Corfu - Health, Doctors, Water, The Sun, Money, Weather

Health - Beaches

For many years the UK and all other EU countries have been cleaning up their beaches to meet the Bathing Water Standard 76/160/EEC.

It must be remebered however that everywhere some beaches are cleaner than others. There are still places where effluent gets into the sea with insufficient treatment. 99% of the shoreline around Corfu is perfectly safe to bathe in, however the advice of my Greek friends is to bathe where they bathe. Once you have got to know your local barman just quitely ask where the best places to bathe are. They are usually very honest, many have children of their own. DO NOT just assume it is clean because it looks clean.

Food
Most of the tavernas, bars, etc. are careful with their food and it's preparation but like any country some are not. The last thing you want is a tummy bug on holiday so please do be a little concerend with those places with ridiculously large menus. Can they really cook all that fresh every day? The 'dish of the day' sometimes means something that has not sold well.
There are many lovely tavernas 'out of town' that offer very good value. Do try them.
The golden rule is 'eat where the Greeks eat and swim where the Greeks swim'.
Medical help
We have used doctors twice and on both occasions their treatment was very good. The first I can recommend has a surgery about 50 meters past the cross roads at the Corfu town end of Sidari on the RH side. We took some friends of my daughters with us in 1998 and one of them was ill before we left. She had not said anything because she did not want to miss the holiday. The cost was 40 for 3 visits (one at the apartments) including antibiotics etc. The doctor spoke good English, was gentle and was 100% accurate in his diagnosis and treatment. The only problem is that the doctors are often away from the surgery on house calls.

The second was when I was ill and is situated almost opposite the turn off for Melitsa and Peroulades at the far end of Sidari. He was very good also. I was seen imediately. It is worth remembering when you take out your holiday insurance to ask if it has 'no excess'. It did not cost us a penny for my treatment. Never did find out what was wrong with me. Fowl pest I think.

Don't forget to take your E111 NHS travel sickness form available from most post offices with you. The main hospital is in Corfu town. I went for a look and I must admit it seems pretty efficient. I have yet to find out what happens if you get tooth ache. I'll no doubt find out. I know of one dentist on the outskirts of Sidari. From my own experience the chemists (pharmacists) are not that good at English, are not as helpful as ours, and always seem to be shut. They are also very expensive, 4.40 for a bottle of mouthwash.

Water.
Although you should always drink bottled water don't worry too much if 'little Johnny' drinks tap water by mistake. As far as I know all apartments are connected to the municipal water supply which is quite safe to drink but is very heavily chlorinated. However should there be a water shortage then water may be drawn from local wells and this of course is not chlorinated. I have never seen a Greek drink well water.

To be safe ALWAYS use bottled water.
There can be water shortages but it is rare and only means no water for a few hours at the most. The water is generally heated by solar panels and how effective this is depends on the weather, the time of day and other users in the apartments. About 8 pm may not be a good time to take a shower as everybody else has used up all the hot water.

Tummy bugs -
12 visits and 6 years and sooner or later Montezuma's Revenge had to arrive. It did, Oh boy did it. It started even before I had eaten. 6 hours off the plane and Tally Ho. The worst lasted about 24 hours. It was a virus of some sort. The Greeks were suffering just as much as the tourists. Share and share alike I say. No doctor needed - just the usual junk that the wife has faithfully packed for years and has never been needed. Expiry date 2 years past - still worked.

Heat
Greece is very warm during the day and fortunately relatively cool during the night. Temperatures of up to 43C 110F have been known during July and August but the average daily high is nearer 37C 96F. Corfu usually has a gentle breeze blowing. There are occasionally one or two day long patches of grey and wet weather, sometimes these are almost a relief as they freshen things up. One more point. Do what the Greeks do. Keep all doors and windows SHUT during the heat of the day and OPEN at night with the louver doors closed only. That's what they are there for. Just right for the mosquitoes to get through. Most apartments are solid concrete and once this has warmed up internally it acts like a radiator at night. In England we tend to do the opposite and it's easy to forget.

THE SUN
Be very careful in the sun. Even on cloudy days the ultra violet will get through and can burn unprotected skin in MINUTES. Windy days are the worst. The skin feels cool because of the breeze but it will in fact burn easier because any protection sweat may give is dried off. If a tan is a must start with a very high factor and during your stay gradually drop to a lower one. Remember the slower the tan takes to get the longer it will last. It is much better to cook the skin slowly right through than burn the outer layers to a cinder. Bit like the Sunday joint really. At the first sign of any redness or soreness stop immediately and take a cool shower then use 'after sun' cream. Always wear a hat if you are out walking or sitting as the sun will be pointing directly at the top of the head and heat stroke is not nice. Children are very vulnerable.

I have seen an English tourists who was in hospital on his first day, stayed there, and returned to England on a stretcher in great pain and looking like he had been boiled. He was the colour of this writing. I do not exaggerate.


Cold
Maybe not exactly a health problem. The Greek Islands can be surprisingly cool at night - thank goodness. More so in May and October 15C / 20C. There are usually spare blankets stored in the apartments. Usually no heating is available in the apartments and the temptation is to leave the electric cooker on all night. This is not a good idea as it usually leads to the elements burning out and sometimes it can take a few days to be put right. I think it is looked upon as a self inflicted wound and as the local electrician is probably up to his eyeballs mending other cookers it may take a while.

Mosquitoes
In a few areas around Sidari these little pests are annoying. They vanish during the heat of the day and come out during the evening. There are various devices and sprays in the shops that can help a lot. Sprays seem to be the most effective, if you can put up with the smell. Some people are more prone to being bitten than others. Very, very few react quite badly. I have known of 3. My advice is keep well away from any slow moving water, in other words those 'rivers' and the beaches nearby. After a few days our systems seem to tolerate the odd bite better and the immunity seems to be semi permanent. It is most unlikely that you will be seriously bothered by these pests but better to be safe than sorry.

This is going to cause a few email.

It is a VERY good idea to have a shower before you go out in the evening. Mosquitoes do not see us very well, they smell us and they just LOVE feet. You know those nice expensive trainers you bought Tommy for the holiday? VERY bad move.


Beware of Ouzo.
It is a nice drink but I still have a scar on my foot to prove it's effectiveness. I never felt a thing.

Rain Drains
In a few places the road and surface water does not go into underground pipes but into concrete ditches at the edge of the road with usually no footpath. These are about 500 mm wide and up to a metre deep. There is nothing to stop anyone falling into them, especially at night. Most places now have street lights - which are useless if you have been at the Ouzo. Actually these ditches are quite usefull when a 2.5m wide coach, a 3m wide road and you meet.

Toilets
It is inadvisable to put large amounts of toilet paper down the toilet. There are bins provided for the disposal of toilet paper. If you cannot bare the thought of using them do not overload the system.

Smoking
As yet I have only seen No Smoking signs in taxis. Strangely enough I have never heard one complaint from a tourist about smoking. Everywhere is so open you never see a good 'fug' going like an English pub. You can always tell an English tourist who smokes. At 1.50 a packet he will usually have a minumum of 3 on the go at once. If you are Irish or work in a Wothersoons then an awful lot more.

Money
A good English breakfast with all the trimmings will be about 2.50, often less. Tipping is usual in Greece. 10% is about average but for good service or small amounts a little more is always appreciated. In my limited experience of the rest of Greece the cost of meals, drinks,etc are cheaper on Corfu than on islands like Skiathos or Crete.

Greece has joined the Euro and just as expected prices have been 'rounded up', quite a lot up sometimes. At a rough guess about 10% (taxis 30%) but it tends to be more in the center of the resorts. As in the UK the further you get from the beach the less food costs, often better quality and the service far more friendly.

Credit Cards
My advice is never use a Credit Card in a bank or anywhere else. You will be charged at least 10% just for using it. Either take travellers cheques or cash. For some unknown reason this is one occasion where the Greek system openly condones daylight robbery. Like ours. The Greek people do not like banks.

Weather.
I suggest you take this as an English weather forecast of about the 1960 era. Sort of maybe, could be, should be for a 2 week holiday.

May
Showers and dull skys that last 2 or 3 days. It can also get quite windy for a day or two. From experience you are likely to have 2 or 3 days during a fortnight of unsettled weather. The rest of the time expect temperatures of about 25C and warm sunshine. Cool at night - 18C at a guess.

June
Maybe 2 days of rough weather. Temperatures are climbing into the low 30C's occasionally. If you don't like very hot weather it's just right. Night time about 20C

July
Probably the hottest month. Temperatures can reach 40c - no problem. Usually about 36C. You may rarely get a day or two of rough weather, but you probably wont mind as it clears the air and lays the dust. Night time about 23C

August
Similar to July, maybe a degree or two cooler. The fields are brown now and even the Greeks wait for the cooler evening air. Night time about 22C

September
Back into the lower 30C's. Mainly dry. Cooler in the evenings. Night time about 20C

October
Much like May, except that after the second week everything is starting to close down. Very quiet. Chilly in the evenings. Night time about 17C

Weather on Corfu is generally wonderful. There is always the possibility of a windy spell or a day or two of rain. On very rare occasions (twice in 9 years) it can come down harder than anywhere in England. Sidari was flooded in minutes - and steaming 10 minutes later. Worth seeing. This of course does not include 2002 when many of the Sidari mousaka died in knee deep water. Probably because all the road drains are coverd up with cardboard. A favourite Greek pastime. If they do it in Corfu Town it's good enough for Sidari.

The rare spell of wind can be exciting. Free Parking signs, Free Pool signs, Free Sunbed signs - all having a very merry trip to Albania. The Greek name for this wind is the Maistro. I think Maistro's in the UK gave everybody wind.

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