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Your Stuff and Greece

Page history last edited by Marina Harper 7 years ago

Stuff: What to Bring, How to Get


This page is about Stuff: where to get it, what of it to bring, and so on. One of James Thurber's characters, having returned from a trip abroad, remarks that she'd known she was in a different country because they did things just the same there. You will beg to differ after visiting Greece, but it is the case that most of what you are used to buying in America, or a sufficiently reasonable analog of it, can be found here. Still, some things can't, and others are obscure or absurdly expensive, so read on.




Some things you might want to bring along are obscure spices and seasonings, energy bars, borderline-illegal hot sauces (Tabasco seems to be as hot as it gets here), and peanut butter. Peanut butter is really expensive here when purchased from a Greek market. However, the German supermarket Lidl sells it as part of "American Foods Month" for about 2.50 euros per jar. American Foods Month occurs every 4-5 months. Additionally, the highly motivated could also make their own.  A visitor has observed that popcorn, though it can be found here with some effort, isn't very good; but of course you need to know what kind of kitchen you'll have available—microwaves are not standard equipment here as they are in America.


Medicine & Personal Care


Vitamins are expensive (sometimes very expensive) here, as are dietary supplements. They seem to have no Pepto-Bismal equivalent in either pill or liquid form, nor do they have anesthetic sore-throat sprays. Tylenol (acetaminophen/paracetamol) is sold here under the brand name Panadol, though it is not available in all the different formulations sold in America. A generic form of Aleve is sold here—ask for "naproxen sodium." Over-the-counter medicines are relatively inexpensive here (though the same cannot necessarily be said for prescription medicine).


Sunblock is also quite expensive in Greece—consider bringing your own, but double-bag it (at least), because baggage handlers here seem to have anger issues they're working through.




Power: If a device can use both 110 and 220-240 watts, and both 50 and 60 hertz — as can most laptops — you only need a plug adapter, which simply changes the shape of your plug. But you'll need an American-to-European power converter for any of your plugged electric devices, and a power transformer for your electronic devices. (The distinction is important.) You can get a converter from someplace like Radio Shack for probably $25-$30, and a plug adapter for much less, but transformers are more expensive. Since transformers are also quite heavy, several of us have bought a single high-wattage transformer here in Greece, connected an American power strip to it, and then just plugged all of our American devices into the strip. (You will of course need to bring an American-style power-strip with you to do this. It should be a simple power strip and not a surge supressor.)


Please take note—cycles matter, and power converters and transformers only convert volts, not cycles (measured in hertz). This has different consequences for different devices. You should be sure that all your electronics will operate safely and properly on both 60 Hz (American) and 50 Hz (European). If this is not noted on the device or in the manual, the manufacturer will usually be able to inform you.


Computing: (For more information on computers and Greece, see our computing tips page.) Computer technology is expensive here. Virtually all of it is imported and everything in Greece is subject to a 20% VAT. A brand-name surge protector for Europe is not too expensive (which is good because one from America will burn out), and cables and discs are reasonable as well. But that, by and large, is where good values end, so if you will be needing an external hard drive or a WiFi card, for example, or any Apple-branded or iPod-related device, bring it from the States if you can. With some hunting, a printer (even a printer/scanner) can be found that is not too much more expensive than in America, so unless you have high-end requirements the convenience of buying it after arriving is probably worth the extra money. (In time, though, you'll want to get ink refills brought or mailed to you from America, because those are very expensive here.)


Cell phones: See our cell phone tips page.


Shipping to Greece and Customs Fees


Visitors and students here have found that Greek customs inspections of travelers' luggage and carry-ons are rather lax. This is reported to be true particularly at the Thessaloniki airport. That said, it is not wise to travel with new items, still in their original packaging, since in the event your bags actually are opened you may be suspected of bringing the items in order to sell them.


Packages shipped to Greece from outside the EU may incur customs fees if they are valued over approximately thirty dollars. The FedEx website, which has a wealth of information about Greek importing and exporting, states that "shipments of commercial samples valued below 45 EUR or gifts valued below 23 EURO and/or… negligible value shipments below 22 EURO" are exempt from customs duties and taxes. Also,


"Articles consigned as "Unsolicited Gifts" are acceptable and will be allowed entry free of any duty or VAT providing the shipment is valued at less than 45 EURO, originated from and consigned to an individual, and are individually wrapped. Multiple gifts can be consigned in one shipment so long as the individual parcels enclosed are individually tagged with the recipients name, are individually wrapped and the value does not exceed the per person limit of 45 EURO."


Be aware of the possibility of surprise bureaucratic requirements. In one instance, a recipeint here was required to apply for an import permit from the government agency regulating pharmaceuticals because the shipping manifest listed "vitamins" (just this word) as being among the contents of his small package.


Thievery in the Greek postal system is no longer the problem it once was. However, though delivery of simple letters is reliable, anything beyond that will be much more likely to arrive, and to do so in a timely fashion, if it is handled by a private shipper. This is, unfortunately, very expensive.)


UPS has proven to be dependable, while FedEx, for at least one person living here, has not:


"I recently (mid-2008) had to get a package sent to me via FedEx out of customs. Dealing with their local representative, Orbit, was a nightmare. Email was bounced (after several days, of course) as being "unsolicited"; they wouldn't answer their phones (which would claim the office was closed when it wasn't, or dump me into their internal voicemail system); and, when I could get them on the phone, often after long wait times, they hung up on me or directed me to call back because their computers were down. They were also remarkably unhelpful assisting me in clearing customs, considering the eighty euro in borkerage fees they charged me. Not a good experience. Now that I think of it, I recall that last year two deliveries here were delayed because Orbit was confused by differing Greek and American address formats."


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