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Travel & living abroad

Europe

Greece

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Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 04 January 2011


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to Safety and Security - Local Travel - Major Pre-Planned strikes section (further industrial action on public transport). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in Greece.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary


  • There is a general threat from terrorism, which has been on the increase. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • Calling 999 from a UK mobile in Greece will automatically transfer you to the Greek emergency services.

  • Visitors should expect regular strikes and demonstrations. These strikes and demonstrations are sometimes called at short notice and can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece (including air travel and ports). See Safety and Security - Local Travel - major pre-planned strikes .

  • Exercise extreme caution around public demonstrations and protests in major urban centres.

  • Around 2.35 million British nationals visit Greece every year (Source: Civil Aviation Authority). Most visits are trouble-free but you should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as you would in the UK.  See General - Consular Assistance Statistics If you need to contact the emergency services in Greece call 112.

  • Maintain high standards of public behaviour in Greece. The Greek police will not accept rowdy or indecent behaviour, especially where excessive alcohol consumption is involved. Greek courts impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism 
There is a general threat from domestic terrorism, which has been on the increase in recent months. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

High profile British interests in Greece should remain vigilant and regularly review their security measures. Attacks have involved the use of explosive devices against Greek institutions, commercial interests and diplomatic targets. Latterly, some attacks have included the use of automatic weapons against police personnel and their facilities. Commercial and media establishments have also been targeted, and up-market shopping areas are seen as legitimate targets.

  • On 24 June 2010,  a police officer was killed by an explosive device in an attack against the Ministry of Civil Protection.
  • On 19 July 1010, a Greek journalist was shot outside his Athens home.
  • Between 1 and 4 November 2010, parcel bombs were addressed to a number of foreign Embassies in Athens.
  • On 30 December 2010, an explosion took place at the Administrative Court of First Instance in the inner-city district of Ambelokipi.
Domestic anarchist groups remain active and the number and scale of attacks have increased since the shooting of a Greek teenager in December 2008, and the serious riots that followed.

See our Terrorism abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime  
Most visits to Greece are trouble-free, but be aware that incidents of theft of wallets, handbags etc are common on the metro and crowded tourist places; leave valuables in safe custody at your hotel or apartment.

Personal attacks, including sexual assaults and rape, are generally infrequent in Greece.  However, this is not the case in some holiday resorts frequented by large numbers of youth tourists. In 2009 Greece was one of the countries with the highest number of cases reported to our Consular staff of British nationals who were the victim of a serious sexual offence. In some of these cases those alleged to have carried out these offences were also British nationals. In many cases excessive consumption of alcohol by either the victim or the offender preceded the incident. See our Rape and sexual assault abroad page.

You are therefore advised to maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Be aware that alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit.  Remember that drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. We advise lone visitors, in particular, never to accept lifts from strangers or passing acquaintances at any time. See our Victims of crime abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
Generally there are no local travel restrictions, but you should be aware that certain areas near the Greek borders are militarily sensitive. Although these areas can be visited without any problems, do not take photographs or make notes near military or official installations. In addition, travellers should seek permission before photographing individuals.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Major Pre-Planned strikes :
Planned industrial action as follows:

  • Wednesday 5 January 2011: The Athens Metro, suburban railway and the Pireaeus-Kifisia urban electric railway will not be operating for 24 hours. Buses will not operate between 12:00 and 16:00.
  • Monday 10 January 2011: The Athens Metro, suburban railway and the Pireaeus-Kifisia urban electric railway will not be operating for 24 hours.  Buses will not operate between 12:00 and 16:00. 



Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel

In 2009 there were 1,453 road deaths in Greece (source: DfT). This equates to 12.9 road deaths per 100,000 of population compared to the UK average of 3.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2009.

You are advised not to hire motorcycles, scooters, mopeds or quad bikes, as accidents involving these forms of transport are common and can often result in very serious or even fatal injury. Check that your travel insurance covers you for the relevant activity (for more advice see travel insurance) and be aware that failure to wear a crash helmet might invalidate your travel insurance if you are involved in an accident. If you intend to hire a moped be aware that you would require a valid driving licence with at least category A1 - 'light motorcycle` for this purpose. Category P, which is valid in the UK for driving mopeds up to 50cc is not valid in Greece. Greek law requires you to wear a crash helmet on a scooter, moped or motorcycle. You may be arrested if you do not. Be aware that when hiring a vehicle, hire companies will often demand your passport as a form of security. Do not to hand over your passport under any circumstance. Check any waiver which will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged. Quad bike riders require a full-face helmet (or non-full-face helmet plus goggles) under Greek law. Road insurance and a motorcycle licence are also mandatory.

See our Driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air travel  
The revised EU-wide security measures that came into effect for all passengers departing from UK airports in November 2006 are also being implemented in Greece.  For more details about this see Airline security.

On 17 August 2010, the Civil Aviation Authority announced that the Flight Options group of companies, including Kiss flights, had ceased trading. Travellers are advised to consult the CAA's website for further information, including information about passenger rights under the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) scheme. The CAA advises Flight Options customers who are currently abroad and experiencing difficulties to contact the CAA for more information on 0044 161 444 5811. See also Latest News.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Greece Country Profile

Greece is a stable democracy, however, public protests are a standard feature of Greek political life. Take precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations, which have the potential to turn violent and are often quelled with tear gas.

Local laws and customs

Greek people are renowned for their hospitality. The Greek police are used to dealing with large numbers of foreign tourists, especially on the islands and do so in a low-key way.

Indecent behaviour, including mooning, is not tolerated. The police have made it clear that they will not hesitate to arrest those who do it. Be aware that the courts impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently. Bear in mind that some fancy dress costumes may offend the local Greek authorities and be considered as contravening decency laws.

Do not become involved with drugs of any kind, nor bring drugs – including “class C” drugs – from the UK.  Possession of even small quantities can lead to long terms of imprisonment. Know your alcohol limits as your travel insurance may in some cases not cover you after excessive drinking.

The plant Khat is an illegal narcotic in Greece. You will be arrested and detained with the possibility of a prison sentence if you are caught trying to take Khat into Greece. Driving any vehicle whilst over the legal drinking limit is heavily penalised and can result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment.

If you are seeking employment in bars or night clubs in Greece, you are required to have a health certificate/licence issue by the local authorities. Failure to have such a certificate is punishable by a fine and or imprisonment.

In common with many countries there is a requirement in Greece to be able to identify yourself. A passport or document with a photograph on it should be carried at all times.

In order to comply with Greek law, you should ensure that you obtain a receipt for goods purchased. If you purchase pirate CDs or DVDs in Greece you could be imprisoned.

Do not purchase any offensive weapons whilst on holiday. This includes items such as knuckledusters or knives with a blade length of 10cm or above.

From 1 September 2010, it is illegal to smoke in all indoor public places. The penalty for violating this law is a fine of up to €500.

See our Your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas
Visas are not required to enter Greece. You need a passport to enter Greece. As a British passport holder you may stay as a visitor for three months. For longer stays, you will need to apply to the appropriate office for a residence permit.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
Non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationals travelling to Greece must have a passport valid for at least three months after the period of their intended stay or expiry date of their visa. Nationals of the EEA are exempt from the above regulation but must have a passport valid for the period of their intended stay.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children  
For information on exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact the Greek Embassy in London.

Health

Following a number of confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in northern Greece, the Hellenic Centre for Infectious Diseases Control (KEELPNO - Greek language website: www.keelpno.gr), has advised visitors to affected areas to cover themselves up and wear insect repellent. Information about the virus in English can be found at: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

The Greek National Health system provides a basic medical service to Greek nationals and it has a reciprocal agreement with the British National Health Service. There are many public and private Hospitals and Medical Centres in Greece, all of varying standards. Doctors and facilities are generally good on the mainland, but may be limited on the islands. The standards of nursing and after care, particularly in the public health sector lag behind what is normally acceptable in the UK. The Public Ambulance Service, which will normally respond to any accident, is rudimentary. There are severe shortages of ambulances on some islands.

You should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Greek nationals. It also does not cover you for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature.  See our EHIC page.
 
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 11,000 adults aged 15 or over in Greece were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.2% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. Exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.  See our HIV and AIDS page.

Seek medical advice before travelling to Greece and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel health page and the UK Department of Health website.

Natural disasters

Natural Disasters - Earthquakes
Mainland Greece and most of the Greek islands popular with British tourists are in seismically active zones, and earth tremors are common. Serious earthquakes are less frequent but do occur.

Natural Disasters - Forest Fires
Forest fires are very common during Greece’s hot and dry summers. Outbreaks are occurring regularly and, although these are being quickly brought under control by the Greek Fire Service and travel has not been disrupted, it is important to be aware of the potential outbreaks and remain alert. In particular, please take care when visiting or driving through woodland and forest areas; ensure that cigarette ends are properly extinguished and disposed of carefully, do not light barbecues and do not leave any rubbish, particularly empty bottles, behind.

General

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. Check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
 

General - Money
The currency of Greece is the Euro.  

Legislation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the EU applies in all Member States. Any person entering or leaving the EU will have to declare the cash that they are carrying if this amounts to 10,000 Euros or more; this includes cheques, travellers' cheques, money orders, etc. This will not apply to anyone travelling via the EU to a non-EU country, as long as the original journey started outside of the EU nor to those travelling within the EU.

General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Around 2.35 million British nationals visit Greece every year (Source: Civil Aviation Authority).  Most visits are trouble-free but you should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as you would in the UK.  923 British nationals required consular assistance in Greece in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident; 149 deaths; 471 hospitalisations; and 222 arrests, for a variety of offences. During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (496 cases).

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Contacts

Greece, Athens, British Embassy

Address:

Greece, Athens, British Embassy
British Embassy
1 Ploutarchou Street
106 75 Athens

Telephone:

(0030) 210 7272 600

Fax:

(0030) 210 7272 743
Consular/Visas/Passport Section Fax (0030) 210 7272 720

Office hours:

More details about opening hours, sections' contact details etc. on our Office working hours and contact details page.

Website: http://ukingreece.fco.gov.uk

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