Travel Money Guide: Greece
Save on unnecessary travel fees before jetting off to Greece.
The country needs little introduction, but there are a million reasons to travel to Greece. It’s the very cradle of Western civilisation, offering mouth-watering food and best of all, a fantastic climate.
But since the euro crisis, the country’s economic instability has left many travellers uncertain about the best way to take money there.
While things have appeared more stable recently, we’ve put together a handy guide to answer all the questions you might have.
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How many euros do I need to take to Greece?
Travellers frequently look for advice and estimates about the cost of a holiday in Greece, or want to know how much money they should take. The answer is relative. A holiday here can be very expensive if you’re in the mood for indulgence, but it can also be a great budget destination if you know how to do it.
Tips for saving money
- Buying gyros on the street will keep your tummy full, your spirits high and set you back about £2-£3. Bargain!
- Eat out at traditional Greek restaurants for around £20-£25 for a meal for two, and two glasses of wine.
- Walk around the fascinating ruins, wander through seaside towns and lounge on the beach. It’s free!
- If you’re keen for some island hopping, explore Greece by buying a ferry ticket for £15-£45, depending on the length of the journey.
- You can also cut the costs by staying in one of Greece’s many hostels, targeted towards young travellers on a budget. Prices vary depending on the season, and of course the location, but expect around £12 for a dorm bed per night.
- Some of the warmest hospitality you will find in Greece exists in the homely, cosy and authentic tavernas and low-cost hotels. Costs will depend on the season and location but the price for a room is generally around £25 to £75 per night.
While there is no limit to the amount of cash you can bring into Greece, you must declare anything over 10,000 euros. Traveller’s cheques, bank bills, personal cheques and money orders are all considered ‘cash’. There are restrictions on the amount of money you can take out, but the majority of people don’t need to worry about this limit.
Exchanging cash at Greek banks
Banks tend to have the best exchange rates and are open from 9am to 2pm. Come prepared for a wait though; long lines are a frequent occurrence here. Automatic foreign exchange machines are also a common feature in tourist centres, which offer a convenient and wait-free way to change your cash. But be advised: they charge a sizeable commission.
Exchange rate history
Greece has been through a period of instability as a result of the economic crisis, with fluctuations in deflation and inflation. The price of goods and services relative to the value of the currency is likely to change marginally in the future as the economy corrects itself. Brexit may also be having an effect on exchange rates and prices, so make sure you’re aware of what costs what.
|Year||Average annual exchange British Pounds (GBP) to Euro (EUR)|
Travel card, debit card or credit card?
Greece is a European Union member, and euros have been the official currency used since 2001. All travel cards will allow you to load and spend using euros. The advantage of a travel card is you avoid the fee for international transactions.
However, some debit cards and credit cards give you this feature too. If you’ve booked a holiday on a particular island that is a little more off the map, do a quick search before you go to see if it has an ATM. It will be a tiring first day if you need to take a boat back to the mainland so you can pay for your hotel or apartment.
Most digital banking apps, which are a great option owing to very low transaction and withdrawal fees, come with either a Visa or Mastercard bank card. They work as normal bank accounts do, so the “topping up” process simply consists of transferring money into the account.
How each travel money option works in Greece
You can pay your way in Greece a few different ways, so start comparing some of the options available on the UK market to find the right combination for you:
Using a prepaid travel card
Travel cards allow you to load British Pounds, and then transfer them to euros to spend in Greece. You can avoid currency conversion fees for purchases and ATM withdrawals, just watch out for reload fees and ATM fees (some travel cards waive these fees).
Travel money cards make sense in a place like Europe. With so many countries so close together all using the same currency, a travel card gives you the freedom to explore Greece and the rest of the European continent without needing to change currency.
Using a debit card
When you choose a debit card, currency conversion fees and foreign ATM transaction fees should be among the features you compare. Barclays will charge a 2.75% non-sterling transaction fee, Lloyd’s will charge a 2.99% non-sterling fee on cash withdrawals and purchases, and NatWest/RBS will charge a fee of 3% (minimum £3).
In the case that you find yourself needing to use a debit card abroad, it’s worth checking if your bank is part of the Global Alliance, a group of banks with an agreement to give customers a cheaper way to withdraw money abroad.
Using a credit card
Look out for cards that don’t charge a currency conversion fee. If you only use your credit card to pay for over the counter purchases, use another type of card (debit or travel) to withdraw money from the ATM — cash withdrawals on credit are a quick way to end up in debt. If you pay your balance off each month to take advantage of interest-free days, credit cards can be a great travel money option for Greece.
Some credit cards give you complimentary travel and purchase protection insurance when you meet conditions too. A credit card is also a good idea to have as a backup for large or emergency purchases.
Using traveller’s cheques
Don’t worry about traveller’s cheques, the days of carrying a physical cheque are pretty much done. Credit, debit and travel card providers all give you a money back guarantee if you’ve genuinely been the victim of card fraud, such as skimming, and there are fewer places than ever where you can actually cash your cheques anyway.
Paying with cash in Greece
Greece is a nation of a thousand islands famous for history, hedonism, nature and nightlife. Given the current economic climate, take heed of the following:
ATMs running dry
Reports during the peak tourist season of ATMs running out of cash at the weekend, and not being restocked until mid-week, are common.
- Always have an emergency supply of cash with you in Greece, and a back-up card you can use over the counter in case.
- Don’t be afraid to try the ATMs that don’t have signs written in English. Often, especially during tourist season, ATMs with English signs will run out of money first, and, even if the machine is in Greek, when you insert a foreign card, the ATM display will usually pop up in English.
- Tip: Whether genuine or not, vendors in small shops that cater to tourists seemingly never have any change. If you are planning to purchase little souvenirs, presents or other bits and pieces, it’s better to take a collection of smaller denominations with you to avoid the ‘no-change situation’. You can change larger notes at banks, although even banks will sometimes be less than gracious about changing 500 euro notes.
Things to consider before travelling to Greece
- UK credit cards, debit cards and travel cards will work in Greece. The government has assured travellers capital control measures do not apply to transactions made with a debit or credit product issued in the UK.
- ATMs may be short of cash. It’s advised to take cash from the UK (pounds or euros) so you don’t run out.
- Take a combination of travel money options to Greece. A combination of cash, credit, debit or travel cards is the best approach.
Buying euros in the UK
Economic uncertainty is the word in Greece at the moment. Euros in your pocket when you land can give you peace of mind for the start of your trip. Your bank will be able to give you euros in cash, but have a look at our travel money providers to get the most competitive rates before buying your money.
Why you need a combination of travel money options
A combination of travel money products is the best way to finance your Greek trip, especially since there may be times when you can’t get cash from an ATM. If this is the case, you’ll need to rely on making over the counter purchases — a no currency conversion card is best in this situation.
If you want to avoid paying ridiculous charges, never use your credit card at an ATM to get cash. This is a cash advance and there are fees and immediate interest charges to think about.
Moreover, if you want to avoid charges altogether then you should definitely consider using a digital banking app, such as Starling, Revolut or N26. These apps offer zero fees on transactions and withdrawals in most if not all currencies, and can be managed easily from your phone. Not only can you save on the hassle of incurring charges, but you can also save yourself the stress of getting travel money. If you do choose this option, though, try not to misplace your phone.
Greece is a magical destination with much to discover for any kind of traveller. If you are planning a trip there, do some research, have a think about what kind of trip you would like and choose a travel money product that suits you.
We recommend taking multiple cards to give yourself peace of mind. Just a travel card or credit card often won’t cut it, so make sure you have a variety of options available to make the most of your trip.
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