Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Goodbye Greek drachmas

Drachma notes or δραχμές/drachmes could once be exchanged for euros in their country of origin at the Bank of Greece, but the deadline for notes passed March 1, 2012 and for coins on March 1, 2004.

Greece entered the euro single currency on January 1, 2001 and began circulating euro notes and coins on January 1, 2002. Drachma notes and coins ceased being legal tender on February 28, 2002.

*Article last updated July 1, 2012. Photo comes from my personal collection.


Article covers

  • How much they were worth
  • Where drachmas were exchanged
  • Possibility of leaving the euro
  • What I did with mine.

How much were they worth?

Greek drachmas were exchanged at a fixed conversion rate decided by ECOFIN.

340.75 drachmas = 1 euro

Where to exchange drachmas

The Bank of Greece or Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος/Trapeza tis Ellados was the only place in the world you could exchange drachmas for euros.*

Elef. Venizelos 21
102 50 Athens

+30 (210) 320 1111

+30 (210) 323 2239

Hours of operation
Monday-Thursday: 8:00 to 14:30
Friday: 8:00-14:00
They are closed weekends, during strikes and on days listed at “Holidays for 2012.”

*There was a small fee.

Outside Athens

If you were nowhere near the Bank of Greece, even abroad, you could have sent drachma notes via registered mail to a friend or relative to exchange them and post them back to you.

Within Greece, registered mail is relatively inexpensive and the envelope can be tracked online at “Track and Trace.”

The same service can be used for envelopes going abroad, but postal staff say that tracking stops once outside Greece. Regardless, I have always found it reliable when sending mail to the United States, Australia and anywhere in the EU.

Ditching the euro, return of the drachma

There has been much speculation about Greece exiting the euro zone, either by choice or by force, and returning to the drachma. If this happens, Greece would adopt a new drachma or other currency, and not return to using the drachmas shown above. Experts say it could take up to two years for a new currency to be designed, approved, printed and circulated.

What I did with my δραχμές

I keep 50 and 100 drachma notes in my wallet to remind me of Greece’s history and my own, since I arrived during a period we still used it. There’s a 50-drachma coin with a boat on it, which I keep for luck; other denominations are mixed in a box full of francs, lira, pesetas, escudos, dinars and coins I see as souvenirs from countries I visited; and once in awhile I run across notes flattened in books.

Anything I did not keep or spend was given to friends who collect banknotes and coins as a hobby.

I always felt there was something special about using a national currency with so much history, and it was a shame to let it go.

Author’s note

This post is based on a blurb I wrote in 2008 for a book, which has been expanded online and updated.


Euro cash changeover” — Bank of Greece
Valuing the new Greek drachma” — Roubini Global Economics
Greek elections: Pick euro or drachma” — Reuters
— First-hand experience exchanging drachmas for friends

More information

Drachma banknotes” — Bank of Greece

In the News

Whispers of return to drachma grow louder” — NY Times
ICAP runs drachma-trading drills, just in case” — WSJ
Talking up the drachma” — NY Times
Is the euro strong enough to let Greece go?” — Bloomberg
Last chance to swap those drachmas” — Business Week
Billions of drachmas left unclaimed” — AFP, Kathimerini



  Jessica wrote @ February 27th, 2012 at 09:32

Irony abounds as Wednesday (March 1 2012) is the last day for the drachma banknotes to be exchanged into euros, while today in the Telegraph.

it would seem the drachma’s return isn’t as impossible as once thought!

Kat Reply:

It’s not the first time Germany and other member states have made identical statements, so the Telegraph article is unoriginal as it’s been going on since mid-2011. Articles I link under ‘In the News’ report ICAP already did a dry run for a drachma return in November, studies were done on possible new currencies, and legalities examined under euro rules.

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