If you bring your laptop computer to Greece you will undoubtedly want to connect to the internet so you can check your email, and surf around for information.
I agonized over it, but upon arrival to Greece I found out that there is an easy way to gain internet access without signing up with an ISP. All you need is a "prepaid internet card" which you can purchase from a "Periptero" (the ubiquitous yellow kiosks), and an available phone line you can use for the dial-up connection.
I bought a NetKey card for €10 which allows for 20 hours of connection and after fiddling around for ten minutes with my laptop (a Macintosh PowerBook G4 then, and now a MacBook Pro) I was promptly connected to the internet.
The card provides a username and a password, instructions how to set-up your computer for connection, and directions on how to set-up your computer. On the card you will also find a telephone number for the dial-up connection which you can dial form anywhere in Greece. The telephone charge is an added expense, but you pay a substantially discounted price to connect through the special number provided.
When I bought the prepaid internet card the seller at the periptero showed me several I could choose from. They all provided 20 hours of connection, and of course I chose the one with the lower cost -- the NetKey (www.netkey.gr). The NetKey card is issued by ForthNet, the largest ISP in Greece, and the number your dial is the same for the entire country. A friend of mine bought an internet card from "acn" and had nothing but trouble with it. To make matters worst, the card cost €5.00 more than the ForthNet card, and they charged for the telephone technical support (while ForthNet is Free).
So, if you have a laptop computer with a modem, and access to a live telephone line, head for the nearest yellow kiosk and buy a prepaid internet card (if you don't speak greek here is what you say: mia proplyromene karta internet). I am not sure what the availability of these cards is in smaller towns, so you might want to get one while you are in Athens or at the airport. The account is not renewable, and once you use the 20 hours you have to buy another one and replace the old username and password with the new one.
You will also need a telephone cable. Many hotels have a telephone jack that would fit in a modem port. Simply unplug it from the telephone and plug it into the modem port of your computer and it will work like a charm. If your hotel has the old telephone outlets, you might need a modular telephone adapter to connect your telephone line to the Greek telephone jack on the wall, but these kind of phone jacks are very rare now in Greece. Nonetheless I keep an adapter and an extra telephone cable in my computer back pack just in case I need them.
In late 2008 and in 2009 I noticed a slew of television commercials that promoted the wireless internet that large mobile phone companies like Wind, Otenet, and Vodaphone made available. If you are like me you probably would think "how perfect!", internet via the ubiquitous wireless telephone signal wherever you go!" How can you go wrong?
I searched like crazy on the internet and through friends and store visits to find some more information on the service. "Is it fast?" I would ask knowing the token answer that would follow: "sure, it's G3. If you are not in a 3G area you still get GPRS connection. Of course it all depends on our location, the thickness of the walls, the weather, the solar flares, the flight of the swallows, and all that". But despite the lack of information I thought "how bad can it be? It must be better than dial-up". And thus I convinced myself to go to the nearest Wind store (it's my wireless phone provider in Greece) to buy one.
It took forever to convince the nice young lady that I did not want to buy the annual plan that would give me the modem for free. I wanted to buy the USB modem outright. She thought I was crazy to pay the 100 Euro, but finally gave up and sold me the modem. The fact that I found out right before I shelled out my credit card did not deter me: It's outrageously expensive: 30 Euro for seven days of unlimited bandwidth. Sure my enthusiasm was diminishing but not enough to go back at that point. The idea of wireless internet everywhere in Greece was still immensely attractive to me.
Well, this enthusiasm lasted only until I finally connected to the internet. No, it wasn't that it took over two days fiddling with the thing (and I am a "computer guy") and endless phone calls to technical support. But it was the sloooooowness of the service in rural Greece. This was well beyond the worst case scenario I had imagined. I even set up a table in the middle of an orange grove to get better connection, but nothing prevented my email server or the majority of web sites from dropping my connection constantly because the connection was too slow.
I fiddled with the wireless USB modem for seven long days, often starting a connection to my email and leaving for half an hour before I would go back to see if it succeeded in downloading my messages. The little $100 USB modem is now sitting on the bottom of my computer bag and I'd rather go back to dial-up than go through the slow torture of the thousand bytes I suffered through it. I will probably convert it into a skipping stone at a beautiful beach one of these days.
I did not try it in a big city on in any area where 3G service is available. If you've had a different experience drop me an email and will update this page for the benefit of those who are doing research to see if it's something they want to dive into.
In the end, if your itinerary around Greece is a short one but you still need access to the internet, your best bet would be finding a hotel that offers either broadband in the room (often at an extra fee), or wireless throughout the building (often at low bandwidth connection due to the distance from the router that usually sits at the reception desk). It used to be rare that hotels would offer internet connection, but now you can expect to find it available even in the smallest of towns.
If a hotel with internet connection is not an option, don't despair. Internet cafes can be found by the dozen in every large and small town in Greece. The connections are usually very fast and the prices are very reasonable. Most internet cafes exist in the busies parts of the town and offer both wireless connection and desktop computers. This way you can sit at your table with your own laptop and connect via WiFi, or you can use one of their computers.
Usually the waiter (or attendant) would simply time your session from the moment he/she gives you the username and password for access and you pay at the end. Other times the sessions are timed automatically through the computer software. In several establishments they even let me connect my own MacBook Pro to their ethernet wire which they would unplug from one of their computer if they didn't have WiFi.
Here is my list of what you need to pack for your trip to Greece
Sasha sent us this message in 2010:
I was also suffering from the "adventure Internet". I am a bit south of Kalamata from time to time. I was a bit tired of the prepaid internet cards and the sluggish modem connection.