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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.