Products you can buy at home, but which are (usually) fresh in Greece, include olive oil, fruit (watermelon, melon, peaches, grapes, strawberries, etc.), feta cheese and some local breads and sweets. As for drinks, “retsina” and “tsipouro” are also local, but the former has a special taste and the latter is very strong, like “ouzo” and “raki”. Do not mix these four drinks with other drinks when you buy them for home. It’s nice to buy small statues and miniatures of ancient Greek art, but look for the cheap ones in the various shops – you can almost always find them for half price. Shops aimed at tourists are always more expensive – a local you can trust might be a big help. Be sure to buy a sun hat if it’s summer, and sunscreen.
Costs in Greece
Prices are frightening compared to wages. Petrol will cost between €1.6 and €1.8/litre from May 2013. A pack of cigarettes costs about €3.5. A loaf of bread cost about €0.60-0.80. A coffee in a bar costs about 3-5 €, a bottle of beer in a small bar about 5 €, a glass of spirits about 7-8 €. You can buy water, cheese, milk, ham, fruit, soaps, health products etc. much cheaper in a supermarket like Aldi, but bread is cheaper in bakeries.
If you use public transport, the price is about €1 for each trip in the city and €5 or more for destinations outside Athens (for distances over 20-30 km). Buses and trains in the cities stop at night, so you will need a taxi. The minimum fare was €2.65 and €0.30/km, double at night and double also if your destination is outside the city limits. There is a €3 surcharge if you take a taxi from the airport – ask for the official card with the specific costs for luggage etc. that all taxis must have.
You can eat cheaply if you have “souvlaki” (pieces of pork or chicken) for €2 per chopstick, but usually one person needs two. Tavernas are much cheaper than restaurants for lunch or dinner – you can eat in a taverna for €12 to €20 per person. The main course usually costs €7 to €12, the salad €7, the Coke €2, the cover depending on the region. If you need clothes, a swimming costume or shoes, bags, T-shirts for tea, etc., the cheapest (but not the best) shops are the Chinese ones, which you can find in almost every part of the cities.
A cinema ticket costs about 8 euros per person, plus 5 to 8 euros for a drink or snack during the interval. The sea is usually free, but near Athens many cost 4 or 5 euros per person. On free beaches, you sometimes have to pay extra (if you want) to use the umbrella or other facilities. Tipping is usually increased by 10%, but if you have a coffee in a bar for €2, you should not leave €0.20 as this would be considered an insult. In this case, Greeks leave nothing or at least 0.40-0.50 for €2.
If you love Greece and decide to rent a flat, don’t say you are a tourist because they will ask you more – they will think you don’t know the prices. Find a Greek you trust and let them negotiate on your behalf. Greeks pay between 250 and 400 euros for a two-bedroom flat in middle-class areas, up to 700 euros in expensive areas (rare) or up to 180 euros (also rare) in areas where you don’t really want to live. Electricity costs about 60 to 100 euros per month. For a single person who does not work and runs the air conditioner or heater all day, uses the washing machine once a week, cooks every day and needs hot water every day, they will have to pay 80 to 100 euros per month.
Tap water costs about 7 to 10 euros per month. Internet and telephone at home cost about €25-40 per month. An acceptable pair of shoes, about €40 (although there are shoes that cost €15 or €300), trousers €20-80. A hairdresser costs €8-40, usually about €20 if you want to leave satisfied. If you cook at home, potatoes cost 1 to 2 €/kg, olive oil 4.5 to 6 €/litre, frying oil 4 €/litre, tomatoes 1 to 3 € (depending on the season), meat 5 to 12 €/kg, fresh fish 10 to 20 €/kg at the fish market (frozen meat and fish are much cheaper) and fruit (also depending on the season) 1 to 5 €.
Money in Greece
Greece uses the euro. It is one of the many European countries that use this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in all countries.
One euro is divided into 100 cents.
The official symbol of the euro is € and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
- Banknotes: The euro banknotes have the same design in all countries.
- Standard coins: All euro area countries issue coins that have a distinctive national design on one side and a common standard design on the other. The coins can be used in any euro area country, regardless of the design used (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
- Commemorative €2 coins: These differ from normal €2 coins only in their “national” side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country can produce a certain amount of these coins as part of its normal coin production, and sometimes “European” 2-euro coins are produced to commemorate special events (e.g. anniversaries of important treaties).
- Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins with other amounts (e.g. ten euros or more) are much rarer, have very special designs and often contain significant amounts of gold, silver or platinum. Although they are technically legal tender at face value, their material or collector’s value is usually much higher and therefore you are unlikely to find them in circulation.
The euro replaced the drachma in January 2002.
Currency exchange is common, especially in big cities and in all tourist areas. They accept travellers’ cheques as well as hard currency. ATMs are also available in some parts of the country, especially at Athens airport. Most banks also exchange euros for certain currencies – such as the US dollar and the pound sterling – often at cheaper rates than those offered by bureaux de change. The banks’ fees for these exchanges are usually structured so that exchanging large amounts of money is cheaper than exchanging small amounts. As a rule, only large hotels with an international standard exchange money for their guests.
The branches of the Greek bank Alphabank exchange Euro American Express Euro Travellers Cheques and US Dollar American Express Travellers Cheques into Euro at the usual bank rates, without fees or commissions.
When you change money in large amounts at a bank or exchange office, it is advisable to ask for smaller notes and nothing larger than a €50 note. Many shops are reluctant to accept notes over €50, partly because of the scarcity of change and partly because large notes have been counterfeited in the past.
You can get better exchange rates by using credit cards and ATM cards. MasterCard, Visa and Eurocard are widely accepted throughout the country in retail outlets, hotels and travel and transport agencies (including ferry companies, airlines and car rental agencies), but not in some restaurants. Local gift shops usually require a minimum purchase before you can use your card, and may not accept it for special sales or heavily discounted items. ATMs are available almost everywhere, with MasterCard/Cirrus and Visa/Plus most commonly accepted. Many ATMs do not accept 5-digit PIN codes; users of 5-digit cards are advised to change their PIN to a 4-digit code before leaving.
VAT is charged on most items and is usually included in the price of the item, but some shops offer non-EU residents a ‘duty-free’ purchase. This means that non-EU citizens can claim a VAT refund at their port of departure in the EU. Ask for your voucher before you leave the shop and present it with your items to the customs officer when you leave the EU.
Tipping in Greece
In Greece, it is not customary to tip in restaurants. Rounding the bill worked both ways: If the bill was 41.20, you asked for 41 or even 40; if it was 28.80, you gave 29 or 30. A tip was considered an insult, and the best way to show your appreciation was to come back. In tourist areas, this practice has almost completely disappeared today, but off the beaten track it is still alive.
Tipping is certainly not based on a set percentage. Customers usually leave a tip on the table that ranges from a few coins to large amounts of money, depending on their satisfaction with the service, but usually something like 1-2€. Tipping taxi drivers is rare.
Bargaining in Greece
You can haggle for many things, e.g. clothes, souvenirs, etc. You can also try different places for what you want to buy and see the different prices at which the particular item is sold and choose the cheapest one.