The question of money comes up frequently on travel forums and in emails I received from guests, and it bears repeating now since it has been awhile since I’ve written anything about it, and we’ve recently had a guest experience the worst side of the money issue:
Although credit cards are now widely accepted in Athens, Greece at middle to upper end hotels, large supermarkets, superstores, even many higher end clothing stores and restaurants, they are frowned upon in tourist shops that do have signs saying they accept them (don’t try to bargain the shopowner down on a purchase and then pull out a credit card) and still rarely used in cafes and smaller restaurants, particularly places frequented by locals.
In short, even if your trip is prepaid, you will need cash to explore Athens – visit the archeological sites, enjoy a tiropita and coffee on Syntagma Square, eat a gyros and barter for a Greek fisherman’s sweather in the Plaka.
Rules about money in Greece:
- Do not bring dollars (US, Canadian, Aussie or any other kind) to Greece, no one wants them.
- Do not bring travelers checks to Greece, no one wants them.
What to do about money while traveling in Greece?
You could order euro from your bank at home, but in my experience this will be the worst exchange rate. I bank at both Citibank US and Citibank Hellas, and I am shocked everytime I do a “free” international wire transfer between my two accounts. The rate I get is worse than the currency exchange at the Athens International Airport. In recent years I’ve turned to Commenwealth Foreign Exchange, which gives me a much better rate, but this might be an extreme option if you are only looking for enough euro to use during your Greek or European vacation (I am constantly bringing money to pay bills …)
So, since getting euro from your bank at home will give you the worse rate, the only other option is to wait until you arrive in Europe and get euro on this side of the pond.
I recommend that you bring your ATM debit card and get money from the numerous ATM machines that work just fine with the various international networks. This starts right at the Athens airport, where you will find several ATMS in the Arrivals Terminal, where you can grab your first stash of euro. (Since many bank ATMs charge a flat fee for use, I do recommend that you take out your maximum daily limit, and store this in a handy under your clothes money belt.)
If you disregarded rule number 1 above, and find yourself wandering from bank to bank being told that they only exchange dollars for customers – you can visit the currency exchanges around Syntagma Square and they will, for a very generous fee, exchange your greenbacks to euro.
If you ignored rule number 2 above and find yourself with travelers checks, I don’t have any good advice, other than I hope you also brought a debit card. Store your travelers checks somewhere safe and redeposit them in your bank when you get home.