Thursday, July 19, 2012

Capital, Currency & Language in Greece

Athens became the capital of modern Greece in 1834, two years after the country achieved its independence from Turkey. Its population: is 11.2 million. Athens is a huge city with several districts containing sightseeing, restaurants and  nightlife.

Greece's monetary unit is the Euro for now, though some politicians are talking about moving back to the Drachma, I don't think this will happen. No other currency is accepted. The smart traveler simply takes money out of an ATM, paying a 3% fee rather than exchanging currency. If you must exchange currency, it is best to go to a bank. Currency exchange shops and banks in very touristy areas charge high commissions and increase spreads on the buy and sell side; so, make sure you know what the commissions are before you commit to a transaction. Banks are open from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. At the new airport near the luggage pickup you can find ATM's as well as machines that can exchange foreign currency and return Euro. Very nice indeed since you need the Euro for a luggage cart.

While everyone assumes that cash is accepted everywhere, there have been times when cash in large denominations is not very convenient. I have had banks in Greece refuse to exchange $50 or $100 bills, but I never had problems with $20 bills.

Traveler's checks
World wide ATM networks have almost made Traveler's Checks a thing of the past. What they do have going for them is security. They are accepted in most places and shops, especially in areas where tourists frequent, but if you venture off the tourist track, and want to buy a memento or two, you will find that people have no idea what they are, so make sure you exchange them for cash at a local bank.

Even in businesses that take travelers checks, you might have a hard time paying or exchanging large denominations of traveler's checks especially (fifties or hundreds). I have found large bills are treated with suspicion by vendors and some might not accept them. Finally, you never know what exchange rate the merchant is willing to offer. Better to exchanging them for cash at a bank.You should have your passport with you when you pay with traveler's checks to verify your identity.

The best way to access money while in Greece is through the ubiquitous ATMs that are present in every large or small city. While I recommend Credit Cards at restaurants and anyplace your card goes out of your sight, Debit Cards are fine for ATM's at banks. One note of caution, look around the ATM to make sure some crook hasn't installed a skimmer (a small device that records your ATM number and pin.)

When you make a withdrawal at an ATM, it disperse Euro using the conversion chart displayed on the bank's window. Make sure you keep all receipts though for a few months after you return home. This way you can review your account and make sure you weren't double charged.


Among many other languages of Greece, Greek is the main language which is spoken by 11 million inhabitants. Greek is a common language in Greece and with immigrants who have traveled to countries like USA, Australia, Britain.

English, French and German languages are also sparsely used in Greece. Modern Greek is spoken by about 15-25 million people mainly in Greece, USA and Cyprus. Modern Greek also enjoys the status of a minority language in parts of Turkey, Italy and Albania.



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