6 things the English girls get SO wrong on the beach in Greece!

On the Greek island of Zakynthos I’ve been enjoying plenty of beach time while on holiday, hanging out with my daughter, my Greek niece and her friends. From behind my (designer) sunglasses I’ve been observing Greek beach etiquette and realising how different it is from a British day out at the seaside. The stylish Greek girls laugh at the English holiday-makers who get it wrong in every way on the beach, so if you want to blend in with the cool crowd on the beach, here’s where you need to know about Greek beach style;

Greek beach etiquette - On Dafni beach in Zakynthos, Greece Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

On Dafni beach in Zakynthos, Greece

1. Don’t think that the beach is free

If you’re used to a week in Cornwall you may imagine that on your Greek holiday you’ll be laying your towel out on the sand and unpacking the picnic you brought with you. The beach is free, right? Wrong! In Greece you need to rent a pair of sunbeds which will cost you €4-10 for the day. No self respecting Greek would lay their towel on the sand unless they were in a completely deserted spot with no beach bar.

The sand is way too hot for a start and there’s no shade, besides you need that handy table to put your drink and you’d want to relax and chat your friends without getting sand in your hair. Some beach bars don’t charge for sunbeds but you’ll still be expected to order a couple of drinks at the bar. For sun-beds and drinks you probably need to budget €10-15 for a day at the beach.

You may also enjoy: 20 fabulous things to do in Paxos, Greece

Greek beach style - The Greeks would rather rent a sun-bed than lie on the beach Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Greeks would rather rent a sun-bed than lie on the beach

2. Don’t try to get bronze in a week

The Greeks look on with astonishment at the English girls who lie in the sun for hours, desperate to go home after a week’s holiday with a deep and lasting tan. You’ll never see a pink and peeling Greek girl. The Greeks respect the sun and will either stay in the shade or sunbathe for short periods with plenty of sun-cream and then have a siesta in the hottest part of the day. Why worry about your tan when the summer stretches ahead of you with plenty of beach time to develop that gorgeous brown body.

Review my favourite sunscreen products and more on my beach trip packing list

3. Understand the importance of a stylish bikini

In the magazines you may admire those elegant one piece or tankini swimming costumes and think that they are just the thing to cover up any embarrassing bulges. But in Greece everyone from the largest to the slimmest, from your daughter to your granny wears a bikini, so leave your one-piece to wear in the pool back home. In the blistering Greek summer a one-piece would just be too hot and inconvenient. 

Greek beach babes - Be sure to wear your stylish bikini on the beach Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Be sure to wear your stylish bikini on the beach

And while we’re on the topic of Greek beach etiquette, the Greeks always wear their bikini to the beach, never change when they get there. Slip on your micro-shorts and a transparent, floaty top to show off your figure and you’ll be considered stylish but not slutty.

On the sun bed or in the beach bar you can pose in your tiny bikini, go for a swim, dry off and then cover up again to go home where you’ll shower and change before dressing up for an evening meeting your friends in the bars and clubs.

If you’re wondering whether you can go topless in Greece, topless sunbathing is legal but uncommon among the locals, so if you see someone going topless in Greece they are probably a tourist. If you want to do it, find a quiet spot at the end of the beach and you probably won’t be bothered. 

4. The coffee comes chilled not hot

Why would you order a hot drink when the temperature is in the 30’s? The Greeks love their coffee too but it has to be chilled. To be like a Greek you need to order a “Freddo” coffee, which is the typical Italian style of coffee such as espresso or cappuccino, but on ice. When the guy comes round to take your order as you lie on the sunbed, make it a Freddo cappuccino, Freddo Espresso or a Freddoccino (iced mocha coffee with chocolate).

If you need something stronger then order an iced beer although the Greeks would never drink more than one or two since they’ll be going home for a home cooked meal later on and wouldn’t want to appear drunk in front of the parents.

Order a chilled Frappuccino on the beach in Greece Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Order a chilled Frappuccino on the beach in Greece

5. Why spend the day at the pool when you can go to the beach?

The Greeks can’t understand why the Brits come on holiday for a week and then lie by the pool rather than going to the beach. You can find a pool in any city or hotel, but when you are on holiday you surely want to make the most of the beautiful beaches and swim in the sea as much as possible. The Greeks believe the pool water is full of chemicals and other people’s sweat, while the sea is natural and healthy.

There’s a Greek saying that if you swim in the sea all summer, you’ll be healthy all winter. The Greeks on holiday will also want to see as many different beaches as possible and will hire a car to go and explore the best ones rather than keep returning to the same place. On Zakynthos you could probably find a different beach or rocky cove for every day of the month and still have not seen them all.

The pool's lovely at Windmill Hotel in Zakynthos but the Greeks prefer the beach Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The pool’s lovely at Windmill Hotel in Zakynthos but the Greeks prefer the beach

6. Be sure to wear the latest designer sunglasses

The sun in Greece is strong, so the Greek girls understand the importance of a good pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes. This is an investment purchase, not a bit of 5 euro fun to throw away at the end of the holiday. A Greek girl will buy a new pair of designer sunglasses each summer, depending on the latest fashion, so she has a few pairs in her wardrobe.

Last year it was all bright frames, this year it’s oversized rounded frames and iridescent lenses. My Greek fashion spies tell me that in Athens everyone is wearing wooden framed sunglasses, so next summer you’ll probably see them on every Greek beach.

You can find a selection of sunglasses on my beach trip packing list

The Greeks love the latest trendy designer sunglasses Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Greeks love the latest trendy designer sunglasses

Now you have all the Greek secrets for a stylish day on the beach where you can blend in with the locals and not stand out like a beetroot. Thanks to Sophia, Nicki, Fruzsi, Ezster, Tolya, Sophie-Anne and Georgie – my beach babes and Greek style advisors.

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Greek Beach style - what to wear on the beach in Greece

More things to see in Zakynthos

Shipwrecked on Navagio – the most photographed beach on Zante
Swimming the turquoise blue at Porto Limnionas
10 gorgeous beaches and places to swim on Zakynthos

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    August 21, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Well done! I’m headed back to Greece this fall, so I’ll keep that all in mind.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 21, 2014 at 7:51 am

      @Barbara Somehow I can’t see you spending all day on the beach with your designer sunglasses!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Hitting cultural boundaries happens to every traveller, but no-one wants to make a fool of themselves, if they can be prepared in advance. Sunbeds and other add ons DO cost, as I found out with embarrassment, so your most important tip was “Don’t think that the beach is free”.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 21, 2014 at 7:50 am

      @Hels Yes, the Greeks would think of it more like going to a bar or cafe that just happens to be on the beach. Of course you can keep costs down and don’t have to rent a sunbed but then you would have to choose your beach carefully and probably come equipped with sun umbrellas.

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    August 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Hoping for a bit of beach time in Santorini at the beginning of October so timely tips, thank you. Not that there is anything on earth that could persuade me to put on a bikini – no way!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      @Kat I’ll be interested to hear if you are the only lady on the beach not wearing a bikini! Not that it really matters

  • Reply
    Zoë Dawes
    August 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Excellent advice Heather. I think Greece has become a lot more fashion-conscious than it used to be and the comments on hiring sun-loungers is very relevant. I remember hopping about on burning feet very often in the summer. Must admit at my age I wouldn’t be seen dead in a bikini and don’t find a swimming costume that hot to wear! Those young girls look great and I know many older women who do still wear them. I’ll look out for wooden sunglasses in October when we visit 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      @Zoe I must admit hanging out with a group of 20 something’s made me very conscious of the latest sunglasses trends

  • Reply
    August 25, 2014 at 7:15 am

    We do the same thing where I come from in Hawaii, in moderation and not all day. Can’t wait to visit Greece in October to!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 25, 2014 at 9:08 am

      @Noel Hope you have fun in Greece – see you at TBEX Athens?

  • Reply
    Janine Phillips
    August 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Very handy guide for my Cyprus hol x

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 25, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      @Janine I trust you’ll be packing your designer bikini and sunnies

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    June 29, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Got back yesterday from Crete and a villa on the beach and tes the young Greek women are so cool! Great Greek beach tips Heather 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      June 29, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      @Suzanne I’m looking forward to seeing what the latest beach fashions are when I get out there in July

  • Reply
    June 29, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    All great tips but I still don’t think I can wear a bikini! Not without a large tee shirt over it which would defeat the purpose.

  • Reply
    Keith Kellett
    July 1, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Ladies in our party were told they may sunbathe topless if not within sight of a church. We think the lady was joking, for this was on the island of Lipsi, where I suspect there are very few such places! 😀

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      July 2, 2017 at 9:44 am

      @Keith I’ve never seen any Greek women sunbathe topless but I’m sure the Greek guys would be only too happy for visitors to do so

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 11:47 am

    What is the etiquette for going topless at the beach in Cyprus? Sunning, swimming, walking? Very much looking forward to that part of my holiday 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      October 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      @Ella I didn’t see anyone going topless on the beach in Greece, certainly not any of the Greek girls so I don’t think it’s the done thing there. There may be naturist beaches in some parts of Greece, so you could ask in the beach bar if there are any near by – either follow the local example or ask a local.

      • Reply
        October 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm

        Thanks for the heads-up Heather 🙂

      • Reply
        October 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        I don’t personally consider a topless woman any more uncovered than a topless man, but I’m not a big fan of nude beaches….. no judgement, just not my thing!
        So I guess it’s a two-piece for Greece then!’

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 11:51 am

    That would definitely be the only ‘one-piece’ you’ll catch me in!

  • Reply
    Jemma Frater
    August 19, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I have to say I found this very one dimentional and judgemental. You have to wear a bikini no matter how you feel in it? Designer sunglasses? How shallow and superficial. Greek girls wouldnt lie on the sand? Then they are snobs. What a judgemental article. I intend to do the exact opposite of everything it says on here.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 28, 2019 at 9:29 am

      @Jemma It’s intended to be a lighthearted look at Greek culture and of course you must continue to do exactly as you please and enjoy your beach time in Greece.

  • Reply
    du lich bien nha trang
    March 19, 2021 at 9:01 am

    I remember hopping about on burning feet very often in the summer. Must admit at my age I wouldn’t be seen dead in a bikini and don’t find a swimming costume that hot to wear

  • Reply
    April 11, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    Some of this is not true. As someone who had a Greek girlfriend and spent a significant amount of time on pretty much every big island in Greece including touristy and non touristy areas, I can confirm that almost the majority of women including locals are happy to go topless. I literally saw it first hand on multiple beaches in Crete, Corfu, paxos, anti paxos, santoroni, Mykonos, lesbos, Zakinthos, amongst many others

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      May 23, 2021 at 5:43 pm

      @Robbo Thanks for letting me know, I’m only going from what my niece in Greece tells me is the norm and what I’ve observed.

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