/or sugar or you’ll end up with an extremely strong beverage.
Freddo Cappuccinos and Espressos are super delicious and a must try while in Greece!
Euros are the currency used in Greece
There are a couple of ways to go about getting euros to use in Greece.
For starters, you can actually convert dollars to euros at your local bank here in the US. If you know you’re planning a trip to Greece in the future, keep an eye out for the conversion rates from dollars to euros and cash in when the exchange rates are at their best. We did this the first time we ever traveled to Europe.
This time around we didn’t convert money ahead of time and we wish that we had. We tried using US dollars to buy food in the airport and they wanted nothing to do with them. There was an exchange kiosk in the airport but the fee they wanted to charge to convert the money was so ridiculous that my husband stormed off in aggravation.
Later on in the day, we ended up converting money in Mykonos Town for a much better rate.
If all else fails, credit cards are an option but beware of hidden fees. Our credit card company assessed a 3% International fee of the total purchase for each charge made whenever we used our cards.
You’ll need plug adapters
Outlets in Europe are not the same as in America. In order to plug anything in you’ll need to purchase an adapter. We bought these on Amazon.
Squeeze what you need in a carry-on luggage
This was probably the best decision we made when traveling to Greece. We each brought our own carry-on luggage plus a backpack and that was it. This made traveling from place to place that much easier and it saved us a ton of money in checked-baggage fees.
Remember those cobblestone roads I talked about earlier? It’s a lot easier to maneuver a smaller suitcase through the streets than a massive size one!
Space Saver bags helped us get more clothes in our luggage and worked double-duty as laundry bags for dirty clothes.
Not to say these are all the differences you’ll find when traveling to Greece, but these are definitely the most common ones we noticed on our trip. I hope you found these tips for things Americans should know before visiting Greece helpful. If you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. I truly hope you and your family get to experience Greece once in your lifetime!
Want to remember this? Post these Things Americans Need to Know Before Visiting Greece to your favorite Pinterest board!
Tiffany–this was an incredibly informative and exciting post! Thank you! I loved what you said about embracing the culture, people and differences–wise advice and a great reminder for anyone traveling anywhere in the world. And, the advice on money exchange, adapters and luggage were so helpful! I have friends who recently went to France and they said the same things about eating out–it was a 2-hour (at least) experience. Part of that “slow eating” may be the reason they don’t have as many issues in those countries with obesity as we fast-eating Americans do. And I LOVED your pictures! I felt that I was actually there enjoying the scenery and rural life of the people. What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing all your valuable tips!
I’m so happy you found it informative! I definitely wish I had known some of these things prior to traveling to Greece. I completely agree that the slower eating process probably has something to do with keeping a healthier body weight. The Greeks also told us that since they eat dinner so late, they usually just have a little Greek yogurt or small pastry with coffee for breakfast. Their lunchtime is typically around 3 too. It’s almost like they do a modified intermittent fasting routine.
HI Tiffany! Thanks for this in-depth and informative post. I agree, the photos make me feel very connected to the people and the place. And…thanks for the inside scoop on the toilet paper situation. Who knew???
Lol! The toilet situation takes a little getting used to but we made it through. Thanks for your comment, Lorrie 🙂
All of your family trips are so inspiring!!