General information

Greece
Country code: +30
Local time: GMT + 2
Currency: Euro

Greece is a beautiful country in southeastern Europe. Situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece has land borders with Albania, Skopje and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east.
The Aegean Sea lies to the east of mainland Greece, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the twelfth longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1400, of which 227 are inhabited), including Crete, the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, and the Ionian Islands among others.
Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains, of which Mount Olympus is the highest at 2,917m.
Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilisation of ancient Greece, generally considered the cradle of Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, university education, the first coin, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. This legacy is partly reflected in the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Greece.
The modern Greek state was established in 1830, following a victorious uprising against Ottoman rule.
Greece is a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952, the OECD since 1961, the WEU since 1995 and ESA since 2005. Athens is the capital. Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, Volos, Ioannina, Larissa and Kavala are some of the country’s other major cities.

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The Greek climate varies according to region, from continental (Central and Northern Greece) to Mediterranean (Attica, the Peloponnese, and Aegean and Ionian Islands) and subtropical with little rainfall (Crete). The temperature of the Greek seas is generally high throughout, ranging typically from 15 degrees C in winter and spring to 30 degrees C in summer and autumn. Wave height is almost invariably small, making Greek seas safe for the average bather, not exceeding about 1.2 metres in height, unlike oceanic waves. Greek seas are acknowledged to be among the cleanest in Europe. Measurements of cleanliness are fairly constant in the summer, with the weekly publication of a measurements bulletin and map of those beaches and areas that are deemed especially clean.
The Greek weather can get quite hot in the summer, with temperatures of 35-37 degrees C or even more common in June, July and August. Such heatwaves rarely last for more than a few days. In the Aegean and Ionian Islands the temperature tends to be 2 to 4 degrees C lower than the mainland. The summer sea winds, the “meltemia,” begin in April, rise to a peak in August, and gradually abate by November. They’re characterized by winds of up to Force 9, and are experienced mainly in the Aegean Sea. These winds are especially welcome to sailors and windsurfers. The Aegean Yacht Regatta takes place every August, the same month as the Annual World Windsurfing Championship at the island of Paros. The windiest periods don’t usually exceed five days, after which the usual Force 1 to 3 breezes prevail, calming the sunny beaches. But at especially windy times, port authorities ban all passenger and pleasure boating. These weather emergencies generally do not last more than a couple of days at most.
Winter in Greece covers the period from November to April. It’s mostly mild, with the average temperature between 5 and 15 degrees C, moderate winds on the mainland and the islands, and frequent rain in the mountains. There can be considerable snow in the mountains, and even in Athens occasionally. Parts of Northern Greece, and areas of more than 800 metres in altitude, average from -5 to 10 degrees C in the coldest months. Greece’s ski centres open at this time, with the precise dates depending on the amount and quality of snow. Athens generally enjoys mild temperatures, from between 20 and 35 degrees C in the summer and 5 to 15 degrees C in the winter. Rainfall tends to be on the low side. In the high summer there can be heatwaves for a few days at a time, though in August the prevailing winds tend to cool them down.
Area: 131, 990 sq. km.
Length of State Border: 1,228 km
Border Countries: Albania (282 km), Bulgaria (494 km), Turkey (206 km), FYROM (246 km)
Climate: Temperate, mild, wet winters, hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly Mountains with ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains of islands
Elevation Extremes: Lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0m – Highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917m
Natural Resources: Lignite, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, nickel, magnesite, marble, salt
Legal System: Based on Roman law, judiciary divided into civil, criminal, and administrative courts
Capital: Athens
Government Type: Parliamentary democracy
Legislative Branch: Unicameral Parliament– 300 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to four-year terms
Chief of State: President
Head of Government: Prime Minister
Membership in important international organizations: EU, NATO, EBRD, EIB, IBRD, IMF, IMO, Interpol, OECD, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO, WTO, CERN
Population: 11,171,740
Density: 84.46/km2
Major Greek Cities: Athens (3,761,180), Thessaloniki (1,057,825), Patras (191,058)
Transportation & Telecommunications: Railways total: 2,600 km – Roadways total: 117,000 km
Major highways: Egnatia Highway, PATHE Motorway, Ionian Motorway, Attiki Odos Motorway, Rion-Antirrion (Bridge)
Major Ports: [12 international ports] Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Patra, Alexandroupoli, Elefsina, Igoumenitsa, Iraklio, Kavala, Kalamata, Lavrio, Chalkida, Astakos
Major Airports: [15 international airports, 25 domestic airports, 20 million passengers annually] Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos), Thessaloniki, Iraklio (Crete), Rhodes, Corfu, Kos, Chania, Zakynthos, Samos, Mykonos, Santorini (Thira)
Telecommunications:
Telephones – main lines in use 6 million
Telephones – mobile cellular Approx.16 million
Mobile phone penetration 150+%
Mobile phone operators Cosmote, Wind, Vodafone, Q Telecom
Internet penetration 33.9%
Broadband 14% est. end 2008, EU convergence est. 2010
Athens: Athens has an adequate public transport network consisting of buses, trolley buses, the Metro, the suburban railway and trams, which connect all districts and suburbs. The Proastiakos suburban railway links Athens International Airport with the centre of Athens for a fare of 8€ one way. Another airport link is the Metro, whose Line 3 (blue) connects with Syntagma Square and a dozen stops in between. Both these lines have other links to the port of Piraeus and to the main bus and train stations. Bus tickets are sold at kiosks and newsstands, and at bus stations. Metro and train tickets are available at the stations. Each ticket is valid for one trip, except for weekly (10€) and monthly (38 €) passes, each of which requires a photograph of the bearer. These passes are valid on all buses, trolley buses, Metro trains and trams. Buses and trolley buses run from 0500 to 0030, while the Metro runs from 0500 to midnight. The trams run round the clock.

Thessaloniki: Thessaloniki and the other main towns of Greece, including the main islands, have bus services. A train service runs between Patra, Athens and Thessaloniki, including Larissa, Volos, and the towns up to the Turkish border. Everywhere else, the connections are bus only. Tickets can be found at the bus and train stations. Greece has a well-developed inter-city bus service with comfortable and fast vehicles that also serve many villages. Bus services are more frequent throughout the summer.

Greece has plenty of hotels, villas to rent, bungalows and rooms to rent. These latenamed operate by licence from the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) and must display this licence in a prominent place, plus the maximum room price the proprietor is allowed to charge. July and August are the months with the highest tourist traffic, and all hotels and rented room proprietors are hard put to keep up with the demand, especially in the week around 15 August. Yet such is the supply of rooms that at all times, even on the tiniest island, one can find some sort of acceptable accommodation to meet any budget. More information is available from the GNTO and the local Tourist Police, who have lists of available local accommodation in every Greek town.
There are a great many tour guides and maps published in Greece, covering every area. Two of the main Greek publishers are Road Editions and Ekdotike Athinon. Foreign guides, of course, are legendary, such as those put out by Lonely Planet, Insight Guides, Rough Guides, Eyewitness Travel Guides and Fodor’s. They can be found in all central bookshops in the cities and main towns, plus some kiosks and tourist shops. Maps and guidebooks issued in Greece come translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Dutch, Finnish and Japanese, to mention just the key languages. Here are a few major publishers of guidebooks and maps:
• Road Editions
• Εkdotike Αthinon
• Eleftheroudakis Bookshop
Taxis, including radio taxis, are still relatively cheap in Greece. To call a radio taxi entails a small surcharge for the privilege. Both kinds of taxi employ regular taxi meters, with double rates applicable at night, between 0030 and 0600, and also when the taxi exits the city limits at any time. The amount shown on the taxi meter is what the passenger should pay, though there are extra charges for each piece of luggage stowed in the boot, and if the place of boarding is a port or airport. But caution is advised, as there have been several cases of dishonest taxi drivers cheating foreigners out of huge sums of money. All Athens area taxis are painted yellow, have a distinctive yellow number plate, and a taxi light on the roof. Taxis in other cities may be painted a different colour, but all should be clearly marked as taxis on the front doors. Rural taxis are not required to use the taxi meter all the time, especially for longer distances. Often the passenger comes to a prior agreement on the fare before setting off.
The ports of Piraeus and Rafina are the main starting points for voyages to the Aegean islands. The Ionian Islands are served mainly by the port of Kyllini on the west coast of Greece. Other island groups such as the Sporades (Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonnisos) are accessible from Aghios Konstantinos on the east coast and from Volos and Thessaloniki. Islands such as Kythira and Samothraki are reachable by local ferry from the nearest mainland port. The nearer islands of the Saronic Gulf such as Aigina, Hydra and Poros are directly served by car ferries and fast hydrofoils several times a day from the central port of Piraeus. Sailing frequency soars during the summer, reaching a peak at the height of the holiday season in August.
Greece’s two main airlines, Olympic Airlines, and Aegean Air, maintain a dense flight network from Athens to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Ioannina, Kastoria, Kavala, Kozani and Preveza, and to the islands of Corfu, Ikaria, Karpathos, Kasos, Kastellorizo, Kephalonia, Kythera, Kos, Limnos, Leros, Mykonos, Lesvos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes, Samos, Skiathos, Skyros, Syros, Santorini and Zakynthos. Crete services include daily flights to Heraklion and Chania. Flights are increased in the summer and over the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter.
For a satisfying sea voyage, one has the choice of joining a luxury cruise of chartering a boat for a personalized trip over the blue waves and freedom to visit out-of-the-way spots that the big cruise liners pass by. The latter choice is tempting, as Greece has 13,000 kilometres of intricate coastline for exploring. Vessels of all sizes and classes can be chartered, from cruisers to catamarans to yachts and power dinghies. All are equipped to international navigational safety standards. They come with skipper and crews, unless one wishes to charter just the boat, in which case the charterer must hold a valid seamanship certificate. For information on ship, plane, bus and train services, call 1440.
The power supply in Greece is European-standard 220V and 50Hz frequency. The prevalent wall outlet is the Schuco type.
Health care is both state-provided and available privately, especially in the large cities. Greece has no prevalent infectious diseases, and therefore no vaccinations are necessary before a trip to Greece. The country makes a generally good effort at sticking to accepted international rules of hygiene in hotels and restaurants and other tourist-oriented locations. The food is generally reliable. All over the country there are health care centres, from large and modern hospitals to first aid centre in the villages and islands. In case of real medical emergency in a hard-to-reach place, there is almost always an ambulance or taxi or private car available to rush the patient to a hospital. On the islands, ambulance helicopters can be called at any time. Visitors are advised to have health coverage from their home countries, and before travelling make sure that it remains in effect while on holiday in Greece. Otherwise, a special health coverage contract is advised.
Pharmacies in Greece are open the following hours: Monday and Wednesday: 09:00 to 14:30. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 09:00 to 13:30 and 17:30 to 20:30. They’re closed on weekends, though by law at least two in each municipality are required to stay open around the clock for emergencies. A list of these establishments can be found in the window of each pharmacy on weekends and holidays. However, those remaining open after 2300 are allowed to fill medical prescriptions only and not sell over-the-counter medicines.
The Greek water supply conforms to international hygienic standards. It’s generally of good quality, and can be drunk in complete safety. Bottled water is popular in the summer, but its only advantage is that it can be carried out. Doctors say the tap water is actually better.
Working hours: Monday to Friday: 07:30 to 14:00. The exceptions are four large post offices in Athens – Syntagma Square, Omonia Square, Mitropoleos Square and Athens Airport – which stay open until 2000 and work on Saturday mornings as well.
The crime rate in Greece is generally believed to be somewhat lower than in most other European countries. In most parts of Athens and the other towns one can still walk safely late at night. But of course one needs to take the necessary precautions of any large city, such as securing one’s handbag, wallet, mobile phone and worn jewellery.
The state-run museums open daily between 09:00 and 18:30, though remaining closed on Mondays. Details of particular museums are available in the relative geographic sections of this publication.
All the newsstands and kiosks in central Athens sell a weekly guide to culture and entertainment in Athens, Athenscope, in English and French. This publication contains a diary of events for the coming week, including concerts (classical, jazz, rock, ethnic and folk), theatre plays, movies, exhibitions, talks and lists of restaurants and bars.
These are open daily from 12:30 to 16:30 for lunch, and from 19:00 to after midnight for dinner. Some tavernas in the more touristy areas are open continuously from 12 noon to an hour after midnight. Fast food joints open generally from 07:30 to 01:00, though some stay open around the clock.
Open daily from 08:00 to late at night (varying closing times).
Open Monday and Wednesday: 09:00 to 14:30. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 09:00 to 13:30 and 17:30 to 20:30. Saturday: 09:00 to 14:30. Shops in the centre of Athens, including the tourist shops in districts such as Plaka, Ermou Street, Monastiraki, Kolonaki, Omonia Square and Syntagma Square, as well as department stores and supermarkets, open continuously from 09:00 to 20:00 every day except Sunday, when all close except the obvious tourist shops.
All cinemas in Greece, including the huge new multiplexes, show the latest films, from Hollywood blockbusters to the more artsy French variety, undubbed and with Greek subtitles. There are usually three shows per evening, more in the multiplexes. In summer, one delight of Greek life is the open-air cinema, which shows more re-runs, but in which one can relax with a hot dog and beer on the tin table by your side under the stars.
These are open winter and summer in the large cities. Curtain time is usually around 08:00. On Saturdays and Sundays it’s usual to have two shows. Closed Mondays.
All hotels have Internet and e-mail connection facilities, and there are Internet cafes in towns all over the country. In the hotels, though, one’s own laptop/tablet is often necessary. Internet cafe charges range from 1.5€ to 3€ an hour, depending on the time spent. There is a facility for accessing the web through a 3G mobile telephone on all networks.
All the main towns have centrally-located kiosks or newsstands where the main foreign newspapers and magazines can be bought.
Public television is free in Greece, transmitted on both UHF and VHF frequencies. Greece’s television transmission is the PAL model. There are three state-run national channels (ET1, NET and ET3), and several major private channels such as Antenna, Mega, Star and Alter. The state channels also retransmit key foreign channels such as CNN, TV5 and Euronews. A satellite television connection, of course, ensures access to a great many more channels around the world. A satellite connection is payable by monthly subscription plus a start-up fee that includes equipment and installation.

National Tourism Organization

Website: www.visitgreece.gr
Head Office: Τsocha 7, Athens. Tel: +30 210 8707000.
Information Office: L. Αmalias 26, Αthens. Tel: +30 210 3310392, 210 3310716, 210 3310347.
Information Office II: Athens International Airport (Spata), Arrivals Hall. Tel: +30 210 3530445.