Gorgeous Greece expects another bumper season for tourism in 2014, with sporadic civil unrest unlikely to affect visitor numbers. Greece has a long and colourful history of protests and strikes, but these have become progressively fewer over the past 12 months. The pictures of violent protests in international media from downtown Athens understandably make travellers nervous, but tourists are rarely caught up in such incidents. The ongoing economic crisis has abated somewhat, although the unemployment rate remains high and poverty is sadly visible, especially in cities. Many Greeks are doing it tough.
Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, predicts as many as 18.5 million tourists will visit Greece this year, compared with 17.9 million in 2013, generating 13 billion euros in revenue. Visitors have relaxed about the economic uncertainties and are returning in greater numbers than ever before. Greek tourism 2014 is looking good so far.
I’ve been in Greece the past two years. I experienced few inconveniences due to strikes or stoppages, although I acknowledge some visitors had frustrating experiences. If taxis are on strike, you can take public transport which is well organised and plentiful. The Athens Metro is a blessing to the capital’s infrastructure and gets everyone where they want to go quickly and punctually. I use it all the time. It’s also very cheap at 1.40 euros a ticket, and half that if you qualify for a discount. At the Acropolis station, it’s decorated (pictured below) with copies of ancient treasures!
If you’re off to the islands, and most visitors are, then you’ll scarcely notice anything is amiss unless transport strikes occur. These often are only 24-hour stoppages. Despite the economic malaise of the past five years, the essential ingredients of Greece’s magnificence as a Mediterranean destination remain constant.
Travel tips for Greece tourism 2014
- Weather is settled and warm to hot June-September. The seasonal Meltemi often makes the Aegean periodically windy in July. Visiting Greece off season is very rewarding. The crowds will have gone and accommodation prices drop, and the shops have plenty of bargains
- If demonstrations are imminent, avoid the centre of Athens. Otherwise, the Greek capital is a pleasure. The centre, showcasing the ancient and modern, is brilliantly walkable
- Islands are picturesque, offering historic sites, great swimming, great nightlife, immense variety of accommodation
- Greece is widely considered to be a safe destination for women, but always use your common sense, dress modestly away from the beach (except for nightclubs, of course!) and don’t accept bar drinks from total strangers
- Santorini and Mykonos are Greece’s most expensive and commercial islands, and also home to the highest concentration of five-star hotels. Corfu, in the western chain of the Ionian Islands, has a lot of unlovely average hotels, which is a shame because it’s such a beautiful place otherwise
- But at the other end of the scale, you can also find pension-style rooms, or small family-style hotels and studio apartments/villas for about 40 euros a night on expensive and inexpensive islands
- August is the busiest month and many of the most popular islands in the Aegean are very crowded, so again, if you want to chill out, you can easily hop on a ferry and go somewhere else. Islands such as Folegandros, Patmos, Tinos, Skiathos and Syros are less frenetic
- Don’t forget the mainland: The Peleponnese is mountainous, steeped in history and beautiful beaches; the east coast region comprising Volos and two hours north up to Thessaloniki is always less crowded (except for August when Greeks traditionally go on holiday too) and full of small beach surprises such as Pelion
- The credit squeeze made cash transactions more desirable in Greece, so still don’t expect to use your credit card everywhere
- The archaeological sites are some of Greece’s top attractions and they remain stunning – economic stress isn’t going to make the marble columns fall down! They’ve survived worse crises
- Food is fresh, cheap and tasty. You can even get a souvlaki with salad, chips and toasty pita bread for only 2 euros
- Clean beaches – Greece used to have major coastal pollution problems but a lot of effort has been put in to conserve the environment. Even on overloved destinations such as Santorini and Mykonos, I was impressed last summer at how clean the beaches are.
- Please be a tidy tourist and leave nothing on the beach other than your footprints. I love this image taken by freelance photographer Linda Psillakis who lives in Crete and draws constantly new inspiration from her beloved island
- Free wifi is everywhere. Cafes use it as a lure for customers. If you have an insatiable need to be connected, then have no fear. Greeks love to be connected 24/7, by the way
- English is widely spoken, but basic greetings such as kalimera (good morning), parakalo (please) and efharisto (thank you) are always welcomed
- The summer drink of choice, iced coffee, starts for as little as under 2 euros. Cafe culture is one of the best ways in Greece to refresh, people watch and decide your next move
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