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Questions about maps, rental car insurance, etc. in Greece

Questions about maps, rental car insurance, etc. in Greece

Nov 4th, 2007, 06:19 AM
  #1  
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Questions about maps, rental car insurance, etc. in Greece

Hi, my husband and I are going to Greece for two weeks at the end of this month. After reading some wonderful trip reports and discussions on this forum, I changed my mind about our itinerary (I'm the planner of our trip) - I think that we should rent a car and spend about 9 days in the mainland visiting classical sites and then go to Naxos and Santorini before we head home. Before I convey my change of mind to my husband, I have some questions and any info you could provide is much appreciated!

1. Where do we get a good map that we can use for the driving trips?

2. Some rental car companies talk about collision and theft insurances. Are they necessary? Are car thefts common in Greece?

3. I'm inspired by some travelers' experience of not pre-booking hotel rooms - it makes me nervous but excited at the same time. Is it a good idea to do this in the winter while a lot of things are shut down? I know we need to reserve rooms in Athens and Santorin1. I only want to be flexible in the mainland.

4. Cann't quite decide whether to fly to the island or ferry to? One factor to consider is convenience. In either Naxos or Santorini, how easy is it to transfer from the airport to the center of the village v.s transfer from the port?

That's all for now. Thanks for reading.
mastercb is offline  
Nov 4th, 2007, 07:10 AM
  #2  
 
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Most Greek maps are lousy, especially the ones of islands. The best I've seen are
seen are the Road Editions maps. Beware of imitations with deliberately similar names: these are the ones published by Road Editions, Athens, with the cooperation of the Hellenic Army Geographical Service. They can be hard to find even in Greece, so if you can find a source on the internet for them, I'd recommend buying them before you go.

The Michelin Greece map is also good and reliable, though being a map of the whole country it isn't as detailed as the Road editions.

If you have an advance hotel reservation, in most places the easiest way to get to the hotel from the port or airport is to have your hotel pick you up. The cost can range from free (usually free at island ports) to pretty expensive (like at the Santorini airport,) but even in Santorini it really minimizes the hassle of the transfer so it might be worth it. I'd recommend confirming with the hotel by email or phone when you reserve if they will pick you up and if there is a charge.

(Though I should add that in some places the port is so close to the hotel that you can walk if you have wheeled luggage and not too much of it. For instance, if you're staying in Paros town.)

If you fly into Santorini in the day, you can get a spectacular, unforgettable aerial view of the caldera.

Car thefts and stealing from car trunks is relatively rare in Greece, though no doubt it happens.
boinky is offline  
Nov 4th, 2007, 07:43 AM
  #3  
 
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You can order excellent maps of different regions in Greece at www.road.gr. The charge to ship the maps to the US was reasonable.
The maps that the car rental agencies gave out were terrible.
SuQue is offline  
Nov 4th, 2007, 12:33 PM
  #4  
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Boinky and SuQue:

Thank you for the info. I will definitely check out the maps you mentioned.
mastercb is offline  
Nov 4th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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For both Naxos and Santorini we have rented a car and driven virtually everywhere on each island on several trips. The road maps provided by the car rental agencies are good enough. There really are not so many roads on the islands that better maps are required.
The insurance included with many car rental agencies include full coverage. As a tourist wouldn't you want to have full protection for any eventuality.

When you are traveling other than Athens I would not even consider booking a room in advance. You will always get a better rate on a walk up basis than the posted rate on shoulder season. Here are some of my experiences on finding a room.

Finding a Pension
Not having a hotel booking can be very stressful for the compulsive planners. I have learned to overcome this insecurity and have found the adventure of searching for a pension to be one of the joys of the trip. On arrival we scout the town and find the area where we want to stay. Then we look for a pension. The pension owners are on the lookout for prospective clients and are generally nearby, so it is fairly easy to make contact. Often there are signs on the door leading you to a nearby taverna where the owner has their second business.

We always ask to see the room, make sure there are cooking utensils ( often they have a refrigerator and stove but no pots pans or cutlery). We check out the bed to see if (by some miracle) it has some give to it. I need three pillows so we make sure there are extra pillows. (Iím not going to tell you why I need three pillows. You can just use your imagination.) If we are interested we then ask price. Make sure that the price includes the air conditioning as many of the pensions charge extra for that. Also ask where the fuse box is. Many pensions switch the refrigerator and air conditioning off at the fuse box.Be prepared to walk away. Often they will reduce the price as soon as you make motions to leave. (In May and early June anyway) In fact walking away is not a bad idea it gives you a chance to compare one place to another. Often the price is the same but the quality can differ widely. This gives you the best choice.

Pensions generally do not take credit cards and do not accept payment until you are ready to leave. To ensure you do not skip on them they take one passport. This is unnerving but over the years we have gotten used to it and have never had a problem with the passports going missing. It has been suggested that it is wiser to offer a different piece of ID (like a driverís license.) Often on multi day stays they will accept payment the night before you leave and you can retrieve your passport. It is a strange coincidence that my wife (the keeper of the passports) is 100% consistent in randomly pulling my passport out to give to the hotels.

stanbr is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 06:34 AM
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The advice by stanbr genererally matches my experience, but I'd add a couple of footnotes.

Most maps you get in shops or from car rental agencies are indeed adequate for driving or walking along major roads, but if you want to walk cross country they're likely to be wildly misleading. Often on the more visited islands there are special walking maps available in the shops.

I have often gotten a better price on lodging as a walk up, but not always.

What the above posting calls "pensions" I've found are more often called "studios." In my experience the majority of them on more visited islands now take credit cards, though most of them on the quieter islands still don't.

I've never had any of the dozens of hotels, studios, or pensions I've stayed at all over Greece insist on keeping my passport for the whole stay. Often they just keep it until we go up to the room and unpack. If they keep it overnight, I go to the desk the next day and ask for it back, explaining that I need it to go to the bank to change money. They can hardly say no to that, and they never have, and they've never bothered to ask for it back again.
boinky is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 11:07 AM
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Stanby and Boinky,

Thank you for your posts. Now I feel a lot more confident with not reserving rooms in advance, and have a very good idea of how the process works.

Stanby:

You mentioned cooking utensils. Did you mean you could actually cook in the pension if they provide cooking utensils? Is grocery easy to get? This indeed could be good news for me because when I travel, after a few meals of the local food, I usualy want some of my comfort food, and of course, there is no way to find them.

If we walk away after checking into a pension, will the owner get offended?
mastercb is offline  
Nov 5th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Boinky is correct, what I have called a pension would more rightly be called a studio.
We always look for a studio with a kitchenette because I enjoy cooking breakfast for my wife and for the most part many hotels where breakfast is included tend to be pretty mediocre and are high in carbs.
One of our great delights in Greece is spending time wandering the small towns doing our daily marketing. There are many small markets in every town and if you ask around you will find modern but small grocery stores generally in the outskirts of town. We only buy enough for one day and in fact will spend up to an hour hitting our favorite markets looking for the perfect stuff. In Naxos we will walk two kilometers for a loaf of freshly baked bread from a wood fired oven. Look for that bakery in the old market area of Chora. It is a maze in there but once you try this bread you will be hooked.
With respect to walking away from a hotel the owners understand that this is business and people have a right to ask to see the accommodation and make their own choices. We have never had a bad experience doing this and when we do come back to the place we chose we have always been warmly welcomed.
stanbr is offline  
Nov 6th, 2007, 07:20 AM
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Greek "studios" (sometimes called "apartments") are usually pretty standard. Most often one large room with separate bath, usually air conditioned now days, and by definition having a refrigerator and "kitchenette". The refrigerator is small and the "kitchenette" usually means a sink and a so-called stove which is usually a glorified double hot plate. There's almost never an oven or microwave, though in some of the very fanciest studios you may find those. There is always (in my experience) basic cooking equipment, though there's also almost always at least one important piece lacking, usually a decent knife. Or there may not be a strainer or a cutting board.

Anyway though facilities are limited it's certainly possible to do your own cooking there if you keep it simple -- coffee and tea, fruit and yogurt, Greek salads, simple sauteed or boiled dishes. Most studios are located near grocers and other shopping -- if you have any doubts and you won't have a car or motorbike, you can ask when you reserve if there are shops nearby. In Greek towns grocery stores are usually called either "Minmarket," which means what we would call a minimarket, or "Supermarket," which also means what we would call a minimarket.
boinky is offline  
Nov 6th, 2007, 08:56 AM
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I should have added that "studios" almost always have an outdoor part, though not always, so you should check. This if you're lucky can be a spacious private balcony or veranda with a great sea view. Or it may just be a tiny balcony, but usually big enough to accommodate chairs and a small table for two. Sometimes it's a patio with no view, but these can be nice too. One thing to watch out for is if the balcony or veranda is shaded -- I've more than once ended up in studios with balconies which had a view, but which I couldn't use most of the day because they were too hot in the full summer sun.

More and more of even the cheaper studios have web sites nowadays. Try a google search with "studio" and the name of the place you're going. Unfortunately, most guide books seem to neglect mentioning studios.
boinky is offline  
Nov 6th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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What are your thoughts on reserving rooms in Naxos and Santorini? I'd think there would be plenty of rooms avaiable at this time of year so we could wing it when we arrive. But the problem is that we don't plan to rent a car in the islandns, how do we go about "winging it"? Any suggestions? Thanks.
mastercb is offline  
Nov 6th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Earlier you mentioned you did not know if you were going to fly or ferry. In Naxos the ferry arrives right in Chora and there will likely be hotel people right at the dock with pictures of their rooms. (I must admit I have not been to Naxos in November but I think these people will still be there)
I would look for a hotel right in Naxos town as the beaches may not be your priority this late in the season.

There are travel agencies all along the waterfront and all will recommend and book a hotel for you.
If you want a recommendation we have stayed at Glaros Studios on St George beach right on the edge of Naxos town several times. They are still open in November. It however is not a studio, so no kitchen.
stanbr is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 02:22 PM
  #13  
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Stanbr, thanks for the recommendation of the hotel in Naxos. I will definitely check it out.
mastercb is offline  
Nov 8th, 2007, 03:27 PM
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How warm will Naxos be in mid-April? Thanks for your reply.
lydie is offline  
Nov 9th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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I have a guide that gives Naxos temps in April (Fahrenheit) as av. hi 67 av lo 56 rec hi 86 rec lo 46, little rain.

That book was published in 1990 though so with global warming it may not be so cold now.
boinky is offline  

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