For an all-in-one sightseeing, culture-rich, cosmopolitan, metropolitan and historic country destination, Greece is the word. Every facet of Greek society is an attraction in itself, from food to fashion to buildings; it's a big fat Greek tourism magnet. Most visitors head right for the capital of Athens, where ancient civilisations are preserved in the famous Parthenon and Acropolis structures. The more modern part of Athens is located in and around the Syntagma Square, where the Greek parliament is housed.
From Athens, most tourists will set about a cruise to the multitude of smaller Greek isles. Mountainous Crete is the most popular, hosting sparkling beaches, spectacular green outcroppings, ancient Minoan and other historic sites as well as the jaw-dropping (and back-breaking) Samaria Gorge Trail.
Other popular island destinations include: Corfu, for its mythic significance; Sanatori, for its volcanic history and vibrant nightlife and Rhodes Island which once held the Wonder of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes and is today a World Heritage Site. While the boat gets you between islands, the most effective way to travel on the islands themselves is by scooter, bus or taxi.
Business in Greece is conducted in a similar fashion to Italy or Spain rather than their northern European counterparts.
A formal dress style is adhered to; dark, conservative suits for men and women are best. Punctuality is not often practiced in Greece and often hosts arrive late to meetings. A firm handshake with eye contact is the norm for greeting men and women for the first time.
Business cards should be printed in both Greek and English, although there is no ritual surrounding the exchange. Greeks like to get to know their business colleagues before conducting any serious business so don't expect to close a deal at the first meeting. Greek culture adheres to a hierarchical structure and respect should be shown accordingly.
The giving of gifts is common in social circumstances though not necessarily in business. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.
Greece enjoys mild winters and very hot, dry summers cooled by seasonal breezes known as 'meltemia'. Snow can fall in the mountainous regions in winter. Winter is the wettest season and rain is unlikely between June and August.
The international access code for Greece is +30. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom).
The city code for Athens is 210. There are often surcharges on calls made from hotels and it is generally cheaper to use OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) offices for local and international calls. Calls can also be made from public card phone booths and cards can be bought from kiosks or OTE offices.
The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Coverage is exceptional. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts and are cheaper than accessing the Internet from hotels.
Indecent behaviour is not tolerated and the police will not hesitate to arrest or fine offenders. Some form of official identification should be carried at all times.
Travellers from non-EU countries do not pay duty when entering Greece for 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of spirits with alcohol volume over 22%, or 2 litres of dessert wine not exceeding 22% alcohol volume and sparkling wine, and 2 litres of table wine; 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette; and other goods for non-commercial value to the value of EUR175 for adults and EUR90 for children under 15 years.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use including the European-style two-pin and the round three-pin.
There are no specific health risks in Greece, but visitors who plan to walk through forested areas are advised to consider vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis.
Travellers to Central Macedonia in the summer months should bring mosquito repellent to prevent exposure to West Nile Virus, as there was an outbreak in August of 2010. Medical facilities in Greece vary; those in major cities are excellent but many of the islands are some distance from a decent hospital.
Food and water are safe, but those visiting for short periods should consider sticking to bottled water.
UK nationals are entitled to a refund on emergency hospital treatment under a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Greece, and a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should be taken on holiday for this purpose.
Despite this, all visitors are advised to take out medical insurance. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for those arriving from infected areas.
Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change are widely available and travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining euros.
The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Non-EEA travellers to Greece must hold visible means of financial support to cover their stay in the country - entry may be refused if proof of sufficient funds (at least EUR 50/day) cannot be shown. It is also recommended that non-EEA members hold return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Passengers not holding onward tickets may be asked for proof of sufficient funds for their return/onward journey. Visitors requiring a visa are also required to have medical insurance, covering them for their full period of stay in Greece. Note that the admission of visa-free nationals into Greece is considered upon their arrival in the country; and that visitors wishing to extend their stay in the country, must register at the Aliens Police Department or at the Security Police Department BEFORE (i) the expiry date of their visa, or (ii) the end of the period of visa-free stay. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There is a safety risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and visitors are urged to be vigilant in public places, including tourist sites. Recent strikes have inconvenienced travellers without turning violent, however tourists are advised to stay away from political gatherings. Greece is otherwise considered a safe destination, but the height of the tourist season does usually see an increase in petty theft cases, particularly in crowded areas. Visitors are advised not to carry valuables on them. Violent crime is infrequent, but there have been incidents on some Greek islands and lone visitors are advised not to accept lifts from strangers.
A service charge is often included in the bill at restaurants in Greece, it is best to see if this is the case when tipping. If not, leave between 10 to 15%. For drinks at cafes, round the bill up to the nearest euro. Taxis expect change as do cloak room attendants and porters.