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Arriving in Greece/Athens

Arriving The arriving experience..

Most visitors to Greece arrive via jet airplane. Although cars abound during the summer, jet aviation has made Greece especially accessible, including far flung islands offering just a small flat part to be used as an airport.

In Athens, there is a new $2 billion airport that handles both Olympic Airways as well as other carriers such as such as Air Greece, Cronos and Apollo. In Thesaloniki, Kérkira(Corfu), Heraclion, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, Zakinthos, Kefalónia or Lésvos, there is only a single airport, normally small with simple facilities and easy way in or out.

As soon as you arrive you would select from one of three customs areas, the Red for those wishing to declare items, such as business goods, the Green for those not declaring anything or not having anything to declare, ie personal items, small gifts and the like, or the Blue for those arriving from other European Union countries where passage is free and normally easy. After exiting the terminals(either Western or Eastern), you will find lines for either buses into town (Athens of Pireaus) or taxis (yellow cabs, diesel burning, rather noisy) that can take you wherever you want to go.

Taking a cab/taxi Judd Hirsh and Danny de Vito, where are you?

Taxis are plentyfull and you can hail one down by shouting "TAXI" at it. When taking taxis, beware of the following:

  • Taxis can pick up more passengers along the route, with everyone paying the full fare. In other words, if two of you take a taxi into town, and a third passenger arrives who is also taken into the taxi (the front seat is empty after all), you, together with the other passenger will have to pay the full amount shown on the meter, ie. the taxi makes 2x the fare. The Airport has a surcharge and you pay extra for night driving. Calling a radio taxi also adds the cost for the taxi to come to you in the equation, thereby taxis in Greece are not such a great deal they once were. Having said that, Taxis are relatively inexpensive, compared with those in other parts of Europe. Expect to pay about DRA 3000-4000 into the center of Athens and DRA 2000-3000 to the nearest Metro station (Ethniki Amina).
  • Taxis can also take you far, but negotiate the price first.
  • Ensure the meter is on and if the driver says it is broken, request that the car stops, get out and take his number down (shown on the taxi license infront of the front passenger seat). Tell the nearest policeman about it and dont take any abuse; they are trying to rip-you off after all.

A much better way to travel is with the bus. It costs only $1 to get into town with the bus, and it is immensely more enjoyable than siting in a taxi. Buses are air conditioned and most of them are nonstop into the center, right near Syntagma square (the only place in Athens where you should be, 15 minute walk from the Acropolis and hundreds of hotels).

Hotels Hotels, Hotels and even more hotels.

It seems that everyone in Greece is building a hotel, the nearest thing to a Greek money tree. With millions of tourists every year, there is a shortage of beds, so having a hotel is a sure way of making money and offering accomodation to deserving visitors.

Hotels, are arranged in categories from the top of the line Hilton/Intercontinental to down-right simple, 1 star hotels offering the bare necessities. Prices range from DRA 50000 per night ($200) to DRA 4000 night ($14) and you will find everything in between. Some things to note about hotels are:

  • There is sometimes dual pricing: pricing for foreigners and one for Greeks. Yes, I know you are saying that is scandalous, but that is exactly what happened to me in January 1997, in Athens and happens everywhere else. And you can understand why: Greeks earn much less money than foreigners and if they had to pay cheap Western prices, they would still be too expensive for them; thus the dual charging. Even so, Western prices are still cheap enough by western standards not to be a problem, but it is nice to know that prices could even be cheaper.
  • One way to avoid this, is to get a Greek friend of yours to make the reservation and quote the price as well as the name of the employee on the phone so that when you get there, you get the 'Greek' price.
  • Another way is to go there and insist that you are charged local prices. Of course if you are dressed with expensive clothes and your lady companion (if any) wears expensive jewellery, don't hope for Greek prices, if any. I wouldn't give them to you and neither should the hotel.
  • Hotels are normally clean and neat. In certain areas, however, the standards decline, thus avoid hotels in seemingly dark or sleezy areas (and there is plenty in Athens, just look around Omonia square).
  • Breakfast is normally provided at no charge and it consists of coffee or tea with bread, marmelade/jam and boiled egg. English breakfst would cost extra so dont ask for it; after all you should experience Greece; if you wanted the culinary delights of home, you should stay there and watch a video on Greece.

Above all, enjoy your stay and tell us all about it upon your return!

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