When traveling to Greece, knowing how to speak with the locals is an invaluable tool for foreign visitors. On your trip, you might hear someone say "kalispera," which is usually translated as "good evening," even though locals use it well before dusk. A common greeting among locals, you'll probably hear it from taverna patrons, friendly Greecians, and older locals taking an evening walk (volta) around the town square (plateia or plaka).
In the later afternoon, it is more formal to greet someone by saying "kalispera sas," especially when trying to be polite to elders, guests, or persons deserving respect. Kalispera by itself generally is just another way of saying "hello" in the later part of the day.
The root words "kali-" and "-spera" mean "good" or "beautiful" and "hope," respectively, so the word could be translated as "good hope" or "best wishes," though few people use it in a literal sense. However, it does act like a casual blessing for the coming night or a way to say "see you soon." In any case, if someone says "kalispera" to you, you can respond appropriately by saying the same back in kind.
Greek Letters: Καλησπέρα
Other Greek Greetings and Common Phrases
Other similar greetings starting with a "Kali" sound include kalimera ("good morning"), kalinikta ("good night"), and kalomena ("Happy first of the month"); on Sundays and Mondays, you might also hear someone say "kali ebdomada,” which means “good week.”
If you've forgotten the right ending for your greeting, you may be able to get away with a clearly spoken "kali" followed by a muffled second word. The forgiving Greeks, who love any attempt at using their language and who will always give the poor Greekless foreigner the benefit of the doubt, will still smile encouragingly and pretend that you (almost) got it right.
When leaving a group for the night, kalispera works as a farewell meaning "see you later," but you could also say "antío sas," which means "goodbye" in Greek. Additionally, "kalinikta" literally means "goodnight," but is only used right before going to bed for the evening, but you can also say "kali oneiros," which means "good" or "sweet dreams" if you're particularly friendly with a Greecian.
Tips for First-Time Travelers to Greece
Knowing how to speak a few key phrases can go a long way in making your trip to Greece not only easy but memorable as well. However, there are plenty of other things you should do to prepare for your international travels.
You may want to learn the fundamentals of the Greek alphabet as it can ease your travels in many ways, from reading road signs and airport or train schedules to figuring out where you are based on road signs written in Greek. Although highway signs are usually written in both English-style lettering and Greek letters, the Greek ones come up first on the road, giving you extra time to make that upcoming turn if you can tell what they say earlier rather than later.
Learning your way around Greece before you arrive by looking up maps and plotting your route can also help ease travel pains once you arrive—just make sure your itinerary is slightly flexible to accommodate for unexpected delays and difficulties in navigating to your destinations.
You'll also want to make sure you orient yourself with the map when you get out in a new city or town as streets in Greece can oftentimes be rather confusing.