Concerns about Traveling in Greece

Hello Dopers,

I have the opportunity to go on an archaeological dig in Greece this summer, and I had been very excited about going, but some of the reports about strikes and civil unrest in Greece have made me somewhat worried. I’m trying to decide whether it would be worth it, or whether it would be safest to not go. I’m a graduate student with rather shallow pockets, and I don’t have much leeway to wait things out if something went wrong. I also don’t know anyone in Greece I could contact for help. I don’t know Modern Greek, and I do not look like a native. That said, here are some of the specific travel issues that I’m worried about:

(1) My current flight gets into the Athens airport about 2 AM. How safe would it be to hang around the airport until daylight to catch a bus? What about taking a cab to a hotel?

(2) I will need to get from Athens to Pylos, where the dig is being held, by bus. I have not been able to find any specific information about how to do this. I don’t know what bus company runs the bus routes, I don’t know where to pick up the bus, I don’t know what the schedules are. Apparently none of this information is posted online in any language. Do any of you dopers have this information and would be able to help me out?

(3) I keep reading threats and reports of riots and strikes (like public transportation strikes, gas station strikes, air traffic control strikes, and so on). What’s the situation like from the point of view of someone who is actually there in Greece? How likely would this be to disrupt my travel plans?

Thanks! Any insight would be helpful.

I certainly don’t have any up-to-date information, but years ago I spent a month in Greece and found the people to be very helpful, friendly and more than willing to help a lost tourist find their way.

It is a problem getting around with a map as I couldn’t read a word of Greek and all of the names of streets and places were, uh, Greek to me - words with 25 squiggles and symbols in a row. I only figured out the difference between Men’s Room and Ladies’ room by counting the number of squiggles and symbols.

I know that in Germany, and other parts of Europe, mass strikes were fairly normal events. They disrupt travel and it can get heated in areas near government buildings, but for the average tourist, they were seldom more than an inconvenience and annoyance until the strikes end.

Again, I have no specifics on the current situation, but I think if you just go about your business, ask for help with directions, you most probably will be just fine.

I’ve been in several places during civil unrest, and usually you know where it’s happening and can avoid those areas. Even in those areas the bad stuff is isolated to a few flashpoints that you really have to want to be in to be involved. I really wouldn’t worry about what’s happening.

And an international airport is a fine safe place to stay overnight, even though it’s uncomfortable. Even during the recent events in Egypt, the airport was a haven. So don’t sweat it.

I’ve been to Greece and Cyprus and can’t stress this enough: learn how to read the Greek alphabet. The capital letters at least. It will only take a day or so to get familiar with them, and can really help you to get around.

By osmosis, I eventually learned the basics and you are correct, it really helped. I stupidly arrived for the first time with a wonderful map, in English, and then noted that none of the signs were in English, so it was basically useless.

I even picked up some basics in Greek - please, thank you, how much, where is, etc. So after awhile it got easier, but jjimm is absolutely correct - print out a page and learn that Greek alphabet on the flight over - will save you tons of time and effort!

P.S. Retsina tastes like turpentine - you can ask for the same wine without those resins. Also, Ouzo goes down really easily - but you will discover you get blitzed really quickly. Also, Ouzo has this odd resilience - when you wake up in the morning and take a single drink of water, you are as blasted as you were the night before! Very odd.
But you will love the food - gee, wish I were going there now…sigh.

When he was 19, my dad was on a driving vacation in Greece with friends. They parked their car in a side street in Athens, and dad diligently copied the characters on the street sign down onto a bit of paper. Then they went out to various bars and restaurants, then late that night showed asked locals for directions back to their car, using what he’d written down on the paper. It took them all night - allegedly, he’d copied down “ONE WAY STREET”.

Color me envious. Have a wonderful time. Will you be able to post while in Greece? I would love to read about it.

Buy a Frommer’s guide, if all it does is give you a few good cheap hotel choices, basic taxi costs, and preferred travel routes between cities it will be invaluable.

I buy one for every foreign trip.

An archaeological dig in Greece?! Omigod. I’m so jealous I can barely type. What’s the site?

You should be absolutely fine hanging around Athens airport all night. A taxi to a hotel would be fine, too, but I’d probably agree with the driver roughly how much the fare should be before I got into the taxi, just to avoid nasty surprises.

Athens bus schedules, including buses to Pylos (or Pilos):

That could be out of date (I just did a quick Google, didn’t go into depth) but according to tripadvisor, the times were correct as of last January:

If you don’t get an answer here, it might be worth asking the Tripadvisor gang.

Count me as another one who’d love to read about it.

I’m going to disagree with the Frommer’s recommendation. IMO Frommer’s is aimed at rich people on short trips. E.g. to paraphrase “There is no point in walking around Beijing, it is too large. We recommend you take a taxi.” Lonely Planet, Footsteps or (in a pinch) Rough Guide are aimed at people with much less money and more time.

Ouzo can be diluted – like pernod. I was a bit strapped for cash one time in Greece so I’d make a glass last by a process of continual dilution, topping up wiht water every time I got half way down the glass until someone bought me another one :slight_smile: It no doubt saved me hangovers as well as money.

As to the rest of your enquiries I second the comments others have made and will add that a lot of road signs these days have the roman alphabet version as well. Also why not ask the people running the dig about the transport links?