In cities, debit and credit cards are accepted but in out-of-the-way locations you'll need cash. Most towns have ATMs but they're often out of order.
ATMs are found in every town large enough to support a bank and in almost all the tourist areas. If you have MasterCard or Visa, there are plenty of places to withdraw money. Cirrus and Maestro users can make withdrawals in all major towns and tourist areas. Be aware that many ATMs on the islands can lose their connection for a day or two at a time, making it impossible for anyone (locals included) to withdraw money. It's useful to have a backup source of money.
Automated foreign-exchange machines are common in major tourist areas. They take all major European currencies, Australian and US dollars and Japanese yen, and are useful in an emergency, although they charge a hefty commission.
Be warned that many card companies can put an automatic block on your card after your first withdrawal abroad, as an antifraud mechanism. To avoid this happening, inform your bank of your travel plans.
Nothing beats cash for convenience – or for risk. If you lose cash, it's gone for good and very few travel insurers will come to your rescue. Those that will normally limit the amount to approximately US$300. That said, in the current financial climate, many businesses are requesting cash only. It's best to carry no more cash than you need for the next few days. It's also a good idea to set aside a small amount, say US$100, as an emergency stash.
Note that Greek shopkeepers and small-business owners have a perennial problem with having small change. When buying small items it is better to tender coins or small-denomination notes.
Credit cards are an accepted part of the commercial scene in Greece, although they're often not accepted on many of the smaller islands or in small villages. In larger places, credit cards can be used at top-end hotels, restaurants and shops. Some C-class hotels will accept credit cards, but D- and E-class hotels very seldom do.
The main credit cards are MasterCard and Visa, both of which are widely accepted. They can also be used as cash cards to draw cash from the ATMs of affiliated Greek banks. Daily withdrawal limits are set by the issuing bank and are given in local currency only.
- Restaurants If a service charge is included, a small tip is appreciated. If there's no service charge, leave 10% to 20%.
- Taxis Round up the fare by a couple of euros. There's a small fee for handling bags; this is an official charge, not a tip.
- Bellhops Bellhops in hotels and stewards on ferries expect a small gratuity of €1 to €3.
The main reason to carry travellers cheques rather than cash is the protection they offer against theft. They are, however, losing popularity as more and more travellers opt to put their money in a bank at home and withdraw it at ATMs as they go. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are available in euros and are all widely accepted and have efficient replacement policies.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.