Europe, Greece, Travel

How to plan a trip to Greece and other travel tips

August 8, 2010

We’re taking a trip to Greece for the first time ever in September and I just thought I would share what I’ve learned so far, after countless hours of researching online and talking to people from Greece.


(Photo of Atrina Houses, where we’ll be staying)

Island Hopping

We knew that we wanted to spend most of our time on the islands. We just couldn’t work out multiple islands with our international flight dates, the availability dates of the villa in Santorini, etc. That’s ok, but I just wanted to share what I have learned. You can either fly or take a ferry.  The ferry to Santorini is either 4 hours long  for the fast ferry, 8 hours for the regular ferry or 45 minutes to fly.  We’re flying.

I read lots of articles saying that it’s easy to island hop in Greece.  That’s not really true for several reasons.

  1. The ferries only make intermittent trips for some routes especially for the smaller islands, so that won’t necessarily align with your travel plans. Or, you’d have to go all the way back to Piraeas (Athens), which would be 4-8 hours and then get on a new ferry.  No, thank you.
  2. Many of the smaller islands don’t have airports, so you’d have to use the ferry between them.  Then, you’re back at problem #1.
  3. Right now, with the poor economy in Greece and the strikes, sometimes the ferries might not run.  Eek!

To check ferry routes and prices, go Greeka.com, which checks for all of the different companies.

If you want to fly, check out Olympic Air or Aegean Air.  Flying is definitely more expensive, but is more reliable and saves lots of time.

Another tip that I’ve read over and over since making my travel plans is that if you’re going to the islands, you should go directly there and spend time in Athens at the end of your trip.  This way, if you have any problems with the aforementioned travel options, you should make it back without missing your flight home because you’ll have several days of wiggle room.

Athens

You’ll want to stay in or near the Plaka area of Athens, which is where the Acropolis is.  Be careful of hotels further out that could be in a seedy neighborhood.  Check Trip Advisor for recommendations.  I could not book travel without using Trip Advisor!

Money Tips

  • Make sure to take a credit card that doesn’t have international transaction fees.  The only one I’m aware of is Capital One, which I happen to have.  Otherwise, you’ll be charged 3-5% of every transaction while you’re traveling.
  • Make sure to take the phone numbers of the credit card companies for the cards you are taking in a separate location.  Don’t write down the actual card numbers because those could be stolen.  All you need is the phone numbers to call them.  Another thing you can do is leave the account numbers with a family member back home and then call them if you absolutely needed them.
  • We always wait until we get there and then take money out of a local ATM.  You usually get the best rates this way.

Passport/Visa/Etc.

  • Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond your period of stay.
  • You do not need a visa for a short vacation.  Visit the US State Department website for more info.
  • If you plan to rent a car, you need to get an international driver’s license.  You can get this for $15 at your local AAA office.

Packing

  • You’re allowed 50 lbs per bag for most US departing international flights, however only 42 -44 lbs on the Greek airlines.  Check with each airline.  The point is that you’ll need to make sure your suitcase weighs at or under the smaller allowance.

Helpful Santorini Websites

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  • http://parenthoodforme.blogspot.com Erica

    Happy ICLW. I have been to Greece. We went on a whim while styding in Italy. It was a long time ago. I stayed on san torini and Paros. It was extremely beautiful. have a wonderful time.

  • http://jesstutt.blogspot.com Jess

    Happy ICLW! I can’t wait to see your photos when you get back.

    Jess