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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.
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.
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.
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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:
- 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.
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.