ATMs -- Automated teller machines are increasingly common at banks throughout Athens. The National Bank of Greece operates a 24-hour ATM in Syntagma Square.
It is not a good idea to rely on ATMs in Athens, since the machines are often out of service when you need them most, particularly on holidays or during bank strikes. If your PIN includes letters, be sure that you know their numerical equivalent, as Greek ATMs do not have letters.
Banks -- Banks are generally open Monday through Thursday, 8am to 2pm and Friday 8am to 2:30pm. In summer, the exchange office at the National Bank of Greece in Syntagma Square (tel. 210/334-0015) is open Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 6:30pm, Friday from 3 to 6:30pm, Saturday from 9am to 3pm, and Sunday from 9am to 1pm. Other centrally located banks include Citibank, in Syntagma Square (tel. 210/322-7471); Bank of America, 39 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/324-4975); and Barclays Bank, 15 Voukourestiou (tel. 210/364-4311). All banks are closed on the long list of Greek holidays. Most banks exchange currency at the rate set daily by the government. This rate is often more favorable than that offered at unofficial exchange bureaus. Still, a little comparison shopping is worthwhile. Some hotels offer better-than-official rates, though only for cash, as do some stores, usually when you are making a big purchase.
Business Hours -- Even Greeks get confused by their complicated, changeable business hours. In winter, shops are generally open Monday and Wednesday from 9am to 5pm; Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10am to 7pm; and Saturday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. In summer, shops are generally open Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 8am to 3pm; and Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8am to 2pm and 5:30 to 10pm. Most stores in central Athens, though, remain open all day.
Department stores and supermarkets are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 6pm Saturday.
Dentists & Doctors -- Embassies may have lists of dentists and doctors. Some English-speaking physicians advertise in the daily Athens News.
Embassies & Consulates -- Australia, Level 6, Thon Building, corner Kiffisias & Alexandras, Ambelokipi (tel. 210/870-4000; www.greece.embassy.gov.au); Canada, 4 Ioannou Yenadiou (tel. 210/727-3400 or 210/725-4011; www.greece.gc.ca); Ireland, 7 Vas. Konstantinou (tel. 210/723-2771); New Zealand, 76 Kifissias Ave, Ambelokipi (tel. 210/692-4136); South Africa, 60 Kifissias, Maroussi (tel. 210/680-6645); United Kingdom, 1 Ploutarchou (tel. 210/723-6211; www.bhcc.gr); United States, 91 Leoforos Vas. Sofias (tel. 210/721-2951 or 210/729-4301 for emergencies; www.athens.usembassy.gov). Be sure to phone ahead before you go to any embassy; most keep limited hours and are usually closed on their own holidays as well as Greek ones. For a list of all embassies, log on to www.embassy-finder.com.
Emergencies -- In an emergency, dial tel. 100 for the police and tel. 171 for the tourist police. Dial tel. 199 to report a fire and tel. 166 for an ambulance and the hospital. Athens has a 24-hour line for foreigners, the Visitor Emergency Assistance at tel. 112 in English and French. If you need an English-speaking doctor or dentist, try SOS Doctor (tel. 1016 or 210/361-7089). There are two medical hot lines for foreigners: tel. 210/721-2951 (day) and 210/729-4301 (night) for U.S. citizens; and tel. 210/723-6211 (day) and 210/723-7727 (night) for British citizens. The English-language Athens News (published Fri) lists some American- and British-trained doctors and hospitals offering emergency services. Most of the larger hotels can call a doctor for you in an emergency.
KAT, the emergency hospital in Kifissia (tel. 210/801-4411 to -4419), and Asklepion Voulas, the emergency hospital in Voula (tel. 210/895-3416 to -3418), have emergency rooms open 24 hours a day. Evangelismos, a centrally located hospital below the Kolonaki district on 9 Vas. Sophias (tel. 210/722-0101), usually has English-speaking staff on duty. If you need medical attention fast, don't waste time trying to call these hospitals: Just go. They will see to you as soon as possible.
In addition, each major hospital takes its turn each day being on emergency duty. A recorded message in Greek at tel. 210/106 tells which hospital is open for emergency services and gives the telephone number.
Internet Access -- Internet cafes, where you can check and send e-mail, have proliferated in Athens almost as fast as cellphones. Most midrange to top-end hotels have at least an "Internet corner," but for a current list of Athenian cybercafes, check out www.athensinfoguide.com. Also, several Wi-Fi hot spots can be found across the city, such as Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square, Flisvos marina, and the Thission; the airport and several cafes also offer free Wi-Fi.
Lost & Found -- If you lose something on the street or on public transportation, it is probably gone for good. If you wish, contact the police's Lost and Found, 173 Leoforos Alexandras (tel. 210/642-1616), open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 3pm. For losses on the Metro, there is an office in Syntagma station (tel. 210/327-9630; www.amel.gr; Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat 8am-4pm). Lost passports and other documents may be returned by the police to the appropriate embassy, so check there as well. It's an excellent idea to travel with photocopies of your important documents, including passport, prescriptions, tickets, phone numbers, and addresses.
Luggage Storage & Lockers -- If you're coming back to stay, many hotels will store excess luggage while you travel. There are storage facilities at Athens International Airport, at the Metro stations in Piraeus and Monastiraki, and at the train stations.
Newspapers & Magazines -- The Athens News is published every Friday in English, with a weekend section listing events of interest; it's available at kiosks everywhere. Most central Athens newsstands also carry the International Herald Tribune, which has an English-language insert of highlights from the Greek daily Kathimerini, and USA Today. Local weeklies include the Hellenic Times, with entertainment listings, and Athinorama (in Greek), which has comprehensive listings of events. Athens Best Of (monthly) and Now in Athens (published every other month) have information on restaurants, shopping, museums, and galleries, and are available free in major hotels and sometimes from the Greek National Tourism Organization.
Pharmacies -- Pharmakia, identified by green crosses, are scattered throughout Athens. Hours are usually Monday through Friday, 8am to 2pm. In the evenings and on weekends, most are closed, but each posts a notice listing the location of pharmacies that are open or will open in an emergency. Newspapers such as the Athens News list the pharmacies open outside regular hours.
Police -- In an emergency, dial tel. 100. For help dealing with a troublesome taxi driver, hotel staff, restaurant staff, or shop owner, stand your ground and call the tourist police at tel. 171.
Post Offices -- The main post offices in central Athens are at 100 Eolou, south of Omonia Square; and in Syntagma Square, at the corner of 60 Mitropoleos. They are open Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 8pm, Saturday 7:30am to 2pm, and Sunday 9am to 1pm.
All post offices accept parcels, but the Parcel Post Office is at 4 Stadiou inside the arcade (tel. 210/322-8940). It's open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 8pm. It usually sells twine and cardboard shipping boxes. Parcels must remain open for inspection before you seal them at the post office.
You can receive correspondence in Athens c/o American Express, 2 Ermou, 10225 Athens, Greece (tel. 210/324-4975), near the southwest corner of Syntagma Square, open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm and Saturday from 8:30am to 1:30pm. If you have an American Express card or traveler's checks, the service is free; otherwise, each article costs 2€.
Restrooms -- There are public restrooms in the underground station beneath Omonia and Syntagma squares and beneath Kolonaki Square, but you'll probably prefer a hotel or restaurant restroom. (Toilet paper is often not available, so carry tissue with you. Do not flush paper down the commode; use the receptacle provided.)
Safety -- Athens is among the safest capitals in Europe, and there are few reports of violent crimes. Pickpocketing, however, is not uncommon, especially in the Plaka and Omonia Square areas, on the Metro and buses, and in Piraeus. Unfortunately, it is a good idea to be wary of Gypsy children and super-friendly strangers. When in the Metro, always place your valuables in your front pockets. We advise travelers to avoid the side streets of Omonia and Piraeus at night. As always, leave your passport and valuables in a security box at the hotel. Carry a photocopy of your passport, not the original.
Taxes -- A VAT (value-added tax) of between 4% and 18% is added onto everything you buy. Some shops will attempt to cheat you by quoting one price and then, when you hand over your credit card, they will add on a hefty VAT charge. Be wary. In theory, if you are not a member of a Common Market/E.U. country, you can get a refund on major purchases at the Athens airport when you leave Greece. In practice, you would have to arrive at the airport a day before your flight to get to the head of the line, do the paperwork, get a refund, and catch your flight.
Telephones -- Many of the city's public phones now accept only phone cards, available at the airport, newsstands, and the Telecommunications Organization of Greece (OTE) offices in several denominations, currently starting at 3€. Most OTE offices and Germanos stores (including the one in the airport) now sell cellphones and phone cards at reasonable prices; if you are in Greece for a month, you may find this a good option. Some kiosks still have metered phones; you pay what the meter records. North Americans can phone home directly by contacting AT&T (tel. 00/800-1311), MCI (tel. 00/800-1211), or Sprint (tel. 00/800-1411); calls can be collect or billed to your phone charge card. For reverse (collect) calls, dial 161. All visitors can call home (beware of hotel surcharges if you decide to call from your hotel room) by first dialing the International Direct Dial Code, 00, followed by the country's code (U.S.: 1, UK: 0044, Canada: 011, Ireland: 353, Australia: 61, New Zealand: 64), the area code, and then the number. You can send a telegram or fax from OTE offices. The OTE office at 15 Stadiou, near Syntagma, is open 24 hours a day. The Omonia Square OTE, at 50 Athinas, and the Victoria Square OTE, at 85 Patission, are open Monday through Friday 7am to 9pm, Saturday 9am to 3pm, and Sunday 9am to 2pm. Outside Athens, most OTEs are closed on weekends.
Tipping -- Athenian restaurants include a service charge in the bill, but many visitors add a 10% tip. Most Greeks do not give a percentage tip to taxi drivers, but often round up the fare; for example, you would round up a fare of 2.80€ to 3€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.