Traveling to the Greek Islands? 50 Things People Don’t Tell You, But You Should Know.

Hey, we’ve all been there. You see a bikini clad ‘Instagram‘ model on the beaches of Mykonos, and you are ready to pack your bags. Well my girlfriend and I did just that, and I’m compiling a list of things we learned while in the islands of Santorini and Mykonos, Greece.

Let me start this article out this way – the Greek Islands (specifically Santorini & Mykonos) are in my top 3 favorite places I’ve ever visited, so please don’t take this article as negative in any way. This is more meant to be informative so you can plan ahead and optimize your stay. Everything about Greece (except maybe the food, sorry Greeks) was perfect. Santorini was absolutely stunning, even photos can’t do it justice, and Mykonos was a dream for anyone in their 20s & 30s. Also, it’s worth noting that we are Americans, so some things below might not be as surprising to some other cultures in the world.

 

 


50. Old Port & New Port (Santorini) are not the same thing.

Don’t make the mistake we did thinking there’s only one port in Santorini. After arriving at the ticket booth and finding out we were at the New Port and needed to be at the Old Port to catch a ferry in the next 30 minutes, I’ve never ran so fast. Luckily a few points down you’ll learn why we were able to still catch our ferry!

49. You cannot drink the water.

I’ve heard from sources you’ll be ok if you drink the water, but plan to pay for bottled water to be safe. I’d rather not ruin a trip of a lifetime getting sick, and the bottled water is not expensive. 

48. You’ll develop a love/hate relationship with ATVs and scooters.

I grew up riding ATVs and dirt bikes as a hobby, so you already know I made it a point to rent an ATV when we were in Santorini. If you know how to ride one, I would highly recommend it, as we saw so much of the island I don’t believe we would have been able to see otherwise. If you have no idea how to drive one: BE. CAREFUL. You will not be joyriding on off road terrain. This will essentially be your car and you will be on the curvy, windy roads along with local (and insane) drivers in their much bigger vehicles. They’ll tailgate you, they’ll pass you and they will show no mercy. Also, if you decide to rent and they say they can’t rent to you without an international driving license, just go to the next shop and try your luck – some shops stick by the rules, but most do not.

47. The sun can and will burn you to a crisp.

Use high SPF. Especially if you plan to rent an ATV, scooter or go on a boat. While the wind is blowing and you’re getting a cool breeze, the sun will secretly be roasting you alive. 

46. People watching in Mykonos might as well be a sport.

People watching in Mykonos was by far my favorite activity. In the age of social media, people do the most insane things to say “Hey, I’m in a way cooler place than you” to all of their followers. I literally witnessed a middle-aged woman take over 150 photos of herself in Scorpios, with no regard for anything happening around her (with the assistance of her boy toy, might I add). You’ll see what I mean when you’re there… just don’t be that person. 

45. Everything is disorganized.

Remember when I said you’d learn why we were still able to catch our ferry even after going to the wrong port in Santorini? It’s because the ferry was so late. Everything is disorganized and usually if you are late, you’re still on time (buses, planes, etc). I don’t recommend getting anywhere late, but the odds are with you in Greece, so don’t give up if you are running late. 

44. There are only ~30 cabs on both Santorini and Mykonos islands.

Imagine fighting for a car with an entire island full of tourists. Your best bet is to call the cab company and try to arrange a pickup. Don’t expect to just walk outside and get a cab like most metropolitan cities. They seem to be much easier to catch late night after drinks, but I would NOT rely on cabs to get you to anywhere you need to be at a certain time unless you have an appointment for pickup. 

43. Leave early for everything.

See above. Transportation is scarce, and you need to plan ALL of your transportation ahead of time or you will be late. 

42. Buses will be your friend.

Get accustomed to where buses stop; there will be maps at every stop. They will be your best friend for getting to different parts of the islands if you don’t have an ATV or scooter. They come pretty regularly, and even though it will likely be a scary and cramped ride, you’ll get from point A to point B. 

41. Headlining DJs don’t come on until late.

Being from New York, this wasn’t too new to us– but parties seemed to really get going even later in Greece. Headliners at the clubs came on between 2:30-4am, so take a pre/post dinner nap and eat dinner late. 

40. Spicy food is non-existent.

This was a big one for me, since I’m a hot sauce fanatic. I love all my food spicy, and put Franks Red Hot on everything. You won’t find anything spicy in Greece (at least I didn’t), so pack a travel bottle. 

39. Gyros are life.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Greek food. Gyros were my savior, they are like the street meat of Greece. The best part is they are cheap and you can get them anywhere, quickly. You can literally order a Gyro inside some of the beach clubs. 

38. Markets serve beer, liquor and wine.

Markets serve alcohol (not something we are used to in the USA). Stock up on some local beers and wine for the room. 

37. You can drink on the street.

This was another thing we weren’t used to in the states. You can take your alcohol anywhere – even from beach club to beach club. Use this as an advantage to pregame on your way out, as drinks in bars and clubs can be very expensive. We also read prior to our trip that we should stick to beer in bars as some places fill top shelf bottles with local spirits that can really mess you up in order to save money. We didn’t have any issues, but mostly stuck to beer outside of a few celebratory shots. 

36. Don’t over tip.

In the U.S. we are used to tipping 20% on everything. In Greece, tipping is typically 5-10% —  which may seem awkward but makes sense as wages are generally accounted for. 

35. The wind is real.

It can get windy AF, especially early and late in the season, so if you plan to go in the beginning or end of peak season bring some sleeves. We went late August to early September and while I had sleeves, I wish I’d brought a hoodie for after the sun went down. 

34. Get your beach bod in check before heading here.

Go to the gym ahead of time, get your diet in check, do whatever you have to do because most likely everyone there is going to be better looking than you. This is more-so in Mykonos. 

33. Don’t flush that TP.

This took some getting used to. Apparently the piping systems in Greece aren’t all that great, so you’re not able to flush any toilet paper down. I have no advice, I’m just letting you know.

32. Stray animals roam the streets.

If you’re an animal person, chances are you’ll make a friend and not want to leave him or her. They are hungry and loving, and I’m convinced they stay alive due to tourists taking care of them. Just be aware of what you are giving them so they don’t get sick. 

31. Sunrise is where it’s at.

I promise you, wake up early and you will thank me. You can take a nap or nurse that hangover after the sun is up and the crowds file in. The sunrises were incredible in Santorini and the streets are empty (a rare experience during the day/night). 

30. Get leg day in before heading to Santorini.

The stairs are more intense than three weeks of Crossfit. Make sure you are prepared, or are physically capable of climbing stairs before going to Santorini. When we got there, we saw a group of middle aged women climbing to their hotel — it must have been 300+ stairs and they looked completely defeated and disgusted. Mentally prepare yourself now, this is probably the ONLY downside to the city (no pun intended). 

29. Don’t be deceived by Instagram.

We stayed in a pretty nice place, but I have to say nothing was as it seemed online. Greece is such a photogenic and beautiful place that it’s easy to make everything look amazing. Don’t get me wrong — the hotels and sights are beautiful — but for example, the hot tubs and pools you see in photos at luxury hotels are not as big as they look on Instagram. 

28. Super Paradise Beach (Mykonos) is a gay friendly beach.

If you plan to go to Super Paradise beach, it is very gay friendly, and I would say the go-to gay hotspot in Mykonos. Also nude friendly, so there’s that as well. 

27. Walk from beach to beach in Mykonos.

All of the beaches in Mykonos are connected in some way, shape or form. Even if it doesn’t look like it, you can most likely walk along them and weave in and out of the hotels to get to the next beach. This is way easier than arranging a ride if you are within walking distance so always try as a first resort. As mentioned above, transportation is not easy, which is probably why a lot of these hidden paths exist. 

26. Ferries from one island to another is the equivalent to human cattle.

Ferries from one island to another is basically hoarding humans onto a boat like animals. There is absolutely no order, no line, no rules. Pure mayhem. But once you get on, all is well and the ships are actually really nice. 

25. Day beds = $$$.

Day beds on the beach vary on price per hotel, but be prepared to spend lots’a dollars to lay on the beach if you decide to do so. If you’re on the frugal side, I would go to a few different beaches and get the prices. Luxury places are always more expensive. I preferred a simple towel, but to each their own. 

24. Drinking age is 18.

If you look over 18, you’ll likely never need your ID to get into a bar or club in Greece. Happy drinking young guns. 

23. The red wine is not good.

None of the vineyards have red wine, and if they do they’re disgusting. You can’t go wrong with the white, it’s not too shabby. Also recommend a wine tour– it’s actually pretty cool to learn how they grow and make the wine in such harsh conditions. 

22. Despacito might be their favorite song (2017).

This might be outdated by the time you are reading this, but honestly I couldn’t leave it out. The. song. was. played. literally. everywhere.

21. You’ll be outnumbered by Europeans and Aussies (unless you’re one of them).

The islands are swarming with Europeans and Aussies, so don’t expect to be outnumbered by the Greeks in the hotspots.

20. Everyone speaks English for the most part.

The native language is obviously Greek, but for our sake, pretty much everyone spoke great English for the most part.

19. Smoking is accepted.

Smoking is much more acceptable and prevalent in Greece than in the US. You can smoke most places, even indoors, and cigarettes are REALLY cheap.

18. Driving is aggressive.

As mentioned previously, the way people drive in Greece is pretty aggressive. The roads are definitely dangerous, which doesn’t make for a great combination. At some points, you may be going around a super narrow curve and looking over a steep cliff feeling like you’re going to die– but just remember, these people live like this (trust them if you can). 

17. People are OK with being naked.

Nudity is accepted on most (if not all) beaches. Some will be more prominent than others, but you can definitely let it all hang out if that’s your cup of tea.

16. Hike from Fira to Oià (Santorini) and not the other way around.

The hike from Fira to Oià in Santorini is awesome, but it’s NOT something you’ll want to do twice. It’s long, exhausting and hot. Please just don’t make the same mistake we did and DO NOT start from Oia (it’s essentially the uphill route). 

15. Window shopping struggles are real.

They really know how to get you hyped over material things. You’ll want to buy a luxury watch and change your wardrobe by the time you leave. 

14. International DJ bookings start to die down after mid August.

International DJ bookings start to die down after mid August and the bigger nightclubs closing weeks are end of August / first week in September. If you’re into that kind of thing (likely if you’re going to Mykonos), it’s good to check the summer lineups from past years and the upcoming season. It’ll make your stay that much better if you can catch a good DJ at one of their more popular clubs. 

13. Make a reservation if you want to eat at Scorpios (Mykonos) or anywhere that has a good view of sunset.

We went to Scorpios thinking we could grab a table for sunset, eat and then grab drinks after. No can do. That place must be the most popular place in Mykonos. I believe I read after the fact that you need a reservation days or a week in advance.

12. Everything is blue & white.

Apparently they re-paint the buildings every year, which is why they stay so beautifully white and blue. Mildly interesting fact: we also learned because water is so scarce if someone has a pool, you know they’re rich.

11. For beer and wine, go local.

You can get imports anywhere. The local beer and wine was the best (and cheapest) way to drink.

10. See Santorini before the cruise ships dock.

When exploring the city, try and hit the spots you really want to see before the cruise ships dock. If you are there for a couple days, you’ll know exactly when this is by the first day (we found right after sunrise to be the perfect time). Once they come in, it’s a mass rush of people from the boats and you’ll be fighting major crowds. Use that time to chill out and enjoy the view or escape the main city for a bit. 

9. You’re throat and nose may hate you after a few days.

It doesn’t really rain, so it’s super dusty. Accept that your throat and nose will be clogged up and it will be uncomfortable. 

8. If you want to go to Cavo Paradiso (Mykonos), look for promoters on the beach or boutiques.

If you Google Cavo Paradiso ticket locations, you’ll probably be able to find the exact boutiques that carry discount tickets. Or just go on the beach and look for promoters walking around. Never pay full price to go there!

7. Pack light.

You don’t need many clothes, and most likely if you are visiting the islands, you’ll be traveling a bit. Make it easy on yourself and bring light, breathable clothes and only what you need.

6. You’ll be eating late. After 10pm.

Greeks eat late, and they party until late, so plan to eat dinner 10pm or later and then go out for drinks after. Pro Tip: if you eat earlier, you’ll likely beat the crowds and have some down time to chill before going out.

5. Try a Greek Salad and the Greek Yogurt.

The headline says it all. You can’t go to Greece and not try these.

4. You’ll be eating a lot of seafood and pasta.

I’m pretty sure I had a consistent diet of seafood throughout the entire trip.

3. People are super friendly and accommodating.

The people are fantastic and love to talk. Don’t be afraid to start up conversation or ask for help, we didn’t meet a miserable person there.

2. Bring comfortable shoes.

You’ll be walking, climbing and running for things (because you are late) so bring shoes you can rely on to be comfortable.

1. If you are going to the islands, don’t just do one.

I read somewhere once that Santorini is the girl you want to spend the rest of your life and have a family with, while Mykonos is the girl you want to have a one-night stand with. I literally couldn’t have put it any better myself. Spending half the trip in each place for us was the perfect balance. I would not recommend doing your whole stay in either, they really compliment each other. There are a bunch of Greek islands, so do your research on which ones fit you and go from there, but I would highly recommend hopping around. 


 

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this helpful. Been to the Greek Islands, and have anything to add? Please drop a comment below!!

 

 

facebook-profile-picture
That Dude

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *