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Safety and Healthcare in Greece

The first thing that comes to mind when people think of Greece these days is probably the financial crisis. Expats living in Greece, however, know that the country still has a lot to recommend it. Read our Expat Guide on life in Greece for info on Greece’s history, culture, cuisine and everyday life.

Safety Issues

As Greece is located on a major fault line, tremors often occur and major earthquakes are a possibility. To help with expats’ disaster preparedness, the Greek government has put together an earthquake safety pamphlet.

The current financial crisis and the tough austerity measures have led to widespread discontent and political instability. As a result, there are often strikes which can affect all areas of daily life — public transportation, opening hours for government offices and post offices, garbage collection, etc. In addition, there are frequent protests and demonstrations. These are usually peaceful, but have been known to get violent, so it is best to avoid such areas at these times if at all possible.

There has also been an important increase in the number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands, especially Lesbos, Kos, and Samos. Even though incidents in these areas are fairly rare, it is recommended to be cautious when visiting the islands.

Medical Care in Greece

Medical services are generally good, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. However, the situation of public hospitals has worsened because of the debt crisis that began in 2009. In fact, in 2015 the government only spent 4% of the GDP on the healthcare system, while it spent 10% in 2009. In addition to this, there is a shortage of 5,000 doctors and 15,000 nurses in the public healthcare system. In big cities, those who would like a higher quality of care have the option of paying for medical treatment in private hospitals and clinics. Most of the Greeks who still have the resources to do so are now opting for private healthcare, and it is highly advisable that you do the same.

Medical care in rural areas and on many of the Greek islands is often substandard and lacking in resources; therefore, these patients are often transported to bigger cities on the mainland in order to receive better treatment. Doctors in the big cities usually speak English in addition to another European language.

In case of an emergency, dial 112, the European-wide emergency number, where you are guaranteed to reach English-speaking operators. Alternatively, dial 100 for the police, 166 for an ambulance, and 199 in case of fire.

Health Insurance in Greece

In Greece, public health insurance has been mandatory since the introduction of a national healthcare system (ESY, short for Εθνικό Σύστημα Υγείας) in 1983. Most Greeks are insured through their employer, and the largest insurance provider in Greece is IKA, which also provides other social benefits such as pension and unemployment benefits. See the Working in Greece article for more information. 

The primary healthcare recipient (the employed party) receives their own personal health booklet, which must be presented when the patient receives medical services. Family members of the primary healthcare recipient receive a family health booklet. In cities, you are free to choose your own general practitioner from a list; in rural areas, there is often only one doctor serving a specific area. You can make appointments with specialists without a referral from your general practitioner.

With public health insurance, medical treatment is free (although copays are slowly being introduced), but the wait times, even for cancer operations, can be shockingly long, especially since the beginning of the financial crisis. Many people who used to be able to afford private insurance are now also relying on the public system. In some cases, pharmacists are demanding that even their insured customers pay the full-price for medicines, as the government already owes them large sums in reimbursements.

It is a good idea to check if your company will provide you with additional private health insurance. If not, you should consider whether purchasing additional private coverage is the right choice for you and your family.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Rajat Bhatnagar

"It is really good to speak and hear Hindi from time to time. With InterNations I got to know compatriots in Athens and Thessaloniki."

Amelie Barreau

"InterNations members are really helpful and provided us with valuable tips about the international schools in Athens."

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