Traveling to Greece with Food Allergies

Sitting at the top of a mountain in the tiny village of Zia with a glass of Prosecco in hand, I watched as the rainbow sky extinguished the ball of smoldering fire below the horizon. Earlier that morning I’d watched that same fire ball rise over the sea, stream light through my balcony and rest on my face. From start to finish, the sun had been a radiant presence throughout my day.

Sunset at Zia on Kos island in Greece.

In June, after a conference in Milan, Italy, I decided to take a week to travel. In typical Allie fashion, I left that week with a completely blank canvas to fill. The first decision I made was to take the train to Verona for a few days. After that, I planned to travel somewhere I had never been.

As I searched for flights from Verona, I found a cheap one directly to Kos, Greece. I e-mailed a Greek friend to ask to translate my chef card into Greek. Knowing little besides where it was located, I did a quick search to make sure there were available accommodations, then booked the flight for the following day. I then went back on booking.com to find accommodations that met my needs. Since I had never been to Greece, I knew I would want a refrigerator in my room at the very least. I soon found an apartment style hotel that was close to town and booked it. I knew either way, I would make traveling to Greece with food allergies a success.

First a little about Kos…

Kos is a Greek island that is part of an island chain called the Dodecanese in the southeastern area of the Aegean Sea. It is known as the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and even has the Hippocrates Plane Tree that he once taught under. Kos has lots of incredible ruins to visit and an interesting history. There is also a 14th century fortress in Kos Town that I would have loved to visit, however it is currently closed due to damage from an earthquake in 2017.

Getting There & Around:

I flew direct from Verona, Italy to Kos, Greece on Neos, an Italian budget airline I had never flown. Both airports were small and a bit hectic. Since I knew it was a short flight and an Italian airline, I wasn’t too concerned about them serving bags of nuts on board and I did not contact them ahead about my allergies. I did ask as I was boarding the flight if they served bags of nuts and they said they weren’t. To read more about how I handle flying with food allergies, go here.

Once I arrived in Kos, I had to find a taxi to get to Kos Town where I was staying. Kos Town is basically the entire opposite end of the island from the airport. There are no Uber’s on the island, so it was either a bus or taxi. It was already 9 p.m. and most of the buses were for specific resorts, so I decided a taxi was my best plan. I found another girl who was trying to go in the same direction as me. We were able to split the cost which was a huge help since it wasn’t cheap. If I had planned ahead, I would have rented a car but they were too expensive last minute.

Transportation on Kos

From Kos Town, there are city buses that stop at the main beaches. I took one of them to Paradise Beach and some of the other beaches around there on the opposite end of the island.

Bike rentals are also popular. I ended renting a bike to explore one of the days I was there and really enjoyed it. There are excellent bike paths and lots to see. Moto 1 was right down the street from my accommodations and cost around 10 Euro for 24 hours. There are many other bike rental spots around Kos Town as well.

Where to Stay:

Kos hotel

I can’t say enough about how much I loved staying at Orpheus Studios hotel. The rooms are set up with a living area and separate bedroom. I also had two beautiful balconies and a kitchenette in case I had trouble eating out. Since it was my first time there and I wasn’t sure what to expect with dining out, I chose this accommodation. I found it on Booking.com and it was exactly what I needed. The owner Marina and her daughter, Elina, are lovely! They helped me plan out my entire trip there and her daughter even included me on a night out with her friends to dinner.

To see more on this beautiful accommodation go here.

Where to Eat:

Since Kos is not as popular for American tourism, I didn’t know what to expect as far as food allergy awareness. I found it to be a mixed experience as far as what I could eat. However, I was able to safely eat something wherever I went even if it was only a salad.

Restaurants:

  • Posto Grill: This is a cute little outdoor spot near the bus stops to go to many of the main attractions around the island. I was looking for a light lunch while waiting for the bus to go to the beach and successfully ordered tzatziki and warm pita bread. I went here twice because I knew this was a good place to get a light lunch and was pretty well located in Kos Town.
  • Ciao Café Bistro: I was told that this was a great place for pizza but unfortunately all of their flour had a warning that it may contain nuts. I didn’t want to risk it so I avoided the bread and pizza. I had a caprese salad to be safe.
  • καφενειο: This is near Posto Grill. I went to this restaurant with locals and had such a great time. We sat outside where there was live music playing and it was a truly authentic experience. The owner was nice about my food allergies and made grilled chicken and salad separately for me. The rest of the table all shared dishes but I needed to have my own ordered. They immediately understood and were great advocates for me.
  • The Watermill: I ate an omelette at this stunning little spot on Zia. The sunset is magnificent from here. They are also known for their lemonade which I highly recommend!

Coffee & Drinks:

I was able to find a lot of familiar coffee brands (Illy and LavAzza) I felt comfortable with and easily drank espresso around the island. To read more about how I order coffee go here.

I did not have any beer or mixed drinks while I was there but I tried some local Greek wine and I had Prosecco at the top of Zia. To read more about how I drink safely go here.

Grocery Stores:

I was unsuccessful with finding a large grocery store in Kos Town, however I found smaller ones that had main necessities. I know a Lidl is on the island, but I didn’t have a car to get there easily and didn’t end up needing groceries. See my video here for more examples.

Super Market: This was the only name outside that I saw. It was small and located right down the street from my hotel.

What to See & Do:

Between the many stunning beaches and beach clubs, bike paths around the island, history and ancient ruins, there is a lot to see and do in Kos. Daily cruises are very common and solicitors are intense on the boardwalk trying to get you to take their boats. Below are some of my trip highlights!

  • Beaches:
    • Kefalos & Paradise Beach– Located on the opposite end of the island, it is busy but enjoyable. The water is clear and refreshing and the scenery around this beach is unlike others with the rocky hills jutting out to the side. It took about an hour on the city bus to get here. I paid around 5 Euros. A warning, the bus had no air conditioning so it was very steamy. It definitely made the water all the more appealing though!
    • Onia Beach– I was originally trying to get to Kefalos and got off the bus too early, so I stopped here and jumped in the sea before going to Kefalos. There were very few people over at this beach which was nice, however the beach was much smaller. It was definitely a more relaxing area compared to Kefalos.
    • Artemis Heaven Beach Bar– There are tons of beach bars in Kos town to choose from and you can walk from one over to the next. I ended up stopping and getting a beach chair at this one, which is part of the Artemis Hotel.
  • Ancient Roman ruins:
    • The Roman Odeon was a true highlight. I loved being able to go underground inside the Odeon. It is also in a beautiful, lush area of the island.
    • The Tree of Hippocrates is right in the center of town along with the Ancient Agora and a few other interesting pieces of history. There are signs explaining what each is around the town.
  • Zia Village:
    • This beautiful little village is located on the mountain side of Dikeos. With its high elevation, there are excellent views of the island. In the village you will find a street of tourist shops, restaurants scattered around. The village is surrounded by lush greenery. I took Theokritos Travel bus to get to and from Zia.
  • Eva Sailboat Day Cruise:
    • This is a traditional Greek family boat. It takes you out for a day on the water making two stops, Kalymnod and Pserimos. They also have BBQ on board the boat. Anja went over the ingredients with me and I felt safe eating the salad and watermelon. We went swimming and enjoyed. Lovely day!

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