Warm, hospitable and friendly, Greeks love to roll out the welcome mat and wear their hearts on their sleeves. Trying to get anything done, however, can be a singularly frustrating experience. Passions often run high, particularly after the economic collapse of recent years, and building relationships can take time. If you’re visiting for business, you’ll have to learn to kick back and enjoy yourself with the rest of them.
The country itself has a rich classical heritage, of which the Acropolis in Athens is the most famous example. The oracle at Delphi, which the Ancient Greeks believed to be the centre of the world, is another enchanting site, and the excavations at Knossos are some of the most impressive on earth.
Greece isn’t all about antiquity though. Today it is a pulsing, multicultural nation that has undergone an impossibly rapid transition from sleepy rural backwater to modern sophisticate. The club scene in Thessaloniki is famed throughout Europe, while Athens impresses by combining a vibrant street life with some of the longest and most beautiful pedestrian promenades on the continent.
Away from the cities, the southern resort at Plakias is a great place to wander and take in the hills, beaches and olive groves. For a bit of spiritual enlightenment visit the monasteries at Meteora or visit Patmos, where St John was inspired to write the Book of Revelations.
Scheduled international flights go to Athens, Thessalonki, Rhodes and Iraklio (Crete). Ferries are available from Albania, Cyprus, Italy and Israel. Limited train and bus services go from Albania, Bulgaria, FYROM and Turkey.
The KTEL bus network is comprehensive, modern and comfortable. There is an intricate network of ferries for island-hopping; expect delays, however, particularly in summer. The train network is limited, while the roads are poor and have the highest fatality rate in Europe.
Climate: Warm Mediterranean. Hot, dry summers and cool, damp winters. Temperature: Max 34°C (July), Min 6°C (January). Rainfall: Max 65mm (December), Min 5mm (July).
Business etiquette: Formal suits are expected. Relationships are important; expect to spend time building trust before doing business. Nepotism is common. Face-to-face business is preferred to telephone or email. It is important that visiting businessmen are friendly, sociable and not pretentious, aloof or condescending.
Tipping: 10 to 15 percent
Duty free: 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars 500g of tobacco; 1l alcoholic beverage over 22 percent or 2l alcoholic beverages under 22 percent; 2l of wine; 2l of still table wine; 50g of perfume; 250ml of eau de cologne.
Safety: Since the Greek debt crisis began in 2008 violent rioting and demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki have become frequent.
Laws: Carry identification at all times. Drug offences, driving offences, possession of offensive weapons and indecent behaviour all carry tough sentences, including imprisonment. Export of Greek antiquities is strictly controlled and illegal export results in heavy penalties.
Healthcare: Vaccinations required for tetanus. Good medical facilities available, European citizens get free healthcare with an EHIC card. Non-EU may be charged and should have full health insurance.
Socket type: Type C