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Greece language and reading signs, etc.

My husband and I are contemplating a trip to Greece. My husband was in the Navy years ago and remembers the language, trying to read signs, etc. as being a big problem. He thinks we might be better off on a tour of some some sort rather than approaching the trip independently as we normally do in Europe. I hate the idea of a tour but don't want to feel that I can't communicate and function. Any thoughts? Thanks, Velda

Posted by
2866 posts

English is spoken widely throughout Greece and the road signs are in Greek and phonetic English. But if you want a tour contact Fantasy Travel and Dolphin-Hellas Travel to help you with an itinerary. They're both in Athens and both very highly regarded for reliability, communication and follow-through. Both have websites.

Posted by
1249 posts

Velda Lee is right that you can easily manage without any Greek. Millions of people do every year. On the other hand the Greek alphabet really isn't that different from ours and a little bit of study so as to be able to decipher things is quite satisfying. Alan

Posted by
31303 posts

velda, I agree with the other replies in that you should be able to manage on your own. However, if you're planning to drive, you'll require an International Driver's Permit for driving in Greece. If you'd like to at least have a look at the tour option, I'd highly recommend the RS Greece & the Pelopponese tour! I took that tour last year, and it was fantastic! Following the tour, I went to some of the Greek Islands on my own. Happy travels!

Posted by
1814 posts

Don't worry about being able to communicate in Greece. Almost everyone speaks English, and people are very warm and helpful. On the less-touristed islands, especially, people are so grateful for your business. It's one of our favorite places to visit. We've never rented a car on the mainland, but on the islands, reading road signs has never been a problem. We did have some adventures while finding our way around one island (Ikaria), but the ensuing drive down what became practically a goat trail remains one of our most memorable moments from that trip. On many islands you don't even need a rental car; you can use taxis and buses to get around, and leave the driving to them. If you're interested in visiting several islands but uncertain about figuring out the ferries, etc., you can work with a travel agency. I know that Fantasy Travel (and possibly others) offer island-hopping packages that include hotels, transportation & transfers. These are not exactly a tour; once you arrive on an island you're not part of a group, but are on your own to explore until a driver comes to your hotel to pick you up and deliver you to your next ferry. So that might be a solution that keeps both of you happy. It will be more expensive than doing it totally independently, and you are limited in the choice of islands, but you'll still have a wonderful time with no logistical worries.

Posted by
4524 posts

I concur with the others. Almost all signs are also in English. People that do not speak English tend to be very helpful anyway if you are polite. Though tougher than some languages, do try to learn a few basic Greek words. And don't forget the IDP if you plan to drive. You cannot rent a car without one.

Posted by
2866 posts

It's not necessarily true that you can't rent a car without an IDP, it really depends on how the rental agency conducts business. But you do need it, it's Greek law. Get them at your local AAA office.

Posted by
5365 posts

Being part of the EU, they have re-signed many of the highways and towns using both alphabets, so your husband should find it easier going. Still, never hurts to remember some of your math/science and the name of the symbol, may help with deciphering. You should be fine on your own. The main difference from the rest of Europe is transport. Trains are very limited, so Bus, and of course Ferry are the preferred modes, slightly different skills to learn, but easy in the end.

Posted by
52 posts

Thanks to everyone for the information. I am reassured that communication and getting around should be no problem. We always learn a few words/phrases when we are headed to a place where English is not the language so this should be no different. I will do a lot of advance homework figuring out the ferry system and how to get around once we get to a particular island. We should be just fine. I'll keep in mind the International driving license. We had to have one last year for car rental in Spain. Too bad they are only good for 1 year...Now the trick will be to find an acceptable airfare. No non-stops from Chicago (that I can find) and even with connections the tickets seem to be running over $1000RT. Again, thank you for all of the input. Best regards, Velda

Posted by
4524 posts

Lee - while you are right about different rental agencies having different policies on IDP, the corporate agencies (such as all ones at the airport) REQUIRE an IDP to rent from them. No IDP no car - I know this the hard way. And I won't discuss other "options" and give people the wrong impression or suggest ways to circumvent the law.

Posted by
2866 posts

That's a wise position to take, Douglas. I do the same myself and encourage everyone I can to be sure to get the IDP before travelling or be prepared to suffer the consequences.