In many ways Greece is a backpacker's dream: beautiful scenery, great weather and a wide variety of historical sites. It's become even more attractive to foreign visitors now that the country has experienced economic problems and local purchasing power has declined. The sheer scale and diversity of the country does mean you need to take some special measures when planning a backpacking trip however.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Double up on healthcare protection. You should get and carry the free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to treatment on the same basis as Greek residents. However, you should also get travel insurance as the EHIC card does not cover all treatment and does not cover associated costs such as missing a flight home or being carried by air ambulance. If you do get treatment, try to make sure it is by a state healthcare provider.
Have a plan but be flexible. Greece is far too big (and spread out across the sea) for it to be worthwhile just turning up and moving from town to town without any planning. However, don't get so caught up with a fixed schedule that the trip stops being fun. Whether it's transport problems such as bad weather delaying buses or ferries, or simply falling in love with a location and wanting to stay, the chances are you'll rethink your plans at some point.
Avoid extended stays in Athens. Even though Greece's economy is in rough shape, there's still a cost divide between Athens and the rest of the country. By all means visit the city, but bear in mind it will be much more expensive than the rest of the country such as the islands.
Prefer buses to trains. Buses are usually cheaper and don't need much advance booking. On trains, as in the UK, you'll pay a hefty premium if you want to buy a ticket on the train itself.
Learn some conversational Greek if at all possible. This may make it easier to negotiate cheaper accommodation in small, family-run facilities rather than expensive hotels.
Have a range of financial options. Debit and credit cards will be most useful in big cities and allow you to have access to money without the risks of cash. That said, it's worth having some money on hand to get by in more remote areas and to cover emergencies. You should also consider having at least some money as traveller's cheques or other forms that can be replaced if they are lost or stolen.
Travel light. A big advantage of Greece's warm climate is that not only do you need fewer and lighter clothes, but you can wash (or simply rinse them) safe in the knowledge that they'll dry in the sun quickly.
Take the calendar into account. Avoid popular tourist areas during the peak of the summer as you are unlikely to find many bargains. In particular watch out for some of the more popular islands and resorts that may be filled with British youths on booze fuelled breaks -- unless of course, that's your idea of a good time.
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