For years now, Missy JJ has been asking me to plan a trip to Greece, specifically the ruins in ancient Greece. And somehow, in all these years, I couldn’t find the time (or perhaps, the inclination) to do so. However, with her entering junior year, the clock seemed to be winding down rapidly. So, in April, I did a quick search and found flights for a week-long trip to Athens.
Our plan was to fly Turkish Airlines via Houston to Istanbul and then to Athens, where we would spend a week. Then fly back via Lisbon, Portugal to Miami with a two-day stopover in Lisbon. This was the best routing I could find and worked for us since we had not been to Lisbon before.
I used 280 K United miles to book the main flights. Then I used 30,000 BA Avios for the flight back from Miami to DFW. Of course, it would mean changing airports from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, but we would have sufficient time to do that. We also have Global Entry that would breeze us past immigration in Miami.
In Greece, we were fortunate to find an apartment near the Plaka for a one week stay via Airbnb. Fortunate since we didn’t start searching until after our trip to Iceland in June. And traditionally, July/ August tends to be high tourist season. Instead of driving everyday, we chose to keep Athens as the home base and do day trips to the neighboring Peloponnese region to explore the ruins.
After checking with different tour operators, we decided to hire George Kokkotos for our day trips. George is very well-known and comes well recommended on several travel sites. He would provide us with a taxi and a driver, well versed in regional information. The driver, though is not licensed guide and as such, cannot offer guide services at the sites. We had a choice of hiring a guide ahead of time, or work with one when we got to the ruins. Or perhaps read up as much info as we could ahead of time and hire one at the most important sites like Delphi or Olympia.
The Rick Steves’ guide offers a detailed Athens city walk, Agora walk and the Acropolis walk. We planned to use these fully and downloaded them onto our individual phones. I also found Matt Barrett’s Greece travel guide very helpful in planning.
We decided not to rent a car since we weren’t certain of the traffic/infrastructure situation. I have read that the infrastructure has improved significantly in Greece since the Olympics in 2004. Perhaps, after driving so much in New Zealand and Iceland, we were ready to have someone else drive us for a change. The exchange rate worked out reasonably in our favor.
In Portugal, we planned to explore Lisbon and perhaps, Belem, during the short stopover. We made reservations at Dreams Guest house in Lisbon for two nights.
Of course, as always, we hoped to save some money by cooking some meals with groceries bought at the local markets. It’s always fun to go grocery shopping in different cities (something I dislike doing at home), mingling with the locals, marveling at the varieties, and finding unique foods.
US citizens do not require a visa for less than 90 day trips to Greece or Portugal. A transit visa is required in Turkey if travelers have longer than 24 hour transit time.
Looking forward to some fun times in the Aegean Sun! Join us!