Plan a Trip to Greece
The Guide for Curious Travelers
It is always the right time to plan a trip to Greece! As the cradle of Western Civilization, home to some of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, endless dreamy beaches circling over 200 islands and the mainland, and the inviting warm Mediterranean Sea encompassing all of it– Greece has a rightful place near the top of many dream travel lists. In this post we will offer you a step-by-step guide for planning your trip to Greece with lots of helpful tips to save you money and make the most of your time in the country.
This Greece travel planner is a little different, it is especially for curious travelers. At Trip Scholars, we offer many resources and ideas to help you dive deep into understanding before you arrive at your travel destinations.
In the first part of this post, we offer the best ways to learn about Greece while you are planning your trip. In the second half of this article, you will find lots of useful tips to plan a trip to Greece.
How to Plan a Trip to Greece
Step 1. Learn about Greece
Step 2. Create a Budget
Step 3. Decide when to travel
Step 4. Check your visa/passport
Step 5. Book transportation to Greece
Step 6. Plan your itinerary
Step 7. Book your accommodations
Step 8. Plan transportation around Greece
Step 9. Pack for your trip to Greece
Step 10. Enjoy your trip to Greece!
Learn and be inspired!
What sparks your interest in traveling to Greece? Before you get into the logistics of planning a trip to Greece, enjoy the inspiration and excitement you find as you nourish your dreams of your Greek travel. Invest weeks, months, or years cultivating a deeper knowledge so that when you arrive, you will be an intentional and appreciative traveler.
Dive into the archeological past, Greek gods and goddesses, Greek literature, movies in Greece, Greek history– both ancient and modern, the Greek language, Greek cuisine– the possibilities are exciting and varied.
By the end of this post, you will have activities to help you start your trip to Greece– today!
Top Recommendation for Planning a Trip to Greece
If you only have time for one activity, my top recommendation is The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul. This is one of the first of the tour series created by Wondrium (formerly the Great Courses). It is presented by Professor Hale, an archaeologist with an absolutely contagious enthusiasm for the region. He entices us with beautiful shots from both countries, mostly focused on archeological and historic sites, but there are plenty of food, drink, and off the beaten path locations added to keep it engaging for everyone. I’ve watched countless Great Courses and Dr. Hale is my favorite lecturer. He highlights myths, geography, and history as an extremely knowledgeable, funny, and personable tour guide.
Fun fact: my desire to share this particular course with other curious travelers was the original impetus for building this website. I tried to share it as a recommendation to others who were planning a trip to Greece on the internet’s most popular crowd sourced travel site. It was not allowed, but I knew it would greatly enhance the travels of others so, I tried to come up with another way to share it. Now, we have Trip Scholars, a whole site dedicated to crowd sourcing and sharing the best travel education resources! I am sincere in this recommendation.
If you sign up for Wondrium, they have many academic courses that will enrich your understanding of Greece’s profound role in history. They all go much deeper into the subject matter than most documentaries can because they are lecture series that are usually at least ten hours long. They are taught by professors who are passionate and very knowledgeable about their subject matter.
A few of my favorite courses about Greece are Understanding Greek and Roman Technology and The Greek World: A Study of History and Culture. There are also fantastic sections of these courses focused on Greece: The Other Side of History, The World’s Greatest Structures, and Decisive Battles of History. You will likely find something that overlaps your greatest interests with Greece.
Click below for a free trial of Wondrium
Kalimera! Good morning in Greek
The Greek language is worth your time to study from home before you leave. Greek people are very friendly, and you can connect better if you learn a little in advance. Greek is a fascinating language and very beautiful. I’ve been studying it for a few years myself and encourage you to jump in. If you have an interest in etymology, every day will bring a new delight. For me it is very challenging so I can almost feel my neurons trying to connect! But eventually, they do, and it is enormously gratifying.
It is true that most people in major tourist areas speak English, but I promise, learning a little Greek will go a long way. It is always worth it to learn a few phrases before international travel so that you can be a respectful traveler. Even in Athens, locals repeatedly let me know they appreciated my efforts to communicate in Greek.
If you are going to non-touristy areas, I especially encourage learning more. When we traveled to Crete, we stayed in one of my very favorite homes. It was in a small local town and right on a quiet beach. We were greeted with incredible warmth by the owner’s mom and her friends when we arrived. They had made us this beautiful vegetarian feast, including homemade raki and wine, and filled the refrigerator with homegrown veggies. We were incredibly moved! They spoke Greek, not English and I was so grateful that I had spent the year before traveling studying Greek. I was able to thank them and enjoy a good visit in Greek! It was wonderful!
Top recommendations for learning Greek
Duolingo is a great app to become familiar with Greek letters, sounds, and sentence structure for free. It has improved quite a lot over the last few years and there is more included to help early learners. A good option for more advanced learners is to try talking with others in the online groups that are offered.
Greek Pod 101
I’ve watched many Greek language learning videos and they often list a lot of words quickly, but don’t go deep enough or encourage enough practice. Greek Pod 101, by contrast, is excellent! They have a comprehensive program for early beginners through to advanced speakers. Join Chrissi in this intro video to see if it is for you. You can sign up for the full program here if you like it.
Other top Greek language learning videos
To save you time sifting through other videos, my top picks on YouTube are The Greek Language by Langfocus, Greece | Useful Greek Phrases by myAthens tv; and Greek 101 – Common Words & Phrases by The Travel Linguist.
Greek tutors online: Preply
Once you have become familiar with the language, you might want to work directly with a language tutor. I found an experienced teacher to work with for a few months before our trip to Greece on the tutoring site, Preply. Because of differences in the cost of living, her rates were very affordable, and I learned more about life in Greece from a Greek citizen. With Preply you can compare experience, rates, availability, and interests to find the best tutor for many subjects, including language learning. Eleni had degrees in history and archeology and had studied English extensively so she was super interesting to learn from! In fact, she and her partner flew to the mainland to join us for the play Agamemnon at Epidaurus when we were there! It was priceless.
Because language learning before travel is so valuable, our website has a strong collection of resources to choose from. Check out our article about how to learn a language before traveling from a guest author who was a language teacher. We all learn differently, and we benefit from using varied approaches to learning. To find more options, visit our language learning section of our resource library.
Resources on Trip Scholars
This website is dedicated to helping travelers find the best travel education resources to enjoy from home.
Check out our expansive post on movies to watch before your trip to Greece. We’ve got classics, comedies, dramas and children’s films. We also have Greek Language movies and films about Greek history and Greek mythology.
Additionally, we offer a fantastic collection of Books About Greece to Inspire Your Travels. Find the best in books about Greek history, mythology, philosophy, cooking and travel. Choose from fiction and nonfiction and discover how each of them will improve your trip.
If you are traveling to Greece with kids or teens, check out Joyful and Educational Trip Planning For Families to create an entire year of activities that will enrich your trip. Learners of all ages will also enjoy History Travel: How to Use Timelines to Organize Your Travel Studies to get the most out of any trip to Greece. We also have games related to Greece and Greek history in the article Games for Globetrotters: The 20 Best Games for People Who Love to Travel. A couple of favorites are Assassins Creed, Origins and Seven Wonders.
We have some excellent guest posts you will enjoy too. How to Create Your Own Archaeological Tour, written by a travel writer with her degree in archeology and Your Guide to Visiting the World’s Most Valuable Places: UNESCO World Heritage Sites, written by a travel writer and videographer visiting all of the UNESCO sites, are both fantastic places to start.
This article is the first in a series for curious travelers to plan their trips to Greece. We have more supplemental articles with resources about Greece that will be published Fall 2021, so sign up for our newsletter to catch them all.
We will be sharing the best books to read and movies to watch before visiting. We will also be posting a collection of the top historic sites in Greece and how to learn more about them before you arrive.
We encourage you to utilize all these resources throughout the time you are planning a trip to Greece. You can extend your brief time in the country into many months or years of discovery!
I’d like to send you a free gift!
Your Free How-To Checklist: Extend Your Vacation Into a Year of Discovery!
Creating your Greece travel budget
Once you have discovered some of the places you most want to explore, the next step in planning your trip to Greece is to create a realistic travel budget. Travelers with a wide range of travel funds can all enjoy traveling here. It is much less expensive than some of the other top European destinations but there are ample opportunities for extravagance if that is your style.
If you travel in the off season, stay in hostels, eat street food, avoid much island hopping, and limit your activities, you can enjoy Greece for as little as 50€ /day. If you desire and can afford it, you can spend as much more than that as you want to.
Money in Greece
Euros are the currency used in Greece. Here is a currency converter so you can see what to expect. You will want to have cash on you when traveling in Greece. Credit cards can be used extensively throughout most major cities, but in more rural areas, you will want cash. If driving on toll roads, you will also want coins for faster passage.
Before leaving home, check your bank cards to find those that don’t charge fees for international withdrawals or charges. Let your credit card companies know in advance that you will be traveling to avoid any unexpected blocks on any foreign transactions. We try to always leave Europe with plenty of Euros for next time, which allows us to skip withdrawing money at the often-overpriced ATMs in the airports.
When is the best time to visit Greece?
As with most travel destinations, the best times to visit Greece are the shoulder seasons. May – mid-June and mid-September – October are the best times to visit Greece. The weather is nice, and often much better than the oppressive summer heat. Room rates are dramatically reduced from summer prices, especially in the popular destinations. And the crowds have gone down, allowing a much more intimate experience.
Most people visit in the summer months. You can expect crowds, higher temperatures, and elevated prices. Don’t let this stop you though, you can have a fantastic time in Greece in the summer too.
Winter travel is the most affordable, but you might not have many warm sunny days. Many places will be closed in more rural areas and on smaller islands.
Average highs, lows, and days of rain in Athens, Greece
January 56° / 44° 5 days
February 57° / 44° 5 days
March 61° / 47° 4 days
April 68° / 53° 3 days
May 76° / 60° 2 days
June 85° / 68° 1 day
July 90° / 73° 0 days
August 90° / 73° 0 days
September 83° / 67° 1 day
October 74° / 60° 3 days
November 65° / 53° 4 days
December 59° / 47° 6 days
Greece tourist visa and Greece passport requirements
Checking your tourist visa and passport requirements is one of the first steps in planning any international travel. If you are a citizen of the US, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., or many other countries, you only need your passport, not a visa to visit Greece. You can check your country here.
Your passport needs to be valid for at least three months after the date you plan to return to your home country. Check your home country’s passport requirements too. If you need to get a new passport or renew yours, get started now.
Tips for booking your flight to Greece
The largest expense for most travelers from outside of the region is airfare. We have saved thousands of dollars by carefully using our credit cards to amass as many airline points as possible. The best resource for learning about maximizing the value of your points is The Points Guy. Learning to navigate points can be a part time job, but it is worth it when it lets you travel more. The savings are significant enough to warrant the time investment.
Many of the flights to the islands are on economy airlines with strict baggage allowances. Check out our suggested travel gear for ideas about how to travel light.
Plan transportation around Greece
Top Transportation Tip
One of my top pieces of advice for anyone traveling to a new international destination is to figure out your transportation to your first night’s lodging in advance. Even when I don’t want to follow much of an itinerary on a trip, it is much easier to know what we are doing when we get off the plane, especially when we speak another language. It can be worth spending more on this leg of your journey if it quickly and safely gets jet-lagged you to your accommodations.
Ferries in Greece
Traveling by ferry in Greece can be an interesting and beautiful way to get around. The best site for getting tickets is Ferry Hopper. It helps you compare ticket options between the almost 50 different ferry companies that operate in Greece. There is nothing like seeing the country from the water and ferries are an economical way to do it. If you are traveling to smaller islands, confirm that there are ferries available on the days you want to travel BEFORE you book your lodgings.
Driving in Greece
Driving in Greece isn’t for everyone, but if you are comfortable driving a manual transmission and driving in challenging situations, consider renting a car. We drove in both downtown Athens and Heraklion and there were some VERY tight squeezes I’d rather forget! We also drove on the highway in Crete where we had to get used to sharing the middle of the highway with oncoming traffic!
But learning to drive in another country is always interesting. Having a rental car gives you a lot more autonomy in planning your itinerary and staying at each site as long/or as little as you like. For adventurous groups and families, it is much more affordable than multiple tickets for group tours to your destinations. We also found the road conditions to be much better than our roads back home in Seattle, Washington. In fact, they were in better condition than many roads state-side! You don’t need a car in major cities, in fact it is very challenging to drive in them, so plan to get one for day trips at the beginning or end of your stay in the city.
Guided tours in Greece
For the most relaxing trip to Greece, guided tours can be the best option. It is easy to see all of the major sites without ever renting a car. Here are the best tours that leave from Athens to visit Delphi, Meteora, Mycenae, and Epidaurus. This combination makes a perfect itinerary.
Plan your Greek itinerary
If you prefer to travel without much of an itinerary, learning about Greece in advance will still enhance your visit, but you can skip this section!
Once you have been able to really dive into understanding Greece and all that it has to offer to the thoughtful traveler, you can begin to craft your dream itinerary. What are the main sites you want to see and what natural wonders do you most want to visit? Greece is brimming with beautiful islands, which of them will you include? As your itinerary becomes more solidified, you can dive even deeper into the places you add to your itinerary.
Top tips to help you craft your itinerary
Be sure to confirm the opening hours of sites you want to visit; we’ve missed out on some gems by skipping this step. Also check to see if there are discounted ticket times.
Group your activities together by area and be sure to add travel times in, they can dramatically affect your plans. Often, deciding on lodging comes down to deciding how much time you’ll want to spend on transportation in relation to how much you can spend on lodging.
If you are going to many of the archeological sites in Athens, get the skip-the-line Combo Ticket. Whenever getting a skip-the-line City pass/combo ticket, I always recommend purchasing it at one of the least busy sites you plan to visit so your time in line is the shortest.
Save yourself even more time purchase your combo ticket now.
Top tips for visiting the Acropolis
- To skip the line, be sure to get the Combo Ticket in advance online or at a less busy site.
- Arrive 10 minutes before opening or late in the day to try and beat the crowds and the heat.
- Use the southeast side entrance near the Museum of the Acropolis. You avoid a lot of the crowds, have an easier climb, and you get to see more sites.
- Plan to see the sights from the SE entrance because they include the Athenian Dionysus Theater (which is a must-see site) and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
- Bring your water bottle and refill it at one of the water stations on the top.
- Wear good walking shoes– you’ll be walking on uneven, foot-polished marble.
Track your itinerary
As you firm up your plans you will want a place to record your itinerary. I love to plan trips and prefer to have invested my time figuring out logistics at home rather than on the road. I still like spontaneity, so I find it useful to have info on hours and transportation so we can make quick choices on the go. If you are over-the-top like me, you will likely use word documents, spreadsheets, and an app to keep track of everything related to a big trip like Greece.
My very favorite itinerary app (by a longshot!) is TripIt. As you get each ticket and reservation, you email it to yourself at TripIt and the app puts your itinerary and tickets all together for you in one place. The app is free and easy to use.
Here is a sample dream itinerary. It is close to the one we followed, and that trip was AMAZING!
10 Days in Greece Itinerary for Archaeology Lovers
Day 1: Fly into Crete, get over jet lag on the beach imagining all the people who have been before you in Greece!
Day 2: Knossos, Minoan Palace of Phaistos, and/or the Roman city of Gortyn
Day 3: Heraklion Archeological Museum and the Minoan Palace of Malia
Day 4: Fly to Athens, Plato’s Academy, National Archeological Museum
Day 5: Acropolis and Museum of the Acropolis
Day 6: Aristotle’s Lyceum, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Agora, Roman Agora, and Plaka
Day 7: Delphi
Day 8: Mycenae and Ancient Corinth
Day 9: Epidaurus: snorkel the Sunken City and watch a performance at the Ancient Theatre of Asklepieion
Day 10: Olympia and the Archaeological Museum of Olympia
Top Itinerary Tip
A performance at the Ancient Theater of Asklepieion at Epidaurus or the Odeon Herodes in Athens will be a highlight of your trip! These shows are only offered on limited weekend evenings in the summer, so get your tickets early and plan the rest of your Greek itinerary around them.
Plan your trip to Greece
We hope you have found some inspirational and useful resources to use before your trip to Greece to help you understand and appreciate this astounding country. We also hope that you have discovered useful tips for planning your dream trip to Greece. Have you been to Greece, or do you plan to travel there some day? Do you have recommendations for other travelers who want to learn more before their trip? Please tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!