Planning a Trip to Greece: A Handy Guide to Help You Prepare

Planning a Trip to Greece

There’s a lot more involved in planning a trip to Greece than you may think. A step-by-step guide is provided below to help you through the various stages of planning and to make sure that there is nothing that you may have missed. 

Establish Where You Want to Go and Be Realistic

Planning a Trip to Greece: Lovely Hydra, Saronic Gulf
Planning a Trip to Greece: Lovely Hydra, Saronic Gulf

When a lot of people are planning their trips to Greece they want to go everywhere. I can’t say I blame them! This is a beautiful country and there is a reason that I have chosen to live here for the last two years. That said, Greece is also extremely vast. 

You may want to realise your own fairytale at the Mamma Mia island of Skopelos, hike up to the ancient monasteries of Meteora, sip coffee on the scenic seafront of Thessaloniki, and sail around the islands of the Cyclades and the Saronic Gulf. As lovely as that sounds, there are huge distances between these destinations.

Accept that you may not be able to do everything in one trip to Greece but feel happy in the notion that that means that you have a reason to come again to lovely Greece in the future. 

Make a list of the places that you want to visit in Greece, observe their locations on a map, and be practical about what is possible. 

Beautiful Places in Greece to Consider Visiting 

Mykonos, The Cyclades
Mykonos, The Cyclades

To provide you a little food for thought when you are in the early stages of planning a trip to Greece, a few destinations that you may want to consider are detailed below. 

Athens 
Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece

The Greek capital of Athens is one of Europe’s grittiest capital cities yet it certainly has its charm. With its sunbleached ruins and ramshackle streets that play host to countless traditional tavernas and quaint coffee shops, Athens is considered by many as the starting point of modern civilisation.  

Since Greece’s largest airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) is situated in Athens, it makes sense to start your Greek adventure here. Don’t miss the Acropolis, the historical sites of ancient Plaka, and a chance to take a trip to the nearby Athenian Riviera. 

The Cycladic Islands 
Santorini, The Cyclades
Santorini, The Cyclades

The islands of the Cyclades are probably what springs to most people’s minds at the thought of spending a summer in Greece. Mention of the Cyclades conjures up images of white-washed walls and blue-domed roofs of quaint Cycladic houses, and a backdrop of breathtaking coastlines and volcanic sand beaches. 

Santorini and Mykonos are no doubt the Cycladic islands that make an appearance on most people’s travel bucket lists, however, there are other lesser-known yet equally beautiful alternatives to consider – including the isles of Naxos, Syros, and Sifnos.

Thessaloniki 

Greece’s second city is located a little farther north than most tourists care to venture. However, Thessaloniki, with its seafront location, beautiful views over the water, and rich history, also has plenty to offer. Thessaloniki’s neighbourhoods each have their own unique character – from the pastel-coloured promenades of Ladadika, to hip Navarinou Square and the chic cocktail bars of the waterfront. 

The Islands of the Saronic Gulf 
Vlychos Fishing Village, Hydra
Vlychos Fishing Village, Hydra

The Saronic Gulf islands may well be one of the most underrated places in Greece. This beautiful archipelago awaits in the cerulean waters of the Aegean sea. The Saronic Gulf islands are easy to reach via ferry from Athens, making them the perfect Greek island travel destination for those who want to combine an island getaway with some exploration of the mainland. 

Each island offers something a little different – rugged Spetses is predominantly comprised of national parks making it the perfect spot for hiking and outdoor adventure. Hydra island feels like a journey back in time, and consists of several quaint fishing villages which can only be reached on foot or by horseback since vehicles are strictly prohibited.  

Lefkada 

Floating in the Ionian sea, yet connected to the mainland, Greece’s large western island of Lefkada is a popular summer travel destination among locals. Lefkada is often affectionately referred to as being “the Carribean of Greece” on account of its exotic landscapes and beaches. 

Various towns and villages are scattered throughout Lefkada and make a nice base for exploring the wider region. Nidri Lefkada and Agios Nikitas Lefkada are two lovely seaside towns to consider. 

Zakynthos 

Zakynthos (Zante) is one of the most popular summer getaway destinations in Greece. While the island has become almost synonymous for its large resorts and package holidays, there is a lot more to Zakynthos than initially meets the eye.

Once you travel away from the touristic southern part of the island, you are greeted with traditional rural villages, dense forests, rugged wilderness, and breathtaking coastlines where jagged limestone cliffs meet clear turquoise waters. 

Peloponnese 

The Peloponnese is a region of Greece like no other. With its snow-capped mountains, vast gorges and wild landscapes, the Peloponnese is a perfect destination for those who love the great outdoors. Numerous vineyards are located here, along with a unique culinary culture that makes Peloponnese a wonderful foodie destination. 

A popular day trip from Athens is to visit the ruins of Ancient Olympia. Equally mesmerising is the ancient village of Monemvasia, the undisturbed beauty of The Mani, and the rewarding Menalon hiking trail. 

Draft Out a Budget 

The Saronic Gulf, Greece
The Saronic Gulf, Greece

Greece is one of the most budget-friendly travel destinations in Europe. You can easily travel here on as little as $40 per day, especially in the off-peak season. That said, the time of year really does play a huge factor in how much things cost – supply and demand and all that.  The main aspects to consider when drawing out your Greece travel budget are outlined below. 

When Will You Be Travelling? 

The summer months of July and August are the “peak” season for visiting Greece. At this time, millions (literally) of travellers from across the world flock to the various islands and coastal areas in search of a slice of paradise. 

During the summer season, accommodation, flights, tours, and ferry tickets in Greece can be as much as 60% higher than during the shoulder season. I’d generally advise avoiding the extra expense of visiting at this time if you can. If it’s unavoidable, make sure that you are aware of how much things cost so that you don’t get a shock upon arrival. 

Where Will You Be Travelling? 

It is impossible to provide one broad generalisation as to how much things cost in Greece. Prices vary substantially depending upon where you are going. In major cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki for example, you can find an entire Airbnb apartment for as little as $15 per night. Boutique and mid-range hotels here cost as little as $30 per night. Prices are similar on some of the lesser-known islands, especially during the off-peak seasons. 

Some Greek travel destinations such as Santorini or Mykonos are more upscale and it is impossible to find anything for less than $80 a night. 

What Will You be Doing? 

If you are going to be basing yourself in one or two places, staying in an Airbnb accommodation, eating out at tavernas, and generally doing free or low-cost activities (visiting the occasional museum, walking everywhere, and exploring cities on foot), a budget of $40 per day is more than enough. 

On the other hand, if you want to make use of local tour guides, take cooking classes, visit theatrical performances, and visit private beaches or upscale restaurants, your daily budget will be much more. 

Consider When You are Travelling to Greece 

Marathon, Attiki, Greece
Marathon, Attiki, Greece

The best time to travel to Greece varies significantly depending on where you plan on going, and what you plan on doing when you arrive. It is important to note that Greece is not a hot Mediterranean paradise all year-round, and tourism here is extremely seasonal. 

If you are planning on visiting the islands, it is best to do so in May, early June, or late September so as to avoid the crowds and the higher prices. This also means that you can enjoy more pleasant temperatures. In the shoulder season, average temperatures range from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. This is much more bearable than the 30-40 degrees climates that you will see in July and August. 

Winters in Greece can become bitterly cold with temperatures that dip well below 10 degrees. We have even had a lot of snow in recent years! Autumn and Winter are a nice time for city breaks to Athens and Thessaloniki without the crowds. You could also consider some of Greece’s lesser-known winter travel destinations such as the mountain villages of Arachova, Zagori or Kalavryta.

Draw up a Suggested Itinerary 

Spetses, Greece
Spetses, Greece

Once you have made a final decision on where you want to go, it’s time to draw up your itinerary. I have written several cross-country and island hopping Greece itineraries.  

To reiterate again – don’t try and cram too much in! If you have to rush through each stop on your itinerary, it will not be as enjoyable as it could be. Allow enough time to truly immerse yourself in the surroundings and culture of each place you visit. 

As a general rule, if you have two weeks to spend in Greece, try to add no more than 4 or 5 stops on your itinerary. If you have just four or five days, try to base yourself in one city and then take day trips out from there. 

Plan Your Transportation from A to B 

Piraeus
Planning a Trip to Greece: Piraeus

Once you have mapped out your itinerary, the next stage is to establish how you are going to get from one place to another.

Renting Your Own Car in Greece

Renting a car in Greece is actually much easier than it may sound, and is a nice choice if you want a little more freedom and flexibility in your schedule. It is advisable to book your rental in advance, especially if travelling during the summer months. Various reputable rental companies offer collection from airports across the islands and the mainland. 

Getting Around Greece via Public Transport

Public transport links in Greece are very good. Trains, buses, and ferries are very modern and efficient, making Greece a great destination for independent travel. 

Trains are arguably the best way to get around Greece and this is often a more affordable option than taking the bus. Greek rail services are operated by the Italian-run OSE company. There are two types of services that you can travel on – regular trains and “IC” fast services. There is a moderate price difference between the two. The regular trains are relatively slow and stop at every station along the route, whereas the intercity (IC) services speed along to the major stations. You can check the latest timetables and fares here

Ferries and hydrofoils are a popular way to get between the islands and the mainland. Schedules and ticket prices vary depending upon the season. If you are travelling to Greece during the summer, you are strongly advised to purchase your ticket in advance. Check the ferry schedules here

Shortlist Some Accommodation Options 

Methana Island, Greece
Methana Island, Greece

Browse booking.com and other hotel comparison sites to review some possible accommodation options ahead of your trip. Once again, if you are travelling during the summer months, this needs to be booked in advance. 

One tip is to consider making reservations at hotels that have free cancellation up until a certain date. That way you have some flexibility in your Greece trip if you desire it. If you decided that you would like to spend a little longer in a certain city, you can do. 

Consider Any Activities You Want to Do 

Planning a Trip to Greece: Sounion, Southern Greece
Planning a Trip to Greece: Sounion, Southern Greece

Many tours, excursions, and cultural experiences can be booked once you arrive in Greece. However, if there is a day trip or a particular tour that you are really interested in, consider reserving your spot in advance while you are still in the stages of planning a trip to Greece. 

While I am certainly not a fan of “traditional” tours that entail following a Tour Guide around as she waves a red flag and 42 other travellers follow, I do see the value in more “intimate” tour experiences that enable you to really scratch beneath the surface of a country’s history and culture. For example, you might be interested to do a food tour in Athens or take a traditional Greek cooking class. 

One really nice tour company to have on your radar is Get Your Guide. The company organises intimate cultural experiences with local guides in various destinations around the world. You can also purchase airport transfers and ferry tickets with them too, which is nice because then you can keep everything in one place ready for your trip. 

Check Your Visa Requirements 

Koufounisia
Koufonisia

Check your government’s local travel advice when planning a trip to Greece. Visa requirements vary depending on the type of passport that you hold. Greece is part of the Schengen Zone. The residents of most European countries, in addition to all twenty-six Shengen zone countries do not require a visa to visit Greece. 

People who hold a passport from the following countries are permitted to enter the Schengen Zone without a visa for 90 days in any 180 day period: 

Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong S.A.R*, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao S.A.R*, Macedonia*, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova*, Monaco*, Montenegro*, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, Serbia*, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan**, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela

Those nations that are marked with an asterisk above have special requirements to be allowed visa-free travel to the Schengen zone so check with the government accordingly.  This information is subject to change, and High Heels and a Backpack provides no guarantees about its validity. Always double-check the latest travel updates with your local government before travelling. 

Overstaying a Schengen visa can result in deportation and fines. Always ensure that you have enough days remaining. 

Ensure That You are Adequately Insured 

Travel insurance should be considered an essential purchase for travelling anywhere and planning a trip to Greece is no different. Ensure that you purchase a comprehensive travel insurance package that provides adequate medical cover (a minimum of $1 million is advisable), in addition to other aspects of cover such as repatriation and theft. 

Always check the fine print and make sure that you understand exactly what is covered. Most sports (including hiking!) are not covered by standard insurance cover. 

Dust Off Your Greek Phrasebook 

Anafiotika, Athens
Anafiotika, Athens

It’s always polite to learn one or two phrases of the local language before you travel. A few words of Greek are always appreciated but don’t worry about conquering the language too much – almost everyone in Greece speaks English! 

I actually know a fair few expats that live in Greece yet still cannot speak a word of Greek after several years – ignorant, yes, but just to reiterate how wide spoken English is! Anyway, as I mentioned, it will be much appreciated if you are able to master just a few words of Greece. I once saw a Waiter let an English tourist have her coffee for free because he was so impressed that she ordered it in Greek! 

Yassas (Yass ass) – Hi

Kalimera (Kali Mera) – Good morning

Kalispera (Kali Spera) – Good evening (also used in the afternoon/any time after 3pm)

Kalinichta (Kali Nichta) – Goodnight

Efcharistó (Ef Hari Sto) – Thank you 

Tikanis? (Tee Kah Nis?) – How are you? 

Parakalo (Para Kah Lo) – You’re welcome 

Nai (Neh) – Yes

Oxi (Oh hee) – No 

Yamas (Yah mas!) – Cheers 

Book Your Flights and Head to Greece! 

The Ancient Agora, Athens
The Ancient Agora, Athens

Once you have mapped out your travel plans, you can finalise your trip by booking a flight to Greece. Fortunately, flights to get to Greece from within Europe and the Middle East are incredibly good value – I have often found deals from London to Athens for as little as £25! I have also gotten from the UK to Corfu, Crete, and Thessaloniki for just £50-£60 even in the height of summer. 

Numerous budget airlines operate flight routes to Greece, including RyanAir, Wizz Air, Jet2, and Aegean Airlines. Athens Eleftherios Venizelos is Greece’s main international airport. Thessaloniki, Heraklion (Crete) and Corfu also operate as major hubs. 

Many of the smaller islands do have their own airports too. Depending on your schedule it may be preferable to fly to them directly or to fly into Athens and then take an internal flight, or a ferry from Piraeus.

If you are planning a trip to Greece from the USA, you might find that it works out substantially cheaper if you fly into Athens first, rather than booking a flight to one of the islands. Use a comparison website such as Skyscanner to compare the various prices. You can search for flights from your departure city to “Greece” as a whole to find out which is the cheapest part of Greece to fly into first. 

Have any further questions about planning a trip to Greece? I’ve lived here for the last two and a half years and would be happy to assist with any queries you may have. Feel free to drop me an email or a comment below. Safe travels! Yassou, Melissa xo 

Disclaimer: This guide on planning a trip to Greece may contain the occasional affiliate link. This means that I may obtain a small amount of commission at no additional cost to you if you decide to make a purchase through any of the links contained on this page. This aids me in the cost of managing High Heels & a Backpack so that I can continue to provide free Greece travel content. Thanks for understanding. 

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