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Greece

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Greece. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour. Monitor the news and other sources for changes to local travel conditions.
  • Forest fires often occur during June to September. They are highly dangerous and unpredictable. See Natural disasters
  • A number of West Nile virus (WNV) cases have been reported throughout Greece. Protect yourself against mosquito bites. See Health 
  • Avoid protests and demonstrations, as they may turn violent. The likelihood of civil unrest may increase during days of national or historic significance, such as 1 May (Labour Day), 17 November (anniversary of the 1973 student riots) and 6 December (anniversary of the 2008 riots). See Safety and security
  • Be alert in tourist areas and travelling on public transport (especially on buses and trains to and from Athens Airport). Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, bag snatching and slashing of luggage resulting in theft, is a serious issue. See Safety and security
  • Drink spiking is a significant risk on major tourist islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Ios. Buy your own drinks and never leave your drink unattended. See Safety and security
  • Strikes affecting air, sea and rail transport, as well as taxi services, occur regularly. Monitor local media, avoid demonstrations and be ready to adjust your travel plans.
  • To drive in Greece you need both an International Driving Permit (IDP) and your current Australian driver's licence. See Local travel 
  • Check with your travel insurer to ensure activities such as car hire, quad bikes, motorcycles, jet skis or adventure sports are covered by your insurance policy. Seek advice on any restrictions that may apply. Ensure you hold the right licence for the vehicle you will use. See Travel insurance
  • A very high number of serious injuries and deaths occur every summer from quad bike accidents on the Greek islands. Avoid quad bikes. Always wear a helmet. See Laws

Entry and exit

Visas

Greece is a part of the Schengen Area, along with a number of other European countries. This allows you to enter Greece without a visa in some circumstances.

In other circumstances, you'll need a visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Greece for up-to-date information.

More information:

Other formalities

If you were born in Greece, you may have problems entering Greece if your Australian passport uses a name for your place of birth that isn't officially recognised by Greece. You may be denied entry into Greece on this basis, especially if you're entering Greece from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Australian government officials can't intervene on your behalf if you are refused entry to Greece.

If you plan to travel to Greece with medication, check the requirements described under Health.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Always carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the Schengen area.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

Declare cash of 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent in another currency) if you're travelling between Greece and any non-European Union (EU) country. This includes notes and coins, money orders, cheques and travellers cheques. If you don't declare, or you give incorrect information, you'll be fined. You don't need to declare cash if you're travelling to or from another EU country.

Greece has daily ATM withdrawal limits. However, they don't apply to most major foreign debit/credit cards. If you have Greek citizenship, you can only take up to 3,000 Euros when exiting Greece. 

Safety and security

Crime

Petty crime is a serious issue in tourist areas, including Monastiraki and Syntagma Square (central Athens), and on public transport. Pickpocketing, bag snatching and the slashing of luggage resulting in theft of personal belongings are common on buses and trains to and from Athens airport.

Tourists have been the victims of serious physical and sexual assaults, including in Athens and on Greek Islands. There is a risk of ‘drink spiking’ at major tourist islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, and on cruises.

Racially motivated and homophobic attacks have been reported.

  • Pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly around tourist attractions in central Athens and the islands, on public transport and on busses and trains to and from the airport.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Don't accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
  • Avoid walking alone in isolated areas at night, especially in the Athens suburb of Omonia, and the railway/bus stations of Larissa and Peloponissos.
  • Monitor local sources of information on crime.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Europe. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. A number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years.

Radical groups have conducted attacks. Attackers usually use bombs or guns. Deaths are rare, but injuries and substantial damage to buildings and vehicles can occur during these attacks.

Terrorist targets have included Government institutions, former Government Ministers, the offices of Members of Parliament, foreign diplomatic missions and police. While tourists haven't been intentionally targeted, terrorists have attacked places near popular tourist areas in central Athens, such as Syntagma Square.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Exercise particular caution around locations that could be terrorist targets.
  • Report suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the news for new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately, if it's safe to do so. 

More information: Terrorism threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Protests, strikes and demonstrations occur in cities and can become violent. Protests mainly happen in Athens, in areas around Syntagma Square, Omonia Square and Exarchia. Take particular care in Exarchia at night as riots by anarchist groups may occur.

Rioting can break out with little warning in Athens and other cities, including Thessaloniki. The likelihood of civil unrest may increase during days of national or commemorative significance such as 1 May (Labour Day), 17 November (anniversary of the 1973 student riots) and 6 December (anniversary of the 2008 riots).

Air, sea, rail and road transport, including taxis, are sometimes disrupted by Strikes. They can occur with little warning.

  • Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest or strikes.
  • Avoid protests and demonstrations.
  • Plan your activities to avoid unrest on days of national or commemorative significance.
  • Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
  • If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance. For information on possible disruptions to flights you can contact Athens International Airport information on +30 210 3530000.

Local travel

Since 2015, there has been an increase in the number of migrants and refugees entering Greece, particularly on islands close to the Turkish coast, such as Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. Expect large crowds and possible delays in these areas.

Transport services can be disrupted by protests, demonstrations and strikes, which occur in cities across Greece, often with little warning.

Carry your passport when crossing borders, even within the Schengen area. Monitor border conditions by checking local news sources, and asking transport and tour providers directly.

Safety standards of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided, and maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts. If appropriate safety equipment isn't available, use another provider. 

Road travel

Driving is hazardous due to aggressive driving practices, and poorly maintained roads and vehicles.

Traffic at major intersections may be controlled by traffic police while traffic lights continue to work. This can lead to confusion as the traffic lights may conflict with the directions of the traffic police. Always follow the directions of the traffic police.

Drivers and motorcyclists frequently ignore traffic signals and rarely yield to pedestrians, even when the pedestrian has a green signal to cross. Take care when crossing the road, including at pedestrian crossings, controlled intersections and on footpaths. Footpaths in Athens are very narrow and frequently obstructed.

Check with your travel insurer to ensure activities such as car hire, quad bikes, motorcycles or jet skis are covered by your insurance policy. Seek advice on any restrictions that apply (such as if you don't have an Australian licence for those vehicles). Insurance companies won't cover accidents when drivers are under the influence of alcohol.

More information:

Driver's licence

To drive any type of vehicle in Greece, you'll need both a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) and your current Australian driver's licence. Your licence must be valid for the type of vehicle you'll drive, including for cars, quadbikes, motorbikes, mopeds, scooters and other similar vehicles.

Make sure you have the correct licence and an IDP. If you don't have these, you could face a large fine and your insurance won't cover you if you have an accident.

Get an IDP prior to leaving Australia.

To get an International Driving Permit contact the relevant authority in your state.

Quadbikes and motorcycles

Quad bike accidents result in a high number of serious injuries and deaths every summer on the Greek islands.

Always wear a helmet if you ride a scooter, motorbike or quad bike, whether as a driver or passenger. Failure to do so is illegal and may also invalidate your travel insurance if you're involved in an accident.

Taxis

Only use licensed taxis and always ensure the meter is used.

Sea travel

Ferries and large catamarans carry the bulk of visitors to the Greek islands. During tourist season, from May to October, be prepared for high temperatures and crowding at popular seaports.

Usually only one or two brief announcements are made on ferries before arrival or departure. In most situations you'll need to go up and down stairs while carrying your luggage. Assistance with luggage is usually unavailable unless you have booked a private cabin in advance.

On some Greek islands, such as Santorini, cruise ship passengers can be transferred to and from shore by smaller boats (tenders). Passengers using tenders may have difficulty getting up and down stairs. If you haven't made advance arrangements to be collected at port by a coach or taxi, you may find it difficult to get transport.

Ensure your travel insurance policy covers any existing health condition as well as your planned activities, including travel on ferry and cruise ships.

Australian-flagged sailboats or yachts that sail in the Mediterranean may be subject to Greek and EU taxes and duties. Seek advice from the Hellenic Coast Guard or the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Greece prior to travel.

Air safety

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Greece.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of drugs, even small amounts, include heavy fines and prison sentences.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

The following activities are illegal and may result in your detention and imprisonment:

  • failure to carry photo identification, such as a clear photocopy of your passport, with you at all times
  • carrying offensive weapons
  • taking photographs of military installations, military personnel and locations where signs are displayed prohibiting photography
  • smoking in indoor public places
  • sexual conduct with a minor (under the age of 18 years)
  • failure to comply with customs regulations regarding the export of Greek antiquities.

Penalties can be severe and include large fines and imprisonment. Driving offences also attract heavy penalties.

Get information about laws affecting tourists from the Tourist Police by dialling 1571 (locally). Tourist Police headquarters is situated at 43-45 Veikou Street, Koukaki 11742. Email: ttourathinon@astynomia.gr

More information:

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you can be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Australian-Greek dual national males, or those of Greek descent born outside of Greece, may be subject to compulsory military service and other obligations. There are penalties for non-compliance. If you have, or may be eligible for Greek citizenship, get information and advice from the nearest Greek Embassy or Consulate, before you travel.

Australian-Greek dual nationals are subject to restrictions imposed under the capital controls regime which limit the amount of cash that can be taken out of Greece. See Money.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

Dress codes are relaxed in tourist areas and resorts, but dress modestly in locations such as religious institutions. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Avoid public displays of affection, especially in rural areas.

Homosexual activity isn't illegal but isn't widely accepted.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars up front.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Medications such as codeine (an opiate) are subject to special rules. If you're travelling with any such medicines, always carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you take and that it's for personal use only.

Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Greece for up-to-date information before you travel.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information:

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

A number of West Nile virus (WNV) cases have been reported throughout Greece. There is no vaccine to prevent WNV.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses, day and night:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose  fitting, light coloured clothing

More information:

Outbreaks of food-borne diseases (including brucellosis) occur from time to time.

  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy products.

Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities and care varies in quality. Public hospitals have a serious shortage of medical supplies, including essential medication, and very limited nursing care. Friends and relatives usually provide around the clock care.

Private hospital costs are high.

If you become seriously ill or injured, particularly in a remote area or on a Greek island, you may need to be evacuated to Athens or another destination. Medical evacuation could be very expensive.

Public ambulance services can be slow to respond to emergencies and vary in quality. Private hospitals operate their own ambulances and provide better quality service. 

Natural disasters

Bush and forest fires often occur during the summer months (June to September), particularly in heavily forested regions. Forest fires are highly dangerous and unpredictable.

Greece is in an active seismic zone. Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes and volcanic activity, is available from the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System.

More information: 

If a natural disaster occurs, monitor the local news and other sources for information about natural disasters and possible safety risks. Follow the advice of local authorities. 

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Tourist police: 1571
  • Medical emergencies, Firefighting services, Police (criminal issues) : 112
  • For non-urgent criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. 

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

A branch office of the Tourist Police assists with non-serious crimes and provides police reports and certificates for theft of personal items and lost travel documents. The office is situated 4 Dragatsaniou Street, Klafthmonos Square in Central Athens and is open throughout the year. Telephone: +30 210 3222230 and + 30 210 3222232.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Athens.


Australian Embassy, Athens

2 Hatziyianni Mexi Street
Athens 115 28 GREECE
Telephone: +30 210 870 4000
Facsimile: +30 210 870 4111
Website: greece.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Alternatively, you can get limited consular assistance (not including the issue of Australian passports), from Australia's Honorary Consul in Thessalonki.

Australian Honorary Consul, Thessalonki
Fragon Street 13, Suite 709-710
Thessaloniki 546 26 GREECE
Telephone: +30 2310 553355 ext 6
Facsimile: +30 2310 545235

If you can't contact the Embassy or the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources