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Cell Phones

Page history last edited by Fr. Gregory Edwards 12 years, 7 months ago

A guide to cell phones in Greece


Most cell phones here are prepaid and are used with one of three companies: Vodafone, Cosmote, and WIND. The deal is that the caller assumes all the cost for phone calls. This means that there is no charge for receiving a call on a Greek cell phone. However, it is considerably more expensive to make a call to one locally or from America.


If you call a cell phone from a landline, it should run about 15 cents/minute. If you call from another cell phone or a payphone, it’s about 40 cents/minute. Using a cell phone to call a landline is the same—40 cents/minute. That’s pretty spendy, so most people avoid making calls with their cell phone. They’ll place calls on a payphone (which is only 2-3 cents/minute) and send text messages ("SMS messages") to other cell phones. (Text messages only cost about 10 cents to send and are free to receive.) So, if you limit your outgoing calls, a cell phone here can be VERY cheap and handy.


To get set up, you can head to one of the many ‘Germanos’ stores (they're like an upscale Radio Shack), WIND stores, or Vodafone stores, and ask for an inexpensive cell phone package. A typical package would look something like this: a cheap mobile phone, a SIM chip (which is what provides you your phone number) and 11 euro of prepaid credit for around 40 euro. When/if you need more credit, you simply buy a ‘refill’ prepaid card from a street kiosk and punch the code into your phone—but the 11 euro credit could last you a couple of months if you do not make many calls from the phone. And so you now have a number which you can give to people to get in touch with you.


Note that as of 2010, the European Union requires all cell phones (even pre-paid ones) to be registered; therefore, when you buy your phone, you will be asked to show them your passport. As we understand it, the registration system only seems to be open from 8:30-5:00 (perhaps weekdays only?), so you may not be able to activate your phone if you buy it outside that time window; in that case, you will probably have to return to the store the next day to register before being able to use the phone.


You can use your new phone in any country in Europe (though you will need a seperate number for each country). Just buy a new SIM chip (phone number) for whichever country you are in—prices could range from free to $20. (The phones are not locked to a particular carrier—you can use them with any company's network.) If you are just going back to the US and won't need it—it won't work in the US—you could give the phone to one of the Americans living here, who could then pass it on to a future pilgrim.


A tri-band or quad-band GSM phone—which will be considerably more expensive than the basic type of phone mentioned above—can be used both in the US and in Europe. But this can't just be any such phone: it must be "unlocked"—that is, not restricted to using a single carrier, such as Cingular or Verizon. If it is "locked," though you may be able to use it abroad, you will not be able to insert a new SIM chip so you can have a local, pre-paid number. Rather, you will have to pay your American carrier's typically obscene international roaming fees. Unlocked tri-band and quad-band GSM phones can be bought in the US, typically online, or here; and if you already have a GSM phone but it is locked, there are companies online that may be able to unlock it. In any event, make sure the phone you are intending to use here can function on the proper frequencies for Greece.


If you have one of these higher-end phones that you use in the US (and it is unlocked), you can bring it with you to Greece and then simply buy the SIM chip which gives you a local number. On most phones, there is usually a slot for this chip somewhere near the battery. Turn off the phone, take off the battery cover, and look around. There will usually be a very small icon showing a chip with one corner dog-eared. Insert the chip just as shown on the icon.


If this is the case, we would suggest that you go to a WIND store and ask for a Q-Telecom SIM chip. "Q" is a branch of WIND aimed at those seeking an economical cell phone plan. They thus offer a Q SIM chip for only 5 euro, which includes 1 euro credit. (You then buy extra credit as needed from street kiosks.) This is the cheapest deal going in Greece. If you have trouble finding the SIM slot in your phone, they may be good enough to help you at the store, if you ask nicely.


Note for tech-heads regarding 3G service: Most tri-band and quad-band phones, though they can be used for voice communication in both America and Europe, cannot use both American and European 3G networks,which, irritatingly, operate on different frequencies. If 3G service in one locale or another is important to you, you should take this into account in deciding where to buy your phone.)

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