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Greece has been hit hard by economic crisis in recent 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 are reasonably low.
Here’s the lowdown.
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 to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Greece
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, it sees plenty of tourists.
The staff member asked what I wanted, and offered a few options for my two-week stay in the country. 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 afterward. The entire process took less than five minutes.
Prepaid SIM 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.
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:
- 3GB valid for a month, for €10
- 4GB valid for a week, for €5
- 1GB valid for a day, for €1
- 5GB valid for a weekend, for €3
- 12GB valid at night (00:00 to 8:00) for a month, for €7
So, if you’re there for a month and can make do with 3.5GB of data during your stay, you’ll pay a total of €30. That’s the SIM card itself, plus €25 worth of credit to pay for the default calls and data package and the extra 3GB 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. After that, activate the various 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 worth asking about current promotions before you start — these can offer much better value, especially for heavier data users.
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 several parts of Greece where you’ll see 4G/LTE service with Vodafone, they’re predominantly in the major cities. You may happen to find it elsewhere on both the mainland and islands, but don’t count on it.
Coverage and speed were 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 better service, though, speeds were still quite slow. It was just fast enough to be useable, 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 HSPA+ service and generally good speeds whenever I checked. I’d occasionally get LTE, and rarely saw it drop back to 2G, but never lost signal anywhere.
Greece is part of the European Union, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.
There are some exceptions and limits, however, especially with large data packages. Double-check the exact details at time of purchase.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.