This is it! Your long-awaited vacation in the Greek capital is around the corner and you cannot wait to get there. Before you start daydreaming about seeing the Acropolis ruins and heading out to a beach party with your friends, here are some top tips you need to know before visiting Athens.
Athens is not a cashless city
Even before the economic turmoil and despite capital controls, cash has always been king in Greece, so make sure to have enough money in your wallet. Of course, nowadays, more and more stores, boutiques, restaurants and other establishments that previously lived only on cash payments are starting to accept credit and debit cards, but try to have a bit of cash with you just in case. You will easily find ATMs around the centre and near tourist attractions and sites.
The metro is your best friend
Unlike many other European capitals, the metro system in Athens is quite simple and easy to navigate. With only three lines covering the entire city, there is no risk of getting onto the wrong line or off at the wrong stop. The historic centre is adequately covered and can even be reached by foot, if necessary. With cheap public transport prices, take advantage of it. Besides, you can also admire a few historic artifacts in several metro stations.
Avoid tourist traps
Do yourself a favour and avoid restaurants that have menus filled with photos of the food served or restaurants with waiters standing outside trying to convince passersby to eat at their establishment. Instead, opt for places where you can spot locals enjoying a meal. Even in Plaka or Thisseio, you can find tavernas mostly filled with locals.
Taxis are quite cheap in Greece, even after dark. You can hail one on the street or find one at a taxi station near major squares, but for convenience, you can also take advantage of apps. Beat is the taxi application that allows you to choose a taxi driver from a list of drivers available, along with your payment mode (cash or credit card) and ensures you get an English-speaking driver.
Smoke, smoke everywhere
If you are coming from a non-smoking country, you may be shocked once you land in Athens. Greeks are big smokers and even with the indoor smoking ban introduced, bars, cafes and restaurants are rarely smoke-free. Unfortunately, Greeks take their right to smoke very seriously and don’t often comply when asked to refrain from smoking, so keep this in mind.
Beware of pickpockets
Metro pickpockets are more and more fierce and bold these days and you really need to keep an eye on your belonging when journeying on the metro. The same can be said when sitting on a terrace at busy cafes or squares and particularly if you have a habit of leaving your phone on the table while having coffee or lunch.
Nightlife starts late
If you plan on a night out at the clubs, don’t plan anything before midnight, as you can be sure there won’t be anybody there but you. Greeks live late and tend to go out at around 2 am. Before, they are usually still dining out or simply getting ready. The night ends when the sun comes up, so get ready to dance and party for a while.
Tips are optional
In Greece, and mostly anywhere else in Europe, waiters have a proper salary and tips are simply a bonus they get for good service. As such, you are under no obligation to pay one, but feel free to leave one if you want to. If you enjoyed the service you received, then tip accordingly.
Get out of the city
If you are visiting the city during the hot summer months, know that going on a day trip is simply a necessity. As Athens becomes hotter and the air unbearable, there are countless day trips you can take to escape the heat. Whether you opt for an island trip or a quick getaway in the mainland, you won’t have a hard time finding something fun and interesting to do.