Until the late 1990s in Greece, most foreigners went to the offices of the Telecommunications Organization of Greece (OTE, pronounced oh-tay, or Organismos Tilepikinonion tis Ellados) to place most of their phone calls, especially overseas. But because phone cards are now so widespread throughout Greece, this is no longer necessary, once you get the hang of using them. You must first purchase a phone card at an OTE office or at most kiosks. (If you expect to make any phone calls while in Greece, buy one at the airport's OTE office upon arrival.) The cards come in various denominations, from 3€ to 25€. The more costly the card, the cheaper the units. The cost of a call with a phone card varies greatly depending on local, domestic, and international rates. A local call of up to 3 minutes to a fixed phone costs about .10€, which is three units from a phone card; for each minute beyond that, it costs another .06€, or two units off the card (so that a 10-min. local call costs 17 units, or .52€). All calls, even to the house next door, cost Greeks something, so if you use someone's telephone even for a local call, offer to pay the charges.
In larger cities and larger towns, kiosks have telephones from which you can make local calls for .10€ for 3 minutes. (In remote areas, you can make long-distance calls from these phones.) A few of the older public pay phones that required coins are still around, but it's better to buy a phone card. If you must use an older pay phone, deposit the required coin and listen for a dial tone, an irregular beep. A regular beep indicates that the line is busy.
Note: All phone numbers in Greece are 10 digits long, including the area code; the area code may range from 3 to 5 digits, and the number itself may range from 5 to 8 digits, but the total will always be 10. All (except for cellphones) also precede the city/area code with a 2 and end that with a 0. For example, since the Athens city code was originally 1, it is now 210, followed by a seven-digit number, but most other numbers in Greece are six digits with a four-digit area code. In all cases, even if you are calling someone in the same building, you must dial all 10 digits.
Calling a cellphone (mobile) in Greece requires substituting a 6 for the 2 that precedes the area code.
Long-distance calls, both domestic and international, can be quite expensive in Greece, especially at hotels, which may add a surcharge of up to 100%, unless you have a telephone credit card from a major long-distance provider such as AT&T, MCI, or Sprint. But if possible, avoid making long-distance calls from a hotel.
If you prefer to make your call from an OTE office, these are centrally located in all decent-sized cities. At OTE offices, a clerk will assign you a booth with a metered phone. You can pay with a phone card, international credit card, or cash. Collect calls take much longer.
To Call Greece from the United States, Canada, U.K., Australia, or New Zealand:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S or Canada.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia
2. Dial the country code: 30
3. Dial the city code (three to five digits) and then the number. Note: All numbers in Greece must have 10 digits, including the city code.
To Make International Calls from Within Greece -- The easiest and cheapest way is to call your long-distance service provider before leaving home to determine the access number that you must dial in Greece. The principal access codes in Greece are: AT&T, tel. 00800-1311; MCI, tel. 00800-1211; and Sprint, tel. 00800-1411.
If you use the Greek phone system to make a direct call abroad -- whether using an OTE office, a phone that takes cards, or a phone that takes coins -- dial the country code plus the area code (omitting the initial zero, if any), then dial the number. Some country codes are: Australia, 0061; Canada, 001; Ireland, 00353; New Zealand, 0064; United Kingdom, 0044; and United States, 001. Thus, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 001-202-588-7800.
Note that if you are going to put all the charges on your phone card (that is, not on your long-distance provider), you will be charged at a high rate per minute (at least 3€ to North America), so you should not make a call unless your phone card's remaining value can cover it.
For Operator Assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial tel. 139 if you're trying to make an international call and tel. 169 if you want to call a number in Greece.
Toll-Free Numbers: Numbers beginning with 080 within Greece are toll-free, but calling a 800 number in the States from Greece is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.
Rechargeable Phone Cards: One of the newest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make calls while abroad is to sign on for a phone card that can be used in most countries and can be recharged (that is, money and therefore minutes added from your charge card account). To learn more about this card and its various other feature, see www.ekit.com.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe -- including Greece -- and indeed most countries around the world. In the U.S., T-Mobile, and AT&T Wireless, use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and most Australians use GSM.
GSM phones function with a removable plastic SIM card, encoded with your phone number and account information. But some phones are "locked" and must be unlocked; go to your phone's website and get information as to how to unlock your phone. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone such as many Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models, you can make and receive calls around much of the globe. Just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high -- usually $1 to $1.50 in Greece. But the reassuring point is that cellphone services are generally available wherever you go in Greece.
An alternative way if you intend to make many phone calls in Greece is to bring your unlocked cellphone to Greece and buy a SIM card in the national telephone office (OTE) center in major cities or a commercial phone store. These cards -- actually a tiny chip inserted into your phone -- cost about 20€ and include a Greek phone number and a number of prepaid minutes; when you have used up these minutes, you can purchase a phone card at a kiosk that gives you more minutes. But it must be said that any calls outside of Greece by this system are very expensive.
For many, renting a phone in Greece is a good idea. You can rent a phone from any number of places in Greece -- including kiosks at major airports, OTE offices, and cellphone stores. But if you expect to be abroad for more than a brief time, and/or to be visiting more than one country, buying a phone can make economic sense. Numerous companies now sell phones with a SIM card included and with a U.S. or U.K. phone number assigned to it -- so-called global roaming services that offer relatively cheap per minute rates for both outgoing and incoming calls: Typical would be 90¢ from Greece to the U.S. and 25¢ from the U.S. to Greece. (U.K. rates are much cheaper.) Google "global roaming SIM card" to compare various services and charges or look into www.cellularabroad.com.
You can buy a phone in Greece in either the national telephone office (OTE) in any decent-size city or a retail electronics store. If you take the cheapest package; you'll probably pay less than $100 for a phone and a starter calling card. Local calls may be as low as 10¢ per minute, and in many countries incoming calls are free.
Internet & Wi-Fi
Internet connection with or without Wi-Fi is now available virtually anywhere a visitor is apt to be. Some hotels do charge for either or both services (and this will be indicated at each appropriate listing). To find cybercafes in your destination you might start by checking www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com. But frankly, these lists are by no means thorough or up-to-date when it comes to Greece. All decent-size cities now have Internet cafes in their centers; if you are having trouble finding one, ask a young person or a shop-owner.