Do People in Greece Speak English? And does it matter in 2024?

Do People in Greece Speak English? And does it matter in 2024?

Do people in Greece speak English? Yes, many people in Greece speak English and in this article, you’ll learn how common English is in Greece, and all about street signs, public transportation, menus, guided tours, and medical facilities as well as a few words of Greek to help you travel through Greece without worrying about not speaking Greek.

How widely is English spoken in Greece?

I’ve never let being an English speaker stop me from traveling anywhere and not speaking Greek is certainly not a reason to avoid Greece. In 2022 and 2023 Greece was the third-most visited country on earth and tourism in 2021 was 15% of the whole Greek economy.

English is quite widely spoken in Greece, particularly among the younger generations and in popular tourist areas.

Photo of a busy Corfu cafe, Corfu Town, Greece
Busy Corfu afe, Corfu Town, Greece

Since English is taught as a second language at school, many Greeks have at least a basic level of understanding. Restaurants and hotels are the most common places where you’ll find English commonly spoken.

I’ve traveled around an awful lot of Greece and I’ve never had a problem with getting by using a couple of Greek words, some had gestures, a bit of mime, and lots of smiles!

Can most Greeks speak English?

Yes, more than 51% of the Greek population can speak English but English language skills are concentrated in young people (under 45 years), people working in the tourism industry, and among the most highly educated of the population.

Lidl supermarket in Corfu, Greece

99.5% of Greeks speak Greek, the native language and the official language (it is also the official language of Cyprus). English is the most common language spoken in Greece after modern Greek, with German, French, and Italian being the next most popular spoken languages.

How fluent are Greeks in English, especially in tourist areas?

Although just over half the Greek population speaks English, that doesn’t mean that they all speak fluent English! 37% of Greeks speak English fluently with another 27% speaking English “moderately well.”

Crowd outside the Hotel Chelsa Bar in Athens at night, Athens, Greece

14% of Greeks don’t speak a language other than their mother tongue.

Tourism is a huge part of the economy and people speak English in Greece in areas where you are likely to find tourists. English is also most widely spoken in urban areas.

In rural areas and places where tourists don’t often venture, the level of English drops the further you get from urban areas.

Do I need to learn Greek if I’m traveling to Greece or is English sufficient?

It’s possible to get by in Greece very well without speaking any Greek at all. However, learning how to say thank you in Greek and show your appreciation is particularly well received.

photo of a hotel porter in Oia Santorini carrying two suitcases up many stairs
Hotel Porter, Oia, Santorini, Greece

Tip: Having a piece of paper with the name and address you’re going to, written in Greek, is useful to show to taxi and Uber drivers and if you need to ask for directions.

Are street signs and public transport announcements available in English in Greece?

In Greece, you’ll find that street signs and public transport announcements are mostly in Greek.

But don’t worry, in tourist hotspots, you’ll see bilingual street signs with both Greek and English translations. This is especially true around historical sites, main roads, ports, and airports.

In a great many of Greece’s ancient sites and museums, there are signboards and maps in English.

Greek and English signage at the archaeological site of Epidaurus (Epidavros), Greece

Tourists don’t have to worry about English being spoken and written in tourist destinations – tourism is a huge part of the Greek economy and English is extremely common at major attractions.

As for public transport announcements, they’re mainly in Greek, but you’ll hear some English announcements too, and on major tourist routes, you’ll always get an English translation (for example, on a train, plane, or at the airport).

You’re more likely to find these on buses, trams, and metro systems in Athens and other urban centers, but English announcements might not be available everywhere or on all types of transportation.

So, although you won’t find English translations everywhere in Greece, you can definitely count on them in most places unless you venture off the beaten track.

Do people in rural areas of Greece speak English?

As you might expect, fewer people speak English (and especially fluently) in rural Greece compared to the cities and tourism destinations.

Although English is taught in Greek schools from an early age, people living in rural communities have varying levels of fluency and confidence in speaking the language.

Photo of Village men at a cafe in Apeiranthos Village, Naxos, Greece
Village men at a cafe in Apeiranthos Village, Naxos, Greece

Some older people in rural areas may not be as comfortable with English, since they might not have had the same educational opportunities.

On the other hand, younger people, especially those in tourism-related jobs or with higher education, are more likely to speak English pretty well.

For those times when you’re in a rural area and can’t get by in English, it’s a great idea to learn a few basic Greek phrases to make communication smoother and to show that you appreciate the local culture, even if you can’t express it more fully in Greek. I promise you you’ll be rewarded with big smiles!

How can I communicate with locals in Greece if they don’t speak English?

As well as learning some basic Greek phrases like greetings, directions, and everyday questions, you know what else is super handy? Translation apps on your smartphone! They’re great for bridging the language gap and letting Greeks understand that you’re doing your best to communicate in their language.

Photo of 6 English to Greek translation apps in Google Playstore
English to Greek translation apps in Google Playstore

Carrying a pocket-sized phrasebook or language guide can help too, especially when you’re offline (and this can be a lot in mountainous areas).

Don’t forget about body language and hand gestures! Just be mindful of what’s culturally appropriate and stick to simple, universal movements to express yourself.

Finally, how you come across to people is super important. Be patient and friendly and maintain a sense of humor even if you have no clue what’s going on! A smile goes a long way in connecting with others, and cuts across every language barrier.

Are menus and other information at restaurants available in English in Greece?

Greek food is a major reason for choosing to holiday in Greece and many restaurants, especially in tourist-heavy areas, offer menus and information in English.

Photo of busy Restaurant in Plaka with menus in English, Plaka, Athens, Greece
Restaurant in Plaka with menus in English, Plaka, Athens, Greece

Places like Athens, Nafplio, and popular islands like Santorini, Crete, and Corfu are used to catering to international visitors, so you’ll often find bilingual and even multilingual menus there.

In smaller towns and rural areas, you might come across more traditional eateries, or tavernas, where English menus might not be as common. But don’t worry! The locals are usually warm and friendly, and they’ll do their best to help you understand the menu and make your dining experience enjoyable.

Le Greek restaurant, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Le Greek restaurant, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Many tavernas will have a menu of pictures and the entrance so you can point to dishes that look good. You can also use translation apps on your phone to help you decipher the menu.

Trying local dishes is part of the fun when traveling, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations or explore new flavors. Greeks take pride in their cuisine, and they’ll be more than happy to introduce you to their delicious food.

Is it common for Greeks to learn English at school?

Absolutely! In Greece, children start learning English as a second language from a young age, often around 8 or 9 years old, and continue throughout their education.

Book Cover of "It's All Greek," by Alexander Tulloch, Athens, Greece
Book cover of “It’s All Greek,” by Alexander Tulloch, Athens, Greece

Because of this, you’ll find that many Greeks, especially younger generations, can communicate in English to some extent.

So, when you’re visiting Greece, you’ll likely encounter a good number of English speakers, particularly in bigger cities and tourist areas.

How do Greeks feel about tourists who only speak English?

While Greeks are generally hospitable and patient with tourists who only speak English, they do appreciate it when visitors make an effort to learn some Greek phrases.

El Greco beach bar sign, Naxos, Greece
El Greco beach bar sign, Naxos, Greece

By learning a few basic Greek words or phrases, you’ll demonstrate respect for their culture, and who knows where that might lead?

What are some useful Greek phrases to learn for English-speaking travelers?

Learning a few Greek phrases will definitely come in handy and impress the locals during your trip. Here are some useful ones to get you started:

  1. Γεια σου (Yia sou) – Hello/Goodbye (informal)
  2. Καλημέρα (Kalimera) – Good morning
  3. Καλησπέρα (Kalispera) – Good evening
  4. Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó) – Thank you
  5. Παρακαλώ (Parakaló) – Please/You’re welcome
  6. Συγγνώμη (Signómi) – Excuse me/Sorry
  7. Πού είναι… (Pou einai…) – Where is…
  8. Πόσο κοστίζει; (Poso kostízi?) – How much does it cost?

Give these phrases a try and you’ll surely have a more authentic and enjoyable experience in Greece.

Are guided tours in Greece available in English?

In Greece, you’ll find plenty of guided tours available in English, especially in popular tourist destinations.

Photo of a Guided tour of Hora, Mykonos Island, Greece
Tour guide talking to a group of tourists on a street in Hora, Mykonos Island, Greece

Many tour operators cater to international visitors and provide guides who are fluent in English to ensure you get the most out of your experience.

From historical sites like the Acropolis to island-hopping adventures, there’s a wide variety of English-speaking guided tours to choose from.

How can I improve my communication with Greeks if I only speak English?

If you only speak English but want to be able to interact with the Greek people you meet, here are a few practical tips you can follow.

Do you speak English? Question on a language translation app
Question on a language translation app

First off, I’d suggest learning just a few of the most basic Greek phrases – even a simple “hello” or “thank you” can make a difference. Secondly, I make use of translation apps to help with more complex conversations about things like late check-out times or directions to unusual things I want to go explore.

We all speak body language! So pay attention to non-verbal cues like body language, as they can be useful in conveying your message. It’s just like bilingual charades!

Don’t get frustrated, be patient and maintain a friendly attitude. You’re on holiday after all and you’re in Greece because you want to make fantastic holiday memories.

Are there any English-speaking doctors or hospitals in Greece in case of an emergency

In case of an emergency (or even just a stomach bug), you’ll find English-speaking doctors and hospitals in Greece, particularly in larger cities and popular tourist areas.

Photo of front exterior of Santorini Hospital, Santorini Island, Greece
Santorini Hospital, Santorini Island, Greece

Many doctors in Greece have received at least part of their education or training in English, so they can speak English perfectly with English-speaking patients.

In Athens, Thessaloniki, and other urban centers, you’ll find private hospitals and clinics with many English speakers on staff.

Tourism meccas like Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini have medical centers that cater to international visitors and are used to providing patient care in English.

In any emergency situation, remember to dial 112 which is the emergency number for European countries.