Banks

Major international banking institutions, credit card companies and ATMs in and around Athens are plentiful and easy to access. Banks are open to the public Monday through Thursday 08:00 to 14:30 and Friday 08:00 to 14:00, except for public holidays. The “Open24” Bank (Eurobank) is open mornings and afternoons, as well as on Saturdays.

Foreign currency may be exchanged for euros at most Greek and foreign banks and at exchange bureaus located in the city center. Bring your passport when exchanging money as you will need it for the transaction. Traveler’s checks and credit cards issued by major companies are also widely recognized and an accepted means of purchasing items in Athens.

Cost of living

Athens is a city that offers numerous temptations as far as consumer products are concerned. Below you can check a list with indicative prices for a number of everyday products and services:

Museum tickets 4-12 Euros
Theater tickets from 20 Euros
Cinema tickets 7-10 Euros
Sandwich from 2 Euros
Souvlaki from 1.80 Euros
Big bottle of water 1 Euro
Greek coffee “to go” from 1 Euro
Cappuccino coffee at a café 3,5-5 Euros
A refreshment at a kiosk 0.70 Euros
Drink at a bar from 6 Euros
Full meal (starter, main dish, dessert, not including drinks) between 20-40 Euros
1, 5 hour ticket for all means of transport (metro, buses, trains) 1 euro

Duty Free Shopping

If you come from a country outside the European Union and spend a minimum of €120 on the same day in the same store, you can benefit from a tax refund. Ask for your invoice or receipt and the tax free receipt. Do not forget to stamp your invoices or receipts at the airport.

Exchange and Currency

Greece is numbered amongst the European Union member states participating in the single currency known as the euro, €, (evro in Greek). The multi-sized banknotes, depicting various styles of European architecture, come in values of € 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. The euro coin series is comprised of eight different values: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, €1 and €2. The euro coins have a common side and a national side indicating the issuing country.

Major international banking institutions, credit card companies and ATMs in and around Athens are plentiful and easy to access. Foreign currency may be exchanged for euros at most Greek and foreign banks and at exchange bureaus located in the city center. Bring your passport when exchanging money. You will need it for the transaction.

Traveller’s checks and credit cards issued by major companies are also widely recognized and an accepted way of purchasing items in Athens.

Hospitals

Many public hospitals and a few private ones operate in Athens. The public hospitals work on a rotation basis with regards to dealing with emergency incidents. To find out which hospitals are open for emergency incidents at a specific time, dial 14944. Treatment in public hospitals is free of charge.

Internet Access

There are a lot of internet cafés in Athens which are usually open all day long and are very reasonably priced. You can also use the public internet WiFi connections in Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square and Theseion (WiFi public hotspots).

Athens wifi is a wireless hotspot based on 802.11b/g (WiFi). You can easily connect to the internet while you are sitting on a bench or enjoying your coffee. The connection is free provided that you chose the wireless network (SSID) athenswifi and type the number which appears on your screen. The speed of the connection is fast enough and the capacity is 4Mbps.

Language

While Greek is the main language used in Athens, most Athenians speak English and those in the tourist industry are likely to speak French and German too. Notices, menus and road signs are written in both English and Greek. It is always fun, of course, to try and communicate in Greek. Why not give it a try?

The Greek language has influenced hundreds of languages in the world including 12% of the English vocabulary. The Greek language is also the basis for thousands of terms used in science, mathematics and technology.

The conquests of Alexander the Great (approximately 336-323 B.C.) lead to the spread of the Greek language and culture to the native peoples of the East who adopted it as a second language. Known as the Hellenistic Koine or (common) language, it later became the official language of the entire eastern part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires.

Then Greece was liberated in 1830, two different versions existed: the demotic or colloquial language and katharevousa, or the purist language. In 1976, the Greek government adopted the demotic language (with several katharevousa elements) as the official language.

Pharmacies

In Athens pharmacies can be found all over the city. For overnight service there are always one or two pharmacies open in every district. For pharmacies on call, dial 14944.

Post Offices

You can post a letter or a postcard in one of the yellow boxes found in most places in Athens or in post offices. You can also buy stamps from the post offices or from the kiosks. The cost of stamps depends on the type (express, registered, standard) and the size of the letter. Sending a small envelope as standard mail to Europe, America, Asia, Africa or Australia will cost you 0, 62€.

Most post offices are open from Monday to Friday 07:30 to 14:00. However, there are branches which also open in the afternoons and on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information visit the Hellenic Post’s website http://www.elta.gr, where you can find a complete pricing list for all types of letters and parcels.

Police

Emergency call: 100
Tourist police: 171 (information available in English, French and German)
Tourist Police Headquarters: +302106977386, +302106924929
Airport Police: +302103530000

Safety

Of all EU countries, Greece has the lowest crime rates. Athens had always been a safe city for both inhabitants and visitors. An important factor is that the city never sleeps: on the one hand, the enjoyable Athens’ nightlife lasts until the early hours of the morning so none of the city center districts ever look deserted.

On the other hand, Athens has an effective security system and infrastructure, conditions that have been tested and succeeded on many occasions and most importantly in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Emergency phone numbers

Emergency Number to call Police: 100 or 112
Tourist police: 171 (information available in English, French and German)
Traffic Police: 10400; +302105230111
Airport Police: +302103530000
Fire Emergency: 199
Ambulance: 166
Poison Control: +302107793777
Hospitals, pharmacies and doctors on call: 14944

Time

Athens is in the Eastern-European time-zone, which means two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Additionally, Athens has a summer time, meaning that during spring and summer (from March to October) the clocks are put forward one hour.

Worship

A city committed to diversity, Athens has a Mosque, a Jewish Synagogue, Catholic churches and Protestant Churches. As the official religion is Christian Orthodox, most worship venues are Orthodox churches.

The Cathedral is situated on Mitropoleos street, between Syntagma square and Monastiraki. Monastiraki district on the whole hosts a substantial number of small churches, many of which date back to the Byzantine era. Despite being medieval monuments, they are still used as worship venues.

A distinct characteristic of Greek Orthodox churches is the Byzantine iconography, which in Greece has been developed into a distinct art form, with its own tradition, schools, tendencies and artists. In Greek Orthodox churches, all indoor surfaces (walls, ceilings etc) are covered by Byzantine style paintings depicting saints, the Christ and the Virgin Mary as well as scenes from the Bible.