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Moving to Greece

Expats moving to Greece will be relocating to a country of archaeological marvel, rich traditions and shimmering beaches. The Hellenic Republic consists of thousands of islands and rocky outcrops at the tip of the Balkan Peninsula.

Considered by many to be the birthplace of Western civilization, Greece is surrounded by Italy and the Ionian Sea to the west, and Turkey and the Aegean Sea to the east. It has long been an attractive destination for its relaxed lifestyle, sunshine and natural beauty.

However, this idyllic version of Greece is starkly contrasted with the socio-economic and political state of the country in the last decade. Having recently emerged from its far-reaching debt crisis, Greece is experiencing slow but steady recovery. However, the country still has a fairly high unemployment rate and as such, jobs in Greece are scarce. 

Traditionally, employment in Greece has been provided mainly by the service industry, construction, telecommunications, agriculture and shipping. The collapse of Greece's economy left many of these industries reeling and most have yet to recover fully. However, perhaps as a result of low prices, tourism is the exception to the rule and continues to provide employment opportunities for foreigners in Greece.

The Greek cities which attract the most expats are Athens and Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is well known for its high-tech industries and hosts the Thessaloniki Technology Park as well as the Thessaloniki Science Center and Museum. While perhaps not as multicultural as Athens, it is still home to a large expat population. Athens, known as 'the City of the Gods', is the birthplace of democracy where the monuments of Ancient Greece continue to dominate the city. It is also Greece’s financial capital, houses the headquarters of many of the multinational companies operating in the country and has been the site of numerous political protests.

Greece's social and economic problems can't be denied. It is notorious for high levels of corruption in politics and business, as well as complicated government bureaucracy. However, Greece is a place of truly majestic beauty. Its people are warm and friendly, they value relationships, love food and are proud of their culture and traditions. For expats who can afford it, or who are adventurous enough to take the plunge, Greece remains a popular destination for its high-quality lifestyle, ancient villages and the olive groves which dot the landscape.


Fast facts

Official name: The Hellenic Republic

Population: Over 11 million

Capital city: Athens (also the largest city)

Other major cities: Thessaloniki

Geography: Greece consists of the mainland, a peninsula on the southern tip of the Balkans, and 227 inhabited islands. There are thousands of uninhabited islands. One of the most mountainous countries in Europe, Greece's highest point is 9,573 ft (2,918m).

Neighbouring countries: The mainland is bordered by Albania to the northwest, Macedonia to the north and Bulgaria to the northeast. The Ionian Sea is to the west of Greece, with the Aegean Sea towards the east.

Government: Unitary parliamentary republic

Major religions: Christianity (Greek Orthodox)

Main languages: Greek, although English is also widely spoken.

Money: Greece uses the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Expats are able to open a bank account in Greece provided they obtain a Greek tax number (AFM). Generally, ATMs are widely available, although some may not offer services in English.   

Tipping: For restaurants, if there isn't already a service charge, tips are normally 10 percent of the bill. Taxis also appreciate tips of around 10 percent. 

Time: GMT+2 (GMT+3 between the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are most common.

Internet domain: .gr

International dialling code: +30

Emergency contacts: As with other European countries, the general emergency number is 112. For local services, dial 100 (police), 166 (ambulance), or 199 (fire). 

Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Metro networks and intra-city bus systems are restricted to larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki. Inter-city transport can be done via buses and trains. Commercial taxis are often available, and defensive driving is highly recommended. Travel between islands is usually done by ferry.

Weather in Greece

The climate in Greece differs somewhat between regions. The northern parts of the mainland have colder winters and hot, humid summers. On the other hand, the southern parts of the mainland and the islands to the southeast have a more typically Mediterranean climate with milder winters and hot, dry summers. However, in general it can be said that Greece has warm summers and mild winters.

Broadly speaking, snow in Greece becomes less common the further south and the closer to sea level one goes. Some of the higher mountainous areas can have alpine climates with heavy winter snowfall. It does occasionally snow in and around Athens, however.

The hottest months of the year are July and August, where temperatures can reach 104°F (40°C). Rain starts from the middle of October and can continue through February, punctuated by days with a mild winter sun and clear skies. 

Embassy contacts for Greece


Greek embassies

  • Greek Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 1300

  • Greek Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7229 3850

  • Greek Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 6271

  • Greek Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6271 0100   

  • Greek Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 348 2352  

  • Greek Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +3531 6767254

  • Greek Consulate, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 27 857 5315


Foreign embassies in Greece

  • United States Embassy, Athens: +30 210 721 2951

  • British Embassy, Athens: +30 210 727 2600

  • Canadian Embassy, Athens: +30 210 727 3400

  • Australian Embassy, Athens: +30 210 870 4000

  • South African Embassy, Athens: +30 210 617 8020

  • Irish Embassy, Athens: +30 210 723 2771

  • New Zealand Consulate-General, Athens: +30 210 692 4136

Public Holidays in Greece

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January 

1 January

Epiphany

6 January

6 January

Orthodox Ash Monday

2 March

15 March

Independence Day

25 March

25 March

Orthodox Good Friday

17 April

30 April

Orthodox Easter Sunday

19 April

2 May

Orthodox Easter Monday

20 April

3 May

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Whit Sunday

7 June 20 June

Whit Monday

8 June

21 June

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

15 August

15 August

Ochi Day

28 October

28 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Second Day of Christmas

26 December

26 December

Safety in Greece

Safety for expats living in Greece should not be a dominating concern, as most foreign governments consider Greece to be largely peaceful and safe. However, strikes and petty crime are still potential problem areas. While the majority of expats will be safe most of the time, it is always better to be aware and to be prepared. 


Strikes in Greece

In the last decade, strikes have been fairly frequent in Greece. The government's unpopular austerity measures during the economic crisis resulted in large-scale protest action. Now that Greece is slowly regaining economic stability, protests are generally less frequent. However, they do occur from time to time in response to political issues.

That said, the majority of protests in Greece are peaceful and are announced ahead of time. They are mostly in Athens or, to a lesser extent, other major cities such as Thessaloniki. In Athens, most demonstrations take place in Syntagma Square as well as around university campuses. In Thessaloniki, protests are most likely to occur around Aristotle University and at Aristotle Square. 

In the majority of cases, protests are restricted to these areas, and locations associated with tourism remain unaffected. While there generally isn't any major cause for concern, there is always a risk of demonstrations turning violent and foreign governments strongly advise their citizens to avoid them.

The most likely consequences of protests in Greece are the disruption of transport and work stoppages in the sectors involved in them. At times, certain sections of the city may be closed off to the public.

In the case of transport sector strikes, it may become more expensive and more difficult to travel since expats using public transport will have to use alternative transport such as taxis. 


Crime in Greece

As with anywhere, if expats are alert and careful they should be safe in Greece.

In Athens, crime is generally restricted to petty theft such as purse snatching and pickpocketing, and violent crimes such as physical and sexual assault are generally rare. Most crime is likely to occur in areas popular with tourists, some shopping areas and on public transport – particularly the metro. The same generally holds true of other major cities.

There has, unfortunately, been an increase in property-based crime – some expats elect to employ private security firms to assist them with home security.


Safety tips for expats in Greece

Expats should be particularly vigilant when walking through crowded areas or taking public transport. Criminals often work in groups and employ a variety of methods. 

Thieves have also been known to take trains coming from the Athens airport to take advantage of tired travellers.

Given the high number of people travelling in Greece, it is very possible that expats will be mistaken for tourists and criminals may attempt to take advantage of them. One popular scam involves the victim being invited for a drink at a bar by a stranger, being met by some of the stranger's friends and then being forced to pay a bill much larger than they had anticipated. 


Emergency numbers in Greece

As with other EU states, the emergency telephone number in Greece is 112. Below are other local numbers that can be used in case of emergencies:

  • Police: 100

  • Fire brigade: 199 

  • Emergency medical service: 166 

  • Coast guard: 108

  • Emergency social assistance: 197

  • Tourist police: 171

Working in Greece

Expats looking to work in Greece may struggle to find employment. Though Greece's unemployment rate is steadily declining, it remains significantly higher than other European countries such as Italy and Spain. 

Non-EU expats will find it even more difficult to secure a job. Owing to the extra costs and paperwork involved with hiring non-EU citizens, most companies tend to hire employees from within the European Union. To overcome this, networking is key.


Job market in Greece

Greece’s biggest industries are traditionally within the service sector, which employs the majority of people and contributes the most to the country’s GDP. Industries such as food and tobacco processing, textiles and chemicals also make a significant contribution to the Greek economy.

Greece’s tourism industry is thriving, with millions of tourists a year flocking to visit the marble statues and monuments of Ancient Greece, as well as holiday islands such as Santorini and Mykonos. However, jobs in the tourism industry are often seasonal, which can leave expats without an income in the off-season.

Many expats teach English in Greece. This requires a bachelor’s degree and may require a TEFL qualification. Working as a private tutor is an option but doesn’t guarantee a regular income.


Finding a job in Greece

Most expats arrive in Greece with a job in hand, often as the result of an intracompany transfer. However, those determined to find a job in the country should get in touch with local businesses and recruiting agencies. Online job portals and classified sections of local newspapers are a good way to scope out the job market but are often not the best route for securing work. Greeks prefer to do business with people they know, so networking is often key to finding a job in Greece.

Doing Business in Greece

Expats doing business in Greece will find themselves in a challenging economic environment. A complicated and inefficient bureaucracy and a lack of access to regulatory information makes it quite difficult for expats and locals alike to start a business in Greece.

In the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, Greece was ranked 79th out of 190 countries surveyed. The country did well in areas such as starting a business (11th) and trading across borders (34th). However, Greece fell short in ease of registering property (156th) and enforcing contracts (146th)

While much of Greece's economic activity is focused around Athens, the rest of the country offers opportunities as well. Some of the most prominent industries in Greece include tourism, shipping, agriculture, textiles and mining. 


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours in Greece are from Monday to Friday, either from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm. 

Business language

While many Greeks do speak English, having a working grasp of the Greek language or going into business with a first-language speaker are often essential for a successful business.

Dress

Appearances are important in Greece, and expats doing business there should dress neatly and conservatively.

Gifts

Gifts are generally not part of business relationships and may be construed as bribery, given the country's reputation for corruption. However, if a gift is given, it should be reciprocated with a gift of similar value. 

Gender equality

While women are equal under the law, many Greeks retain a 'traditional' view of gender roles and men still outnumber women both in the general workforce and in executive positions.

Greeting

Shaking hands is the most common business greeting in Greece. Eye contact is important.


Business culture in Greece

Greek culture shapes acceptable business practice. Expats will find that understanding local customs and values goes a long way toward understanding business culture, too.

Relationships

An emphasis on family and personal relations means that many Greeks like dealing with people that they know and trust. This contributes to the widespread nepotism in Greek business culture. Greeks also prefer face-to-face meetings over emails and telephone calls.

Hierarchy

Greeks maintain traditional views of democracy and honour. Meetings often entail vigorous exchanges of ideas but expats should take care when disagreeing with a colleague – this should be done in a respectful manner. Additionally, a lot of importance is placed on experience and employees are expected to respect more senior colleagues. 


Dos and don’ts of business in Greece

  • Do greet by shaking hands, smiling and maintaining eye contact

  • Don't be put off by personal questions – Greeks are warm and often curious people

  • Do be prepared to network and spend a lot of time getting to know associates

  • Do make sure that official documents and business cards are in English and Greek

  • Don't be late, even if Greek associates are

Visas for Greece

Expats moving to Greece need to be aware of the difference between a visa and a permit. A visa allows entry into the country for a specific purpose, such as travel or study, and a permit allows an expat to live and work in the country.

Non-EU citizens will most likely need a visa for Greece, while citizens from European Union (EU) and Schengen countries, as well as countries like the US and Canada, can stay as tourists for 90 days within a 180-day period. 

In Greece, work permits and residence permits are not separate documents. Expats from outside of the EU who have been granted permission to enter the country on a work visa must then apply for a permit which enables them to live and work in Greece.


Visas for Greece

Tourist visas

Greece is a Schengen state, meaning that expats entering the country on a Schengen Visa will also have access to the other European countries that are part of the agreement.

The visa allows travellers from outside of the EU to stay in the Schengen Area for as long as 90 days in a six-month period. Expats should be advised that it is difficult to obtain an extension.

Business visas

Greek business visas are for short-term business-related activities in the country. They will require that the applicant provides some kind of proof of their activities in the country, such as an official invitation from a Greek firm to attend a meeting, entry tickets to a conference, or a document proving the applicant’s employment at a company.

Work visas

Non-EU expats planning on staying for more than 90 days and working in Greece will need a type D visa (also known as a National Visa). This visa requires an official offer of employment from a Greek business.

In order to provide such an offer, the business needs to submit paperwork to the Office of Manpower (OAED) proving that the work cannot be done by a Greek national or EU citizen. Once approval is obtained, the business is then able to issue an official offer of employment to be used in the expat's type D visa application. This a long and difficult process and it can take up to a year for a type D visa to be approved and issued.


Permits for Greece

Residence and work permits      

Once in Greece, non-EU expats will need to apply for a residence and work permit which enables them to live in Greece and do a specific job for a specific employer. The application must be made within a month of arrival, but it is a lengthy process so it's recommended that expats apply as soon after arrival as possible.

Before applying, applicants will have to obtain a Greek tax number (AFM) from their nearest tax office. They will also need to obtain a social security number (AMKA) from the local Social Security Institute (IKA) or the Citizens Service Office (KEP).

Expats from the EU who want to stay in Greece for more than three months only need to apply for a certificate of registration at their local foreign bureau. This requires a valid passport, proof of residence and proof of sufficient income or maintenance funds. 

Investment visas

Expats who purchase property in Greece to the value of 250,000 EUR or more are entitled to a Greece Golden Visa. This visa grants permanent residency for the expat and their family members. Permanent residency grants the right to work, start a business, retire or study in Greece. The visa can be renewed every five years as long as the visa holder still owns the property in question.

*Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their nearest Greek embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Greece

For the last decade, the cost of living in Greece has been low due to the effects of the economic crisis. However, now that the country is emerging from the crisis, prices are gradually beginning to rise once more.

That said, living costs in Greece are still fairly low, relatively speaking. In Mercer's 2019 Cost of Living Survey, Athens was ranked 128th out of 209 cities worldwide. This puts it well below other European capitals like London, Paris and Milan.

As with other destinations, the cost of living in Greece varies depending on location. The mainland is generally cheaper than the Greek islands when it comes to fuel and certain basic goods. The countryside is cheaper than cities but there is a much smaller range of products and services. Athens's northern and southeastern suburbs are the most expensive areas on the mainland, while the most expensive islands are those which attract the most tourists. Chief among these are Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu and Crete. 


Cost of accommodation in Greece

Throughout the economic crisis, accommodation prices in Greece were low. Although both rental and purchase prices are now increasing, the cost of accommondation is still relatively inexpensive.

For those who have funds available, it's worth mentioning that foreigners who invest a certain amount of money in Greek property gain the right to apply for residency. 


Cost of food in Greece

Greek culinary culture is famous and food in Greece is generally quite cheap, making for a happy combination. On the other hand, the country has some of the highest VAT rates in the EU, meaning that the costs of basic products are not as low as one might expect. However, the VAT rate for food is lower than other goods and the wide range of locally grown produce means that eating cheaply and well is not difficult. 


Cost of transportation in Greece

Driving in Greece is notorious for being somewhere between challenging and perilous. For expats who do intend on driving their own vehicles, car insurance is a must. In the case of hiring a car in Greece, it is important to check what kind of insurance is on offer, as the costs of hiring a vehicle can be high.

The alternative is public transport. Most people who take public transport in Greece take a bus, or in Athens, the metro. Prices are reasonable but buses can be a slow way to travel.


Cost of education in Greece

Public education in Greece is conducted in Greek. In light of this, expats who are not staying for the long-term often send their children to a private English-speaking international school. However, local Greek schools can be ideal for expats intending to remain in the country for the long-term. 

Private schools in Greece cost more than public schools but some provide education in English. Prices differ between individual schools, and prices go up as children progress through their school careers. 


Cost of living in Greece chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Athens in March 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 400 - 500

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

EUR 300 - 400

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 700 - 800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

EUR 500 - 600

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

EUR 3

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 1.30

Rice (1kg)

EUR 1.70

Loaf of white bread

EUR 0.80

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 7.50

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 4.60

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

EUR 7

Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 1.60

Cappuccino 

EUR 4

Bottle of local beer

EUR 4

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

EUR 40

Utilities/household

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

EUR 0.40

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 25

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

EUR 140

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

EUR 0.80

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

EUR 1.40

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

EUR 1.60

Culture Shock in Greece

It may be a European country with familiar facilities and social structures, but that doesn’t mean that expats won’t experience at least some degree of culture shock in Greece. 

It is a country of rich traditions and ancient history, as well as sea and sunshine. In response to their environment and history, the Greek have developed traditions which expats should respect. Greek characteristics have been shaped by a fascinating blend of the ancient and the modern, and the country’s long history as a crossroads between East and West. 


Language in Greece

Greek is considered by many to be a tricky language to learn. There are differences between spoken and written Greek, as well as between regional idioms. Greek also employs inflections, where the meanings of words change depending on tone. As a result, expats in the first stages of learning Greek can expect some confusing exchanges.

Generally, locals are accepting of foreigners who don’t speak Greek. Many Greeks speak English and realise the increasing global relevance of English. At the same time, Greeks are extremely proud of their language, and rightly so: it is one of the oldest in the world and has made significant contributions to the English language. Expats intent on staying would do well to learn the language – not only does it create more possibilities for employment, but it is also the best way to integrate into Greek society. 


Time in Greece

It is often said that Greek people would rather relax than rush through their daily routines. Time in Greece seems to move more slowly. Statistics show that the average Greek employee works more hours in a year than most Europeans, but this fact doesn't affect the value Greeks place on enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Being half an hour late for a social gathering is normal and even expected, but expats should take care to be on time for business appointments.


Food in Greece

Food and drink are important in Greece, and serve as the gathering point for socialising. Locals spend hours at coffee shops when they can, but this is often less about the coffee itself and more about spending time with friends or family. 

Even in the toughest times, Greek people are fantastic hosts who provide their guests with everything they can. Expats who enjoy this privilege should always bring a gift for the host such as wine or flowers. They should also be prepared to eat whatever is in front of them – it is considered rude to turn down food. 

Accommodation in Greece

For all the damage caused by the economic crisis, one benefit was the lower price of housing. With Greece now emerging from the crisis, property prices are slowly beginning to recover. That said, accommodation in Greece is generally affordable and will likely be a good long-term investment as prices continue to rise.

Whether considering a white-washed Santorini blockhouse with blue shutters that match the sky; an Italian-style townhouse in Corfu’s rolling, green hills; or a luxury villa in the northern suburbs of Athens, expats have plenty of choice when it comes to finding a new home in Greece.


Finding accommodation in Greece

In the search for accommodation in Greece, hiring a local real estate agent will likely be a good idea. Many Greek sellers target foreign buyers and a better deal can often be found with the help of someone who speaks the language. That said, many Greeks avoid agents because of their commission fees, which are often high.

Exploring the areas one is interested in is always a good idea. Expats should look out for “for sale” signs, and ask locals if they know of any properties available. Places available for rent may also have signage up on the property, which is often a white or yellow sticker with the word enoikiazetai (for rent) written in red.

Many people in Greece prefer posting their properties online and in local newspapers as opposed to estate agents. While most ads are in Greek, there are some in English. Generally speaking, English ads are aimed at foreigners and may have higher prices than one would find in Greek ads.


Factors to consider for house-hunting in Greece

While everybody’s real estate priorities are different, choosing a respectable area within one’s budget is a good start. Especially when buying, expats should consider the general condition and age of the property they are considering, particularly as this affects property tax.

Expats looking to stay in Greece for a short period might want to consider renting instead. On the other hand, expats who can afford to purchase property that is of a certain value may be attracted by the prospect of getting a resident’s permit in return. 


Renting accommodation in Greece

For long-term rentals in Greece, expats should be prepared to pay a deposit of between two and three months’ rent. This should be returned when the lease has expired, as long as there is no damage to the property. As a result, doing an inventory of any damages upon arrival might save a tenant’s deposit.

According to law, residential lease agreements have to cover a minimum of three years, although a shorter period may be negotiated between the landlord and the tenant. Generally speaking the longer the lease, the lower the monthly cost.

It is important that expats fully understand their contracts and should hire someone to independently translate any agreements written in Greek before they sign. 

For short-term rentals, utility accounts are most often billed to the landlord and are typically included in the rental cost. For long-term rentals, however, the tenant will likely be held accountable for their own utilities, which are an extra expense on top of rent. 

Healthcare in Greece

For decades, hospitals in Greece have been praised for their quality of care. However, the healthcare system is notorious for corruption, lack of funding and mismanagement. 

In an attempt to streamline the system and fight corruption, the Greek government has introduced universal social security numbers and electronic prescriptions and has also channelled resources to Greece's larger hospitals. 

Many Greeks and expats alike take out private health insurance, which appears to be more comprehensive and cost-effective than their public healthcare scheme. 


Public healthcare in Greece

Despite Greece's less-than-ideal reputation for healthcare, public hospitals in Greece are still generally adequate and there are still professionals who do their best to deliver quality care. The biggest downside is long waiting periods in order to receive care.

While some hospitals in more remote locations on islands may provide a lower standard of healthcare, the best public hospitals – usually concentrated in the major cities – offer care of a high standard. It is often the case that expats who require more sophisticated care than island hospitals can provide will be transported to a hospital in Athens or Thessaloniki. 

Most medical staff in Greece will speak some level of English, though this may differ based on their position and the location of the hospital. A doctor in Thessaloniki is more likely to speak English than a nurse in Preveza, for instance. 

Emergency care in Greece is free of charge regardless of one’s nationality. However, unless an expat is employed in the country, has a social security number (known as an AMKA) and pays for public health insurance, they will have to pay their own medical bills for most primary care visits. 

Expats in the early stages of moving and who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will also be provided with healthcare for a limited time. However, the cost of private care is not covered.


Private healthcare in Greece

Private healthcare in Greece is normally considered to be superior to the public alternative. Private medical facilities are generally less affected by the country’s economic situation and have newer equipment, but are not covered by IKA. Expats who would prefer to go to a private hospital in Greece would do well to have a private healthcare policy since they will be responsible for the full cost of their treatment.

Moreover, doctors and nurses in private hospitals are more likely to speak English. Some Greek private hospitals even have affiliations with US hospitals or hospitals in other countries, and their staff will have had at least some form of overseas training. 


Health insurance in Greece

All expats in the country on a working visa, who are looking for work or on pension in Greece, require an AMKA. Furthermore, social health insurance is a compulsory contribution made by employers and employees. While some employers will try to skirt around their contributions, IKA takes this very seriously and, should this occur, the employee should contact their closest IKA office.

Medical care by IKA-approved practitioners is generally free, although patients are required to pay a fee for all prescribed medicines. Unfortunately, the cover is not as comprehensive as it used to be and many Greeks take out a private health insurance policy as gap cover. Furthermore, social healthcare, as with other bureaucratic procedures in Greece, is a fairly complicated issue for outsiders and it is suggested that expats research this very carefully. 


Pharmacies in Greece

Pharmacies in Greece are normally marked by a green cross. They are widely available, especially in larger cities, and are generally a reliable first line of defence against illness. Many Greek pharmacists will speak English and are capable diagnosticians who may save expats a trip to the doctor. 

Expats wanting to bring prescribed medication from their own country should bring them in their original containers, and ensure that they are clearly marked. It is also recommended to have a signed physician’s letter outlining their patient’s condition and the medication required for it, including generic names.

In cities such as Thessaloniki, medication is easily accessible although more specialised forms may only be available from hospitals. Expats who contribute to IKA generally receive a percentage off of the cost of prescription medication, and patients go to an IKA-approved doctor, who provides them with a prescription that is then taken to a pharmacy.


Emergency services in Greece

Public ambulances are widely available in larger cities, but access may be restricted on some islands and rural areas. In these cases, private ambulances, helicopters and taxis may be legitimate alternatives depending on the situation.

  • Ambulance: 166 

  • General emergency: 112 

Education and Schools in Greece

Expat parents moving to Greece are faced with a choice. Public schools in Greece teach only in Greek. However, despite this downside, it is arguably the most authentic way for expat children to integrate into Greek society and learn the language, while not having to pay tuition fees.

On the other hand, many expats elect to put their children in private schools where they may get a better education, but this comes with a hefty price tag. In the case of English-speaking private international schools, expat children will have an environment that is closer to what they’re used to at home but this will entail a degree of isolation from their local peers. 


The Greek education system

The Greek education system is administered by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. By law, all children between six and 15 years old are required to attend school. During these years, public schooling is tuition-free.

The schooling system in Greece is divided into three levels:

  • Primary school (demotiko) – ages 6 to 11

  • Middle school (gymnasio) – ages 12 to 14

  • Senior high school (lykeion) – ages 15 to 17

After finishing gymnasio, children can choose either an academic or vocational route. The academic route culminates in the Apolytirio Lykeiou, while the vocational route culminates in the Technika Epangelmatika Ekpedeftiria (TEE).


Public schools in Greece

Public schools in Greece are closely overseen by the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs. Government schools do not charge school fees and have traditionally provided free textbooks to students – however, this is subject to change and there have been textbook shortages in the past.

Even before the economic crisis, many expat parents with children in Greek public schools would also spend thousands of euros on private tutors. This is partly due to an inflexible education system which relies on rote memory and partly to improve their children’s chances in the final exams. 


Private schools in Greece

Greece has one of the highest private school attendance figures in Europe, mostly due to the perception that the quality of private schools in Greece is superior to public education. As a result of the country’s economic problems, however, many parents have struggled to keep up with private tuition fees and have had to consider public schooling for their children.

While private schools certainly have more autonomy than their public counterparts, they are still supervised by the Ministry and the medium of instruction in most of them is Greek. For expats who can afford it, Greek private schools are perhaps an effective middle ground between an integrative experience for their children and an education of a high standard. 


International schools in Greece

There are a number of international schools in Greece, most of which are situated in Athens, with a few in Thessaloniki. These schools offer foreign or international curricula, typically taught in the language of their country of origin (often English). International schools are favoured by expats because they provide an opportunity for children to continue with a familiar curriculum in their home languages. Fees differ between schools and tend to increase as children progress.


Homeschooling in Greece

Unfortunately, homeschooling in Greece is illegal except in very particular circumstances, such as if the child has special needs. By and large, it is compulsory under Greek law to attend primary and secondary schools. 

Transport and Driving in Greece

Expats shouldn’t have too many problems with transport and driving in Greece. The country has a developed transport infrastructure that continues to improve in spite of the last decade's economic issues. Public transport is fairly comprehensive, especially in major cities such as Athens.


Public transport in Greece

Trains

Expats can take advantage of regional railway lines which link most of the country as well as the urban rail networks in some of the larger cities. The majority of the rail network is good and expats shouldn’t have too many problems.

Metro

The country's only operational subway system is the Athens Metro, which runs along three lines and links the city centre to the surrounding suburbs and the Athens International Airport.

Since 2006, the construction of a metro system in Thessaloniki has been underway, with construction due to be completed in 2020. The system's completion has been repeatedly delayed due to archaeological finds unearthed by construction. 

Trams

The Athens Tram is the only public tram network in Greece. The network began as a horse-drawn tramway in the 19th century and has developed into a modern system that is reliable and convenient, running from early in the morning to late at night.

Buses

Buses are the primary form of public transport on land in Greece. With a network that connects large cities like Athens and Thessaloniki to small villages, expats shouldn’t have much of a problem getting around. The majority of the mainland is linked to Athens or, alternatively, Thessaloniki. Islands such as Corfu can also be accessed by bus from the Greek capital.

Greek buses are most often modern, safe and affordable. While they are reliable most of the time, as with other modes of transport, they may face delays and cancellations as a result of sporadic strikes, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. Expats are advised to arrive early to catch a bus since they have a tendency to run off schedule.

Ferries

Greece’s ferry services are a popular mode of transport. From June to September, ferry services are very frequent, while only limited services are offered from March to May. It can be very difficult to get around using the ferry between December and February as very few routes remain operational. During this period, it's usually preferable to go by plane if needing to get to one of Greece's outlying islands.


Taxis in Greece

Taxis come in variable colours depending on the city they are located in. Taxis in Athens are yellow, and taxis in Thessaloniki are blue and white. Each taxi is fitted with a meter and expats should ensure that the driver has switched it on before embarking on their journey.


Driving in Greece

In Greece, cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Driving in Greece can be a harrowing experience – the country is infamous for having some of the worst drivers in Europe. That said, the roads in Greece are generally good and many regional roads that used to be dirt tracks have been tarred over in the last few years. 

Driving is a good way to explore some of Greece’s more remote areas. Expats may, however, want to consider public transport if they aren't prepared to become masters of defensive driving. Another option may be using a motorcycle for its manoeuvrability, though this too should be done with caution.

Those wanting to drive in Greece are advised to take out insurance. Expat motorists should also take note that the owners of all vehicles with a Greek license plate are required to pay a circulation tax.


Flying in Greece

With 15 international airports and a good domestic network, flying is an easy and convenient way to travel. Various Greek islands and cities on the mainland are all very accessible via plane.

Shipping and Removals in Greece

Not only is shipping one of the major industries in Greece, but the Mediterranean is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.

It follows that there are literally hundreds of companies competing for customers, and shipping items to and from Greece should be fairly inexpensive for expats.

The mountainous territory in northern Greece means road and rail access is somewhat limited, and shipping by sea is still generally the best option. However, it pays to shop around to see what's on the market.

Frequently Asked Questions about Greece

Moving to a new country is a big step, and expats are bound to have some queries and concerns about their soon-to-be-home. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about moving to Greece.

Should I move to Greece?

Everybody's circumstances and priorities are different. Greece is not the ideal location to make or save money, but it is a great destination for expats who can afford it and want a slower pace of life.

Can I find work in Greece?

Jobs in Greece are hard to come by, even for Greeks. The easiest way to move over is to go over on a company transfer. Otherwise, most expats working in Greece either teach English or work in the tourism industry.

Do I need a car in Greece?

It depends on where one wants to travel, but expats shouldn't have too much of a problem with transport and driving in Greece.

In the cities, the manoeuvrability of a scooter may be less stressful than a car in the notorious Greek traffic. At the same time, cities like Athens and Thessaloniki have very reliable public bus transport systems.

Moving between cities can be done by bus or, in some cases, by train. Those wanting to make the journey in a low-slung commercial car may have problems travelling on some of the rural roads, although, for the most part, Greece has a highly developed transport infrastructure.

Although the ferries can be unreliable, they are still the best means for moving between islands, though going by plane is also an option. 

Is it worth learning Greek?

Learning Greek is the best way to integrate into society and deal with some of the culture shock in Greece. Aside from having highly specialised expertise, it is also the only realistic way to stand a chance at being competitive in the Greek job market.

With all the strikes and riots in Greece, is it safe to live there?

Most demonstrations are actually peaceful and very few of them occur outside Athens and Thessaloniki. As long as expats avoid areas where protests are taking place, and keep their wits about them, there should be very few issues with safety in Greece.

What's the best way to buy property or rent in Greece?

With help. Real estate is tricky enough when dealing in one's first language, and the best way to avoid a bad deal would be to get help from somebody who can speak Greek. Property prices are quite low as a result of the economy, so there are great opportunities for expats to find good quality accommodation in Greece at a bargain.

Where should I visit?

Aside from mainland Greece, which has its own set of sites and history, there are thousands of islands ranging from large, civilization-bearing islands like Rhodes and Crete, to those that are no more than rocky outcrops. 

Articles about Greece

Banking, Money and Taxes in Greece

Though banking, money and taxes in Greece have been a delicate matter for a number of years, things have been returning to normal since the economic crisis has stabilised. Nevertheless, financial matters can be tricky to navigate in a foreign country – here's a rundown of what to expect.


Money in Greece

The currency in Greece is the euro (EUR), subdivided into 100 cents. Currency is available in the following denominations:

  • Notes: 5 EUR, 10 EUR, 20 EUR, 100 EUR, 200 EUR and 500 EUR

  • Coins: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 EUR and 2 EUR


Banking in Greece

There are several reputable local and international banks in Greece. The most prominent local banks are Alpha Bank, Eurobank Ergasias, National Bank of Greece and Piraeus Bank. Though some international banks ceased operation in Greece during the financial crisis, there are still several with a presence in Greece, such as HSBC and Citibank. Many expats open a Greek bank account for local use while maintaining their foreign bank account for international transactions.

Mobile and internet banking in Greece are commonly available. It's possible to pay by card for most transactions, although some smaller businesses and restaurants only accept cash. It's, therefore, a good idea for expats to keep some cash on them, especially outside of cities and away from major tourist destinations.

Opening a bank account in Greece

Opening a bank account in Greece is fairly easy. Before this can be done, however, expats will need to apply for a Greek tax number, called an AFM (Arithmo Forologiko Mitro). To get an AFM, expats will need to bring their passport to their closest tax office and fill in the relevant form. Once the application has been processed, the tax office provides a document stating the applicant’s nine-digit AFM number.

Once they have their AFM number, non-resident bank applicants will need to present proof of identity. This could be in the form of a passport, national identity card or driver’s licence, though some banks are more specific about what forms of identity they accept. A recent utility bill as proof of address may also be necessary, as well as bank statements from the expat’s bank in their own country. Finally, expats will need to pay a deposit. The amount varies between individual banks.

ATMs in Greece

ATMs are widely available in most areas of Greece. Many of them, especially in larger cities, have options available for doing one’s transactions in English. In more remote areas, however, ATMs are more likely to only use Greek. 

The most commonly accepted cards are MasterCard and Visa – Diner’s Club and American Express are less likely to be accepted. For the most part, there should be no issues when using cards with either a chip or a magnetic strip.  


Tax in Greece

Most expats will find that they need to obtain an AFM number fairly swiftly upon arrival in Greece as this number is needed in order to take up employment, open a bank account, and make big purchases such as cars or homes.

In most cases, income generated in the country will be taxed by the Greek government. Social security contributions account for a significant portion of this tax, although employers are required to cover a part of this. Expats buying property will also have to pay real estate tax.

Due to the complex nature of tax in Greece, it is highly advisable to consult a bilingual tax advisor who has experience in expat tax matters.

Expat Experiences in Greece

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Greece and would like to share your story.


An American expat, Marissa Tejada is the author of Chasing Athens (a modern romance novel), a blogger, and a freelance writer for Fodor’s, Forbes Travel and others. She talks to us about finding your niche in a foreign country, navigating the job market and seeing the positives in living abroad. Read about her expat experience in Athens.

Eleni is a Canadian expat who, as a child, spent summers visiting family in Greece. After completing her Masters degree, she moved to Athens where she met her husband and started a family. Now, she's a managing partner at XpatAthens.com, which supports the city's growing expat community. Read more about her expat experience in Athens.

Bex is a British expat who moved to Greece to learn a different culture. She has travelled to and lived and taught in various places around the globe, including Sri Lanka and Cambodia, and now finds herself living in Athens. Read more about her expat experience in Athens.

Yadira is a global nomad of note, but now she's finally settled down and moved to Athens, Greece to pursue a life as a wife and mother. She also maintains a site aimed at helping expat parents adjust. Read what she has to say about her expat experience in Greece.

Tove, a Norwegian expat living in Greece, left home to escape the rat race of life as a reporter and to settle down with her Greek hubby. Now, nearly 20 years later, she reflects on a very lengthy expat experience.

Breeynn Johnson has always had itchy feet. She grew up in Minnesota, then attended the University of Arizona where she studied Communications and Cultural and Religious Studies. While travelling around Europe she found herself wanting to get to know a foreign land in more detail, and so eventually decided to move to Greece and experience the country up close. Read about her take on expat life in Athens.