Stunning scenery, incredible history, abundant arts and culture, warm and welcoming people, and outstanding cuisine — Greece truly has it all.
Add to this the fact that it is one of Europe’s hottest and sunniest destinations and it’s easy to understand why so many Brits wonder what it would be like to move to Greece either short or long term.
But what’s the reality of living and working in Greece?
Is it all sunshine, ouzo and olives?
Read on for the lowdown on moving to Greece from the UK…
- 1 Greece Visa Requirements for Brits
- 2 Way of Life in Greece
- 3 Cost of Living in Greece
- 4 Popular Areas for Brits
- 5 Jobs in Greece for UK Expats
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Greece Visa Requirements for Brits
As Greece and Britain are both (currently!) in the EU, you currently only require a passport that’s valid for the proposed duration of your stay.
However, if the UK leaves the EU with a ‘no-deal’, you’ll most likely be required to have at least 6 months validity on your passport from your date of arrival. This rule would come into being on 29 March 2019, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Don’t worry; we’ll update this section with definitive information once Brexit terms are published.
Currently, you can stay in Greece as a visitor for 3 months.
Any longer and you’ll need to apply for a residence certificate, known as a veveosi engrafis.
You’ll need to supply your passport, two photos and proof of adequate funds to support yourself — this should be at least €4,000 per person — as well as evidence of health insurance (or a Greek health booklet), and a proof of your Greek address.
Take a look at this guide to obtaining a registration certificate in Greece for children, the spouses of Greek citizens, and for people being hosted.
If you’re working in Greece, you’ll also need to obtain a veveosi engrafis.
You’re required to submit the following documents:
- Two photos
- Proof of address
- Employment contract
- Declaration form stamped and signed by your employer (this is provided by your local police authority)
- A copy of your employer’s passport and residence permit if they too are foreign
Your veveosi engrafis is open dated, which means that you only need to update it or renew it if your circumstances change.
Students, freelancers and domestic employees should contact their local police authority for specialist advice on how to apply for a veveosi engrafis.
Once you’ve been living in Greece for 5 years, you’ll be eligible to apply for a permanent residence certificate, known as an engrafo monimis diamonis.
You’ll require the following:
- Two photos
- Your current veveosi engrafis
- Proof of address
Way of Life in Greece
One of the primary attractions of Greece to British expats is that unique Greek lifestyle.
Family and friends are at the heart of what it means to be Greek — that means tight knit communities with the elderly, adults, teeangers and kids all playing an integral role.
One of the ways that Greeks celebrate their communities is with food and drink.
Meals can be long, drawn-out affairs with multiple courses and mezze, with everyone sharing dishes and plenty of local wine.
Tradition plays a big part in the Greek way of life too: weddings, baptisms, name days and other religious events are huge events which often have a lot of idiosyncratic traditions and superstitions attached to them.
Compared to the UK — or certainly London — there’s no rat race in Greece, and life can be slow and languorous. But don’t mistake this for laziness or apathy — Greeks are some of the most passionate people on this earth.
They just know that the best things in life are enjoyed slowly 😉
As you may or may not know, Greece is made up of the mainland plus a whopping 6,000 islands, so getting around can be a multi-transport operation!
Just FYI — only 227 of those islands are inhabited.
Essentially, ease of getting around depends on where you live — if you’re on the mainland, there are bus services between the major cities and a limited rail network.
If you’re living on a Greek island, you’ll probably take advantage of the many ferry and high speed boat connections from there to the mainland. Be aware that these services decrease considerably at the end of the Summer season.
The larger and most popular tourist islands are serviced by airports, although be aware that internal flights can be costly.
Driving in Greece
Many British expats living in Greece choose to hire or buy cars and motorbikes to traverse the country with.
Those that love driving are immediately enamoured with the gorgeous scenery and winding roads.
But driving in Greece isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Outside of large towns and cities, road conditions can be poor and traffic accidents are tragically common — the country actually has one of the worst traffic fatality rates in Europe.
Parking is scarce, drink driving is common and fuel can be expensive — particularly on the islands.
And remember to drive on the right!
Weather in Greece
With it’s privileged position on the Mediterranean, Greece enjoys good weather almost all year round according to season.
Summers are usually sunny with high temperatures and low rainfall, while winters are usually mild — at least in contrast to the UK!
The Aegean islands are blessed with the Meltemi in the Summer months — a seasonal breeze that makes for excellent sailing conditions.
Cost of Living in Greece
Greece’s struggling economy has led to a serious drop in livings costs, so much so that the country has one of the lowest costs of living in the European Union (generally around 30% less than most other European countries).
The standard of living is very high as long as you have enough regular income.
Food, drink, fuel and basic goods are generally very cheap, but will cost you more if you’re living on one of Greece’s many dazzling islands.
Island life may be bliss, but it can get pretty expensive, with the more touristy islands like Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Corfu commanding the highest prices.
It’s worth noting that as Greece continues to elevate the cost of V.A.T, this is slowly but surely pushing prices up.
Here’s a good video guide on what you can expect to spend money on in Athens:
Housing and rental prices are low country wide (although major cities like Thessaloniki and Athens are more expensive than elsewhere on the mainland) and a month’s expenses in Athens — including rent — can cost nearly half of a month’s expenses in London or any other major European city.
Another cost of living in Greece worth budgeting for is healthcare.
Unless you’re an expat employed in the country with a social security number who is already paying for public health insurance, you will be expected to pay your own medical fees.
Greece’s healthcare system has a rather shoddy reputation, with the quality of care varying from hospital to hospital, and constant corruption and cost cutting has led fewer and fewer treatments and medications being covered by the public health insurance.
If you plan on staying here long term it is worth investing in additional private healthcare insurance.
If you’re moving to Greece from the UK with kids, one of your primary research areas will probably be the state of education in the country.
Unfortunately, educational standards in the public sector are generally not up to par to what most families would expect back home. This is due to the austerity measures put in place following the financial crisis.
There are three different levels of schooling in Greece — demotiko, gymnasio and lykeion — which roughly correspond to the English system of primary, middle and senior school.
- Demotiko — 6 to 12 years
- Gymnasio — 12 to 15 years
- Lykeion — 15 to 18 years
Children all must attend school between ages 6 to 15.
As an alternative to the traditional lykeion, students can enroll into vocational colleges instead after age 15, known as IEK.
If students choose to continue on to university education, they will take the Pan Hellenic National Exams at the end of their final year of Lykeion.
Many British expats with children in Greece choose to send them to private school, in a bid to give them the best education possible.
Fees for tuition vary widely from school to school.
Private schools are still overseen by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, but schools have more control over the curriculum. Classes are generally taught in Greek, which many expat parents see as a good way for their kids to integrate into the local Greek community.
More expensive, but arguably closer to a British education, is sending your child to an international school.
Here, classes are generally taught in English and generally have international teachers. These are particularly popular with expat families.
Again, fees vary widely from school to school, but are more expensive than private schools. International schools are found mostly in Athens, but also on Thessaloniki and Crete.
Popular Areas for Brits
The capital city of Greece, Athens, is an obvious choice for expats.
With the city’s blend of ancient and modern there’s a huge variety of things to do here.
The historic sites and museums are first rate, and you can experience some of the best gastronomy Greece has to offer.
In northern Greece, Thessaloniki is an upbeat and beautiful port city boasting some of the most stunning architecture anywhere in Europe.
This cosmopolitan city enjoys a diverse ethnic mix and a spectacular and world famous live music and entertainment scene.
If island life appeals to you and you’re a nature lover, you’ll adore the island of Kefalonia with its unspoilt white sand beaches kissed by turquoise waters, with picturesque rustic villages scattered along the coastline.
Alternatively, party with the jet set in glamorous Mykonos — on the northern side of the Cyclades — where between the traditional whitewashed stone walls are packed chic cafes, bars and boutiques and some of Greece’s finest nightlife.
Greece’s largest island, Crete, is popular with expats too and features bewitching scenery with valleys and mountains and sandy pink bays.
Cretans are proud of their culture, and foodies will love the unique gourmet cuisine on the island which uses fresh, local products.
Jobs in Greece for UK Expats
There’s no way to sugar coat it — Greece is in serious economic difficulty.
Unemployment levels are high, and naturally the majority of jobs that become available are awarded to Greeks rather than foreigners — in fact Greek legislation forces employers to prove that any position filled by a foreigner cannot be filled by a Greek citizen.
This can make living and working in Greece extremely tricky for UK expats.
If you are lucky enough to find employment, don’t expect a high salary.
Wages reflect Greece’s monetary troubles, with most people being low paid workers.
Average monthly earnings for a full time employee range from anything as low as 450 euros per month up to 700 euros per month for the luckier ones.
Companies are even known for sometimes demanding that their employees work extra days without pay, which the employees are then obliged to do if they want to keep their jobs.
Greece’s biggest industries were traditionally within the service sector, but these areas have been hard hit by the country’s current economic crisis.
British expats are most likely to find employment in the teaching or tourism sectors.
There is stiff competition for teaching posts, and if you’re thinking of applying for a position as an English teacher in Greece, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree.
Jobs in the tourist industry are a good alternative, but work is seasonal, which means that income is not often available all year round.
If you are not retired with a pension and need to work to support yourself whilst living in Greece, your best bet is to try and have a job already organised in advance before you arrive on Greek soil.
Are you tempted to move to Greece?