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 Study in Greece
ABOUT Greece

STUDY IN GREECE - living in greece


Social Scene     |    Customs and Culture    |    Transportation

Accommodation    |    Health Care    |    Emergency Contacts

Social Scene

Social Conventions: Visitors to Greece will find the Greeks to be well aware of a strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs differ throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, especially in more rural areas. The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is generally casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings. Tipping: 12-15 per cent is usual.

Local Customs & Culture

Food & Drink: Restaurant and taverna food tends to be very simple, rarely involving sauces but with full use of local olive oil and charcoal grills. Dishes like dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), moussaka (aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil), kebabs and avgolemono (chicken broth with rice, eggs, salt and lemon juice) can be found everywhere. Taramosalata (a dip made from fish roe, bread, onion, olive oil and lemon juice) and a variety of seafood dishes, especially squid (kalamari) or octopus, are excellent. Greek menus typically include a selection of meze (appetisers), such as keftedes (hot spicy meatballs) or tzatziki (a dip made from yoghurt, olive oil, garlic, shredded cucumber and dill). Salads are excellent and often made with the local feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and fresh olive oil. Other vegetarian specialities include gigantes (large white beans), kolokithakia (small boiled courgette with oil and lemon). Olives are cheap and plentiful. Deserts, such as baklavas (filo pastry filled with almonds and topped with honey, vanilla and sugar) or loukoumades (honey-drenched pastry puffs) are sweet and filling. All restaurants have a standard menu which includes the availability and price of each dish. A good proportion of the restaurants will serve international dishes. Hours are normally 1200-1500 for lunch and 2000-2400 for dinner. Waiter service is usual. One of the best-known Greek drinks is retsina wine, made with pine-needle resin. Local spirits include ouzo, an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added and very similar to the French pastis. Local brandy is sharp and fiery. Greek coffee is served thick and strong, and sugared according to taste. Greek beer is a light Pilsner type. Opening hours vary according to the region and local laws.

Nightlife: This is centred in main towns and resorts with concerts and discotheques. Athens offers many local tavernas, paticularly in the Plaka area, and ouzeris (typical Greek bars). Regular concerts and evening shows are also held at the the Odeion of Herodes in Attica. Nightclubs featuring Greek bouzouki music are extremely popular. There are some casinos in Greece, such as the Mount Parnes Casino in Athens, the Corfu Casino in Corfu and the Casino at the Grand Hotel Astir in Rhodes.

Shopping: Special purchases include lace, jewellery, metalwork, pottery, garments and knitwear, furs, rugs, leather goods, local wines and spirits. Athens is the centre for luxury goods and local handicrafts. The flea markets in Monastiraki and Plaka, below the Acropolis, are all crowded in high season. Regional specialities include silver from Ioannina, ceramics from Sifnos and Skopelos, embroidery and lace from Skiros, Crete, Rhodes and the Ionian Islands, fur from Kastoria, alabaster from Crete and flokati rugs from the Epirus region. Note: (a) Visitors should be aware that most ‘antiques’ sold to tourists are fake; it is illegal to export any item of real antiquity without a special permit from the Export Department of the Ministry of Culture. (b) Non-EU citizens can get a refund on Greek VAT (4 per cent on books and 18 per cent on nearly everything else); the process is fairly complex, but well worth it. Non-EU visitors may buy goods from certain shops bearing the sign ‘Member of the Tax Free Club’ and have the VAT refunded, in cash, at special refund points at the airport. Ask store owners and tourist information offices for details.

Shopping hours: These vary according to the season, location and type of shop, but a rough guide follows: Mon, Wed, and Sat 0800-1430, Tues, Thurs and Fri 0800-1400 and 1730-2030.
Note: Most holiday resort shops stay open late in the evening.





RAIL: The two main railway stations in Athens are Larissa (with trains to northern Greece, Evia and Europe) and Peloponnissos (with trains to the Peloponnese). Train information and tickets are available from the Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) in Athens (tel: (210) 529 8739) or in Thessaloniki (tel: (310) 538 367; website: Travelling north, there are regular daily trains from Athens to Thessaloniki, Livadia, Paleofarsala, Larissa, Plati, Edessa, Florina, Seres, Drama, Komotini and Alexandroupolis (connections from Thessaloniki and Larissa). Travelling south, there are regular daily trains from Athens to Kiato, Xylokastra, Diakofto, Patras, Olympia, Argos, Tripoli, Megalopolis and Kalamata.

Cheap fares: Mini-group tickets (two to five adults and one or more child) offer 25-40 per cent off the normal fare. Hellenic Tourpass: valid for 10, 20 and 30 days and issued to single, group and family travellers. They entitle the holder to unlimited travel on trains (second class) for a reduced cost. Prices depend on the number of passengers and duration of validity. Other reductions available for passengers residing outside Europe, include Eurail and Eurail Youthpass cards. Senior Citizen Travel Cards: Entitle passengers over 60 years of age to a 50 per cent reduction on rail travel and five free trips. The cards are valid for 1 year. Group Tickets: Entitle passengers to a 50 per cent reduction for groups of at least ten persons. Family Travel Card: Entitles families to 25-50 per cent reduction on rail travel. For further information on the above schemes, contact the the Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE).

ROAD: Greece has a good road network on the whole, totalling approximately 116,150km (72,174 miles), mostly paved. Traffic drives on the right. Examples of some distances from Athens: to Thessaloniki, 511km (318 miles); to Corinth, 85km (53 miles); to Igoumenitsa, 587km (365 miles); and to Delphi, 165km (103 miles). Bus: Buses link Athens and all main towns in Attica, northern Greece and the Peloponnese. Service on the islands depends on demand, and timetables should be checked carefully. Some islands do not allow any kind of motorised transport, in which case islanders use boats, or donkeys and carts to travel around. Fares are low. The Greek/Hellenic Railways Organisation Ltd (OSE) runs bus services to northern Greece from the Karolou Street terminus and to the Peloponnese from the Sina Street station. Bus information: There are two long-distance bus terminals in Athens: Terminal A and Terminal B. For information on long-distance buses, run by KTEL, from Athens to the provinces, enquire at Terminal A, 100 Kifissou Street, Athens (tel: (10) 512 4910) or Terminal B, 260 Liossion Street, Athens. Further information can be obtained from KTEL offices (website: Taxi: Rates are per km and are very reasonable, with extra charge for fares to/from stations, ports and airports.

Taxis run on a share basis, so do not be surprised if the taxi picks up other passengers for the journey. There is an additional charge from 0100-0600, with double fare from 0200-0400. Car hire: Most car hire firms operate throughout Greece. For details, contact the Greek/Hellenic National Tourism Organisation (see Contact Addresses section). Reservations can be made by writing or telephoning the car hire agency direct. Regulations: The minimum age for driving is l8. Children under 10 must sit in the back seat. Seat belts must be worn. There are fines for breaking traffic regulations. The maximum speed limit is 120kph (70mph) on motorways, 110kph (60mph) outside built-up areas and 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas. There are slightly different speed limits for motorbikes. It is illegal to carry spare petrol in the vehicle. EU nationals may import a foreign-registered car, caravan, motorcycle, boat or trailer for a maximum of 6 months. This period may be extended to 15 months for a fee and further paperwork. Documentation: A national driving licence is acceptable for EU nationals. EU nationals taking their own cars to Greece must obtain a Green Card, to top up the insurance cover to that provided by the car owner’s domestic policy. It is no longer a legal requirement for visits of less than 3 months, but without it insurance cover is limited to the minimum legal cover in Greece. The car registration documents have to be carried at all times. Nationals of non-EU countries may need an International Driving Permit and should contact ELPA (Automobile and Touring Club of Greece).


HOTELS: The range of hotels can vary greatly both among the islands and on the mainland, from high class on larger islands and the mainland to small seasonal chalets. Booking for the high season is essential. Xenia hotels are owned and often run by the Greek/Hellenic National Tourism Organisation. Small family hotels are a friendly alternative to the hotel chains.

Hotel reservations can be made by writing directly to the hotels, through a travel agent, or through writing, faxing or phoning the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, 24 Stadiou Street, 105 64 Athens (tel: (1) 331 0022; fax: (1) 322 5449; e-mail: Grading: Hotels are all officially classified as Luxury or rated on a scale from A to E. The category denotes what facilities must be offered and the price range that the hotelier is allowed to charge.

SELF-CATERING: Furnished rooms in private houses, service flats, apartments and villas are available. On most of the Greek islands, rooms in private homes are an extremely popular form of accommodation and can usually be arranged on the spot. All types of accommodation can be arranged through tour operators in this country. The Greek/Hellenic National Tourism Organisation can provide further information on request.

TRADITIONAL SETTLEMENTS: Known also as paradosiakoi oikismoi in Greek, these traditional hostels can be found throughout the country, notably on Makrinitsa (Pilion), Vizitsa (Pilion), Milies (Pilion), Ia (Santorini), Mesta (Chios), Psara Island, Areopolis (Mani), Vathia (Mani), Papingo (Epirus), Koriskades (Central Greece), Monemvasia (Peloponnese) and Gythion (Peloponnese). This type of accommodation normally offers single, double or triple bedrooms with shower, or a four-bed house.

CAMPING/CARAVANNING: There is a wide network of official campsites. For details contact the Greek/Hellenic National Tourism Organisation. Note: It is not permitted to camp anywhere except registered sites.

YOUTH HOSTELS: Greece has only one youth hostel recognised by the International Youth Hostel Federation, which is located in Athens, 16 Victor Hugo Street, 104 38 Athens (tel: (210) 523 2049; fax: (210) 523 2049; e-mail:; website: A number of youth hostels belong to the Greek Youth Hostels Association, whose main office is in 75 Damareos Street, Athens (tel (210) 751 9530; fax: (210) 751 0616; e-mail: Other youth hostels exist in the Peloponnese, Crete, and the Cyclades. For further details contact the Greek Youth Hostel Association.

Health Care

There is a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom, but it is poorly implemented and it is an essential precaution to take out holiday insurance. Refunds for medical treatment are theoretically available from the Greek Social Insurance Foundation on presentation of form E111 (see the Health appendix).
Local chemists can diagnose and supply a wide selection of drugs. There are often long waits for treatment at public hospitals. Hospital facilities on outlying islands are sometimes sparse, although many ambulances without adequate facilities have air-ambulance backup.

Emergency Contacts
For Emergencies Police Fire Brigade
112 100 199


Medical Service

Coast Guard

Social Assistance

166 108 197
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