Parliamentary guard in traditional uniform
© AA Photo Library
Athens is best avoided during the sweltering summer months, when temperatures can soar, noise levels are high around the clock, and the ever-present pollution is at its worst.
Head for restaurants and tavernas where locals eat; the food will be good. If you don't understand the menu in a taverna you may be invited into the kitchen for a look - choose what you want and point! In some areas of Greece there is an enduring belief that hot food harms the stomach, and food may therefore be served lukewarm. However, the preference for hot food is normally catered to.
Remember to never flush toilet tissue down the toilet - it goes in the basket provided. You'll flood the bathroom if you put paper down the narrow pipes. This applies to all toilets throughout Greece. Public restrooms are few and far between, and many of them leave much to be desired.
Greeks prefer to be cool and comfortable rather than stylish, but usually don't wear shorts in the city. It's respectful to cover bare shoulders and upper arms in churches. Topless and nude sunbathing are unacceptable except at some island resorts.
Taxis outside main cities are fairly inexpensive, but in Athens drivers may hike rates for foreign visitors. Ask what the destination fare is before getting into a taxi or compare fares before deciding which one you'll use. On arrival by ferry or plane, if you already have a hotel reserved, resist being talked into going to another hotel.
Don't rent a scooter; more tourists have accidents on them than by any other means.
At important sites you'll be inundated by guides wanting to be paid for their services; some are good, others barely speak English. If you want guide service, use an official one or take a tour.
There's a plethora of attractive, handmade items to buy in Greek stores and markets. Most prices are fixed, but you can try a little gentle haggling in markets.
Be careful after it rains, when marble-surfaced walkways in Athens become very slippery. Also look out for unguarded holes on sidewalks, especially in poorly lit areas at night.