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Buying a SIM Card in Greece

In Get Connected by Dave Dean11 Comments

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.

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, using one of the above 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 package options for my two week stay in the country. The SIM cards come 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 cost five euros, with no credit. 4GB of data valid for a month cost another five euros, and a promotional offer added an extra gigabyte for free. That’s great value anywhere in Europe.

Calls and texts, though, weren’t so cheap. I had the option of buying 100 texts for five euros, or 60 minutes of calls for the same amount, but in the end just loaded a few extra euros of credit to use as I liked. The casual rate for local calls and texts is a high 0.50 euros per text or minute, but I barely needed to use either.

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. Anywhere else, don’t expect anything more than 3G.

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 wanderer for nearly 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. So it would have been helpful if you had also written the NAME of the sim card deal you got there instead of a generic “The SIM card itself cost five euros…” THEN one could have checked on the vodafone website if that (pretty good) deal would still be available a couple of months later.

    1. Author

      If it had a name, I wasn’t told it. That’s why I didn’t mention it. If you’re looking on the Vodafone site anyway, I’m not sure that knowing the name of a package from nine months ago really helps you find out whether a good deal is available now.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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