The basics

Money

Greece has been operating under the euro since it joined the European Union 2002. Pronounced "evros" in Greek, bills range in denomination from 5 to 500, and coins come in 1 and 2 euro as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents. Though prices have risen within the country over the past decade as part of their austerity measures, it's still a very affordable travel destination for tourists from America or the UK.

ATMs are widely available, and most will offer a better rate of exchange than you'll find at a bank or currency exchange desk. Machines are multilingual, with German, French, and English options, but be aware that some will run out of money by Sunday night, so try to plan your withdrawals to fall elsewhere in the week. If you prefer to use an exchange service, American Express and Eurochange are your best bets, and some tourist areas will also change money at the post office.

Many stores prefer to operate in cash - thus avoiding credit card transaction fees - so while most will accept all major credit cards, it's best to have cash on hand. It's also acceptable to haggle here, which is much easier with cash. Though it's not advisable to travel with large amounts of money, the ubiquity of ATMs, called alpha taf mi, make frequent withdrawals easy.

Languages

Greek is the national language of Greece, but English is taught to all schoolchildren from an early age, so most people under 40 will have some grasp of it. Public signs are required by law to be in both Greek and English, but it's wise to memorize a few letters of the Greek alphabet for navigating more remote areas. Many of the tourist sites throughout the country employ English-speaking tourist police, who are on hand to help with directions and minor emergencies.

Geography & Culture

Greece has a mild Mediterranean climate and is therefore generally temperate and comfortable. Those susceptible to burning should pack hats and light colored clothing during the likely very sunny, high tourist season months of July and August. May and September are the best months to visit, when the heat is not overpowering and the water warm enough for swimming.

The topography of Greece is mostly mountainous, with four fifths of the country covered by impressive mountain ranges that have peaks topping 2,000 meters. Greece is also known, of course, for its over 2,000 islands. This means that much of the culture and cuisine are based around the ocean, and the challenging mountain terrain has fostered a fierce independence in the Greek people.

Transportation

The train system in Greece is generally unreliable, but it can be a picturesque option for traveling to specific major cities within the country and to other European destinations. Popular routes run north from Athens to Florina Kalambaka, Alexandroupoli, or Volos, and an InterCity Express service runs from Athens to Thessaloniki in about four hours.

Tickets come in first and second class tiers, but it's a good idea to always choose first class travel when booking. They aren't much more expensive than second class, and the cars are markedly cleaner and more comfortable. Tickets can be purchased with Visa/Mastercard or with cash - if you choose to buy on the train the price will increase by 50%. The national train company, TrainOSE, runs an English-language website where you can check schedules and buy tickets.

Eurail passes are accepted here, but be aware that even if you've purchased one, you will still need to make seat reservations, especially when traveling in the busier summer months.

Car rental is possible in Greece, although perhaps best left to the professionals, as road conditions can be treacherous and the traffic is legendary. Public transportation and taxis are much cheaper, and it's possible to rent a car for just a day or two when traveling to remote areas. All non-EU drivers must be in possession of an International Driving Permit, which can be obtained from your local automobile association. Gas is around $2 a liter, and though gas stations can be found everywhere, many close at night and for holidays, so when driving in rural areas be sure to keep your tank topped up.

The regional bus system in Greece is large and reliable, with buses running to even the most remote areas. From Athens you'll be able to travel by bus to almost any part of the country, and many of the buses are comfortable and air-conditioned. There is no English-language website for advance ticket purchases, so your best bet is to go the bus station a few days before your departure to check timetables and speak with a ticket vendor.

Large cities like Athens and Thessaloniki will also have local public buses, tickets for which can be purchased at kiosks and convenience stores.

Athens International Airport is about 20 miles outside of the city, and is a modern, well-managed transit hub with all the conveniences including a hotel and train station. International flights also run to Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Heraklion, and Corfu, but most foreign tourists are likely to be routed through Athens. Delta and US Airways both offer non-stop service to Greece, and most of the larger international airlines offer one-stop service.

For domestic air travel, you'll be flying either Aegean, Astra, or Sky Express Airlines, all of which are affordable and reliable. When arranging itineraries, keep in mind that air travel is often the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel within the country.