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Corfu - General advice and local customs
- Pharmacies are open during shop hours and there is always one pharmacy open in Corfu Town at night and at weekends.
- 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.
- Greece has 220-volt, 50 cycle AC electric current.
- In case of emergency ring 100.
- Between 14.30 and 17.00 many people have a siesta. Shops are often closed at this time.
- The national church is the Greek Orthodox. About 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox. Services start around 08.30 on Sunday and last about two and a half hours. If you wish to attend, or to enter any church or monastery, please make sure that you are suitably dressed.
- The time difference in Corfu is +2 hours GMT.
- 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.
- Taxis are fairly cheap, 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.
- 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.
- 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 want to make a phone call you can use one of the many card phones on the island. You can buy phone cards from shops, kiosks and the post office.
- The closest point between Corfu and Albania is at the headland of Aghios Stefanos in the north east of Corfu. The distance here is only 2.25 kilometres.
- Banks exchange all major currencies in cash, travellers cheques or Eurocheques; the commission is lower for cash. Post offices exchange cash but not travellers cheques, and usually charge lower commissions than banks. Travel agencies and larger hotels change cash and travellers cheques but usually charge higher commissions than banks.
- Banknote exchange machines can be found in most tourist areas. Most banks have ATMs where you can access your debit or credit account.
- The Greek language is probably the oldest in Europe, with a 4000-year oral tradition and a 3000-year written tradition.
- Do not take photographs or make notes near military or official installations. Seek permission before photographing individuals.
- More than one million visitors descend on Corfu every year, the vast majority of them package tourists.
- 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).
- Mt Pantokrator is, at 906m, the island's highest peak.
- 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.
- In general businesses, including most tourist attractions, are open from early morning (8 or 9 am) until early afternoon (2 or 3 pm). 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 5 pm until 8 pm. In the summer, hours are sometimes extended and during the peak of high season some attractions stay open all day.
- Corfiots are superstitious people. Tuesday is considered an unlucky day because the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottomans on a Tuesday. The evil eye, a superstition prevalent in the Middle East, is the result of someone's envy upon you. When this happens you will have bad luck. Many people wear a blue bead, resembling an eye, as a charm to ward off the evil eye.
- Few people in Corfu celebrate their birthdays, but almost everyone celebrates their Name Day. This custom stems from the Greek Orthodox religion in which all children are baptized with a name that is acceptable to the church. This means that most names in Greece are those of saints. Thus, each name has a day, based on the day when the saint died.
- 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.
- The Greek flag consists of nine horizontal stripes, alternatively 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 symbolizes Greek Orthodoxy, the established religion of the country.
- Some useful telephone numbers; Directory Inquires-131;Police-100; Tourist Police-171; Ambulance-166; Fire Brigade-199; Roadside Assistance-104.
- The British Consulate in Corfu can be found at 18 Mantzarou Street, opposite the theatre. The phone number is 26610 30055.
- 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.
- When having a glass of wine never finish the entire glass. This way the cup can always be refilled. If you are pouring wine, never pour more than half a glass.
- The first recorded cricket game in Corfu took place in 1823 between the British Garrison and the Royal Navy. Local Corfiots soon took up the game and two 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 been added to complement the original ground, The Esplanade at Corfu Town, which has been reduced in size to accommodate a car park. Cricket is still played there but is generally reserved for Colts matches. 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.
- When Greeks go out, they have lunch at about 1.00pm and dinner no earlier than 9.00pm. This is why if you walk around looking for a restaurant patronised by the "locals" as a sign of quality, it is very likely to be deserted before 9.00pm. It is not unusual to arrive at a restaurant at 11:00pm, especially in the summer. However if you would like to eat earlier than 9:00pm there is no problem at all. Tavernas are open from about 6:00pm.
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