FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

FIRST TIME SELF-CATERING, WILL I BE ABLE TO BUY EVERYTHING WE NEED?

 
Self catering is easy enough, there are mini-markets where you'll find most of the familiar items (albeit mostly in pre-packed form) and larger super markets in the towns and resorts are overflowing with produce. However please try the local fresh fruit and vegetable shops and butchers all selling local produce. All villas are very well equipped, however, most self-catering apartment kitchens are only just adequate, with the very basic of knives, forks, plates, cups and glasses etc. Villa accommodation is where you can really relax and enjoy yourselves and where self catering really saves money especially on breakfast, tea and coffee, snacks and cold drinks for children and drinks on the balcony for the parents with alfresco lunches and barbecues.

 

EATING OUT ON A BUDGET

 
Go for the grills which the locals favour, gyros (pronounced yeeros), barbecued chicken etc., all can be obtained in most villages (you just have to look around, often found on smaller back streets or the village squares at night and ask but mostly just follow your nose.) Avoid the romantic spots by the harbour (you pay extra for the view). Fish is the most expensive item on the menu, chicken and pasta the least expensive. You'll find pizzerias and restaurants serving imitation British, Chinese and even Indian food in most larger resorts, but the big fast food chains have not really caught on. Children addicted to burgers may be persuaded to try gyros, pronounced yeeros (sliced pork with onions, tomato, chips, tzatziki and paprika wrapped in pitta bread).
 

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE COMPARED TO OTHER ISLANDS


Crete is renowned for its wide choice of 'local speciality food' unlike other areas of Greece. Generally, Greeks go to a fish restaurant 'psarotaverna' for fish, a grill restaurant 'psistaria' for lamb, pork and chicken, and move on to a pastry shop 'zakaroplastio' for coffee and sticky desserts. Eating out is more expensive than it was, but you can still get away with good food including wine or beer in the grills rather than the higher priced restaurants. The tip is to go and eat where you see Greeks sitting and enjoying their food, you won't go far wrong!

Eating out is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening in Greece. The Greeks enjoy eating out and it is a real family occasion, you will see large families including grandparents and small children all out for a meal together. Restaurants are informal - it doesn't matter what you're wearing. Feel free to make jokes with the waiter and he will undoubtedly try and crack a few himself. 

Greek menus are always laid out in both Greek and English, so you shouldn't have too many problems reading the menu, but you won't always recognise the food, so if in doubt, you can always ask to see the food. Back in the 1970s it was normal for all tourists to troop into the kitchen and point to what they wanted. Most restaurants offer the 'international cuisine' favourites of steak, spaghetti bolognese and pizza.  You should, however, try some of the local Greek dishes. Meat dishes tend to be well-done so that the meat is falling apart. All Greek food is served warm rather than hot. You will always be brought a basket of bread with your meal unless you state otherwise. You'll usually be charged a small cover charge, which covers the privilege of sitting down at the table, but also includes the bread.  

Greek waiters are so determined not to put you under any pressure to leave when you've finished that they will never be around when you want to ask for the bill. You may have to wait ten minutes just to catch the waiter's eye.
 

IS THE WINE ANY GOOD AND ARE THE SPIRITS WATERED DOWN AND CHEAP REPLICAS?


Cretan 'house' wine has a flavour all of its own! very much like sherry although the bottle wine has improved a lot over the years, but there's still some dodgy stuff around. Resinated wine, retsina, is an acquired taste and needs to be drunk very cold and is best with a mixer of sprite or coke. Ouzo has its place in moderation! There are literally hundreds of different brands of Ouzo each with its own unique flavour and characteristics, but the most popular brands with the locals are the ones from Mytilini. Greek brandies can be sweet and sticky compared to European brands. Avoid at all costs cocktails made from Greek versions of spirits such as tequila, vodka and schnapps.  Most, if not all, minimarkets offer a range of 'unknown brands' of spirits and liqueurs, which tend to be far less expensive than the well known names. Unfortunately, the quality of many of them tends to leave a lot to be desired although a few are very palatable and exceptionally good value for money. These cheaper brands are rarely 'to be seen' in bars and restaurants.

   

MOSQUITOES

 
Unfortunately they are common in Crete. Mosquito repellents are available in supermarkets, such as plug-in anti-mosquito devices with liquid or tablets. A bottle of mosquito repellent will last for 40 nights, but tablets need to be replaced every day. These are excellent for indoors use, but if you need something to keep mosquitoes away from you in your balcony or in a taverna, then use a special lotion or anti-mosquito candles if you are sitting outside a villa or apartment burning spirals is often best. You might even consider bringing a mosquito-net as long as one or two don't get in!
More Info on Mosquitos

 

IS HERE A HOLE IN THE WALL MACHINE AT MY RESORT?

 
Banks can be found in most all resorts, outside of a bank or in the foyer can you find hole in the wall machines. Keep in mind that the ATM's are not always re-filled during the weekends.  All other resorts will change cash, travellers cheques and euros. If cashing travellers cheques you will need to show your passport. You can pay by credit card most anywhere as well as Euro-cheques, stickers in the front window of shops, hotels, restaurants and car rental agencies will advise as to which cards are acceptable, however they will charge a percentage from 3 to 5%.

 

OPENING HOURS AND BANK HOLIDAYS - DOES EVERYWHERE CLOSE?

 

Banks are open from 8.00 to 14.30 from Monday until Friday.
Public Services are open to the public from 07.30 until 13.00. This varies greatly, so you had better ask a local for accurate information. 

Supermarkets in cities are open from 08.00 until 20.00 from Monday until Friday. 
On Saturday they close at 18.00.
Shops in tourist areas are open from 8.00 until 22.00 or even later. 
In cities like Hania or Heraklion the shops are open on Monday 09.00 - 14.00 
Tuesday 09.00 - 14.00 and then again from 17.30 - 21.00
Wednesday 09.00 - 14.00
Thursday 09.00 - 14.00 and 17.30 - 21.00
Friday 09.00 - 14:00 and again at 1730 - 2100, Saturday 0900 - 1400. 

During bank holidays shops, banks, post offices and public services are closed. In tourist areas you will find small supermarkets still open. 

'Periptero' kiosks are everywhere and  many are open 24hours a day. 

 

THE CURRENCY

 
The currency in Greece, like most of the European countries is the Euro (€), which comes in 7 different banknotes of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euro and 8 different coins; 2 and 1 euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent. The euro replaced the Greek drachma  in 2002. Euro is pronounced as 'evro' in Greek. It's name comes from the Greek word for Europe  'Evropi'.

 

CAN I DRINK THE WATER?

 
Yes you can, the water on the island is hard and in the height of the season not advisable in some areas to consume as the pull on the system is great. In the cities and larger towns tap water is purified with chemicals and has a different taste to which most Europeans are used to. It is therefore advisable not to drink the tap water, but buy bottled water from the supermarkets. It is possibly advisable to buy bottled water if you have an existing tummy problem, or for young children. You will see many fresh springs and wells around, this is the very best of the island's water, cool clean fresh mountain spring water, nothing finer. Because it can be very hot in summertime, make sure you do drink enough to prevent dehydration.

   

DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO PUT THE TOILET PAPER IN THE BIN PROVIDED?

 
You will be warned first hand when you get off the plane and onto your coaches, by your resort representative that Greek Toilets are a law all to themselves. Firstly the problem is that a lot of the pipework is still outmoded - this in Greece means narrow, unlike the British plumbing that has large pipework and can cope with mass amounts of sewage, including the discreet want to flush away all evidence, even the paper used. Now, what the Greeks are frightened of is blockage and I have to admit when you have thousands of people all using the toilet and not adhering to the unspoken law (not so anymore) of paper being forbidden to be put down the pan!  It has to be placed in the hopefully lidded bin by the side of the toilet. This might seem undignified to most, but I can assure you it's better than having your loo overflow! Most bins are emptied very regularly, if not just knot the plastic bin bag and put it in the nearest rubbish bin. Everybody does it in resort, so there’s no need to keep it safe until the wee small hours of the morning and then dispose of it!
With saying that if you are in a private villa you will probably not have any problems - unless you put cotton wool, disposable nappies or sanitary towels down the loo.

  

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY

 
The standard in Greece is 220 voltage. Plugs are two pin and round so you will need an adapter for three pin British plugs.

 

TRANSPORT - BUSES - PORTS - CARS - SCOOTERS

 
The local buses are the main public transport in Crete, which is operated by KTEL. Buses are comfortable and provide good and cheap services between the major towns and the tourist resorts, you will need to check on times to and from resorts. Taxis are available and good value but not cheap. You either pay according to the meter or you agree on a price before you enter the tax. In the towns they are usually equipped with meters. Both airports have lists of prices for the most common destinations displayed so take a look before getting in. Luggage can be charged extra and there is also a small airport levy.

The main Crete ports are located in Souda bay (close to Hania), Heraklion city, Rethymnon town, Ayios Nikolaos and Sitia. If you want to travel by ferry, then you can take the ferry from/to Piraeus to/from one of the above cities. From Crete there are also ferries to Santorini and various other Greek islands. Travelling by ferry is often more affordable than travelling by plane and the ships are very modern, safe and fast. They depart late at night and arrive early in the morning of the next day. There are day trips also and the fare is reduced compared to night trips. If you want to visit the island of Gavdos, then you will take the local ferry from Paleochora or Sfakia. The same applies if you want to travel from Kastelli (Kissamos) in west Crete to Kithira island and south Peloponnese.

To rent a car, the driver needs to hold a valid drivers' licence, which must have be issued at least 12 months prior to rental. If you are not an EU citizen, then besides your driver's licence, you will also need an international driver's licence issued by your country. Most car rental companies require the driver to be at least 21 years old. Check on the insurance prior to rental to make sure you are full comp. 
To rent a 50 cc scooter or moped you need to be 16 years old and have a licence which is issued 1 year before rental. To rent a scooter with more cc's you need to be 18 years old and have drivers' licence for motorbikes. Insurances may be different, so double check before hand. Driving in Crete might seem a daunting prospect at first. However, provided you take appropriate care you will have an enjoyable time and see much more of the island. In Greece we drive on the right side of the roads and all road signs are bilingual (Greek and English). Thanks to European aid the road system is fairly extensive. Along the North coast an east-west highway connects all the big towns of Sitia, Ayios Nikolaos, Heraklion, Rethymnon, Hania and Kastelli.

  

DO ALL SHOPS SELL THE NECESSARY ESSENTIALS?

  
All of the small shops in the quieter villages most certainly do including a baker, who if he does not have his bakery in that particular village, will make 'early morning house calls' every day apart from Sunday. There will always be a selection for you to try. In all resorts you will find supermarkets and mini markets selling fresh milk and bread or rolls, the cellophane-bag rolls you can always depend on and will all have a sell by date on them. Don't go for the sliced bread it is nothing like you get in the UK and is used here for toast. The larger supermarkets stock a good selection of English tinned and packet foods,  however they are comparatively expensive. You will always find a local alternative though, for example baked beans!  Fresh eggs are fantastic if you can get them albeit a little more expensive than the boxed ones, but well worth it. 

 

WHAT IF I HAVE A QUESTION - OR WANT SOME INFORMATION?

  
Do not hesitate to ask questions whenever you need assistance or information about something. People of Crete are always helpful and most of them speak English or German in tourist areas. In remote villages it will be a lot more difficult to find someone speaking English and you may have to use hands and feet to make people understand your question!

 

WHAT IS THE UK DIALLIG CODE AND WHAT EUROS DO YOU NEED?

 
The code for England is 00-44 + your area code without the 0, eg: 00-44-23456.  All the telephone boxes use card phones, and these you can buy from shops or peripteros. The phones have instructions in both English and Greek. During the call they will display how many units you are using, and when you have finished your call they will also show how many units you have left on the card. A cheaper way of calling abroad is to get a Green Card or Talk Talk Card from the kiosk. The instructions on how to use the card are on the back of the card in Greek and English.

    

WHAT IS THE TIME DIFFERENCE?

 
Local time in Greece is 2 hours ahead of the UK. and 1 hour ahead of Central European Time and 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

    

ARE THERE CHEMISTS IN ALL RESORTS?

  
There are chemists in all major towns and resorts.  All are well stocked and the pharmacists all speak English. 

    

WHAT ABOUT DOCTORS?

 
There are local doctors all around the island and your representative or information pack at your villa will be able to give you the phone number if you have a serious problem. But don't forget there is usually a charge made. This you should be able to claim back when you return home through your insurance. E111 form will prove valuable if you become ill or have an accident. All residents of European Union countries, who carry a valid E111 form, are entitled to receive free immediate, urgent medical care in Greece

  

ARE THERE POST OFFICES IN ALL AREAS?

 
No, only in the larger towns, stamps can be purchased either at the periptero, or from the shop where you purchased your cards, mainly mini-markets or gift shops. The letter boxes are yellow and can be seen in all villages.

   

WHAT IS THE DRESS CODE IN MONASTERIES AND CHURCHES?

  

It is forbidden to enter churches if inappropriately dressed. It's considered rude to enter a church if your shoulders and knees aren't covered so no shorts, bikinis or sleeveless shirts. Take any hat off when entering a church or monasteries and do not use flash for photography.

 

GREEK SIESTA IS WHAT TIME?

  

'Mesimeri' is an important time zone! in Greece and really means noon. It lasts from  from 12.00 until 17.00. Lunch is normally a full, hot meal and they have it at 14.30. Afterwards they enjoy their noon sleep (Greek Siesta). As they work when it is cooler starting early in the morning and finishing late in the evening. Never call someone between these times unless he or she has asked you to do so. Even Greek law forbids noisy activities during this time. Shops and offices will close at 14.00 and open again at 17.30 until 21.00. This is the main reason why Greek people have dinner late at night.

     

WHAT ABOUT WORK ON THE ISLAND?

 
If you are contemplating working on the island it is important that you get to know as many people as possible especially related to the type of work you are looking for. If you are a non EU citizen, you will need to apply to the police station for a residence permit. If you are a EU citizen you only need to register with IKA the Greek National Insurance Organisation, you will then have a card issued to you in due course. 

  

CAN I BRING A CAR TO THE ISLAND?

 
If you want to take your car to Greece it is advisable to check with your country's embassy/consultant. If you bring your car to Crete (or anywhere in Greece) and stay longer than the permitted time allowed (currently 6 months) then you must take the car out of the country or change to Greek number plates at a cost. You also stand being fined for any time the vehicle is the country in excess of allowed limit. The current fine is 15 Euros per day but can, in excessive cases, result in the vehicle being confiscated.

  

HOW MUCH IS IT TO BUY A HOUSE?

 
Prices vary immensely from area to area, and depend on numerous things, such as:-

  • Distance from the sea

  • The owners desire to sell quickly or not

  • Other family members involvement in the estate

  • How much the owner wants to sell for

  • If you are building, what building permission is required for the size of the land

  • Whether the plot or house is within or outside village boundaries

  However, it is often better to buy a plot of land and find a reputable builder as prices vary a lot, and pay in stages for your villa. This is often known as a key in hand build. With today's technology it is easy to communicate on a regular basis to find out how the actual build is going and good builders will send you photos of the work in progress.  
     

 

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