Greece is the perfect place to live out your own personal odyssey as part of a gap year. This country has been fascinating and amazing foreign visitors since at least the time of the Romans and still does today.
While on a gap year in Greece, you’ll have ample opportunities to explore the remnants of the country’s ancient and modern history, seek the thrill of outdoor adventure, and eat delicious and surprisingly healthy food. Perhaps best of all, you’ll get to know people with a proud heritage who are happy to share it with you.
Greece is growing in popularity as a gap year destination. Perhaps this is due to its lower cost of living in comparison to many other parts of Europe. Maybe it’s because of its laid-back culture and lifestyle. Perhaps people are drawn to Greece’s endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. Whatever your reasons for going on a gap year, Greece will be sure to satisfy!
Gap Year Ideas
Perhaps the hardest part of going on a gap year in Greece is deciding what to do. Many people find work in the hospitality industry to help pay the way. Others find ways to volunteer their time and skills to make it possible. Whatever you choose, you're in for a real adventure!
Fun Activities to do in Greece
Greece has no shortage of amazing activities for the active traveler taking a gap year! If you’re into the great wet outdoors, the country’s 8,500 miles of coastline offer countless possibilities to engage in water sports. From sailing and sea kayaking to scuba diving and surfing, this is the perfect place to have fun in clear blue Mediterranean waters.
While on land, you won’t want to miss out on the remains of Greece’s storied history. The Parthenon in Athens is only the start. Reenact ancient athletics in Olympus, recite Homer in the Theater of Dionysus, and find mystic clues to your future at the Oracle of Delphi.
Greece’s unique geology and ecosystems also provide near endless opportunities for hiking and trekking. There are mountains, valleys, gorges, and caves all waiting for you to explore them. Perhaps most impressive of all would be an ascent up Mount Olympus to see the mythical home of the gods.
Nearly synonymous with modern Greece is its cuisine. Being at the crossroads of the East and West and with a climate that provides for fresh ingredients year-round, you have come to the right place to indulge your epicurean side. A gap year in Greece would be incomplete without attending a traditional feast. Time-honored traditions of welcoming guests mean that you’ll enjoy roast meat and vegetables accompanied by bouzouki music and dancing late into the night!
Work/Intern Opportunities in Greece During Your Gap Year
If you’d like to build your resume or at least earn a few euros during your gap year, there are opportunities for you in Greece. One major area is in the hospitality industry, as the influx of summer tourists creates a high demand for workers in this field. It’s best to seek out these work placements several months in advance.
If you aren’t an EU citizen, you’ll need a work visa to earn money in Greece legally. This involves dealing with the Greek bureaucracy, so once you’ve found a sponsor apply early and be patient. Canadian and Australian citizens can apply for one of a limited number of working holiday visas.
Volunteer Opportunities in Greece During Your Gap Year
One great way to spend your gap year in Greece is as a volunteer. There are so many ways to give back here. There are programs in which you can help protect Greece’s endangered sea turtle population, work at animal sanctuaries, maintain park trails, or teach English.
For fans of exploring the past, there are many archaeological excavations that can use your help. Throughout the year, and particularly during the summer, archaeologists need passionate and hard-working volunteers to swing a pickax or trowel to help uncover clues to Greece’s storied past. Who knows what you might discover!
For those of you who hear the call of the sea, consider volunteering as a deckhand on a yacht. Greece is one of the world’s premier yachting destinations, after all. It’s not unusual for short-handed crews to take on volunteers to help sail among the islands made famous by Homer thousands of years ago. While you won’t encounter any sea monsters or sirens, this is hard work. However, you’ll be rewarded with an experience few others ever have.
Tips on Living and Traveling in Greece During Your Gap Year
The Greeks have long been famous for their hospitality. It probably won’t take long to meet your neighbors who will be eager to get to know you and make you feel welcome.
Many Greeks know some English, but any Greek words or phrases you use will be greatly appreciated. At the very least, learn the Greek alphabet so that you can read signs and place names.
Greece may not be a large country, but its far-flung islands, mountains, and remote peninsulas don’t make for the easiest transportation. There are ferries to the larger islands, and flights within the country are cheap and fast. Most cities on the mainland are connected with bus services. Renting your own car is actually quite affordable, but it is only advised for the bravest of drivers as road layout, and local driving habits can be maddening.
Planning Your Trip
Before you head to Greece, you'll need to get certain affairs in order. Use the information below to help prepare for the trip of a lifetime!
Cost of Living in Greece
While they use the euro, Greece is one of the least expensive countries with this currency. Athens tends to be a bit pricier than other parts of the country. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s best to avoid the big tourist spots like Santorini or Mykonos.
If you budget right, you can live comfortably on about €600 per month. The trick will be knowing where to cut back and when to splurge. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant can be had for €10. However, you can shop at a local market and cook your own meals for half that price.
Housing in Greece
Finding an apartment in a Greek city or town shouldn’t be too difficult. Local classified listings are a good place to start. Perhaps the best way to find good affordable housing is to search for it while you’re already in Greece. Personal connections are highly valued here, and it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone with a cousin, neighbor, or friend with a place to rent.
While Athens will be slightly more expensive than elsewhere in the country, you should be able to find a one-bedroom or studio apartment for under €400 per month. Of course, if your budget allows for it, you can rent a pretty swanky luxury apartment for much less than you could in North America or other parts of Europe.
No visa is required for visits of fewer than 90 days. Beyond that, you’ll need a visa to stay longer in Greece. This is where it can get tricky. Once in the country, you can apply for a temporary residence permit valid for either three or six months. You’ll need to provide a compelling reason for staying in the country, such as work at a volunteer or internship program.
Greece enjoys all the benefits of a Mediterranean climate. For warm summer days, pack light-weight clothing, such as linen. A light jacket or sweater will serve you well in the winter. The Greeks tend to dress very casually. Even in a work setting, business-casual outfits will be all that’s expected.
Don’t worry about bringing everything you might need with you. You’ll likely be able to find something you forgot or didn’t realize you needed once you’re there.
Health & Safety
Staying healthy and safe while you're in Greece won't be hard, but it will likely involve different considerations than you're used to at home.
There’s no need to roll up your sleeve for any special vaccinations to go to Greece. Just make sure that your routine vaccinations are up to date.
Healthcare in Greece varies widely. Major cities have facilities that provide a high quality of care. Hospitals in rural regions, though, tend to be underfunded and understaffed. Private medical facilities might be your best bet, but these tend to be quite pricey. Consequently, travelers insurance is always a good thing to have.
Of course, prevention is the best medicine. Take care to protect yourself from the sun. Heatstroke and sunburns are probably your biggest danger, so cover-up, use sunscreen and stay in the shade when the sun is at its highest.
If you have any respiratory issues, you should limit your time in large cities. Greek cities, like Athens, Ioannina, and Koropi, are infamous for poor air quality resulting from low-grade fuel and heavy traffic. This is especially the case during the summer months. If poor air quality is an issue for you, spend your time on the islands or hill-country where the air is clean and clear.
Greece is a relatively safe country. That isn’t to say it’s without its problems. Pickpocketing in crowded places and at major tourist sights remains an issue so take care of your belongings. However, violent crime against foreigners is very low.
Be especially cautious while on the roads. Traffic signals and clearly posted right of way rules are rare, and they aren’t always followed anyway. Many mountain roads lack guardrails or any barrier between your vehicle and a sharp precipitous drop-off. It’s best to stay off the roads at night, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.