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Greece is a member of the European Union. If you are currently a US citizen, you have free entry to the country without a visa for up to 90 days.
The currency of Greece is the Euro (€), which at the time of writing, €100 is roughly equivalent to 108 US Dollars.
Most US credit cards are accepted in Greece, however, many establishments won’t accept American Express. If you would like to use a credit card, your best bet is to carry a VISA/Mastercard. It’s also a good idea to check if your credit card has any foreign transaction fees (many cards charge an additional 3% when used abroad). If you don’t regularly travel abroad, it’s also a good idea to let your credit card company you’ll be traveling so they don’t decline your purchases. Many credit cards will say this is unnecessary, because “aLGoRitHmS”, but this can fail, so be prepared for your credit card to malfunction.
It’s always a good idea to have Euros on hand. The best place to get Euros is at a bank or a bank ATM (not an ATM kiosk in a shop, mall or supermarket). When at the airport, avoid the currency exchanges as you’ll normally get a better rate at the airport ATMs (even if there’s an ATM fee). Many US debit cards offer foreign ATM fee refunds and charge no fees for using a foreign ATM, so check with your bank to see if they offer this service.
IMPORTANT: Watch out for "dynamic currency conversion". Many restaurants, ATMs and other establishments will offer the “convenience” of showing the bill in USD instead of Euros. This is a SCAM! ALWAYS ASK TO PAY IN EUROS. If you choose USD, you will most likely get an unfavorable exchange rate on top of transaction fees!
US International Phone Plans
Whether it's for Google Maps™ or Instagram, you'll definitely want some sort of phone service while in Greece. Unless you have T-Mobile, a European pay-as-you-go plan will most likely be the best deal.
I've tried to consolidate international package information of popular US carriers, but be sure to check with your carrier for the most accurate info and up-to-date prices.
T-Mobile — Free
- Calls: $0.25/min calling
- Texting: Unlimited
- Data: 5GB of high-speed data (unlimited 2G speeds thereafter)
Note: You can pay for an international pass if you run out of high-speed data.
Verizon — $10/day
- Calls: Unlimited
- Texting: Unlimited
- Data: Unlimited
IMPORTANT: If you don't buy an international package, you'll get slammed with pay-as-you-go rates. 5GB of data (not hard to hit) would run you $10,000!
AT&T — $10/day
- Calls: Same as your US plan
- Texting: Same as your US plan
- Data: Same as your US plan
Note: You will automatically be opted into this plan when you turn your phone on in Europe and immediately start paying $10/day.
European Phone Plans
You can get a much better deal if you purchase a SIM and pay-as-you-go plan while in Greece. However, your phone will need to be "unlocked" in order to install a SIM card from another company. Contact your carrier and tell them you need your phone to be unlocked, because you are going to be traveling abroad. Unfortunately, some mobile carriers refuse to unlock phones while you're still under contract. In this case, you'll need to use your carrier's international package or buy a cheap unlocked phone on eBay.
Note: Using a European SIM card will give you a European phone number, so people won't be able to call your US number until you reinstall your original SIM card (unless you have dual SIM card slots or eSIM). Additionally, if you use two-factor authentication that's tied to your phone number, you won't be able to log into those services until you reinstall your original SIM card.
The most popular carriers in Greece are Cosmote and Vodafone. You can normally purchase a SIM/plan at the airport or at a retail location. You'll probably end up paying ~$9 for 2 weeks and ~7GB data. You can avoid getting a plan with texts/calls if you stick to using iMessage/FaceTime or WhatsApp for instant messages and internet calls.
Greece uses European style power outlets.
You’ll need to get an adapter for your chargers, so your square pegs will fit in the circle holes. You can get a bunch of adapters for cheap on Amazon (this is not a sponsored link, get them from wherever you want).
In addition to being a different shape, European outlets are 220-240 volts, while US outlets are 110-120 volts. For most modern devices, this voltage difference won’t matter much. For example, phone and laptop chargers are normally rated for a range of 100-240 volts. However, it is still IMPORTANT to check your power bricks for something that says “Input: 100-240V”. If the cord doesn’t have a power brick, this might be printed somewhere on the actual device. If the device only supports 100 volts, IT CAN CATCH ON FIRE (yes, this has happened to me when trying to charge a Nintendo DS in Greece). You can buy a “transformer” to transform 110 volts to 220 volts if it’s really necessary to bring the device. Common devices that don’t normally support 220 volts include: hairdryers, flat irons, hair curlers, etc…
Getting to Tinos
Tinos is a Greek island situated in the Aegean Sea. It is one of the many islands that are not accessible by plane, as such you will need to take a boat to get there. The most cost effective and convenient way to get to the island is to book a flight to Athens International Airport (ATH) and take a 4 hour ferry from the port of Rafina. It’s also possible to fly into Mykonos and take a 30 min ferry to Tinos, however, this will be much more expensive and you’ll probably have a 12 hour layover in ATH.
The port of Rafina usually has a couple boats in the morning around 7:30-8am and an evening boat around 5:30pm. It’s definitely doable to take a flight to Athens and head to the port for the evening ferry. Just be mindful of jetlag, delays and navigating a new city. However, it's highly recommended to stay a night or two in Athens on the way home. The earliest you can get back to Athens from Tinos is around 1pm and it might be difficult to find evening flights. Additionally, the ferries can easily get canceled due to high winds. Take the extra day to do some sightseeing.
You can book ferry tickets online using ferryhopper.com. Sometimes you may need to pick up your ticket in person at the port, but most of the time you should be able to get an E-ticket.
Note: There’s not a great way to get from Athens to Rafina with public transportation. However, a cab from the airport should only take about 20-30 mins depending on traffic. There are also Ktel buses (kinda like charter buses?) that go from the airport to Rafina.
Greece does not have Uber/Lyft in the traditional sense, but the Uber app can be used to hail a taxi. Another option for getting a taxi is the “FREENOW” app available on Android and iPhone. If you need to take a taxi, it’s best to use an app, otherwise the cab’s credit card reader will most likely be conveniently “broken”. However, on Tinos, neither app is available, so bring cash.
Renting a car/moped is also an option, but if you have never driven in a foreign country, you might want to think twice about this. If you rent a car in Athens, a vehicle ticket can be purchased for the ferry ride, so it can be brought to Tinos with you.
Public transportation in the form of buses, trolleys and trains can be used to easily get around Athens. However, this won’t help you in getting to the port of Rafina and is nonexistent on Tinos. You used to buy little paper tickets from “periptero”:
However, the paper tickets have recently changed to reloadable cards. I’m unsure whether or not they can still be purchased from a “periptero”.
- Greece can get pretty hot. Make sure to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen.
- Make sure to look both ways when crossing the street. Most cars will NOT stop at crosswalks.
- Be conscious while in crowded areas and be aware of pickpockets.