When we spent a few days exploring the beautiful island of Rhodes, we encountered a few unexpected experiences. Some may say ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to travel I’m a firm believer in “Sharing is Caring”! So without further ado, here are a few things to know about Rhodes before we visited, which left us either made us feel underprepared or simply took us by surprise!
1. Flushing toilet paper is a no-no
A pretty basic thing to know about Rhodes that simply didn’t occur to us that the very, very old plumbing system might not cope so well with modern bathroom habits. There are clear signs to avoid putting anything besides your own business down the lavatory, and it’s certainly important to adhere to this request for the sake of your accommodation’s owners, and your own comfort.
Like a few of these things to know about Rhodes, this can apply to several other destinations around Europe, but there’ll always be pretty clear signs of what you can and can’t do. And if in doubt, Google it!
2. Avoid drinking the tap water in Rhodes
It’s been many years since I visited a European country and had the “can we drink the water” debate. Fortunately, I was reminded of why the smaller Greek islands still maintains the stance that visitors should avoid the tap water when I realised the above point about the ancient plumbing! On the smaller islands, water is brought by water tanks rather than an on-island water system, which is why water from taps is only for showering and cleaning. To avoid getting sick on your trip, stick to bottled or treated water.
It’s still easy enough to enjoy a sustainable trip, however: bring along your reusable water bottle and find the nearest water cooler to fill up – you’ll find them in most hotel receptions.
3. Groceries are more expensive than you think
One aspect of travel in Rhodes that took us by surprise was the overall cost. Our flights and accommodation were affordable enough, but when it came to buying groceries in an attempt to save some dosh we were quickly mistaken.
Of course, some of you might be thinking “well DUH, it’s an island!” at this – and you’d be right. It didn’t occur to us to account into our budget that some items might be more costly due to importing them from the mainland. And, with Rhodes being one of the furthest south and furthest from mainland Greece, one can’t blame them for the price.
We found that food items were roughly equivalent to London prices in the small village of Lindos, which is more remote from the larger Old Town of Rhodes. Some items such as vitamins and cold medicines were higher than London/UK costs, possibly due to lower demand and specialism. So you have been warned: either bring your own or face the steep prices for certain items!
4. Day visitors massively impact the vibe
Another important thing to know about Rhodes is that around mid-morning every day if the weather is half-decent, there is a wave of day tourists that washes over the small streets of Rhodes Old Town and Lindos. These visitors arrive on the ginormous cruise ships and day boats (and even buses) that dock for just a few short hours to allow their passengers to step onto dry land and see the sights.
Now, while travelling methods are a completely subjective choice and my opinion of cruise ships is simply my own view, it is worth noting that this has more objective implications, largely around the congestion and atmosphere of the towns. I think most will agree that it makes an experience in a quaint, quiet, historical town that’s supposed to be peaceful and relaxing a heck of a lot more stressful when you’re dodging aimless tour groups, finding yourself in endless queues, and avoiding the loud commentary competing in every language on the planet!
We were fortunate enough to get the bulk of our key sightseeing done before the footfall count boomed during our stay. And on the couple of days when the weather was too poor for the ships to dock it was a strange blessing to be able to wander the streets without constantly bumping into people!
5. You can see Turkey from the east coast
There aren’t many places you can be on a remote island and see another country practically a stone’s throw away, but in Rhodes you can!
The views from the Old Town and Lindos are breathtaking, with the sloping hills of southern Turkey adding a mysterious backdrop across the lapping ocean waves.
Funnily enough, we didn’t realise that this was the case until well into our first full day exploring the Old Town, as we’d arrived late at night and then spent the majority of our day in the city walls, enclosed and hidden away from the landscape that awaits us.
On a clear day, it’s certainly worth making the most of the beautiful scenery by taking a boat ride out to one of the many bays or other coastal villages on the island’s east coast, you won’t be disappointed!
6. Take your litter with you
If, like me, you enjoy taking a snack around with you for a day’s activities and sightseeing (gal’s gotta keep that energy up!), you’ll notice that there are very few bins in the busy centre of town. In fact, you won’t likely come across any waste disposal opportunities in the villages either, so be mindful of taking your rubbish with you until you can safely and sensibly dispose of it.
In a similar thought, I struggled with effective recycling during our stay in Rhodes. While it wasn’t a huge issue when eating out, buying the occasional groceries meant we were left unsure of the best way to dispose of bottles, cans, and paper waste. It’s worth asking your accommodation for their recycling practices if you’d like to be as sustainable as possible!
7. Don’t be afraid of goats on the roof
It might be a strange thing to know about Rhodes, but goats simply wander freely, particularly in the small villages such as Lindos. Don’t worry though, these guys like to stay to their own territory, preferring to walk across rooftops and sneak into courtyards to reach the best and tastiest trees.
While it had almost zero impact on our trip, it’s certainly a fun thing to know about Rhodes before you visit, you might even spot a few of them off for their early morning stroll! We enjoyed spotting them from our balcony each morning, and wondering if their owners knew what kind of mischief they got up to…
8. Stray cats are on every corner
Maybe it’s a Mediterranean thing, but I swear you’re not really on a Greek island if there aren’t about a million stray cats roaming the streets with you. You’ll get used to them after a while, and if, like me, you enjoy all things furry it’ll be a fun challenge to follow the trail of cats. Plus they make pretty great models for all your photos!
While I love a furry friend, I wasn’t about to go cuddle all the kitties as I’m always unsure if it’s sanitary to do so… So a friendly stroke here or there sufficed for me! Furthermore, if you’re allergic or prone to getting the sneezes around certain types of animal, bring along some antihistamines or your medication. Unfortunately, you might not know when you’ll turn a corner and be greeted by a clowder of cats (that’s actually the collective noun, I looked it up!) so it’s best to be on alert at all times.
So hopefully you like animals, as there are plenty that rule the roost in Rhodes!
9. Don’t expect much info at the historical sites
You’d be mad to visit any part of Greece and not explore the famously dramatic and fascinating historical sites. However, despite their significance and beauty, there is often little in the way of details or signage around them to help inform your visit. Luckily, that’s what we have the internet for, or a professional guidebook on hand to give the context and education that accompanies such a trip. I must admit I do like it when I can read the info as I go along though… At least the aesthetics aren’t jeopardised by constant displays, right?
Also, unlike other historical places in parts of Europe and elsewhere, the boundaries aren’t so clearcut in some parts of these sites. When visiting the Acropolis of Lindos we were able to walk right up to edges, even on the ancient stones themselves in places. For a Brit used to “please do not touch” signs on literally every tourist attraction ever, this was a surprise for me! On the other hand, there were some clearly protected areas that were out of bounds as shown by a clearly marked fence and security guards happy to call out anyone trespassing beyond the limits. I found this to be reassuring that there were some efforts to avoid destruction and protect the country’s particularly special history.
Did you know that if you own land in Greece and find historical ruins on that land, the government can take it from you? This is in order to protect historical places of interest, but understandably for land owners, it’s not exactly ideal.
While this tidbit of info can seem surprising, when you see just how much history sits beneath the ground it’s quickly realised that the entire nation across the mainland and islands is like a land version of Atlantis – who knows what’s out there waiting to be discovered! At the same time, I totally respect people’s rights to the land they own. And after all, we already have so many preserved sites to visit and learn from, it’d be impossible to recover it all!
To know that some parts of the land are so carefully looked after and others are left as they are is a really unique aspect to visiting Greece as a tourist. We saw the partially excavated Lindos Acropolis’ theatre completed surrounded by fencing, suggesting it’s too delicate for visitors to walk on. On the other hand, we went to the Tomb of Kleoboulos where we could walk up to and even INSIDE… This is only an example of how different sites require different treatment, and it’s best to assume delicate behaviour rather than the opposite. That way, you won’t go too far wrong and can rest assure that you’re visiting as a sensible tourist.
10. It CAN rain sometimes
Contrary to the bright blue skies and perfect beach images, it can and DOES rain in Rhodes. In fact, you can even get thunderstorms. Albeit not often, but it’s worth taking a look at the time of year you’re visiting if you wanted to avoid a downpour. Later in the year in the off-season (around October) the weather is still warm, but can be prone to the odd shower, so bring a brolly!
We were (un)lucky enough to experience bright sunshine and blustery storms in Rhodes. Normally I’m the first to complain about unfortunate weather, but on this occasion we enjoyed the excuse to sleep in, eat a lot, and chill out. Plus, with the warm rain, dramatic scenery, and sharp lightening strikes it felt like we were well and truly in the presence of Zeus himself – we have fun being fake storm-chasers from the safety of our balcony!
It’s important to note that when it does rain, there isn’t a whole lot to do… Most activities in Rhodes are outdoor based, including the historical museum-y bits. So, if you suspect you could be caught in poor weather, pack a good book or game, and make sure whoever your travel companion is is willing to hang out with you during wet play!
So here are the 10 things to know about Rhodes that I hadn’t considered before we visited! There are likely plenty more and far less obvious points that could be added, but 10 is a nice round number, isn’t it?
Can you think of any other things to know about the island of Rhodes? Let me know about your weird and wonderful facts covering this stunning island!
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