Whether you’re living in Greece or just visiting on vacation, using a prepaid cell/mobile phone card or καρτοκινητό/kartokinito is a convenient and easy way to connect and keep in touch without the commitment.
However, everyone using a Greek SIM card can no longer be anonymous, as explained in “Prepaid cell phone cards in Greece to lose anonymity.” Law 3783/2009 strips all prepaid cell/mobile phone users of anonymity and requires them to register from July 2009.
There are 20,285,000 cell phone numbers in Greece, of which 13.5 million are prepaid but only 9 million are active in the hands of 6.8 million users. The latest survey shows that 97 percent of Greeks aged 13 to 70 use a mobile/cell phone.
What follows is where to buy a Greek SIM card, how much costs, how to register and add credit, and which companies offer what.
*Article last updated July 3, 2014
Where to buy a SIM card & recharge card
New users can purchase a connection pack with a Greek SIM card for €5 at all the usual places: Periptera (kiosks), post offices, psilikatzidiko mini markets and, of course, direct from cell/mobile phone company stores and their commercial associates (i.e., Germanos, Multirama, One-Way, etc.).
Recharge, renewal or “top up” cards are also available at the same locations, or you can recharge online or bank ATMs with some plans. See “How to recharge” later in this article.
Be careful when buying connection packs from unauthorized outlets, as there are some pay-as-you-go Greek SIM cards that are given away free at clubs and cafes, and award users a €5 credit if a minimum amount of air time is purchased every month by a certain date. Some online/street vendors do not disclose the expiration date and/or allow potential buyers to believe the connection pack is still good after this date; it is not.
How much does it cost?
Aside from the cost of the connection pack, all products include 23 percent value-added tax (VAT) as of July 1, 2010; plus a 12 percent state tax is automatically deducted from the amount of talk time each time you recharge or top up.* There is no charge to receive calls or sms (short message service or text message) within Greece, but charges plus roaming will apply when using a prepaid Greek SIM card in another country.
Each company has a multitude of plans with prices for domestic and international sms, MMS and per minute charges for phone calls to land lines and cell/mobile phones in the same or different network. Doing a comparison would be time-consuming and impossible to keep current because prices and terms change monthly, even daily. Follow the links provided at the end of this article under ‘Contact Info’ to get a sense of cost and individual plans, or visit a local store and tell them what you prefer to receive an informed recommendation.
There are always special offers as companies compete for millions of users, and promotions touting free or double credits are frequently broadcast via sms in Greek or advertised on company websites in Greek and English.
*Certain purchases allow the user to keep the 12 percent tax. If you think 12 percent is high, Greece charges an average of 36 percent tax on cell/mobile subscriptions, which is the highest in Europe. The EU average is 17-20 percent.
How to register
Registering your prepaid Greek SIM card only takes a few minutes, is free of charge, and must be done in person. You cannot register online or by phone.
The information that follows is based on conversations and official documentation from each of the three companies. However, let’s remember this is Greece, where implementation and adherence to rules can range from strict to lax. That means everyone’s experience may vary.
1. First, determine if you are a new user or a past user:
New users: Everyone using a prepaid Greek SIM card phone for the first time on or after November 8, 2009 is a ‘new’ user and must register to activate the SIM card before making a call or sending sms/MMS. A recorded message announces this, most likely in Greek.
If for some reason you cannot appear in person, you can certify a dilosi (statement of facts) at a police station or KEP that assigns a representative to register and sign for you. See, “How to certify a dilosi in Greece.”
Past users: Everyone who had a prepaid Greek SIM card/phone number before November 8, 2009 is a ‘past’ user and needed to register by July 30, 2010, or had calls, sms and MMS barred.
All three cell phone providers kept unregistered phone numbers in their database until midnight January 30, 2011 before disconnecting them permanently and making them available to other users. If you did not reclaim your number by January 2011, you may inquire about reactivating but it likely belongs to someone else and your credits were erased.
2. Second, find your cell/mobile phone provider and follow the instructions.
Prepaid or pay-as-you-go programs go by different names but only three cell phone providers own all of them and are categorized accordingly.
Cosmote (CosmoKarta, What’s Up, Frog Mobile, Ciao)
New and existing users must:
a) Appear in person at any Cosmote, OTEshops or Germanos location. Find a Cosmote, OTEshop or Germanos nearest you (in English; left menu).
b) Bring the Greek SIM card or 20-digit number on its face.
c) Show a national ID card (tautotita) or passport
(Note: Non-EU citizens are supposed to show an unexpired permit, but their policy did not state this in writing or by phone when I inquired. As this is Greece, they could still ask).
d) Sign a declaration that the information provided is true and correct.
e) Specify if they want to be unlisted or included in the directory.
Users of multiple numbers can register all at the same time with no restriction. Users aged under 18 must have a parent register them. All future changes to personal data and any loss/theft must be reported immediately.
Wind Hellas (Wind F2G/B-Free, Wind International, Q Card,
Mo’Mad, AB Vassilopoulos)
New and existing users must:
a) Appear in person at any of Wind Hellas’ 400 authorized locations. Find a Wind Store nearest you (in English).
b) Bring the SIM card or 20-digit number on its face.
c) Present official identification
— Greek/EU citizens: Show a national ID card or passport
— Non-EU residents of Greece: Passport and photocopy plus original unexpired residence permit or alien’s card or bebaiosi/blue paper with photo showing an application has been started for a residence permit
— Non-EU visitors/tourists: Passport or national ID only
d) Sign an application that the information provided is true and correct.
e) Specify if they want to be listed or unlisted in the directory (you can change your mind at any time).
Users of multiple numbers can register all at the same time with no restriction. Users aged under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. All future changes to personal data or any loss/theft must be reported immediately.
Non-EU residents of Greece without permits are ineligible to register prepaid phones with Wind, and their numbers will be blocked. Asking a friend or relative to register your number in his or her name will assign them complete responsibility, and I recommend against it.
Vodafone (Vodafone Prepaid, formerly a la Carte; CU, Olympiakos, Vodafone International, Carrefour)
Find a Vodafone store nearest you (in English)
a) Greek citizens: Must present the phone SIM card and Greek passport or Greek ID.
* Minors without a Greek ID, passport or similar document must have their parents/guardians register their identity.
b) Foreign nationals/immigrants/tourists must present the SIM card and ONE of the following:
— Greek Residence permit
— Special Identity Card for Foreign Nationals of Hellenic Descent
— Foreign national ID card
— Special document for asylum applicants
— Special ID card for foreign fugitives
— Special document of tolerated residence for foreign nationals who have not been granted refugee status
— Non-deportation certificate for a foreign nationals who have applied for naturalization or a special refugee travel document (T.DV)
— Permit of residence for humanitarian reasons.
*Hat tip to EllasDevil for giving me the link to add the Vodafone section.
How to recharge
There are two ways to recharge:
1. Scratch cards or special receipts with 16-digit numbers, available from the same locations as connection packs;
2. Electronic recharge, renewal and top-ups made from physical stores, certain bank ATMs within Greece, and online via cash/debit/credit card, e-banking and remotely.
If you are outside Greece, it is also possible to have someone in Greece purchase units and top-up, recharge or have them sent to your number.
Unless otherwise stated, a Greek SIM card and the credit or units are good for one year from the date of last recharge, renewal or top-up. Simply using your phone is not sufficient. If you haven’t added credit in 12 months, the remaining credits (if any) will be erased and the phone number deactivated.
Should the cell/mobile phone user swap the Greek SIM card into a new or different device or phone, nothing needs to be done as long as the phone number/SIM card stays the same. Registration is unique to the SIM card and phone number, not the device being used.
Lost your Greek SIM card?
Call your provider immediately to report it, and they will verify your identity with the information on file.
If the registered SIM card malfunctions or is lost, and you would like to keep the same phone number, the service provider will transfer your identity to the replacement SIM card. Cost of a new SIM card varies amongst providers.
Transferring to another network
As of 2004, users have the right to change networks but keep the same number. By law, it should only take 10 days for the transfer to complete, but an amendment shortened that time to three days on December 1, 2010.
It is also possible to keep the same number while switching between a prepaid and subscriber plan.
Questions and Comments?
I can answer general questions, so I will leave comments open. However, I recommend that readers contact their cell/mobile phone companies with questions pertaining to registration; I will not hesitate to reiterate this, if readers do not heed my advice.
My personal experience consists of having a contract/tariff/subscription (syndesi) and a prepaid Greek SIM card that was registered in 1998, when it was mandatory. I have never been anonymous.
Cell phone provider websites used to be a nightmare to navigate and only in Greek as recently as 2009, but all have made significant strides and now offer English versions.
All programs under CosmOTE www.cosmote.gr
All programs under Vodafone www.vodafone.gr
All programs under Wind Hellas www.wind.com.gr
- Wind Card to All
- Wind F2G
- Wind International
- Q Card
- MO’MAD (discontinued; existing users only)
- AB Vassilopoulos (discontinued; existing users only)
“Ξεκινούν την ταυτοποίηση καρτοκινητών Cosmote και Wind” – Eleftherotypia
“Διευκρινίσεις επί της διαδικασίας από τη Wind” — Eleftherotypia
“Δύο φορές ο πληθυσμός μας σε συνδέσεις” – Eleftherotypia
“Έλα στη Vodafone μέχρι 30/07/2010 και ταυτοποίησε το καρτοκινητό σου εύκολα, γρήγορα και αξιόπιστα” – Vodafone
“Πρωταθλητές ακρίβειας στους λογαριασμούς κινητών τηλεφώνων” – Ta Nea
“Ταχύτερα η μεταφορά αριθμού από ένα δίκτυο σε άλλο” — Eleftherotypia
“Κινητά: Το 95% έχει πλέον «ταυτότητα»” — Eleftherotypia
“Φραγή για όσους δεν έκαναν ταυτοποίηση” — Eleftherotypia
“Φραγή σε 300.000 – 400.000 καρτοκινητά τηλέφωνα” — Kathimerini
“Being smart about smartphones” — MSNBC
“Κινητό τηλέφωνο διαθέτει το 97% των Ελλήνων” — Imerisia
— Conversations with the three main companies listed above
— First-hand experience, myself and three others, plus readers’ comments
— “Don’t forget to register” — EllasDevil
Cosmote and Wind Hellas began mandatory registration of users November 8, 2009, followed by Vodafone two weeks later, and Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia reported that 95 percent of existing prepaid users had registered before the July 30, 2010 deadline. The remaining 5 percent remained in a database until January 2011.
If you are outside Greece during the registration period:
a) Assign a representative via a Greek statement of facts (dilosi) at the nearest Greek consulate or Greek embassy, which is supposed to offer KEP services, and register from abroad. See, “Greek Embassies and Consulates Worldwide.”
b) Send your SIM card to a friend or relative in Greece and have them register it in their name, which you can later change to your name when you’re in Greece. Also keep in mind that your talk credits will be erased and your number deactivated one year from the date of your last recharge or top-up, so you may need to add credits.
In the News
Published after enet.gr and my article:
“Ξεκινά σήμερα η δήλωση κατόχων καρτοκινητού” – Ta Nea
“No anonymity with prepaid cell phones” – eKathimerini
“Πως θα βγάλετε ταυτότητα στο καρτοκινητό σας” – Eleftherotypia
“4,5 εκατ. καρτοκινητά δεν έχουν ταυτοποιηθεί” — Ta Nea
“Now your phone gets its own identity” — Vodafone Greece
“Δήλωσε το Καρτοκινητό σου” — What’s Up? Greece
“Wind Hellas registration procedure/FAQ” (article removed) — Wind Hellas
“Connection pack and instructions” — Wind Hellas
“Cosmokarta Activation” — Cosmote
“Conversations with my Greek cell phone provider”
“Prepaid cell phone cards in Greece to lose anonymity”
“How to beat the high cost of calling abroad” — NY Times
“3G no likey my PB”
“OTE: On the Exodus”
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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