After almost 3 months travelling around the Greek mainland, we are now preparing to leave and travel onwards to Bulgaria. Here are some useful hints and tips if you’re heading this way in your motorhome:
Roads & Sat Nav
After a close encounter in France last summer with a low bridge which would have made Boris our motorhome instantly into a convertible, we invested in an Aguri Sat Nav that allows us to enter our size. After a couple of incidents in Spain though we knew it wasn’t infallible, however in parts of Greece it’s been nigh on useless, think dirt tracks that are not really big enough for a car and really only ideal to drive on if you have a 4×4, national roads not appearing on the mapping system, destinations that can be reached in an hour showing a route that will take us 3 hours – you get the drift. So the moral of this story is don’t rely entirely on your sat nav here in Greece, we run ours in tandem with the off line app maps.me which we follow on a phone, although this doesn’t know our vehicle size it’s proved a good back up.
After spending the winter months in Spain at first we were planning journeys that were just not do-able in a reasonable time frame in Greece. On the coast roads expect to do around 35-40km in an hour. A lot of roads can be very narrow through villages and access to some beaches can be down single track roads, we learnt to hop out and take a look at the access on foot before driving down very narrow tracks. The roads are generally not too bad, yes there are a few pot holes or rough surfaces here and there, but there’s very little traffic in most parts making them easier to navigate. Generally we don’t use tolls as these days we’re not in a rush, however we have had to use them here a few times to avoid mountain ranges and tight villages or if we have wanted to travel greater distances. The toll roads are good, but expensive and the booths seem to be sited at random distances from each other along the road, so the miles can soon add up, use them if you need to rather than as the norm.
Greek drivers ignore most rules of the road, so will overtake at any opportunity even on double white lines or an a tight bend . They also tend to cut corners a lot meaning you will often go round a bend and meet an oncoming vehicle on your side of the road. Even after 3 months here I still find this a little disconcerting!
Ancient sites and visitor attractions
Unlike some other European countries most of the Greek sites open early either 8 or 9am and often stay open until late in season. Prices have understandably increased and we found that almost all of the sites we visited now carry a 12 Euro entrance fee p/p. Don’t miss out though there are some wonderful ancient sites here well worth the entrance fees.
Fuel & Gas
Fuel stations are everywhere in Greece, so never be worried about running out of fuel, and about every 3rd station sells gas. Prices vary from place to place and even stations near each other can have completely different prices. The cheapest diesel we have seen was 115.90 and gas around 0.79. The fuel stations all seem to have attendants that fill up for you and will often let you fill with water or empty your loo if buying fuel.
Supermarkets & Shopping
Greece feels like going back in time when it comes to shopping. The Greeks buy produce locally, often in small supermarkets, butchers, fishmongers or even from the back of a pick-up truck that does the rounds. You will also see roadside sellers, these are often farmers who are selling their own seasonal fresh fruit and veg, you will also pick up honey and olive oil at some of these. There are some larger supermarkets in bigger towns, the Greek one’s we tried are AB Supermarket & My Market, you will also find Lidl’s here, but you really can’t beat buying produce the same way as the Greeks do.
Unless you go to cities or large towns you won’t easily find high streets full of shops as we are used to in the UK. Look on this as a positive as it kerbs the spending!
Wild camping and campsites
Greece has numerous campsites although many are only open during high season. Standards can vary (even on ACSI sites) so we learnt to go and have a look around at the facilities before driving right onto the site. Wifi can often be poor although it’s normally included in the price and washing machines can often be just a domestic machine, meaning cycles often take longer and loads need to be smaller. The most we have paid for a site here is 19 Euros a night including electric, so prices are very competitive.
Wild camping (although technically illegal in Greece) is generally accepted. If you are parked up and have no chairs out or windows open etc you are not breaking any rules. We have not personally experienced any issues wild camping in Greece. We are always respectful and never park in front of homes or anywhere near an open campsite and we always try and give back to the local community by shopping locally, eating out or stopping off for a coffee or beer.
Water & Waste
Fresh water taps are everywhere in Greece. Most villages and towns have taps; some picnic laybys also do or look for showers on beaches or water points at harbours. Waste is a little trickier; most campsites we have visited don’t even have grey emptying points and so just expect it to be emptied on your pitch. Black waste is well catered for on sites and there are occasional public toilets dotted around, but if wanting to wild camp here a spare cassette is really a must.
Easting out in Greece is a delight. Restaurants are a real family affair where you will not only meet all the generations of a Greek family, but become part of it! They serve an array of homemade dishes utilising seasonal produce and herbs, the recipes for which have been handed down. When enjoying a meal together the Greeks place everything in the middle and share, so if you’re not up for sharing just be aware that meals come out of the kitchen when ready and not altogether. The Greek generosity shines through though with them almost always handing over a little something on the house at the end, be it a temping desert or a local potent shot!
Although there are plenty of huge dumpster style bins all around, this is the one area that lets Greece down. Maybe because of austerity these are not always emptied regularly so often contents can be spilt or left along the roadside, only to be dragged further afield by one of the local strays. There is also a huge shortage of recycling points in Greece and so seeing a bin where we can recycle has been a rarity rather than the norm. The Greeks really do need educating on the damage plastics and rubbish can do to the wildlife in our oceans, we have witnessed beaches strewn with all sorts of plastics, locals throwing or leaving coffee cups anywhere and everywhere and even tipper lorries dumping full loads at the side of a road.
Wifi is widely available in bars, restaurants and campsites although the signal strength can often be poor especially in more remote areas, so good wifi can be hard to find. 3G signal can also be hit and miss so if you’re reliant on wifi then you should aim for larger towns and villages.
The Greek People
The Greeks have to be one of the warmest, most genuine and generous nations in Europe if not the world. They love sharing, wanting nothing in return, if asked they are always willing to help and will go above and beyond to do so. Greeks seem to ignore most EU rules, they don’t wear motorbike helmets, they still smoke inside bars or restaurants and use their mobile phones whilst driving! Coming here restores faith in human nature, not only is a beautiful country, but the people make it extra special.
Greece you now have a piece of my heart.