Weee! You’re finally going to Athens! Now, what to pack. What to leave. My general advice for anyone is to just make sure everything that ends up in the case you can carry around by yourself, without assistance. If it’s too heavy, re-prioritize. Athens is a cosmopolitan city and most of the basics (shampoo, toothpaste, etc) are cheap, easy, and with crazy Greek labels that you’ll love looking at when you return home.
For the rest…
The obvious: camera, toothbrush, cool and light clothing for summer (late June – mid September) warm and rain-resistant clothing for winter (late November – early Feburary) a light jacket and warm hat for spring and fall, 220V (50Hz) adaptors for electronics and chargers, and anything you use that makes you feel pretty.
Protection from HELIOS (the sun) who is blazing for 2884 hours per year! Sunblock, sunglasses, or a hat with a brim are all indispensible, but also widely available in Athens should you make off without them.
- A scarf or shawl and knee length skirt (for woman) and trousers for men if you plan on visiting places like the National Cathedral, or any of the Byzantine monasteries and churches in the area.
- Book of Greek Mythology. Did you know that Areopagus hill was where the god, Ares was tried for murder? The prince, Orestes, too. Because he killed his mother who killed his father, who thought he had killed his sister (but she actually was saved by Artemis…) and if this kind of banter makes you think you should brush up on your mythology, don’t wait. Stuff it in your carry on and make good use of your layover.
- At least three pairs of shoes. If you’re coming in the summer months and plan on visiting some of the famous beaches of Athens (the closest one at Alimos just a little over half an hour by tram) you need your flip flops (pair no.1.) Everywhere else, leave them in your suitcase. The streets and walkways of Athens are mostly made of rock and marble. They require (pair no.2) sturdy, sensible shoes. In the evenings, Athenians are known to parade around in shoes that cost their month’s salary. You don’t need to go that far, but popular nightclubs like Rock’N’Roll, Villa Mercedes, or even nicer restaurants like Daphne’s will require (pair no.3) dressier attire if you want to get past the doorman.
- A belt-pack or small backpack. Maybe it’s a little geeky, but when you take off for a full day of sight-seeing and have to manage bus tickets, maps, guide books, a camera, money and passport (required by law that you at least carry a copy) you’ll be happy to have it on hand. Be aware of it at all times for the reason stated a bit further below.
- A giveaway T shirt. Once I packed a “just in case” t shirt. I made a friend on the road and offered it as a gift. Since then I always pack a shirt with the intention of handing it to someone who was kind to me or made me smile. In Athens, you’re bound to get familiar with at least one stranger, and they’re likely to do something to show you their generosity and hospitality, some gesture of “filotimo.” This is a no-big-deal, yet touching way to thank them.
The obvious: anything that hurts, anything that’s illegal (in any country)
Less obvious (maybe):
- Expensive jewelry or anything unreplacable. Illegal immigration and a poor economy has turned people into thieves. Many of the touristic areas are plagued by petty theft, and they’re really good at it! (This is reported by someone who’s been through three mobile phones and two wallets in one and a half years.) Leave the laptop at home, if possible, and make use of the many internet cafes. Use a trip to Athens as an excuse to buy some fun, cheap jewelry or accessories.
- Greek Sandals for the simple reason that it’s more fun to get them at the source.
- Snacks. Athens is home to precisely four kajillion eateries, kiosks, cafes and snack bars. If those don’t suit you, there’s a supermarket on every other corner. Unless you’re the pickiest of picky eaters, leave the granola bars at home.
- Offerings to the Gods. Well. Unless you really insist.