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 The Country
Name of State :   Elliniki Demokratia (Republic of Greece)
The capital city is Athens.
Location
Greece is occupying the southernmost extension of the Balkan peninsula and numerous islands. Along its northern border, from west to east, lie Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bulgaria; to the east is Turkey. The Greek mainland is a peninsula bounded by the Ionian Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the east. Crete (Kriti), the country's largest island, stretching about 165 miles (266 km) from east to west, lies in the Mediterranean Sea and is separated from the peninsula by the Sea of Crete.
Area
The total area is 131,957 sq.km (or 50,949 sq.miles) of which about one fifth is composed of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas.
Topography
The Greek landscape, with its 2,500-odd islands and its rugged mainland coastline exceeding 2,500 miles (4,000 km) in length, is intimately linked with the sea. Only a small wedge of the Greek peninsula's interior is more than 50 miles (80 km) from the sea.
The country's interior is dominated by the Pindus Mountains, which extend from Albania on Greece's northwestern border down through central Greece into the Peloponnese (the large peninsula, technically now an artificial island, lying south of the Gulf of Corinth). Mount Olympus, the country's highest peak, reaches 9,570 feet (2,917 m).

The Greek Islands are generally subdivided into two groups, according to location: 1) The Ionian Islands, located to the west of the mainland. 2) The Aegean Islands are much more numerous, including Euboca (Evvoia) and the Northern Sporades group in the west; and the Dodecanese (Dhodhekanisos) group in the southeast; and the Cyclades (Kikladhes) group and Crete in the south.

Greece lies in a geologically active region. The most serious earthquake of modern times occurred in September 1999 in the Athens region, leaving at least 80 people dead, hundreds wounded and large number of the areas' housing destroyed.

About a fifth of Greece is forested, varying from noteworthy black-pine forests in the north to the classic Mediterranean complex (maquis) of the central and southern regions. The brown bear, wildcat, and roe deer can be found in the north, and the jackal, wild goat, and porcupine in the south.

The mainland consists of the following regions: Central Greece, the Peloponnesos peninsula (connected to rest of mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth), Thessaly (east/central), Epirus (west), Macedonia (north/northwest) and Thrace (northwest). Euboea, the second largest of the Greek islands, lying to the east of the central region, is also considered to be part of the mainland region. The Corinth Canal, complete in 1893, passes through the Corinth Isthmus making Peloponnesos an artificial island. The remainder of Greece consists of islands, which include Crete, the Northern Sporades, Cycaldes, Dodecanese, Chios, Limnos, Lesvos, Samos, Samothraki and Thasos in the Aegean sea; and Eptanesa (Ionian islands) in the Ionian sea.
Time
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Climate
Greece has a Mediterranean climate with extremely dry summers. Average annual rainfall decreases generally eastward and southward of the western coastal areas, from 1,320 mm (52 inches) on the northwestern island of Corfu to less than 406 mm (16 inches) in Athens. Winters are mild throughout the country, with temperatures averaging between 6 and 12 C (43 and 54 F), and summer temperatures
average from 26 to 28 C (79 to 82 F).

The dominant condition of Greece's climate is the alternation between hot, dry summers and cold, damp winters typical of the Mediterranean. But considerable local variation results from elevation and distance from the sea. Generally, continental influences are felt farther north and in the center of the mainland. The main climatic regions of Greece are the mainland mountains, Attica (the southeasternmost part of the mainland) and the Aegean, the west including the Ionian Islands, and the continental northeast.

In winter low-pressure systems reach Greece from the North Atlantic, bringing rain and moderating temperatures but also drawing cold winds from the eastern Balkans over Macedonia and Thrace as they pass into the Aegean Sea. The same low-pressure systems also draw warmer winds from the south, creating an average January temperature differential of 4 C between Thessaloniki (6 C) and Athens (10 C). Cyclonic depressions provide the lowlands of the west and the south with mild winters and little frost. Beginning in late fall and continuing through the winter, the Ionian Islands and the western mountains of the mainland receive abundant rain (snow at higher elevations) from the west, whereas the eastern mainland, shielded by the mountains, receives much less precipitation. Thus the average annual rainfall of Corfu off the west coast is 1,300 millimeters; that of Athens on the southeastern mainland is only 406 millimeters.
In summer the influence of low-pressure systems is much less, allowing for hot, dry conditions and an average sea-level temperature of 27 C in July. Summer winds have a moderating effect along the coast, but very dry, hot winds have a parching effect that causes drought in the Aegean area. The Ionian and Aegean islands are especially warm in October and November.
Elevation has an appreciable effect on temperature and precipitation at all latitudes, however. At higher elevations in the interior, some rainfall occurs year-round, and higher mountains in the southern Peloponnesos and on Crete are snowcapped for several months of the year. The mountains of Macedonia and Thrace have colder continental winters influenced by winds channeled through the river valleys from the north.
Population
The population of Greece is about 10,500,000 (1999 est.) giving an overall density of 79 persons per sq. km. About 63 per cent of the population is urban concentrated mainly in Athens (capital), around Thessaloniki in Macedonia, in western Peloponnesos and on the islands.
Official Languages
The official language is Modern Greek. However with large numbers of tourists visiting Greece every year English, French and German are spoken by people working in holiday resorts and in key public services.
Religion
About 97 per cent of the population are followers of the Greek Orthodox Church while the remaining 3 per cent include Muslims, Roman Catholics, Protestants and Monophysites (Armenian Christians).
Archaeological Sites
  • Neolithic settlements
  • Classical, Hellenistic and Roman monuments
  • Byzantine and Latin churches and monasteries
  • Arab and Ottoman mosques
Towns
Towns   Population  (1991)
Athens - Athena (capital) - largest and most important city   748110
Pireus - seaport of Athens & largest port   169622
Thessaloniki - important textile and cultural centre   377951
Patrai - major seaport of Peloponnesos   155180
Heraklion - on the island of Crete   117167
Larissa   113426
Ioannina    
Volos    
 Banking and Currency
Currency
Greek Drachma = 100 cents. Notes in circulation: 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 drachmas. Coins: 5, 10, 20,50 and 100 dr.
Currency exchange
Visitors wishing to obtain non-Greek currency at Greek banks for business purposes should be aware that this is only possible by prior arrangement.
Credit cards
Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche are accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
Travellers cheques
May be cashed in all banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in Drachmas.
Exchange rates against Sterling and the US Dollar
The Drachma is not traded internationally. Commercial banks quote daily exchange rates of the Drachma against all traded foreign currencies.
Currency restrictions
Importation of foreign currency, gold and gold coins is free and unlimited. Banknotes more that $ 1000 (U.S.) or other equivalent currency must be declared at customs. The export of local and foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.
Banking hours
Generally 08.30am - 02.00pm Monday to Friday. Certain central banks may also open on weekday afternoons except Tuesday. Banks at International Airports provide services throughout the day, as well as a night service for most flights.
 Passport and Visa
UK and other EU nationals need only a valid passport for entry to Greece; your passport is no longer stamped on arrival or out upon departure. US, Australian and New Zealand, Canadian and most non-EU Europeans receive mandatory entry and exit stamps in their passports and can stay as tourists for 90 days. If you wish to stay in Greece for longer than three months, you should officially apply for an extension. This can be done in the larger cities like Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Rhodes and Heraklion through the Overseas Bureau (Ypiresia Apodemon).
 Driving and Transportation
Car Insurance
The Motor Insurance Bureau, which forms part of the Association of Insurance Companies operating in Greece, has its offices at 10 Xenofontos Street in Athens, Tel: 32306733 and can inform all motorists where the local agents of their insurance company abroad have their offices. Alternatively, they can help visitors obtain car insurance to cover them while in Greece.
Driver's Licence
Visiting foreign motorists should possess a European or an international driver's license. The AAA in the US and the CAA in Canada, will issue an international driver's licence.
Petrol
Motor fuel and unleaded petrol may be bought in unlimited quantities at petrol stations. Brands available are: B.P., Mobil, Esso, and Shell which usually take credit cards; Greek chains like EKO, Mamidhakis and Elinoil usually do not take credit cards. Petrol stations stay open: Monday Friday from 0600 1900 hrs and Saturday from 0600 1600 hrs.
Most of the petrol stations in rural and urban Greece are shut all weekend. However there will always be at least one pump per district open on a rota basis. The advice is to always fill up, or insist on full rental vehicles at the outset.
Transportation
The standard means of land transport in Greece is the bus. Train networks are usually slow and limited, though service on the northern mainland lines is improving. Buses, however, cover just about every route on the mainland and provide basic connections on the islands. The best way to supplement buses is to rent a moped, motorbike or car, especially on the islands.

Ferries are the primary means of travel between islands. There are three different varieties of vessel: ordinary ferries, hydrofoils and local kaikia and costs are very reasonable especially on longer journeys.
Road signs
  • Road signs are written in Greek and repeated phonetically in English.
Traffic Rules
  • Speed limits are 100-120 km/h on highways unless otherwise posted; 50 km/h in residential areas unless otherwise posted.
  • Traffic and signalling are the same as on most European countries, which means driving on the RIGHT hand side of the road. Passing on the right side is strictly prohibited.
  • Drivers and passengers must wear safety belts.
  • Special care should be taken in Greece when crossing unguarded level railway crossings.
Road tolls
Toll gates exist on two highways in Greece, one leading to Northern Greece and the other to the Peloponnese.
Car Rentals - Hire cars
There are self-drive car rental offices in all towns, as well as at main airports. Prices vary depending on the season, the car model and hiring company. Tour operators and local agents may charge high rates at peak season. So always check the local outfits for better rates. Shopping around in the busier resorts can yield a variation in quotes of up to 15 per cent. Check detail of your contract regarding tax, collision damage waiver, fully comprehensive insurance, personal insurance, accidental car damage i.e. tyres, windscreen and body.
Road Assistance Service Offices
Towns      Address      Tel. Number      Fax. Number
Athens (head Office)      2-4 Messogion Street      01/7791615      01/778 6642     
Automobile Association
Offers inland breakdown service and legal advice regarding motoring and other touring facilities.
Driver's Mini Guide
Greece has the highest accident rate in Europe, after Portugal.
  • Traffic moves on the RIGHT hand-side of the road.
  • The speed limit on the motorways is 100 km/h (60m/h) and the lower speed limit is 65km/h (40m/h). In urban areas speed limit is 50 km/h (30 m/h).
  • The use of seat-belts for front seat passengers is compulsory.
  • Children under the age of ten MUST NOT, under any circumstances sit in the front passenger seat.
  • First-aid kits are mandatory in the boot.
  • If you are involved in any kind of accident it is illegal to drive away, and you can be held in a police station up to 24 hours. If it happens ring your consulate immediately.
  • In an emergency ring the road assistance service on 104.
 Climate and Clothing
Mediterranean: mild, wet winters (10-13oC), hot, dry summers (26-29oC).
The dominant condition of Greece's climate is the alternation between hot, dry summers and cold, damp winters typical of the Mediterranean. But considerable local variation results from elevation and distance from the sea. Generally, continental influences are felt farther north and in the center of the mainland. The main climatic regions of Greece are the mainland mountains, Attica (the southeasternmost part of the mainland) and the Aegean, the west including the Ionian Islands, and the continental northeast.
Rainfall and snow
Beginning in late fall and continuing through the winter, the Ionian Islands and the western mountains of the mainland receive abundant rain (snow at higher elevations) from the west, whereas the eastern mainland, shielded by the mountains, receives much less precipitation. Thus the average annual rainfall of Corfu off the west coast is 1,300 millimeters; that of Athens on the southeastern mainland is only 406 millimeters. At higher elevations in the interior, some rainfall occurs year-round, and higher mountains in the southern Peloponnesus and on Crete are snowcapped for several months of the year.
Air Temperatures
In summer the influence of low-pressure systems is much less, allowing for hot, dry conditions and an average sea-level temperature of 27 C in July. Summer winds have a moderating effect along the coast, but very dry, hot winds have a parching effect that causes drought in the Aegean area. The Ionian and Aegean islands are especially warm in October and November.
Elevation has an appreciable effect on temperature and precipitation at all latitudes, however. The mountains of Macedonia and Thrace have colder continental winters influenced by winds channeled through the river valleys from the north.
Sea Temperatures
In the open sea, temperatures rise to 26 degrees C in August and are above 20 degrees C during the six months from June to November. During the three coolest months, January to March, average sea temperature falls only to 14 degrees C or 16 degrees C.
Sunshine
The climate of Greece is characterised by a smooth transition from one season to the next. A short spring with moderate temperatures, followed by a long, hot summer, and then by a marvellous autumn with average temperatures above those of spring, lead finally to a mild and sunny winter. There are about 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, rain in the summer is an unheard-of phenomenon.
Winds
In winter low-pressure systems reach Greece from the North Atlantic, bringing rain and moderating temperatures but also drawing cold winds from the eastern Balkans over Macedonia and Thrace as they pass into the Aegean Sea. The same low-pressure systems also draw warmer winds from the south, creating an average January temperature differential of 4 C between Thessaloniki (6 C) and Athens (10 C). Cyclonic depressions provide the lowlands of the west and the south with mild winters and little frost.
Satellite picture URL: http://www.ntua.gr/weather/
Clothing and Activities
General information and suggestions on what to wear and do, according to season:
April May : Warm days but temperatures may fall at night.
  • Wear light woollies or long sleeved cotton for the evenings
  • Excellent season for those who enjoy nature, as the countryside is green and flowers are in bloom.
June July - August : Warmest months of the summer.
  • Wear very light summer clothing.
  • Ideal for swimming and all beach/water activities.
September October : Warm days, cool October evenings.
  • Wear light clothing for day and medium for evenings in October.
  • Swimming and water sports are still at their best.
November : Pleasantly warm days.
  • Medium-weight apparel. Light woollies.
  • Ideal weather for autumn travel. Lunches and even swimming can still be enjoyed, as well as most outdoor sports.
December January : It may rain occasionally yet the promise of glorious sunshine is still there.
  • Winter clothing - no heavy coats though!
  • Outdoor activities and excursions can be enjoyed.
February : Some exceptionally warm days. Almond trees in bloom, occasional rain. It can be quite cold in the evenings.
  • Winter apparel.
  • Conditions are ideal for snow skiing on Troodos mountains; sunbathing, and even swimming is possible for the brave and Spartan!
March : Moderate weather with nature at its best.
  • Winter apparel with medium-weight wear.
  • Most outdoor activities can by enjoyed, and March is an excellent period for long country walks.
Average Temperatures
Month   Athens and Southern Greece   Thessaloniki and Northern Greece
January   12 C   52 F     8 C   45 F  
February   13 C   54 F     11 C   51 F  
March   15 C   58 F     13 C   54 F  
April   19 C   65 F     19 C   65 F  
May   24 C   74 F     24 C   74 F  
June   30 C   86 F     30 C   86 F  
July   33 C   92 F     32 C   90 F  
August   33 C   92 F     32 C   90 F  
September   28 C   82 F     27 C   80 F  
October   23 C   72 F     21 C   69 F  
November   18 C   63 F     58 C   15 F  
December   14 C   56 F     50 C   10 F  
 Shopping
Popular produced items, which are popular to visitors, include leather goods, woven goods (curtains and tablecloths), jewellery, pottery and ceramic, copperware, silverware, baskets, and the famous traditional hand-made lace. These can be purchased from many souvenir shops found throughout Greece.
Greece is famous for her traditional spirits which include the Metaxas brandy and ouzo and well as Retsina (the wine with the characteristic taste).
 Public Holidays
1 January     -   New Year's Day
6 January     -   Epiphany Day
Variable     -   Green Monday (50 days before Greek Easter)
25 March     -   Greek National Day
Variable     -   Good Friday (Greek Orthodox Church)
Variable     -   Easter Monday (Greek Orthodox Church)
1 May     -   Labour Day
Variable     -   Holy Trinity - Kataklysmos
15 August     -   Assumption
28 October     -   Greek National Day
25 December     -   Christmas Day
26 December     -   Boxing Day
 Various
Travel for Disable
Greece welcome all disabled persons. Many of the cruise ships which sail trough out the Greek islands are equipped to accommodate the Disabled. Air transportation is also available aboard Olympic Airways to many of Greece's largest islands. Do note, however, that access to some of the archaeological sites throughout the country may present some difficulty.
Health
Health Immunisation: No immunisation vaccinations are required for EU, U.S. or Canadian citizens travelling from the EU, U.S. and Canada.
Medical Care: British and other EU nationals are officially entitled to free medical care in Greece upon presentation of an E111 form, available from most post offices. However free means admittance only to a state hospital and does not include nursing care or cost of medication. If you need prolonged medical care, you should make use of private treatment, which is expensive.
Water Safety: The water is safe pretty much everywhere, though you may come across shortages on some of the drier and most remote islands. Bottled water is widely available.
Health Safety: The main health hazard problems experienced by visitors are related to over-exposure to the sun. To combat this you are advised not to spend too long in the sun, wear a hat and drink plenty of fluids in the hot months to avoid any danger of sunstroke.

Rarely in the sea you may receive the sting of jellyfish or you may step on spiky sea urchin or a weever fish buried in the sand. In the former various remedies are sold in resort pharmacies while in the latter cases try to extract the spines and immerse your foot in very hot water.

Mosquitoes bites can be vicious and infuriating. The best solution is to get small electrical devices which burn special anti-mosquitoes insecticide odourless tablets. Place one of these devices in each room and renew tablets day and night to get rid of these annoying insects. Insect repellent sprays and creams are also available from most general stores and kiosks to protect you when you go out in the evening. If you are allergic to mosquitoes bites you may ask your doctor for antihistamine prescription to take with you.
Electricity
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Non-fused round 2-pin plugs are used. A converter is needed for UK (3-pin socket) appliances.
Appliances
Appliances for 110 or 120 volts may be operated by using step down transformers of 220/110 volts connected to each outlet, provided that these transformers have two separate windings which will eliminate any danger of electric shock. Before taking major UK appliances (washing machines, dryers, etc.) to Greece, it is advisable to check whether they can be adjusted to Greek conditions. Greek television systems are PAL-SECAM-M. Therefore TV sets with these systems, should operate in Greece.
There are two different dialling systems in Greece. Tone and pulse. Therefore telephone sets must be able to change from one system to the other. Dual voltage (220/110 volts 50/60 Hz) power adapters for wireless telephone sets are required.
Telephones
IDD availability: Full IDD is available.
Country code: 3
Outgoing International Code: 00
Public Telephones: Telecard or coin operated public telephones are installed at various central locations in towns and villages.
Emergency Numbers (Greatest Athens area)
Tourist Police: (In Athens) 171
Tourist Police: (outside Athens) 922-7777
Emergency (Police) 100
Emergency (Fire) 199
First Aid Centre 166
Hospitals 106
Pharmacies 107
National Aids Centre 644-4906
Allien's Bureau 770-5711
Poison Control 779-3777
  Tourist Information Offices
Argostoli (Keffalonia)
Information Office
Tel. No: (0671) 22248
Fax. No: 24466
Ermoupoli (Syros)
Tel. No: (0281) 86725
Fax. No: 82375
Chania (Crete)
Information Office
40 Kriari Street
Tel. No: (0821) 92943, 92624
Fax. No: 92624
Heraklion (Crete)
1 Xanthoulidou St.
Tel. No: (081) 228225, 226081, 228203
Fax. No: 226020
Ioannina
2 Nap. Serva St
Tel. No: (0651) 25086, 31456
Fax. No: 72148
Kavala (1)
5 Filellinon St.
Tel. No: (051) 228762, 231653
Fax. No: 223885
Kavala (2)
Information Office, Eleftherias Square
Tel. No: (051) 222425
Kerkyra (Corfu)
15 K. Zavitsanou St.
Tel. No: (0661) 37520, 37630-9
Fax. No: 30298
Lamia
1 Laou Square
Tel. No: (0231) 30065-6, 32289
Fax. No: 30065
Larissa
18 Koumoundourou St.
Tel. No: (041) 250919, 534369
Mytilini (Lesbos)
6 T. Aristarchou St.
Tel. No: (0251) 42511, 42513
Fax. No: 42512
Port Information Office
Tel. No: (0251) 28199
Airport Information Office
Tel. No: (0251) 61279
Patra
11 Iroon Polytechniou St., 261 10 Patra
Tel. No: (061) 653358-61
Fax. No: 423866
Pireaus
Marina Zeas, GNTO Building
Tel. No: (01) 4135716
Fax. No: 4513623
Rhodes
Arch, Makarios & Papagou Sts.
Tel. No: (0241) 23655, 23255,27466
Fax. No: 26955
Thessaloniki
34 Mitropoleos St.
Tel. No: (031) 222935, 271888
Fax. No: 265504
Volos
Riga Ferraiou Square
Tel. No: (0421) 23500, 36233, 37417
Fax. No: 24750
Offices Abroad
ARGENTINA
Organismo Helenico De Turismo
Av. Sante Fe 976, 1059 Buenos Aires
Tel. No: (00541) 3126634, 3136109
Fax. No: 3134769
 


| The Country | Banking and Currency | Passport & Visa | Driving and Transportation | Climate and Clothing | Shopping | Public Holidays | Various | Tourist Information Offices |