Kalimera! Greece is a destination that has taken me entirely by surprise. I had never realised how friendly the people are as well as how beautiful and diverse the landscape is. I had wrongly assumed this country is only suitable for island (and bar) hopping and sightseeing. Instead, Greece boasts numerous spectacular wild camping spots, many of which are entirely surrounded by nature. Besides that, there’s an abundance of great food, beautiful beaches with the bluest waters, clear nights that are perfect for stargazing, and of course fantastic weather. You have to experience it yourself!
Not convinced yet? Put on my Greece Road Trip Playlist, keep reading and start daydreaming about your beach bum life.
General on Greece
Greece is located on the Mediterranean Sea in Europe’s Southeast. Its capital is Athens and its official language is Greek, although many Greek people in the tourist hotspots have a sufficient level of English as well. By the way, you should consider that it’s almost impossible to read Greek texts and that you will often encounter language barriers. Luckily there are real time translation apps, such as iTranslate and Google Translate.
As Greece is part of the EU you won’t need a visa if you’re a citizen of a Schengen country. However, there are numerous other countries, whose citizens also do not need a visa to travel to Greece. If in doubt, check the official website of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs to avoid any disappointment.
Greece uses the Euro and is a mainly cash-based country. Therefore, you should always carry a decent amount of cash with you, especially if you go out to eat or buy from small shops. However, at supermarkets and most gas stations you will generally be able to pay using a debit card. Please note that credit cards on the other hand are generally not accepted!
Geography & Climate
Greece has a largely Mediterranean climate. On the one hand summers are long, hot, and sunny. Winters on the other hand are mild and rainy. You should be aware that the Greek islands can also experience strong winds, which can get a bit annoying. Therefore, I recommend downloading the App “Windy” or checking this website to be aware of the wind and plan accordingly.
However, Greece has much more to offer than a Mediterranean climate. In fact, the Northern regions are more continental. That means, summers are hot, with some chilly nights. Winters however are colder than you’d imagine and, particularly in the mountains, snow is quite common.
Now onto another topic you should be aware of: Earthquakes. While we were on the island Milos, we experienced a strong earthquake. Luckily, we weren’t in any danger, as the epicentre was far away. As Greece is located in an area with a high seismic activity, earthquakes can happen at any time.
If you experience an earthquake, stay calm. If you’re inside your van – stay inside. In case you’re outside, stay out in the open away from any buildings, power lines, the sides of mountains, etc. If you’re driving, slowly stop your van in an open space (not on or under a bridge). Moreover, you should stay away from beaches and check for tsunami warnings. For more information check out this website.
The Laws on Wild Camping in Greece
Wild Camping in Greece is not officially legal. In theory, you can be fined up to 3000 Euro in tourist areas, nature reserves, and on beaches. HOWEVER, it is generally tolerated by authorities and locals alike if you’re outside of the main tourist areas. In late 2020, we spent two months of pure wild camping in Greece and never had any problems. Moreover, among all of the other vanlifers we met, no one else ever had any trouble with the authorities either. I recommend visiting during the shoulder and off season as well as avoiding tourist areas for an even more relaxed experience. Furthermore, be mindful of official prohibition signs, follow the Leave No Trace Principles, and be mindful of putting up camping gear. After all, “parking” is entirely legal *wink wink.
Nevertheless, I’m not taking any responsibility should you get into any trouble. Again: this would be HIGHLY UNLIKELY though. If you don’t want to take any risks whatsoever, there’s still the option of staying at some of the wonderful campsite, which we’ve heard great stories of.
The Cost of a Wild Camping trip to Greece
Here’s the great part: The cost of living in Greece is much lower than almost anywhere else I’ve been to in Europe. I perceived groceries to be about 20% cheaper than in Germany. There are countless LIDLs all over the country, but if you’re into more fancy groceries, check out the AB supermarkets instead. Moreover, there are many food markets and street vendors, which generally offer good prices for amazing quality.
In terms of fuel, I paid about the same as I do in Germany. However, make sure to compare the prices offered at different gas stations. Even if these are located right next to one another, they may have a huge price differences! By the way, local mechanics told us to get fuel at BP gas stations, as the quality of fuel at many “off-brand” gas stations is pretty bad. Unfortunately, friends of ours had to get a new diesel filter for their Hymer and have all of their fuel pumped out of their gas tank, as they made this mistake.)
Let’s get to the part that will cost you the most: Getting to Greece (and getting back).
For instance, this is how much I spent on my 1.748 km long journey home from Greece.
- 44,90 € – Toll ways in Greece
- 526,0 € – Ferry ride from Patras to Venice (with a pet friendly cabin)
- 23,30 € – Toll ways in Italy
- 210,0 € – Fuel
I spent 804,20 € to get home, ONE WAY. Therefore, I would suggest spending at least 4 weeks in Greece for your vanlife adventure (the longer the better). Not only will this slowly make the price of the journey worth it, but it’s also more mindful of the environment.
Besides that, it’s quite expensive to take a ferry to the Greek islands. Therefore, the only Aegean island we visited was Milos, which cost us over 100 € for the van and 56 € per person. On a side-note: If you get seasick easily, never take the speed ferry.
How to get there
Greece shares a land border with Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. You should generally be able to enter Greece from any of these countries, if you are a Schengen zone citizen or have a valid visa. However, we heard from some travellers that it is currently (January 2021) not possible to directly cross the Greek-Turkish border. In other words, the situation between these two countries is in a constant change. Therefore, you should always do some research before an intended border crossing.
If you’re visiting from central Europe you have two main options of getting to Greece. Firstly, you could drive via the Balkan countries or secondly, you could take a ferry from Italy. There are various ferry companies that you can travel with, departing from Venice, Ancona, Brindisi, and Bari. The arrival ports on Greece’s mainland are Igoumenitsa and Patras.
As we wanted to save as much driving time as possible, we opted to take the 33hr route from Venice to Patras. Not only is this route the most expensive one, but you should also consider booking a cabin or “camping on board”, which is only available during the summer season. Check out this website for more information and a booking page for these routes.
Roads & Driving
First things first: Greek drivers do not follow traffic rules! Accept it and roll with it. Seriously, you’re better off adapting to the Greek driving style. Nevertheless, always be save and expect the unexpected, such as goats, dogs, etc. on the road.
There aren’t many highways in Greece, but most of these are toll ways. I was positively surprised to find that these are in excellent condition and have many parking spots with bathrooms along the way. Moreover, you won’t need to buy a toll sticker. Instead you pay as you go. (Note: the prices among these vary tremendously.) I recommend taking the toll ways if you want to travel long distances in a short period of time and don’t have a super tight budget.
The general condition of roads is alright, but many are in disrepair, are lacking signage, etc. Another thing you should note is that many roads are tight, particularly in small towns and villages. This means you your van may unfortunately be too large to pass certain streets. Luckily, we never had any trouble with my VW T3, which is 4.6m long and 1.85m wide.
Vanlife & Wild Camping in Greece With Pets
Your pets will probably love your wild camping adventure in Greece as much as you will. In most cases there’s no need for your dog to keep be on a leash. They will love the freedom to roam around in nature, particularly on the beaches. Moreover, there are so many other travellers with dogs that your dog will surely make friends to play with soon enough.
Luckily, it’s fairly easy for EU citizens to bring their pet on a trip to Greece, as long as the animal is microchipped and has been vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days prior to the arrival in the country. Additionally, you need to fill out an EU health certification. Besides that I also recommend informing yourself about the risks of the common Mediterranean dog diseases and how to prevent them.
As an animal lover I should warn you though. Unfortunately, this country has a massive issue with stray animals and the general treatment of animals. We met numerous travellers that found puppies or kittens left out to die in a trash can or on the side of the road. It’s a really sad situation – but it’s also a great opportunity to make a difference by volunteering at shelters, raising awareness and rescuing an animal. By the way, I found Ronnie while volunteering at DASH in Messini and haven’t regretted adopting her for a single second.
Sure, your van be already fully equipped, but – as always – I have some tips on things you should also consider packing:
- Mosquito repellent (!)
- Bite-Away (to provide for relief against mosquito bites)
- A fly swatter/ fly trap – maybe even a venus fly trap plant (?)
- Strong sunscreen
- Aftersun lotion
- A hat (to protect you from the sun)
- Water shoes (they ain’t pretty, but they protect your feet from rocky beaches and are great for cliff jumping)
- Snorkeling gear
- An extra swimsuit
- An underwater camera/ GoPro, if you have one
- An awning (to fight off the midday sun)
- A hand-broom (get rid of all the sand that will end up ion your van)
- A simple orange press to make your own juice
- A debit card and cash (Euros)
Why I loved vanlife in Greece…
I absolutely loved traveling through Greece because of its wonderful, kind, and helpful people. Strangers offered us food to try, helped us out when we had car troubles without hesitation, and constantly showered us in smiles. It makes me emotional to think back at how much warmth and care we received, particularly during the lockdown. Greek people truly are the epitome of hospitality.
Besides that, I loved the beautiful landscapes, both the beaches with the bluest waters and the mountainous regions. We found numerous spots that we camped at for 5+ days, simply because they seemed perfect for us. You won’t get bored of them, trust me.
Moreover, I really enjoyed stargazing and looking up constellations, as most areas have low levels fo light pollution. During this trip I also read up the book MYTHOS by Stephen Fry, which is a comprehensive collection of Greek myths. It was just awe-inspiring to consider how the citizens of ancient Greece made sense of the world!
Of course I also enjoyed how affordable vanlife in Greece. It felt luxurious to allow ourselves eating out at restaurants, getting some famous Greek coffee and buying pastries at one of the many bakeries.
Lastly, before I forget, I loved the fresh veggies and fruits. For instance, we picked oranges and pomegranates straight from the tree. I also had the opportunity to help out at the olive harvest, which is tough work, but really fascinating. And how cool is it to use such local and fresh olive oil?
Are you excited to check out more destinations? How about driving up North to Sweden, the wild camping capital of the world? Or maybe exploring the beautiful Alps in Switzerland, while on your way to Greece, would be more down your alley?