Reader needs help deciding on a greek vacation

I have an interesting discussion topic for you today. There’s a traveler who might go to Greece. However, he’s not sure it will be worth the money because a British friend of his is very negative about traveling to Greece.

Now I’m going to publish the original concern about Greece and the British friend’s letter – this will be very insulting for any Greeks but after thinking it over I’ve decided to publish it. First, a little controversy never hurt anyone. Second, it is part of the reader’s question and as travelers we want to get to the truth – you can’t really get the truth by hiding negative opinions…

The wife and I are planning a POSSIBLE European vacation for next summer with a stop in Greece (or not – we could just wind up back at LBI). I’ve heard mixed reviews – some people think it’s paradise, while others were more negative, including this e-mail I got from a strong-opinioned Brit friend of mine:

“I used to go to the Greek Islands all the time, it’s like getting a bus to Corfu or Rhodes from England… If you have ever been there, you have to s**t and then wipe and throw the paper in a basket by the toilet as the sewage system ain’t that great. The locals are all idiots that try and pick up on the English girls and want to fight the English men. They get beat up, a lot, and then come back with village mobs.

You rent scooters and get killed by construction trucks. The beer used to be cheap and the food isn’t great.

Its hot, very hot. The Greeks hate the English and by proxy Americans, but tolerate them as they are the cash cow that keeps their third world tourist traps humming. Without them they would be fishing for polluted fish in the Med and playing the bazouki for giggles.”

Is that most likely an overly harsh assessment from someone who had a bad experience? It certainly wouldn’t be a cheap vacation, and I just want to avoid making a mistake of going somewhere that’s totally overrated.

Well there you have it – the question from a reader and the advice from a bitter Brit.

Personally, I’ve never been to Greece (and don’t know what “bazouki” are) but hear mostly positive things, especially the islands. A friend did sound a bit negative on Athens: “I would recommend to you no more than 2 days in Athens as outside of the ruins there is not much to the city. It is very dirty and porn is everywhere, not the environment for kids as the porn is sold openly with vivid pictures everywhere. The islands are great and I would spend more of your time there.”

But again, he said the islands were great. Nothing about locals picking fights or harassing women. I know I’ve heard people talk about Santorini, which is supposed to be a very friendly and beautiful place, perfect for a romantic vacation. See #5 on this old blog entry.

By the way, all this reminds me of one of the funniest movies ever, which I forget the name of. But if you recognize the following quote, name the movie it came from: “Forget France. The French can be annoying. Come to Greece. We’re nicer.”

Or leave a comment discussing Greece so the original questioner can make up his mind.

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  1. Sharon says:

    From the movie Crazy People w/Dudley Moore!! A favorite actor of mine!

  2. kathi says:

    I would also like to go to the Islands of Greece – Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos. But, I have heard from older relatives that they did a cruise to these Islands & the Greek are very fresh people. I was amazed at that statement. So, we would do this as a cruise without the teens in about 5 yrs. I think this would be the best/safest method of transportation there since we would be on the cruise for all needs but the shopping & sights. So, this is what I would recommend for you also. I would scout out a date when there is a sale too.

    I am presently looking for a cruise for 12/27/2008 or 12/28/2008 out of NY to Hawaii, or some place different that is not too costly for a family of 4. We have been to Nassau, Bermuda, some of the Caribbean, FL, Alaska. Also, we want to take a different ship rather than ncl Spirit, Star, Dawn. Each of these were nice, but a different ship/place is fun. Has anyone been on ncl, Gem, Jade, Pearl?

  3. kimbosita says:

    i’ve been to greece five times, and it is the most beautiful place on the planet! the people are friendly and hospitable – to americans included. the food is extraordinary, fresh, mouth-watering (i’ve tasted the best tomatoes, peaches, lamb, feta and french fries when in greece). i’ve never had a bad experience in all of my travels there, so i was dismayed to read all of those negative comments about such a great place. for those of you considering a trip there, check out this website ( – matt barrett lives there and has traveled all over the country – he has written extensively on all of the islands – and gives hotel suggestions. i’ve used his site for a few of my trips and have always been satisfied with where i’ve ended up! my husband and i are returning to greece next spring and plan to visit milos and sifnos in the cyclades. other islands not to miss are santorini, naxos, paros, lesbos, chios, and crete. don’t listen to this guy – get to greece as fast as you can!

  4. Judith McAllister says:

    I have visited Greece and have never experienced conditions as mentioned above. Beautiful, friendly and no problem with the toilet paper issue! I plan on returning in the future and have actually looked into re-locating to Greece. Sounds like this guy needs to check out his OWN issues rather than projecting them on Greece. Take a chance in life….visit Greece!!!

  5. Dr. Adrienne Vanderberg Bachman says:

    I have been to Greece several times and while I admit Athens is not my favorite city for an extended stay, you would not want to be in that area and miss the some the finest ancient wonders of the world. I am not so impressed with Mykonos only because tourism has taken over a little too much perhaps. But Santorini can be everything you want in a dreamy vacation, even looking at pictures of it evoke a “Calgon take me away” feeling (oops, I am dating myself). Crete is a facinating place from a historical perspective (of course everything around this part of world is) and Rhodes has some interesting ruins if you are into that. I would like to go back and explore more of the islands less traveled and hope to spend some extended time on Santorini unless I find an island I like better.

    With regard to how other cultures view/and or treat Americans, it is not hard to imagine the reasons why this can be a mixed bag if you have traveled much at all through the years. I am not so sure that we can continue to count on “if you are nice to people in your travels, they will be nice to you” so much as in the past. In any case, I do not want to spend the kind of money it costs to travel abroad and not be treated well, no matter why it has come to that. And while I am not typically a blogger, this kind of communication with may well be the best way to get some sort of assurance that you are making choices that meet your expectations of $$$ well spent and a good time had by all.

  6. anna says:

    pay no attention to the comments of greece on being a place you would rather not visit. i was there in 95 and would luv 2 move there. it will be a trip that you will never forget or regret!!

  7. kathi says:

    After reading all these good comments abt. Greece, I am glad to say I will still go there in abt. 5 yrs. It does sound alot like I was thinking before relatives voiced their opinions. Sometimes, people are too critical abt. the little things… Thank you for the positive insight!

    Aside, I have 2 questions. Has any1 cruised to these Islands in Greece & which ship? & I have a bunch of relatives that are so opposed cruising of which they have never even tried. What’s up with that? I have been on 14 cruises so far. There is something for every1. I really can’t understand how some1 can make a statement abt. something they have no experience. Does this sound familiar to any1?

  8. patty says:

    Island hopping in Greece is the best wat to get to see the most islands, Some are so small you can see them in a couple of hours, Check with the port athority once you are in Athens… The two major ports on the mainland ar Rafina and Pireas.Note though that Greece cannot be seen all in one vacation…. I am sure you will want to go back. There are hundreds of islands. Ionians Cyclades Sporades Crete Evia and so on good luck

  9. travelfan says:

    My comment is that anyone who serves tourists gets hardened, no matter what the country. I’m also sick of hearing that people hate America. They are simply jealous, nothing more, because they see us buying thing they cannot afford or eating too much food that they also cannot afford.

    The “real” people still enjoy Americans. We get blamed for a lot of bad behavior (Brits, Canadians, etc.) because they think all white people who speak English are Americans.

    Go and decide for yourself. In 5 years, maybe the Greeks will realize they need tourist dollars and will treat you very well then.

  10. James says:

    Cruising in the Aegean can be a very satisfying on boat experience …or not. Do not use the smaller local cruise lines.They are far inferior to what you will find elsewhere(Caribbean etc….).

    Believe me you will be sorry.Especially if you are a seasoned cruise traveler.

    The problem I have with cruise lines in general is that you miss the best part of Greek life on the islands and that part for cruise ship passengers unfortunately happens after 10pm.

    An 8 hour visit to Santorini during the day will only begin to wet my appetite.

    Take the boats from Pireas and island hop.You will have a blast.Easy,much less expensive,and a lot more fun. Just be aware that a hotel in Europe comparable to lets say Best Western will run you 200 dollars US in season.Trust me on this,I lived there for 22 years.

  11. Mistie says:

    I spent 8 days in Greece in 2001. I absoloutly loved it. I am actually planning a trip there for myself and my husband in the next year. I thought the people were wonderful, the food to die for and the history amazing. It was really hot when I went, August, but I loved it. Just wonderful.

  12. kowr29 says:

    I just got back from a 9 day trip to Greece and loved it, I will go back , food wounderfull , beer good people were nice , did 4 days on a louis cruise ship , had a good time only complaint is a cruise only gives you a sample

  13. econruth says:

    What effect have all the fires had on tourism? Maybe now is not the best time for a trip…

  14. kathi says:

    This is the best site! I will go to Greece maybe even earlier than in 5 yrs. afer reading such good details. Thank you all!

  15. rtclac says:

    visited greece in 2001- the people, the atmosphere, the food, the warm and cordial hospitality was truly extraordinary- we have traveled many places but our trip to the islands (santorini, crete and mykonos) were outstanding- the Brit needs to stay home!

  16. Joy says:

    I have been to Greece every summer of my life since I was a baby. Greece is an amazing country with many things to offer. Yes its true that their plumbing is a little behind, but that is about the only fall back. There are people all over the world who are miserable and treat people terribly…A whole country can not be judged or blamed for one person’s bad experience. I personally think the Greek’s are of the most hospitable in the world. I have been treated very well every time I have traveled to Greece.

    Greece is filled with culture, history, amazing beaches, and great food. If someone is traveling to Greece I suggest not staying in Athens for more than a day or two in the summer. The heat is unbearable, and its difficult to enjoy yourself. Island hopping is the way to go.

    The islands are amazing…and that is an understatement.

    And for the record its the Bouzouki…if your going to criticize let’s try for some accuracy!

  17. Heather says:

    I was in Greece last year for nearly two weeks and had a wonderful time going from island to island. We found a day and a half to be the perfect amount of time in Athens – just enough to see what we wanted to see, and then get the heck out. We appreciated the islands much more than Athens.

    We didn’t rent scooters, but we did rent cars on Samos, Crete, Santorini and drove through the Peloponnese. No problems with driving, other than the occasional narrow road.

    We did have to throw toilet paper in the wastebasket, but so what?? At least there are modern, clean toilets!! It certainly seems like it was a very small price to pay for the incredible beauty that Greece offered.

    PS, Santorini is one of the two most beautiful places I’ve ever been (Plitvice Lakes Natl Park is the other, and I’ve been to Hawaii and many other areas in Europe and the US).

    I say don’t listen to your friend and go with an optimistic attitude! If your friend’s outlook is contagious though, then look out – of course the little things will get to you so you’ll overlook the wonderful things Greece has to offer. Go with optimism!!

  18. Jeannie says:

    We were in Santorini last May…along with 5 cruise ships. We waited in line and hour for the

    gondola (in the sun)and the village was over-run

    with cruise passengers (including us!!) Also, summer will be pretty hot (and humid?) Just a couple of things to consider!!??

  19. Costa says:

    Whoever wrote that comment above probably deserved to get his a55 kicked. He would have been treated that way in any country. We all know from history that the English think their sh!t doesnt stink. Go back to england, you have a great tourist attraction there.

  20. EB Kersten says:

    We traveled on a bus tour of the mainland areas of Greece a few years ago (say 5 yrs), and we had a great time. My wife wasn’t so much into the antiquities, but we did see a lot of beautiful places and monuments. The food was fabulous, imagine having great food in a restaurant by the bay (Piraeus in this case) with boats lights twinkling on the water and with musical entertainment. The locals were friendly enough to our mixed bus group (US, Canada, British, Aussie), and we certainly would go back again. On this particular tour we started in Athens, and visited Sounion, Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Patras, Delphi, and the Meteora Monasteries, ending back in Athens.

  21. Danny says:

    I was in Greece this summer on a working trip with a church group from the States. Thus, I can’t speak from the perspective of one who was there on holiday, but I can speak from the perspective of one who was there recently. We spent a week in the city of Thessaloniki. Yes, it’s true that some of the most aggressive drivers I’ve ever seen in the world are in Greece. (So definitely be careful crossing the street!) And, yes, we had toilet paper restrictions also in the hotel where we stayed. (But, whenever I visit another country, I don’t expect everything to perfect or to be as it is in the States.) And, yes, Greece does get hot. Back in July while we were there they were in the midst of an intense heat wave…100 to 115 degrees for a couple of days. (But the humidity wasn’t near as bad as Florida, where I lived for 12 years.)

    BUT…having said all that…I very much enjoyed my time there and want to go back again. You have good and bad people in every culture. I find that people are generally a mirror of who you are. If you take the initiative and treat people with kindness, friendliness, courtesy and respect, most people will reciprocate. I found some tremendously warm, friendly and helpful people in Greece. I met a few rude ones too, but I can find people like that in my hometown as well. So, I just think the person who wrote the letter maybe had either unrealistic expectations of Greece or some issues of his own.

  22. Jeanne Sopiarz says:

    I have to say that I am of Greek decent and was also hesitant to go to the country of my heritage. I am happy to report that I, along with my 12 year old son, went to Greece with an advanced studies group related to his school in Gary, IN. We went to Athens and Delphi. I will agree that Athens was a bit unclean and unsavory for the teens we have here in America. A lot of porn and openly visible. However, Delphi was not only the most beautiful country I have yet seen, it was also the most friendly area I have yet to visit! The ruins are not toddler friendly, but there is so much history there. I recommend this area! I have told my husband that I want to make this our next family vacation and we are looking forward to revisiting the same hotel and store owners. The beach (however not what we call a beach–a rock beach at best) is 15 minutes from there and beautiful! This area is very family friendly…restaurants and stores…and reasonably priced. I encourage people to visit Delphi, an area that goes overlooked. Good luck!

  23. James Trotta says:

    Thank you for the comments everyone – sounds like Greece needs to be a bit higher up on my places to visit list…

  24. Ian Sewell says:

    We did enjoy our time in Greece, but in the summer it can become unbearably hot. Unless you’re on an island, there isn’t much escape from the heat – even the museums are not air conditioned. We had to arrange to be at the sites we were visiting at 6am, and back in the hotel room between noon and 4pm.

    We really enjoyed Athens (though very crowded), Delphi, and Delos. Mykonos had some great food, but the beaches were unbearably crowded.

    See our pictures here:

  25. Kay Newberry says:

    Don’t overlook the wonder of Athens in favor of more time on an island. And if you are going to the islands, limit time on Santorini unless all you want to do is shop. Naxos is fabulous! It has it all: scenery, history,shopping, wonderful restaurants, clubs, beautiful sunsets. And the accomodations are wonderful. You have the best of conveniences with the beauty of ancient Greece. Wonderful hospitality from the locals.

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