Greece consists of two broad areas – mainland Greece and the Greek islands. There are plenty of islands of different sizes dotted around in the Aegean Sea and hundreds of thousands of people choose to visit them every year on holiday.
Before the Greeks started using the euro they used the drachma. Nowadays, as with many other former European countries, the drachma has been consigned to history.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The Greek euro only differs from the euro as used in other countries in terms of the design of the obverse side of the coins. Each country is allowed to choose an appropriate design (according to certain rules) that is relevant to that country.
Other than that the coins and notes are the same as used throughout the countries that use the euro. There are eight coins, which are the one, two, five, ten, twenty and fifty cent coins. You can also use a one euro and a two euro coin.
There are also seven banknotes for use in Greece and other European countries that accept the euro. These are available in denomination of five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred and five hundred euros. The sign for the euro is €.
From past to present – the history of the Greek euro
Greece almost didn’t get into the initial group of countries to use the euro when the coins and banknotes were launched in 2002. A lot of countries joined in 1999 and then entered a three year period of time where the currency was merely used as what is called ‘book’ money.
Greece was a little later than this though, only joining in 2001. This meant the country had just one year to prepare for the actual introduction of the notes and coins a year later.
Before this the country used the modern drachma, which was introduced in 1832. However the drachma went back a lot further than this, being used in ancient times as well. There are signs it was in use around 1100 BC so when the euro replaced it, the Greeks lost a significant currency to history.
How to get hold of the Greek euro
Since Greece uses the euro it is very easy to get any euros you need. Most people like to exchange some of their own currency before they leave home so they have a few coins and notes on them for their arrival in Greece.
Greece has a lot of cash machines but you may not always be able to find one when you want one. It all depends on where you are going and how busy it is there. The cities and towns are likely to have plenty but the quieter the area is the less chance there is of getting any cash. As is the case in many countries, getting cash out with a debit card is invariably cheaper than it would be if you did the same with your credit card.
You can also use traveller’s cheques in Greece but make sure you know what the exchange rate would be before you go ahead with a transaction. The best thing to do is to do a little research on the area you are visiting before you leave home. This should ensure you know how easy it will be to get hold of cash once you get there.
Finally you can also use cards to make payment for goods or services in Greece. Cash payments are likely to make it easier to get good prices for things if you ask, especially with smaller providers.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Greek euro
Use any currency converter you find, but bear in mind some of them update their rates more frequently than others. For example the best ones update virtually every minute, so you can always be sure you have the latest rate. You’ll be prompted to enter the currency you have now along with the euro as the one you want to convert to. You can also then enter the amount to convert if you have a specific sum in mind.
To learn more about Greece before you visit you may find the official website for the Embassy of Greece in London useful. It can be found at http://www.mfa.gr/uk/en/the-embassy.
Travelling safely with the Greek euro
Most people are familiar with Greece since it is a popular place to go on holiday. However as mentioned previously there are lots of Greek islands as well as the mainland, so it makes sense to find out what you can do to enjoy a safe and secure holiday.
One thing Greece has in common with many other countries that regularly welcome tourists is pickpocketing. Petty crime does happen, especially in these areas, and you should make sure you protect your belongings at all times. Make people opt to wear a money belt but even if you don’t have one you should think about dividing up your cash and storing it in different places on your person and in your bag or wallet or purse.
Where to spend your euro in Greece – and what to spend them on
There are plenty of places – and ways – to use the euro in Greece. For starters you can visit one or more of the Greek islands. These are popular with people who want to enjoy a nice sunny Greek holiday. Popular choices include Rhodes, Corfu, Mykonos and Lesvos.
Meanwhile the mainland has plenty to treat you to as well. For example you can visit Athens, the capital of Greece and filled with ancient ruins that are an absolute must see. The Acropolis of Athens is not the only acropolis in the world, but it is the one that is always referred to as ‘the acropolis’ and everyone knows where you mean. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the Daphni Monastery, which dates from medieval times.
There are lots of ruins on mainland Greece, not least Epidaurus. This was a major city in its time, one that was devoted to healing. There were many spas here and the site still bears witness to many signs of ancient times gone by today. Of course you can’t visit Greece without thinking of Olympia, the very beginnings of the Olympic Games we know today. Visit the Peloponnese peninsula and witness the ruins left behind by a civilisation that created the Olympic Games and were there long before that as well.
In many ways it is a shame that everyone seems to go to the Greek islands. Certainly they have a lot to offer, but there is so much on the mainland that is missed out on thanks to the focus being set almost exclusively on the islands. For example a visit to Nafplion is well worth the effort. This was once the capital of Greece as it existed many centuries ago in ancient times. Today it is a well-kept secret and if you make the time to go there you will be able to appreciate the scenery, the beach and the shopping. You can sit back in a café and relax with a drink and perhaps a Greek snack too.
Aside from this the Diros Caves are worth seeing too. They are situated towards the very southern end of the mainland, and an underground river leads the way towards them. This is an organised trip that is well worth going on, even if the commentary you get is in Greek. You might brush up on your Greek of course, but even if you don’t you can enjoy exploring the caves in a small boat and seeing the treats that lie within.
Greek food is also worth spending your euros on. You can try all kinds of well-known Greek dishes such as moussaka and kleftiko, and never eat the same thing two nights in a row. The food is underlined by an enthusiastic use of olive oil, vegetables and fresh ingredients, and if you find the right restaurant to frequent you are in for some amazing taste sensations. Tzatziki is another popular item, used as a dip into which strips of pitta bread are often dipped. You will see this as a starter or meze item on many menus.
Wherever you decide to go in Greece you can be sure the great food will follow you everywhere!
Greece has plenty to offer to everyone who decides to visit. You may be someone who likes to hop from island to island, or you may prefer to explore the mainland in depth. Wherever you go you should ensure you have some euros with you and that you can access more as and when you need them. It is virtually impossible to resist a tasty meal at a taverna when you can smell the aromas floating out to meet you as you pass by!
With a pretty cost effective holiday opportunity available to see Greece, it isn’t hard to see why it has remained a popular choice.