ATHENS — With nearly 9 million Americans visiting Europe each year, it's surprising that only a handful of plugged-in, information- age travelers know how to squeeze the most from phone service when they cross the Atlantic.
In fact, many don't realize that their mobile phone won't work in Europe until they arrive. Instead, travelers often find themselves turning to calling cards, hotel phones, or public pay phones. Some rely on the generosity of colleagues with European mobile accounts.
These alternatives aren't as accessible as in the States and can often pinch your purse. They also are an inconvenient way of staying in touch with family or the boss, or provide a less than adequate level of safety and security while traveling.
For business travelers and vacationers who flock to places like Greece, pre-paid mobile service has become a convenient, affordable answer. Customers pay in advance for a handset and start-up service, and purchase "scratch" cards at hundreds of local retail outlets when they need additional minutes of calling credit. Because service is paid for in advance, there's no contract, no monthly bill, no hidden charges, and no waiting for service.
"For more than half a million Americans who travel to Greece annually as tourists or on business, pre-paid service is a convenient, viable option," said Dimitris Lolis, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for Stet Hellas. "It's easy to find at Telestet dealers throughout Greece, including our Telestet Exclusive kiosk at Athens International Airport Arrival Terminal. You simply walk in, select the pre-paid package you want and you can be placing outgoing calls by the time you walk out the door."
An advantage that comes with European service is that mobile customers pay only for calls they make, not calls they receive. Under this "calling party pays" system, customers can continue to receive calls even after their outgoing limit is up.
Lolis said 4 out of 10 of his local Greek customers have chosen B Free by Telestet, Stet Hellas' service brand, because of its simplicity, competitive rates, and quality of service. The Telestet mobile network covers 95 percent of the Greek mainland and its islands so customers can make or receive calls virtually anywhere, from a taxi in Athens, a boat in the Aegean, or the ski slopes on the mountains near Arahova.
Travelers also can arrange for enhanced services such as a voice mailbox, allowing callers to leave a message when you're on another call or your phone is turned off. Short Messaging Service turns your phone into a pager allowing customers to send electronic memos of up to 160 characters. Voice prompts for features like voice mail are available in English and customer care representatives -- available 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- are fluent in English.
In Greece, prices vary based on the phone, which is purchased in combination with a pre-paid service card and special system chip. B Free prices are as low as US$145 and include 35 to 45 minutes of outgoing minutes, depending on length, time, and distance of call. As you need more time, customers can just replenish their outgoing call allowance with cards that cost about US$17, US$35, and US$70.
For those traveling to Greece with a European-compatible phone who want to avoid costly roaming charges, B Free service can be purchased for about US$109.
After six months from purchase of the B Free phone, travelers can use their new handset in any of the 120 other countries in Europe and Asia that use the European GSM (Global System for Mobile) standard.
More information about B Free by Telestet is available in English or Greek on the Telestet web site at www.telestet.gr.
Stet Hellas Telecommunications S.A. is at the forefront of the mobile communications industry. To its growing base of more than 797,000 customers in Greece, the company's Telestet brand stands for innovative services and the latest in communications technology. The company's shareholders include Stet Mobile Holdings NV, Bell Atlantic and the Interamerican Group. Its stock is publicly traded on the NASDAQ (STHLY) and Amsterdam (STHLS) exchanges. Internet users: For more information about Stet Hellas visit our NEW web site at www.telestet.gr.