Travel Tips

Taking Care of the Planet
Our Esoteric Quests take us to many wonderful places around the world. We here at the Open Center are committed to caring for the planet. As always, our brochure is printed on recycled paper and this year we will be neutralizing the effect our staff air travel has on climate change. We invite you to join us in this commitment by visiting www.sustainabletravelinternational.org so you can find out how many greenhouse gases are generated by your journey and then purchase Green Tags which make your travel 100% climate neutral.

 

Travel Agents & Online Bookings

For assistance in booking flights from the US, we can recommend a number of professional travel agents:
Picasso Travel (NYC): +1-212-244-5454 or www.picassotravel.com
Isram Travel (David Avoth) 800-843-9728 or davoth@isram.com
Power Travel (Irene) +1- 516-822-9222

For online bookings of discounted air tickets, useful websites include
http://www.kayak.com
http://www.orbitz.com
http://www.expedia.com
http://www.cheaptickets.com
http://gaymartin.worldventures.com/index.php

 

Mobile Phones
Before traveling to Greece, check with your home network operator to see if your mobile phone is 'roaming' enabled, so that you are able to receive and make calls during your stay in Greece. Please also consider that travelers from specific destinations (US / Canada / Argentina / Brazil / Mexico / Peru) should check whether a compatible handset is required since Greek mobile phone operators use GSM 900/1800 and 3G.

You may also choose to purchase a prepaid connection package that may, or may not, include a mobile phone compatible with the local mobile networks.
For more information visit the websites of Greek mobile phone operators.

Incoming calls are expensive, because you pay for the international part of the call (from your country, where your phone service is provided, to you, in Greece). Tip: Check on rates and services with your phone service provider, before your travel.

Telephone Information
You can purchase a phone card at most kiosks or at the offices of the Telecommunications Organization of Greece (OTE, pronounced oh-tay, or Organismos Tilepikinonion tis Ellados). The cards come in various denominations, from 3€ ($3.90) to 25€ ($33). The more costly the card, the cheaper the units.

The cost of a call with a phone card varies greatly depending on local, domestic, and international rates. A local call of up to 3 minutes to a fixed phone costs about .09€ (10¢), which is 3 units from a phone card; for each minute beyond that, it costs another .06€ (10¢) or 2 units off the card (so that a 10-min. local call costs 17 units or .51€/.66€).

Calling a mobile (cell) phone in Greece requires substituting a 6 for the 2 that precedes the area code.

Long-distance calls, both domestic and international, can be quite expensive in Greece, especially at hotels, which may add a surcharge of up to 100%, unless you have a telephone credit card from a major long-distance provider such as AT&T, MCI, or Sprint.

To call Greece from the United States or Canada:

1. Dial the international access code 011.

2. Dial the country code 30.

3. Dial the city/area code which now always begins with 2 and ends with 0, and follow it with the rest of the number. So the entire number you'd dial would be 011-30 + area code + number.

If you are calling Greece from other countries, dial one of the following international access codes. From the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand, 00; from Australia, 0011. Then follow steps 2 and 3 above to complete the call.

To make international calls from Greece, the easiest and cheapest way is to call your long-distance service provider before leaving home to determine the access number that you must dial in Greece. The principal access codes in Greece are: AT&T, tel. 00800-1311; MCI, tel. 00800-1211; and Sprint, tel. 00800-1411. Most companies also offer a voice-mail service in case the number you call is busy or there's no answer.

If you must use the Greek phone system to make a direct call abroad -- whether using an OTE office, a phone that takes cards, or a phone that takes coins -- dial the country code plus the area code (omitting the initial zero, if any), then dial the number. Some country codes are: Australia, 0061; Canada, 001; Ireland, 00353; New Zealand, 0064; United Kingdom, 0044; and United States, 001. Note that if you are going to put all the charges on your phone card (that is, not on your long-distance provider), you will be charged at a high rate per minute (at least 3 €/$3.90 to North America), so you should not make a call unless your phone card's remaining value can cover it.

For operator assistance:
Dial tel. 131 if you're making an international call. Dial tel. 169 if you want to call a number in Greece.

Identification & Visas
Citizens of the following EU and other European countries do not need a visa to enter Greece. They have only to produce a passport or an I.D. card at the border.

Bulgaria
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia 
Ireland
Latvia
Lichtenstein
Lithuania
Hungary
Malta
Poland
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Switzerland
United Kingdom

 
For holders of regular passports of the following countries who wish to visit Greece and stay up to 3 months (90 days) within a six (6) month period, NO visa is required:

Andorra
Argentina
Australia
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Costa Rica
Croatia
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Israel
Japan
Malaysia
Mexico
Monaco
New Zealand
Panama
Paraguay
San Marino
Singapore
South Korea
USA
Uruguay
Venezuela
Nicaragua

Holders of regular passports from the rest of the world need a visa in order to enter Greece

NOTE: When traveling to Greece on a tourist visa, visitors are required to have travel insurance that covers cases of medical or other emergencies for the duration of the stay.

Money
The currency of Greece is the euro. Euro notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500.  Banks are open to the public Monday through Thursday from 8am to 2pm, Friday from 8am to 1:30pm.  In Alexandroupolis there are many banks and currency exchange offices. Please note that you will need to purchase your own alcoholic drinks and pay for any extra trips and taxis.

Travel Insurance
We recommend that participants purchase a standard travel insurance policy which covers unexpectedly having to cancel or change your travel plans, losing your luggage, needing medical assistance and much more. Insurance options are available at My Insurance.com , Insure My Trip.com or at Travel Guard.

Electricity
The standard in Greece is 220V AC (50Hz).

Etiquette
Greeks generally observe the same practices with which most of us are familiar, but there are a few special variations. When you are introduced to a Greek for the first time, a handshake is normal. When you get to know Greeks fairly well, the kiss on both cheeks is the accepted greeting. By the way, Greeks wave goodbye with the back of the hand -- to hold up the open palm is to give the "evil eye"! Either wave sideways or in a little circle, but always with the palm turned away.

Time
Greek time is two hours ahead of GMT, an hour ahead of Central European Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Food and Drink
Restaurant and taverna food tends to be very simple, rarely involving sauces but with full use of local olive oil and charcoal grills. All restaurants have a standard menu which includes the availability and price of each dish. A good proportion of the restaurants will serve international dishes. Hours are normally Noon-3:00pm for lunch and 8:00pm-11:00pm for dinner.

National specialties:
Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).
Moussaka (aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive oil).
• Squid (kalamari) or octopus (htapodia).
Souvlaki (spit-roasted meat, generally pork or chicken).
Horiatiki (Greek salad: feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and fresh olive oil).

Water
The public drinking water in Greece is safe to drink, although it can be slightly brackish in some locales near the sea. For that reason, many people prefer the bottled water commonly available at restaurants, hotels, cafes, food stores, and kiosks. The days when Greek restaurants automatically served glasses of cold fresh water are gone; you are now usually made to feel that you must order bottled water, at which point you will have to choose between natural or carbonated (metalliko), and domestic or imported. Cafes, however, tend to provide a glass of natural water.

National drinks:
Retsina (wine made with pine-needle resin).
Ouzo (an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added). (an aniseed-based clear spirit to which water is added).
Raki (a sharp and fiery spirit made from distilled grapes).
• Greek coffee (thick and strong, and sugared according to taste).
• Greek beer is a light Pilsner type. 

Tipping
In restaurants a 'service charge' is included in the bill but this does not necessarily mean the money will go to the wait staff. If the service was satisfactory a tip of 10 to 15% will be most appreciated. For taxis a small gratuity (perhaps rounding up the fare) is appreciated.

Climate
The weather on Samothrace in September is beautiful. The average temperature is 67 degrees and the high is in the high 80’s while the lows are generally in the high 50’s. The average rainfall is three days for the entire month.

Language
Language is usually not a problem for English speakers in Greece, as so much of the population has lived abroad, where English is the primary language. Young people learn it in school, from Anglo-American-dominated pop culture, and in special classes meant to prepare them for the contemporary world of business. Many television programs are also broadcast in their original languages, and American prime-time soaps are very popular, nearly inescapable. Even advertisements have an increasingly high English content. Don't let all this keep you from trying to pick up at least a few words of Greek; your effort will be rewarded by your hosts, who realize how difficult their language is for foreigners and will patiently help you improve your pronunciation and usage.

Useful Phrases
These translations indicate how to say the word phonetically.

yes = NAI
no = OX-I
hello = GI-A
goodbye = SOU
please = PA-RA-KA-LO
thank you = EY-KAR-IS-TO
it is nice to meet you = CHA-RI-KA POU SE I-DA
take me to my hotel = PAR-A ME STO ZE-NO-DO-CHI-O MOU
where is the bathroom = POU EI-NAI TO MA-PA-NI-O
how much does this cost = PO-SO KOS-TI-ZI AY-TO
help = VO-I-THI-A
taxi = TA-XI
train = TRE-NO
left = A-RIS-TER-A
right = DEK-SI-A
middle = ME-SI
under = PA-NO
coffee = KA-FES
tea = TSAI
milk = GA-LA
beer = M'BY-RA
purified water = A-POS-TAG-ME-NO

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