Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency (the euro). However, rates fluctuate, so before you leave, check a website like www.oanda.com/currency/converter online for the latest rates The currency in Greece is the euro (pronounced evro in Greek), abbreviated "eu" and symbolized by €. (If you still own the old drachmas, it is no longer possible to exchange them.)
The euro comes in seven paper notes and eight coins. The notes are in different sizes and colors. They are in the following denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500. (Considering that each euro is worth over $1, those last bills are quite pricey!) Six of the coins are officially "cents" -- but in Greece they have become referred to as lepta, the old Greek name for sums smaller than the drachma. They come in different sizes and their value is 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50. There are also 1€ and 2€ coins. Although one side of the coins differs in each of the member E.U. nations, all coins and bills are legal tender in all countries using the euro.
Warning: The 1€ and 2€ coins look similar to a 1 lira Turkish coin -- worth less than half the 1€, so count your change carefully.
It's a good idea to exchange at least some money -- enough to cover airport incidentals and transportation to your hotel -- before you leave, so you can avoid lines at airport ATMs. You can exchange money at your local American Express or Thomas Cook office or at some banks.
For many decades after World War II, Greece was one of the great bargain destinations for tourists. But since the 1990s, it can no longer be described this way. It may not be in the category of London or New York or Paris or Tokyo, but in the major cities and hot spots, hotels are no longer bargains and the upscale restaurants are comparable to restaurants in most other developed countries. Admission to major museums and archaeological sites is comparable to fees in other major cities. Flights within Greece are expensive, as are car rentals -- especially in high season. But it is still possible to have a reasonably modest holiday in Greece. You can start by visiting outside the high season -- July and August. Pick midprice hotels and restaurants -- and make sure breakfast is included in your hotel price. Look for deals on car rentals. Fly off-peak hours, and avoid expensive services such as spas or purchases such as jewelry. As noted frequently throughout this guide, the current economic flux in Greece may lead to discounted rates at hotels and restaurants -- it's always worth asking.
For help with conversions, tip calculations, and more, download Frommer's Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
In commercial centers, airports, all cities and larger towns, and most tourist centers, you will find at least a couple of machines accepting a wide range of cards. Smaller towns will often have only one ATM -- and it may not accept your card. Commercial Bank (Emboriki Trapeza) services PLUS and Visa; Credit Bank (Trapeza Pisteos) and AlphaBank accept Visa and American Express; National Bank (Ethiniki Trapeza) takes Cirrus and MasterCard/Access.
But for all the prevalence of ATMs, you should keep at least some actual cash on you for those occasions when all the ATMs you can locate are out of order or out of cash. Keep enough euros or your own currency to get you through at least 24 hours.
Note: Greek ATMs accept only a four-digit PIN -- you must change yours before you go. And since Greek ATMs use only numeric PINs (personal identification numbers), before you set off for Greece be sure you know how to convert letters to numerals as the alphabet will be in Greek.
In Greece, Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards. Diners Club is less widely accepted. And American Express is still less frequently accepted because it charges a higher commission and is more protective of the cardholder in disagreements.
Three Warnings about Debit & Credit Cards -- As part of banks' and credit card companies' increasing concern about fraud, it is our experience that they are apt to deny your cards if you go to use them too far out of your normal circuit of use. It's a wise idea to contact your cards' customer service department by phone and inform them of your travel plans.
Meanwhile, perhaps you have been reading about the new Chip-and-PIN (aka "Smart Cards") credit cards that are being introduced throughout much of the world. Unlike the long-standard credit cards that have only a magnetic strip, these have a small chip embedded in them and then require the user to enter a PIN. The European Union has required all its member nations to introduce these, but as of this writing, most American issuers of credit cards have not adopted them. This means that Americans abroad may face a problem when presenting their standard magnetic strip cards: some places may claim that they are no longer acceptable. In fact, they are: If the individual rejecting your card doesn't know this, he must punch in your card number manually -- and you must provide them with that card's PIN. So, if you do not know your card's PIN, you must call your card issuer and obtain one (for MasterCard, call tel. 800/622-7747; for Visa, tel. 800/857-2911). Allow some time for this as it may involve sending mail from and back to the issuer. Note: This problem does not arise if you are using a card as a debit card, which already requires its PIN.
Credit cards are accepted throughout Greece in the better hotels and at most shops. But even many of the better restaurants in major cities do not accept credit cards, and certainly most restaurants and many smaller hotels in Greece do not. Some hotels that require a credit card number when you make advance reservations will demand payment in cash; inquire beforehand if this will be the case.
Beware of hidden credit card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use their cards while out of the country. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.
What Things Cost in Athens
Taxi from the airport to downtown Athens 35-50€
Double room, moderate 90-110€
Double room, inexpensive 65-85€
Three-course dinner for one without wine, moderate 12-20€
Bottle of beer 2.50-4€
Cup of coffee 1.50-3.50€
1 gallon/1 liter of gas 6.70/1.75€
Admission to museums and archaeological sites 2-12€
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.