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RS Tour of Greece.... Go or No Go with the current world situ?

An RS tour of Greece would be my husband's and my first choice tour with RS. What has been your experience in traveling through Greece with the current country situation? Also, what month would you recommend as best? We are thinking spring or fall 2016.

Also if anyone has tacked on a week or so tour of the Greek Islands would you please share specifics? Many thanks.

Posted by
5180 posts

I have been to Greece a couple of times, not with the tour, both the mainland and islands. Reports so far for the current situation indicate things are somewhat normal, some businesses closed, some availability issues with random items, but mostly the issue of available cash. Banks have now opened, the immediate crisis down to a simmer, and by September everything could be back to normal...or who knows...maybe worse again. If you are thinking 2016, then all bets are off, I would hold off on a decision until at least November.

I would speak directly to the Rick Steves people, maybe they have some contingencies or an assessment, but personally I would not hesitate to do a tour or more likely travel independently. I probably would have more euros on hand when landing, maybe a 500-1000 reserve, possibly backing off if things improve. But other than that no other concerns.

Posted by
437 posts

We are going on the Oct tour. It seems that the situation has calmed down. When the reality of the cuts has sunk in, it may be a different matter. Being on the tour gives me a bit more peace of mind, they may have more insight, know the norms & where to go in an emergency.

I am paying attention to the news, in addition to CNN, I try to watch BBC and CNN international. It gives a diifferent point of view than American TV.

We are also bringing more cash than normal. Right now $1500, it may be more, I can't keep my husband from going to the bank.

Mary

Posted by
2548 posts

Do not get so nervous ... after all, you would be on a tour if this is your first trip to Europe. I was in Greece for 3 weeks when this whole thing began in June. I am now in almost daily touch with my Greek friends who live in Athens & the islands. Things never WERE that changed for Tourists, and now totally back to normal for them... it is the Greeks themselves who are experiencing any hardships or inconvenience, never any of the visitors. You will be fine using ATMs for cash.

Rick's tours don't cover the islands (except 1 night at Hydra which is not really typical of the islands you envision, from the posters and calendars). I would definitely suggest adding a week to see 2 islands (his tours move you around quite a bit, so 2 islands will be enough). If you take a Fall 2016 tour, you might consider taking the tour that starts Mid-September, and doing the islands the week before that.... because Europe's big crowds will be gone, and the water will be Divine for swims. If you care at all about swimming in the islands, the Spring tours might not be the best choice. The Schedule shows that Mar 29-April 10 in the latest tour offered ... and the Aegean is really too chilly for swimming until May 10-15 at the earliest. If swimming doesn't matter, that latest Spring tour would be fine -- and you'd be treated to wonderful flowers among the ruins! Just take a rainjacket & mini-umbrella for the occasional shower.

Posted by
16 posts

Janet mentions spending time in September pre-tour in a couple of islands. We love swimming in the ocean as well as enjoying touring and seeing the island sights. Which islands would you recommend spending some time on and any recommendations for accommodations would be helpful.

Posted by
2548 posts

As to WHICH islands to include in a "week or so" before or after a RS tour ... the usual US choice is what I call "the Cliche twins" -- Santorini & Mykonos. Why?? Because people hear about them from friends who have taken 4-5 day cruises. The cruises only can stop at certain islands because those Gigantor Vessels require deep-water ports, which are very limited. So their brochures promote their ports as the "must-sees" And like lemmings, newcomers rush to them... and find themselves surrounded by thousands of Americans, and no Greek-isle authenticity. Do some real isles homework (i.e., a guidebook such as "Rough Guide" or EYEWITNESS: the Greek Isles), look at a map, and decide what would speak to YOU, not what is most "famous."

Nonetheless, most first-timers do gravitate toward the islands that have the poster-famous "sugar cube" white houses with blue shutters and red flowers, surrounded by beaches.... these are called the Cycladic Islands -- see location on this map http://www.greek-islands.us/map-greece/ and Santorini & Mykonos are among them. Most first-timers want to see at least one of them, and of the 2 I'd say SANTORINI. But realize that it's only 12 miles long, and its beaches are, well, a polite word is mediocre (in fact, black gravel-grit from volcanoes). So I'd say, 2 days (3 nights?) there, mainly for the caldera views ... and the rest of the time on a larger, more authentic Cycladic isle, with lovely beaches, dramatic inland scenery, mountain villages, ancient ruins ... Either NAXOS or PAROS -- and RS forum regulars will know I nominate Naxos. Here are great photo albums from one of my fellow Graecophiles, "stanbr" (who takes better pix than I do!), to start you off:
SANTORINI - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/
NAXOS JUNE 14 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645113682278/
NAXOS - TRIP AROUND ISLE - http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157634605629689/
... If u stay in Naxos, you get a "Bonus" -- it has dedicated excursion vessels that do day-trips to Mykonos & Delos or Paros, so you can get a taste of those isles & still get back to Naxos for sunset & dinner.

LOGISTICS - If you decide to do islands prior to an RS tour, Greece regulars have found ways to minimize transit. Ferries to Santorini take 9-10 hours: a flight takes 50 minutes. Plan well in advance & you can often find a "sale price" Aegean/Olympic flight to Santorini on the day of your arrival; just make sure to allow 2 hours layover-time to get thru passport control, pick up luggage, get €€ at ATMs & check in for domestic flight (it closes 45 mins before departure). After seeing Santorini, people enjoy taking the afternoon 3:15 BLUE STAR large ferry (1200-1800 passengers) to Naxos; you can sit on deck & see the caldera drama as u depart; it's 2+ hours to Naxos, a nice mini-cruise. From Naxos there's 1 flight per day, 45 mins (but a small plane so book FAR ahead), and also 2 daily Blue Star sailings to Piraeus, 5 hours but pleasant.

Posted by
819 posts

For the most part tourists are not affected by the current situation, not that there may be an inconvenience here or there. It's nothing to what the Greek People are going through. We have been going to Greece every year since 2010 when there were some of the most turbulent times with major demonstrations, strikes and a riot or two. In all the times we have been to Athens we have never been bothered, harassed, picked on or been directly or indirectly involved with violence. On the islands it's even safer. It appears Greece and the EU are progressing toward an agreement which may or may not benefit the Greek People but at least things have calmed down. I wouldn't be afraid to go to Greece, in fact you'll be treated by the Greeks with kindness, courtesy and if you pick up a few words of Greek you'll make instant friends!

I would strongly take Janet's advice. While tours offer convenience and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy you are limited to where you go, how much time you spend there and for the most part end up at the Big Name Islands as Janet mentioned. Not that they are not worth going to but there are so many other more "Greek" islands out there, especially if you want to be around more locals than tourists. We always go to Greece in October when there are less tourists, prices are very low and the weather is still nice enough for short sleeve shirts, the beach and a dip in the Aegean. Some of our favorite islands are Sifnos, Milos, & Naxos. We have also been to Nafplio in the Peloponesse, one of Greece's nicest towns with a lovely waterfront and Old Town and Chania, Crete, along with day trips to Hydra (very nice), Spetses (so-so), Delos (loved it, superb archeological site with no permanent residents) and Mykonos (visually stunning but overcrowded and touristy). We are scheduled for another trip this October to two lesser known islands . . . and that's what we like.

Posted by
2788 posts

If anyone knows what the situation will be like in Greece in the spring or fall of 2016, I would like to talk to them about where the stock market will be then. I took the RS Greece tour in 2014 in the spring and really enjoyed it especially the guide. We stayed at the tour hotel for a couple of nights before the tour began and again after the tour was over. Very nice place - very good breakfast - very good rates - great location. I hesitate to name the hotel since RS tours do not always use the same hotels year after year. If you sign up for that tour you will be notified of the first and last hotel's names so that you can contact them if you chose to stay there pre- or post-tour.
This notification is not available early on but comes later in a package of information from the RS headquarters. As you may notice, the RS tours for Greece are not offered in the summer as it get too darn hot there that time of year. I wish we would have taken a couple of extra days to visit another Greek island but will save that for another trip.

Posted by
14267 posts

If you want beach time, either late spring or fall. In April the water's still going to be cold for bathing, maybe even in early May

Posted by
31271 posts

Jude,

I wouldn't have any concerns about travel in Greece, especially with a RS tour. The guides are exceptional and will ensure you're well taken care of and have a wonderful tour experience. I took the Greece tour in 2010, when there were riots in Athens (and some fatalities), and there were no problems at all. The situation with Greece seems to have stabilized for now, and hopefully it will remain that way.

Posted by
5543 posts

A former work colleague was there in the heart of the discussion when the banks were closed. They did fine. He was there with his family which includes two children elementary school age. If there are issues with getting cash, then the advice is to go with Euros. This is counter to normal advice which has been to use ATMs. I was told that business owners really appreciated getting the cash instead of a credit card when it was possible.

Pam