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Buying a SIM Card in Greece

In Get Connected by Dave Dean20 Comments


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Greece has been hit hard by economic crisis in the last few years, but with thousands of years of history, exceptional weather and great food, it still offers visitors an experience that’s hard to beat.

In this land of grilled meat and feta cheese, staying connected is almost as easy as putting on weight. SIM cards are easy to purchase, and costs (at least for data) are low.

Here’s the lowdown.

Note: Greece is part of the European Union, which introduced new roaming regulations in June 2017. These “roam like at home” rules effectively ended roaming charges across much of Europe, meaning you’ll usually pay no more for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries than you would in the country of purchase.

There are some exceptions and limits, however, so be sure to double-check the details at time of purchase if you’re planning to use your SIM elsewhere in the region.

Companies


  • We recommend Vodafone for most travellers

There are three cell networks in Greece, operated by Cosmote, Vodafone and Wind. Various resellers also offer service on one of those three networks.

Cosmote has the widest coverage and fastest data speeds, while Wind offers low prices in a small coverage area. Vodafone is somewhere in the middle on speed, coverage, and price.

I was sticking to the western side of Greece on this trip, initially on Corfu, and then on and between smaller islands further south in the Ionian Sea during a week-long sailing trip. After checking the coverage map and availability of stores to purchase the SIM and credit, I went with Vodafone.

How


Buying a Vodafone SIM and getting service was very straightforward, at least on Corfu. You’ll likely have a similar experience anywhere in Greece that sees enough tourism for English to be widely spoken.

There are a couple of Vodafone stores close to each other in the downtown part of Corfu Town, and I visited the one beside San Rocco square. It’s a small store, but given its location, sees plenty of tourists.

The staff member asked what I wanted, and offered a few options for my two week stay in the country. The SIM cards came as a regular/micro combination card, but she was happy to cut it down to the nano size I needed at no extra charge.

Note you’ll need your passport to buy a SIM from a Vodafone store, and the staff will take a photocopy of it. As soon as I’d finished swapping SIM cards, I received a few text messages from Vodafone, and data started working immediately afterwards.

Vodafone store, Corfu

 

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Costs


The SIM card itself costs five euros (with no credit), and you’ll need to top it up with a minimum of  €10 before you can use it.

The default package has 300 minutes of calls and 500MB of data, valid for a month, which costs €8.50.

Top-up vouchers come in €10, €15, €20, and €30 varieties, and a 12% tax is charged on them, which means that your (eg) €10 top-up will only add €8.93 to your balance.

Confused yet?

If you need more data — and many people will, if they’re staying in the country any length of time — you have a few options:

  • 700MB valid for a month, for €7
  • 1GB valid for a day, for €1
  • 3GB valid for a weekend, for €2
  • 10GB valid at night (20:00 to 8:00) for a month, for €6

So, if you can make do with 1.2GB of data during your stay, you’ll pay a total of €25 (the SIM card itself, and a €20 top-up to pay for the default calls and data package, plus the extra 700MB of data).

If you’d prefer to mix and match the various daily, weekend, or night-time data packages instead, I’d suggest adding enough credit to cover your expected needs at time of purchase, and then activate the packages as needed, either on the website, via the My Vodafone app, or by calling 1252.

No matter what you do, the standard rates aren’t particularly competitive by European standards. It’s well worth asking about any current promotions before you start — these can sometimes offer much better value, especially for heavier data users.

Topping Up


You can buy top-ups at any Vodafone store (store locator here), as well as thousands of kiosks, service stations and supermarkets across the country.

 

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Coverage and Data Speeds


While there are a few parts of Greece where you’ll see 4G/LTE service with Vodafone, they’re predominantly in the major cities. While you may happen to find it elsewhere on both the mainland and islands, don’t count on it.

Coverage and speed was surprisingly variable on Greece’s western coast. Despite having the largest population, Corfu Town had the worst reception and speed. In much of the old town, I only got 2G (EDGE) service, with the barely-usable speeds that go with that.

Even when I did get 3G service, though, download speeds were under 1Mbps, and uploads weren’t much better. It was just fast enough to be useful, but no more.

Further down the coast, things improved dramatically. On the mainland, and while sailing between Lefkada, Ithaca, Meganisi, and other islands, I had reliable 3G service and good speeds whenever I checked. Only rarely would it drop back to 2G, and I never lost signal anywhere.

Vodafone speed test, Greece

Vodafone 3G speed in western Greece

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

Buying a SIM card in Greece is easy, and you won't pay much to stay connected during your time in the country. Here's what you need to know.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Often it is cheaper to buy sim cards from MVNO operators. They have lower prices for mobile plans with the same coverage as their real operators, but sometime lesser speed. If you don’t need 4G in Greece, I would advise Tazamobile that is a MVNO on Vodafone network in 2G and 3G.
    They have a 4GB pack for only $5 for 30 days. And now they offer a tourist mega pack – 7 GB, 120 min national and international calls for only $ 22 valid for 30 days.

    1. Author

      As with many resellers (MVNOs), Tazamobile has cheaper prices, but is less convenient for travelers to buy (actual stores are hard to find, with SIMs and top-ups mostly sold in small kiosks where technical knowledge and levels of English spoken tend to be lower). If the lowest price is most important, it’s worth considering, but otherwise, since it’s the same physical network anyway, I’d stick with Vodafone.

    1. Author

      Yes, they can. There’s now free roaming across the EU as well, at least if you’re an EU resident (and quite possibly even if you aren’t). More on that here.

  2. Is there any possibility to buy the SIM card in the airport, and how
    Much time does it need to activate the internet coz I am planning to use the google map instead of gps

    1. Author

      Without knowing which airport you’re referring to, I can’t answer that. Activation was pretty much instant.

      1. Can you buy a Vodafone SIM card from Athens International airport? do they have a Vodafone shop at the airport? Or can I buy the SIM Card from other shops there?

        Very helpful post. Thank you so much.

      2. Author

        The Vodafone store locator for Athens (prefecture: Attica, region: Athens) suggests the company doesn’t have a shop at the airport. I don’t know for sure whether you can buy it from other airport stores, but have seen a few mentions of being able to buy a SIM (either Vodafone or Cosmote) at the post office in the arrivals area. If that turns out not to be the case, you’ll need to buy it once you get into the city.

  3. Hi Dave,
    I’m traveling to Corfu for 10 days (to a small town called Arillas). Do you think it’s a good idea to use Vodaphone? Or maybe a different company like Cosmote?

    Thanks,
    Eyal

    1. Author

      Given the poor data service I had in Corfu (especially Corfu Town), you may well find Cosmote is better there than Vodafone. I didn’t buy a Cosmote SIM, though, so can’t tell you from first hand experience.

    1. Author

      The Vodafone store locator I linked to above only shows a store in the old town, but whether you can buy a SIM from a different provider at the airport, I don’t know, sorry.

  4. In Greece now and I asked one of those small Bangladesh shops, nice of them to tell me where to go. I got Cosmote for €5 with 100mins of call to other cell companies and 300mins to Cosmote. Plus 4GB data. What a steal! But be aware to try the sim in the spot coz the first one he gave me didn’t work… after going back to the shop, it took him some time to find the perfect sim that actually works.

  5. Hi Dave
    We are Kiwis going to Europe in June. I am starting the trip in Croatia and my husband in the UK.
    We will be travelling between countries quite a bit and will be in Europe for 12 months.

    Ideally, I would like the same phone number for the whole trip. I understand a sim bought in one country now works throughout Europe.

    Should I just buy a sim card in Croatia and then keep topping up via the Croatian provider’s website? Could my husband buy a SIM card for me in the UK (I read that 3 is the best provider in the UK but you need a UK credit card to top up!) Do you have another suggestion?
    Thanks Toni

    1. Author

      Hi Toni,

      Be sure to check out the article I linked at the top of this (and all other SIM card posts for EU countries), where I give more detail on the ‘roam like at home’ laws in the EU. Note that it applies only in the EU, not all of Europe.

      There are caveats you need to be aware of, particularly around how long you can use a given SIM outside the country of purchase. In short, don’t expect to use one for a year as you roam all over the continent unless you spend significant time in the country of purchase as well.

      You’ll probably have more luck using a Croatian SIM for a few months than a UK one, due to the issues you mention with international credit cards. Check out our Croatia SIM post for details, but our writer was able to use her Spanish credit card to top up without issue on the provider’s website. You will want to check with the vendor that your (presumably) New Zealand card will also work in the same way, but it at least seems more likely.

  6. HI, I’ve just been told that there’s now a law that to buy a sim card in Greece you need a Greek address and a tax number. Is this correct? In the past I’ve always bought a sim there and just needed my passport.

  7. I was wondering, if I bring my Samsung S7 from Canada and purchase this temporary sim card, will it reset my phone to factory settings?? It happens here when we swap sim cards, not sure if the same thing happens with those temp sim cards.

    1. Author

      Installing a new SIM card should never reset a phone to factory settings. About the only thing I can think it could do is change your existing APN settings (if you have any), which you’d then need to re-add when you put your old SIM back in again.

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