Corfu - General advice and local customs
- The time difference in Corfu is +2 hours GMT.
- Greece has 220-volt, 50 cycle AC electric current.
- In case of emergency ring 100.
- Most foreign nationals - including Americans, Australians and Canadians - may visit Greece without a visa, provided they do not stay for more than 90 days. As for Europeans, they too may travel to Greece without a visa thanks to the Schengen Agreement, which eliminated passport controls for countries that have signed it. A visa is not required for nationals of countries with which Greece has signed a visa waiver agreement. For longer stays, you will need to apply to the appropriate office for a residence permit.
- The British Consulate in Corfu can be found at 18 Mantzarou Street, opposite the theatre. The phone number is 26610 30055.
- Although tap water is safe in Corfu, bottled water tastes much better!
- Drugs are not tolerated. Possession of even small quantities can result in lengthy imprisonment and large fines. Trafficking can mean life imprisonment.
- You are advised to take out comprehensive holiday insurance. Medical treatment and repatriation can be very expensive.
- Pharmacies are open during shop hours and there is always one pharmacy open in Corfu Town at night and at weekends.
- Banks, shops and most museums close for the following holidays and celebrations: New Year's Day, Epiphany (6th January), the first Sunday in Lent (February), Greek Independence Day (25th March), Good Friday & Easter Sunday (March/April), Labour Day (1st May), Feast of the Assumption (15th August), Ochi Day (28th October), Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day (26th December). Some businesses close on St Spyridon's Day (12th December).
- Most resorts and a few of the larger villages have ATMs. Banks exchange all major currencies in cash. Some travel agencies also deal with foreign exchange.
- If you want to hire a car or bike you need to produce a valid driving licence as well as a passport. The law states that seat belts and crash helmets must be worn.
- Driving any vehicle whilst over the legal drinking limit is heavily penalised and can result in stiff fines and/or imprisonment.
- The speed limit is 100 to 120 km/hour (62 to 75 mph) on main roads and 50 km/hour (31 mph) in residential areas. Passengers must wear seat belts. Children under 10 years of age are not allowed to sit in the front seat. As in all of Europe, you must carry a first aid kit, a warning triangle, and a fire extinguisher in the car.
- Taxis are reasonable, although you will be charged extra for trips to or from the airport or ferry terminal. Insist that all fares are shown on the meter.
- The Greek language is probably the oldest in Europe, with a 4000-year oral tradition and a 3000-year written tradition.
- The national church is the Greek Orthodox. About 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox. Services start from about 07.30 on Sunday and last about two and a half hours. If you wish to attend, or to enter any church or monastery, make sure that you are appropriately dressed.
- Local people celebrate their name-day instead of their birthday. This custom stems from the Greek Orthodox religion in which all children are baptised with a name that is acceptable to the church, generally that of a saint. Thus, a person celebrates on the day that is sacred to the saint they are named after.
- For the name-day celebration, traditional families keep open house, and you do not need an invitation to visit. You will be offered drinks and probably nibbles. You are expected to take a gift, appropriate ones being a bottle of spirits, flowers, or fancy cakes.
- Corfiots are superstitious people. Tuesday is considered an unlucky day because Constantinople (Istanbul), the centre of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Ottomans on a Tuesday. The evil eye, a superstition prevalent in the Middle East, is provoked by someone's envy, generating bad luck. Many people wear a blue bead, resembling an eye, as a charm to ward off the hex.
- The Greek flag consists of nine horizontal stripes, alternately blue and white, and a white cross on a blue square field. The striped flag has been in use since 1822, and was approved in 1833. The nine stripes are said to stand for the nine syllables of the Greek patriots' motto 'Eleftheria i Thanatos' meaning 'Freedom or Death'. The white cross symbolises Greek Orthodoxy, the established religion of the country.
- In general businesses, including most tourist attractions, are open from early morning (08.00-09.00) until early afternoon (14.00-15.00). Three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, shops (but never banks, museums, or post offices) will re-open in the evening from about 17.00-21.00. In the summer, hours are sometimes extended and during the peak of high season some attractions stay open all day.
- Between 14.30 and 17.00 many people have a siesta. Shops are often closed at this time. If you are in a residential area during this period, it is polite to stay quiet.
- More than one million visitors descend on Corfu every year. The majority are still package tourists, but many people today use the Internet to put together a holiday independently.
- Nude sun bathing is considered inappropriate unless you are on a designated nude beach or in a remote area where you are not be likely to be seen. Topless sunbathing is common in the summer. No one will fine you, but you may offend some people.
- Do not take photographs or make notes near military or official installations. Seek permission before photographing individuals.
- When Greeks go out to eat, they have lunch at about 14.00 and dinner no earlier than 21.00. Thus, if you're looking for a restaurant patronised by the locals as a sign of quality, you won't spot one in the early evening. In high summer, it is not unusual for Greek families to go out to eat at 23:00. However, tavernas open from 18:00 for the evening meal if you prefer to eat earlier.
- Service is always included in restaurant bills and hotel bills but it is customary to tip the waiter or chambermaid if you are satisfied with the service.
- If you are invited to someone's house for a drink, a meal, or to spend the night, do not offer money, no matter how poor the people may be. The suggestion of payment is offensive. Instead offer a gift for the family or for the children.
- The island has a population of around 110,000, of which around a third live in and around Corfu Town. The rest are distributed through about 100 villages, some with over a thousand occupants, others with just a handful.
- The closest point between Corfu and Albania is at the headland of Agios Stefanos in the north east of Corfu. The distance here is only 2.25 kilometres.
- Mount Pantokrator is, at 906m, the island's highest peak. Despite the suggestive name, it is not a volcano; 'Pantokrator' means 'Ruler of All' and refers to the monastery at the summit.
- While Corfu is most famous for its sun and sand holidays, the island is also growing in popularity for its sporting and outdoor activities. It has a 220 kilometre-long walking route (the Corfu Trail), a national-league football team, an internationally recognised 18-hole golf course, a croquet ground, two yacht clubs, and a host of resort-based watersports, as well as a long tradition in cricket.
- The first recorded cricket game in Corfu took place in 1823 between the British Garrison and the Royal Navy. The Corfiots soon took up the game, and a couple of years later had formed two local sides to take on the British. Cricket is now a very popular game on the island. A new ground at Kontokali Marina has replaced the original ground on the Esplanade in Corfu Town, where only a rare exhibition match is played nowadays. Over 100 games are played each year, not only against touring sides but also between the various sides on the island such as Gymnastikos, Ergatikos, Byron and Feax.
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