Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The bright side of Greece: Lower prices, fewer tourists

by Rick Steves

Chicago Tribune

January 22, 2013

I keep getting asked if Greece is "safe" for travelers -- a question that feels absurd the instant you arrive there. Ask anyone who's been to Greece recently, and you'll learn that safety concerns have been played up by both Greek and international media outlets.

Frankly, this is a great time to travel to Greece. The financial crisis -- while making life difficult for most Greeks -- is a boon for budget travelers. Hotel prices are down, the normally warm Greek hospitality has ratcheted up a few notches, and roads outside of Athens are essentially traffic-free, as higher gas prices have caused locals to cut down on inessential driving. The downsides (shorter hours at sights, reduced long-distance bus service, occasional strikes) are noticeable, but not reason enough for you to postpone a trip. All the things you're looking for in a trip to Greece -- mouthwatering food, deep-blue water, striking scenery, and the thrill of connecting with ancient history -- are all here waiting for you ... at a cheaper price.

Greece is easy on travelers. Tourism makes up 15 percent of the gross domestic product. The Greeks pride themselves on a concept called "filotimo" (love of honor), roughly translated as openness, friendliness, and hospitality. Social faux pas made by unwary foreigners are easily overlooked by Greeks, and many speak English.


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