1. Always carry cash with you
Although payment by card is nowadays possible in most of the places you visit in Athens, there are still some small places that accept only cash, such as small mini-markets, kiosks, vintage market places, grocery stores etc. So, for your convenience, travel with some cash with you and it will surely make your life easier.
2. Metro is the best transportation method in Athens
Athens has an excellent metro connection. If your hotel is located in the vicinity of the city center, the metro is your best friend. Every important landmark, museum and the most famous places for sightseeing in Athens are located next to a metro station. It is the fastest method of transportation and the cheapest. The 90-minute ticket costs 1.40 euros, the 24-hour ticket 4.50 euros and the 3-day tourist ticket 22 euros. You can buy your ticket in the vending machines located in every station.
3. Use mobile apps for taxi and other transportation methods
You can very easily hail a taxi in the streets of Athens or get one from the taxi stations (usually located in squares). The yellow cars are literally too many and everywhere! However, you can download in advance the free mobile app “Beat”, which allows you to make some useful choices, like choosing the taxi driver you prefer from the ones available based on his profile (this way you can be sure that he speaks English) and your payment method (cash or card). If you wish to travel by bus, then “OASA” is a very useful app that will make your life easier in Athens. If you had a bad experience in the past and wish to be ahead of public demonstrations and strikes, you can download the app “ApergiaGR”.
4. Watch out for the taximeter
As soon as you get into the taxi you hailed, make sure that the meter starts from zero. There are some drivers that try to exploit travelers - and not only. The “Beat” app will give you an estimation of the ride cost beforehand, which makes it harder for them to exploit you.
5. Be extra careful at the crosswalks
Most drivers in Greece do not respect the crosswalks and you should be extra careful. Many stripes are faded out and the drivers do not see them before it is too late. But even if they are clearly visible, always double-check before crossing a road.
6. Beware of 'tourist traps'
Athens has a peculiarity. It can be touristic and local at the same time. So, when you are wandering around Plaka and Monastiraki, you will see many taverns and restaurants which look very nice, marketing “authentic moussaka” and “souvlaki”. However, chances are they are tourist traps and the food they offer of very bad quality. Our recommendation: do not enter places where there is an employee outside telling you how great the food is and trying to get you into a table… You are just a number to them. Instead, look for the small places, search online for good ratings and read local guides. You can always ask a local too, they would be more than happy to recommend you a place. Locals still love to go out and dine in Plaka and Monstastiraki and there are many great, authentic places to taste real Greek culture.
7. Forget your meal schedule
Greeks have a very different schedule when it comes to meals. If you go to a restaurant before 9.30pm, it will most likely be empty. Greeks enjoy their afternoon coffee at 6 or 7pm and have their dinner around 10pm. So, if you wish to truly live like a local in Athens, forget your meal schedule and join in.
8. Tip if you like
Although in some countries tipping can be mandatory, in Greece this is not the case. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should not reward the person serving you, especially if you are satisfied with their service. Tips are optional, but always more than welcome!
9. Book an experiential tour
If you want to discover Greek culture and get to know Athens like a local, avoid the common tours and join an experiential tour offered by a local company. Walking tours (or city tours) are the perfect way to learn of the history of Athens and experience its culture. Booking a storytelling tour with a local will definitely make your time in Athens more memorable and will probably give you many stories to tell when you return home.
10. Greeks are loud
When in Athens, you will find yourself among a crowd of people that shout, laugh out loud and talk fast using a lot of hand gestures. Don’t be scared; they are not angry, they are just too expressive! We Greeks love to talk, and we do it loudly, using intense body language. We also like to hug and kiss twice on each cheek when we meet someone at the street, and we love to salute people when we suddenly find them in our way, even if they are standing at the opposite side of a busy street. If you ever wanted to express yourself as loud as you want, now is your chance!
We hope that the above tips were useful to you. If you are staying in Athens for two days, have a look at our article about what to do in Athens in 48 hours. If the weather forecast says that it is going to be rainy, have a quick read about things you can do in Athens when it is rainy and have a great time! And don’t forget to check the list of foods and drinks you should try while in Greece!