Moving to Greece sounds romantic and idyllic. Chances are, the sheer mention of it conjures up images of sipping coffee in quaint Athenian alleyways, relaxing on paradisiacal islands, and spending long summer nights drinking ouzo with friendly locals. Greece is great! I have lived here for the past three years now so I totally get the appeal.
- 1 Moving to Greece
- 2 About This Guide
- 3 Things to Consider Before the Big Fat Greek Move
- 4 Decide Where You Want to Live
- 5 Research the Best Neighbourhoods in Your Chosen City
- 6 Be Informed About the Cost of Living in Greece
- 7 Finding Work in Greece
- 8 Find an Apartment in Greece
- 9 Get a SIM Card
- 10 Apply For An EHIC Card (EU Citizens)
- 11 Get an AFM Number
- 12 Get an AMKA number
- 13 Open a Greek Bank Account
- 14 Tie Up Loose Ends Back at Home
- 15 Ensure That You Have Comprehensive Health Insurance
- 16 Set Up Wifi
- 17 Apply For a Residency Permit Within Three Months
- 18 Get a Greek Driving License
- 19 Switch Bills into Your Name
- 20 Buying Property in Greece
- 21 Buy Furnishings For Your New Place
- 22 Food Shopping is Great Here
- 23 Building Your Social Circle
- 24 Random Additional Things to Know About Moving to Greece
- 25 Ready to Move to Greece?
Moving to Greece
There are a lot of international people living in Greece. For EU citizens, it is relatively easy to move here regardless of whether you are self-employed, seeking work, or hoping to retire in Greece.
European citizens do not need visas to spend a few months hanging out in Greece or working remotely. If you intend on staying here for longer than three months, you should register with the local authorities and get yourself a residency permit (more on that below).
Those who require a Schengen visa to visit Greece as a tourist can stay here for 90 days in each 180 day period. The process of moving to Greece is a little more difficult for those hoping to relocate from outside of Europe, but we will look at the options here.
About This Guide
This guide is pretty beastly. I wanted to make it as comprehensive as possible so as to ensure that it covered every possible question that people may have before moving to Greece. Feel free to use the Table of Contents above to navigate to the relevant sections.
So that you can spend your time and energy on figuring out more important things such as picking yourself up a local hottie and finding the best local coffee shops, this expat guide to Greece aims to be your bible for helping you through all the boring paperwork stuff.
Things to Consider Before the Big Fat Greek Move
Decide Where You Want to Live
The way of life in the Greek islands is much different to that in the cities. If you can, plan a trip to Greece so that you can get a feel for what the country and culture is like before committing to move there. Spend a few weeks adventuring around the country, or a couple of days exploring the cities that interest you.
Greek City Living
Athens is great because despite being a huge capital city, it doesn’t have that overwhelming big-city vibe. The Greek capital is comprised of lots of cute neighbourhoods, each with their own unique personalities.
In areas like Koukaki, Kolonaki, and Pagrati for example, you can find bustling piazzas filled with great shopping and homely tavernas – you barely ever have to venture into the centre. From Athens, we have the Athenian Riviera and lots of beautiful beaches just a thirty-minute drive away too.
Living Out Your Mamma Mia Life on a Greek Island
If the idea of living a laid back life on a Greek island is something that appeals, you have a plethora of options available. Greece is home to more than 6,000 islands! Here, you can live in an adorable little Cycladic house and live out your own “Eat Pray Love” style story.
Do as much research and reading about the place that you want to move to before you go. Greek islands like Corfu and Rhodes have large expat and retiree populations, whereas some of the smaller islands like Kea or Kythnos see only locals. Which choice is best for you depends on your personal preference.
Some Greek islands become overrun with tourists during the summer months so take that into consideration too. Many operate on a very seasonal schedule. Obviously people live on them all year round, however during the summer months they are swamped with tourists, and during the winter, many businesses shut up shop and the islands become a ghost town. Boats run between the islands and the mainland all year round, though the winter schedule is limited.
There are lots of things that you want to research before moving to Greece. Does the area that you are considering have an expat community (if that’s important to you?). If you are self-employed, how good is the internet connection? Are there good schools in the area?
Research the Best Neighbourhoods in Your Chosen City
Once you have chosen where you want to live in Greece, start researching the various districts and neighbourhoods in your chosen town/city. The area that you stay in can really make or break your experience of living abroad.
In Athens for example, I live in Pagrati in the south of the city centre. It’s a quirky district with lots of antique shops and eccentric coffee places so I fell lucky. Unfortunately though, it has become quite a sought after district and that is driving up rental prices.
You will find many newly renovated apartments in Exarchia and Patissia and the prices can be super affordable, however, both of these areas have less than ideal reputations and crime rates so they are not for everyone. I’m just using Athens as an example here, but whichever city or region of Greece you wind up choosing, be sure to do your research. Join local Facebook groups and forums for expats in your city if you want insider advice.
Be Informed About the Cost of Living in Greece
When I arrived in Greece in 2017, the cost of living was much different to how it is now. Back then, it was estimated that the cost of living in Greece was approximately 30% less than living in most European countries.
The economic crisis saw the prices of accommodation in particular, crash to an all-time low. That may sound good from the perspective of someone moving to Greece, but you should note that salaries in Greece are also much lower than what you may expect elsewhere.
When I first arrived in Athens, you could easily rent a studio apartment in Athens for 200-250 euros a month, and a one-bedroom apartment for 450-500 euros. Rental costs have soared over the last few years and now, you will find people listing one-bedroom apartments in Athens for as much as 700-800 euros. This is not only crazy inflation, but it is a wider problem as many Greeks cannot afford to live in their own neighbourhoods (average salary here is between 500-700 euros).
Airbnb is in part to blame for the increase in rental prices in Greece. Airbnb is currently not regulated in Greece and many people will purchase apartments for the sole purpose of renting them out at a premium to temporary visitors who are none the wiser. This pushes up the rates and has also meant that it’s tricky to find apartments in some areas.
Rental costs are obviously cheaper outside of the major cities and tourist destinations – even comparing Thessaloniki to Athens. You should still use the above prices (250 for a studio, 500 for an apartment) as a ballpark idea of what you should be paying if you move to Athens, but be aware that prices are rapidly increasing.
For a western expat, these prices are not necessarily shocking. I just mention it here to manage expectations – if you think that you are going to be moving to Greece, living like a King, and spending almost nothing, you are mistaken.
Finding Work in Greece
The absence of large international companies means that it is difficult for educated expats to find work in Greece. Unless you are fluent in modern Greek, it will be difficult to secure a job here.
That said, there are occasional opportunities for English speakers to work in the offices of large multinational companies, or to work in the travel industry as Tour Guides, Receptionists at hotels, etc. In the more affluent areas of Athens and other large cities, there is a demand for English Teachers. If you are hoping to move to a Greek island, keep in mind that a lot of the work in the hospitality sector is very seasonal.
Manage Your Salary Expectations
The average salary in Greece is around 600 euros per month. English Teachers and professionals can expect to earn around 1000 euros per month, which is considered a respectable middle-class salary. Though the pay is much lower here as compared to other European countries, so too is the cost of living.
Be Realistic About What is Possible
I don’t want to be a killjoy here and I am definitely not telling you that you should not move to Greece. I would just like to advise you to be realistic when it comes to moving here and finding work. I think a lot of people fall in love with the idea of moving here and do not fully educate themselves on the situation in Greece.
The economy here has still not recovered fully. There are educated Greek people in Athens and beyond who have degrees and are fluent in numerous languages yet struggle to find work. As a foreigner and especially a foreigner who cannot speak Greek, the quest to find a job here becomes that extra bit more difficult.
Consider Working Online if You Can
The struggle to find work in Greece can be omitted if you are able to work remotely or online. You may be surprised by how many companies and employers are open to the possibility of an employee working remotely.
Digital Nomad/Remote Working job boards and Facebook groups are filled with all types of job postings. Everything from Administrative assistant roles to global Project Manager positions can be found. Practically any office job that you would do at a computer can be done online.
Self Employed? Read Up on Taxes
If you are self-employed in Greece, the matter of taxes becomes somewhat tricky. Taxes for business owners and freelancers in Greece are very high. For some reason, self-employment here is met with suspicion.
If you are self-employed and you make money through Greek sources, that tax MUST be paid in Greece. If you make money online from other countries (the USA, the UK, etc), things get tricky.
Double taxation laws between Greece and most countries protects you from having to pay tax in two different places. You will generally be much better off if you can pay your taxes to your home country, as Greek taxes are higher and small business owners get few tax breaks.
Consult a Local Accountant if You’re Self Employed
You really need to speak to an Accountant about all of this as obviously, I am not a Greek tax professional. You can pay taxes to your own country rather than Greece if you will divide your time between two places. That said, if you spend more than six months of the year on Greek soil then you should pay taxes in Greece. This is kind of a grey area and some people choose to pay taxes to their own countries anyway.
If you pay taxes to the Greek government as a self-employed person, your taxes need to be paid up-front and in advance. You must provide an estimate as to how much money you expect to make that tax year.
The unfortunate thing is that if you don’t meet that threshold, fall ill, or can’t work for whatever reason, you don’t get that money back. Conversely, if you have a better business year than you predicted, you will encounter vicious fines. For all of these reasons, self-employed people moving to Greece really do need to seek accounting advice.
Build Professional Contacts Before You Leave
Before you take the leap and dive into the unknown, try to be as prepared as physically possible. If you have not secured work and hope to do so on arrival, reach out to various people in advance. For example, if you hope to teach English in Greece, send an introductory email to the British embassy, and several language academies to see if they plan on hiring in the foreseeable future. Ensure that they have your resume on file. Join groups on Facebook such as “Expats in Athens” to see if anyone is looking for an Au Pair or an English speaking nanny.
If you are looking for a more corporate style role, the same logic applies. If you are planning on moving to Greece with the intention of freelancing or becoming a Digital Nomad, try and build up contacts, clients, and experience as a side-hustle before leaving your full-time job. This minimises stress and pressure.
Find an Apartment in Greece
To find apartment rentals in Greece, you can browse the properties on xe.gr or Spitogatos. You can also join Greece Facebook groups like Expats in Crete, Expats in Athens, etc, as people also often list properties there.
It is important to note that going through a letting agent via the above sites when moving to Greece means having to pay additional fees and a deposit. Landlord fees and deposits can be relatively high, and you may have to pay the equivalent of a month’s rent for each.
It is possible to rent property directly with landlords, though you should triple check the price and obtain several quotes. It’s not uncommon for foreign expats to be quoted falsely higher prices. Ask a Greek friend to double-check the prices that you have been quoted, or ask for a second opinion in the aforementioned Facebook groups.
Finding Short Term, Temporary Accommodation
It may be the case that you have to move from your home country to some form of temporary accommodation in Greece while you search for a longer-term rental or some property/land to purchase. Airbnb may be the short-term solution that springs to mind, but I cannot emphasise enough just how extortionate some of the listing prices on there are versus actual costs of renting an apartment in Greece. Again, I refer you to the Facebook expat groups where people often list short term rentals.
Get a SIM Card
To stay connected in Greece, you should buy a SIM card for your phone. This can then be used all over Europe. There are a number of providers here – some Greek, some international. The main phone companies in Greece are Vodafone, Cosmote, and Wind.
I recommend that you purchase a SIM from Cosmote. This is the most popular choice in Greece, and Cosmote offers better 4G coverage than its competitors. The rates between the different providers are comparable. You can buy a prepaid SIM with a data/call/text bundle just as you would anywhere else. If you don’t want that, you can also buy an old-fashioned “pay as you go” SIM.
Getting a SIM card in Greece is pretty straight forward. Just head into one of the local phone stores with your passport. You can also pick up a SIM card at Athens airport (there is a phone section within the “Public” store).
Apply For An EHIC Card (EU Citizens)
If you are an EU citizen, you should already have an EHIC card. If you don’t, then make sure that you do so before moving to Greece! An EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) allows you access to state healthcare in 28 countries across the EU. This is NOT a substitute for health insurance in Greece, but it is something that you should have when you first arrive, or if you are travelling to Greece to establish where in the country you want to live.
Get an AFM Number
Applying for an AFM number should be one of the first things you do when you arrive in Greece. AFM (Arithmo Forologiko Mitro) is your tax number. You need this in order to work in Greece and to open up a Greek bank account. You can search for the nearest tax office to you here.
Get an AMKA number
Okay. Confusingly, there are two different numbers that most people who move to Greece need to apply for: An AFM number and an AMKA number. An AFM number is used for tax purposes, while the AMKA number is the Greek answer to the social security number.
Anyone employed by a Greek company or claiming Greek benefits needs to have an AMKA number. EVERYONE needs to have an AFM number. You don’t need an AMKA if you are retired and receiving your pension from another country besides Greece – i.e. the UK.
Your Greek employer may register you for an AMKA on your behalf. You can use this site to check if you are in the AMKA database. Sadly, this is not a foolproof way of checking things and you may be registered yet your info doesn’t come up – Welcome to Greece! You can also register for your own AMKA number by heading to your local KEP/AMKA office.
Open a Greek Bank Account
When you move to Greece, you will need to open up a Greek bank account. If you are hired by a Greek employer, your salary will be paid into a Greek account. Even if you are self-employed, you will need a Greek bank account as part of your application for residency status.
To open a Greek bank account, you must go to the bank in person with your passport and AFM. Each bank will also have a checklist of supporting documents that you need to take with you. These vary depending on the specific bank.
You can find both International and Greek national banks here. The main Greek banks are detailed below.
- Piraeus Bank
- Alpha Bank
- National Bank of Greece
Check the small print before you commit to an account. Many Greek banks charge pointless admin fees or high fees for international transfers and third-party ATM withdrawals.
Tie Up Loose Ends Back at Home
Chosen your dream home and ready to move to Greece? There are probably lots of loose ends to tie up back at home too!
- Sell your home or find a tenant
- Put your things in storage, sell them, or decide how to ship them to Greece
- Cancel any unnecessary memberships from home – gym memberships, fitness classes, cinema passes, etc.
- Cancel your phone contract and ensure that your phone is unlocked
- Read up on tax requirements – Some countries require their citizens still pay taxes, even if they move overseas. Americans for example, still need to pay taxes. British people may still have to pay NI.
- Sell your car or put it into storage
- Notify your bank that you are moving overseas.
- If you don’t need to pay taxes to your home country while abroad, you may need to notify your government.
- Reroute your mail
- Notify your student loan company (if applicable)
- Dance around your living room to Zorbas music while packing and prepare to move to Greece.
Ensure That You Have Comprehensive Health Insurance
Greek healthcare is notorious for being among the worst in Europe. There is no coverage or insurance for foreign expats and the conditions at public hospitals and facilities are often extremely poor and unhygienic. It’s imperative that you find a comprehensive health insurance plan for moving to Greece. Most foreign people living in Greece will have this and generally, you are required to show proof of having health insurance when you apply for residence.
There are a plethora of options available as far as healthcare insurance providers go. The best one for you will vary depending on aspects such as your nationality and general health. I am a British expat in Greece and I pay £50 per month for my policy. Well-known health insurance providers like AXA and Cigna Global operate in Greece.
Set Up Wifi
If you move into your new Greek apartment and wifi isn’t already set up then you need ample servings of one thing: patience!
Forthnet is the main internet provider in Greece. Wind are another popular choice. Other ISPs in Greece worth noting are detailed below.
- Net One
- Hellas On Line
- On Telecoms
I am with Forthnet and I find them pretty good. I never have connectivity issues and the internet seems speedy enough for me. I just use my computer for streaming Netflix, playing online chess (lol don’t ask), and working on this website and I never have issues. Greece does not have Fiber broadband yet. Perhaps the connection is weaker on some of the islands as compared to Athens.
Internet prices in Greece are comparable to what you would expect to pay elsewhere. As an example, Forthnet plans start from €25 per month.
Apply For a Residency Permit Within Three Months
At the moment, it is relatively easy for European Citizens to move to Greece. A visa or a promise of work is not required. Sadly with Brexit looming, I am not sure how much longer that will remain the case for us Brits but I will update this post accordingly as the situation changes.
Get a Beige Residency Permit ((“Άδεια παραμονής”)
If you are a European citizen and you want to live in Greece, the process is pretty straight forward. Within three months of arrival in Greece, you need to apply for a beige residency permit that states that you live here. This is a pain-free process that simply requires that you fill in a form and take the supporting documents along to your local police station.
The documents that you need for your beige residency permit when moving to Greece are:
- 2 x Passport-sized photos
- A photocopy of passport
- Medical insurance certificates
- Clear health check (no contagious diseases, etc)
- Proof of address in Greece
- Proof of employment (a signed contract is sufficient) OR proof of sufficient funds if unemployed/self-employed (4000 euros).
If you are moving to Greece to live with a Greek partner and your name is not on any of the bills, you can have your partner attend your residency permit appointment with you to state that you are living with them. This is known as the “hospitality” route. You don’t have to be living together to follow this route.
Once you apply for the beige residency permit, you will be provided with a little blue note that states that your application is being processed. It can take anything from a month to several months for you to receive the permit back again. In that time, you can remain in Greece and exit and re-enter the country as you like – just carry the blue slip with you to show that you are residing in the country.
The Blue Residency Permit
After five years of living in Greece with a beige residency permit, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency and obtain a blue permit. Simply organise another appointment with the local authorities and ask to exchange your permit.
Other Nationalities – Getting a Visa to Live in Greece
It is relatively difficult to move to Greece if you are not an EU citizen and you are coming from what is referred to as a “third national” country (basically anywhere outside the EU). I cannot advise here fully but at the most basic level, moving to Greece as a third national country resident requires that you are either married to a Greek (spousal visa route), sponsored by a Greek company, or claiming citizenship through Greek parents.
Note: Processes for obtaining residency and visas in Greece are expected to change in late 2020. I will update this guide as and when something changes.
Get a Greek Driving License
Depending on where you are moving from, you may or may not need to get yourself a Greek Driving License. If you already have a valid Driver’s License issued by an EU/EEA state, you can use your current license without restriction. You can find more detailed information on this here.
Switch Bills into Your Name
Electricity, water, building maintenance, and internet are the main bills that you will have to manage when you move to Greece. If you are renting an apartment, it is not uncommon for the landlord to keep the first three in their name. If this is the case with your Greek home, make sure to take a meter reading for the electricity when you arrive.
If you purchase your own home in Greece, or you are renting a property and the owner requests that you put the bills into your name, you will need to go to your local electricity board office (DEH/DEI). You will need your tax number and passport, along with some additional supporting documents. If you are setting up a connection for the first time, rather than changing the name, you will still need to go to the DEH office.
To set up your water bills in your name, you need to go to the local water board office with your meter number and ID. The board will generally charge a small admin fee for this.
Buying Property in Greece
If you are an EU citizen, you can easily buy property in Greece with no restrictions. People with other nationalities can buy properties in Greece but there are some restrictions in place. For sale properties in Greece are listed the same way as the rentals – on sites like XE and Spitogatos.
Before you think about buying a house here, you need to ensure that you have a Greek bank account and tax number set up. Admin costs can add up when you purchase a property in Greece – just like anywhere else really. Your first step should be to hire a Real Estate Attorney.
Buy Furnishings For Your New Place
There are lots of excellent stores for buying furniture in Greece in order to decorate your new place. This is especially the case in big cities like Athens and Thessaloniki which are home to several inspiring boutique interior design stores.
Some lovely independent interior shops to consider are Paraphernalia, DesignShop, Box Architects, Myran, El Greco Gallery, and Roma 5 Design. Many of these places also offer delivery across the country. Of course, we also have IKEA here which is a good place to buy your basics.
Food Shopping is Great Here
On the whole, food costs are cheaper in Greece. With a plethora of high quality, locally sourced fruit, vegetables and meats available, it’s easy to eat healthy in Greece without having a sky-high food budget.
It’s advisable to shop at your local laiki agora for fresh produce rather than the supermarket since products are often fresher and cheaper. These are neighbourhood farmer’s markets and they are held once a week in each neighbourhood. You can check with your new neighbours to see where yours will be and when.
Sometimes I find that branded products like cereal, condiments and snacks/chocolates are quite a bit more expensive in Greece due to the import taxes. If you live in Rhodes though, there are no import taxes and so that’s a nice little extra perk to living on a beautiful Greek island.
Building Your Social Circle
It’s important to build a social circle when moving abroad to make your new place feel like a home away from home. Honestly, I have found it relatively difficult to make friends in Greece at first as it seems a very transient place. People come for 6 months, a year, two years and then leave.
If you put yourself out there though, befriending locals and fellow expats can help enrich your Greece experience. Some resources to consider are:
- Couchsurfing – Through the events, forums, and hangouts, it’s possible to meet locals, fellow expats, and travellers for a coffee or a walk. Most people on here are just passing through though.
- Meetup.com – Meetup hosts regular events for people of different interests. For example, foodies, wine lovers, writers, etc. If there is not something that tickles your fancy, you can also create your own group.
- InterNations – An expat group for professionals. InterNations organises frequent events in Athens and beyond, though I found most members to be older men.
- Facebook Groups – There are numerous facebook groups and forums dedicated to moving to Greece and meeting others in the same boat. I manage a group called “All Greek to Me” which is a community for people travelling in or moving to Greece to exchange travel tips and advice.
Random Additional Things to Know About Moving to Greece
A few random extra things that might be useful (?), interesting (?) to know about moving to Greece are detailed below.
It’s Not As Corrupt and Difficult to do Things As People Say
A lot of people seem to think of Greece as being the Wild West. The country has developed a bit of a reputation for being a difficult place to get things done – especially regarding bureaucratic stuff and paperwork.
I’ve lived here for three years though and I’ve never really felt overly frustrated with this. Sometimes you just need a little extra patience. That’s all.
It’s All Greek to Me!
Most Greek people have a good understanding of English, especially in major cities and islands that attract tourists. That said, having a basic grasp of Greek goes a long way. To be honest, I find Greek really difficult. I am by no means fluent, however having a handful of phrases up your sleeve like “kalispera” (good evening!), “kalimera”, (good morning), etc is useful.
I think that if you plan on living here in the long term, you should really make some effort to learn the language. You can find a lot of schools offering courses in the bigger cities. You can also hire tutors for one-on-one learning.
Yes, You Can Drink the Water
You can drink the water in Greece. That said, it’s personal preference and I know a lot of people that prefer to drink bottled stuff. In three years I haven’t gotten sick yet! *touches wood*
Understand How Greek Bathrooms Work
The sewerage systems in Greece are largely underdeveloped. (Sorry I feel like this article took a crude turn!). As such, you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilets in Greece. Better you know now than after an incident, eh?
Explore Your New Homeland
Cultural clashes, administrative paperwork and headaches aside, moving to Greece is a wonderful, life-changing experience. The beauty of living in a foreign country is having the opportunity to do completely different things and explore your new homeland during your weekends and free time.
Greece is home to over 6000 islands, only 227 of which are actually inhabited. That means more island exploration, beautiful beaches, and scenic whitewashed tavernas than you could enjoy in a lifetime! Athens and the Greek mainland are also just as charming. For a little initial food for thought and Greek travel inspiration, take a look at this three day Athens itinerary, or this guide to island hopping in Greece.
Opening Hours in Greece
Working hours in Greece are likely very different from what you are used to. The opening hours of shops and businesses do vary from place to place, however generally everywhere is open from 9 am until 9 pm.
There is a break or “siesta” included in there though, which sees stores close from 2.30 pm – 5.30 pm. This doesn’t apply to large international chain stores in the cities.
In a similar vein to the Mediterranean siesta, Greece also enforces “quiet hours” to be followed in residential areas. This is between 3 pm and 5 pm in the day time, and from 10 pm to 7 am in the evenings.
A Cash-Based Society
Cash is still king in Greece. Larger shops and hotels usually do accept credit and debit cards, however, many smaller tavernas, coffee shops, and stores do not. It’s always prudent to carry a small amount of cash around with you.
Taxes on Purchases
You will often find that when you go shopping in independent stores, go to restaurants, or even visit the Doctors and Dentists, you will be offered a lower price if you pay in cash so that the person doesn’t have to pay tax.
That was quite startling to me at first. Imagine my shock when I had a wisdom tooth extracted and my Dentist was haggling with me over the cost of this surgical procedure as if we were negotiating over a scarf in an Arabian bazaar.
Ready to Move to Greece?
All ready for moving to Greece? As I mentioned, I’ve been living here in Pagrati, Athens for the last three years now. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. If you think that something has been missed out of this guide, let me know and I’ll add it. Safe travels and enjoy Greece! Yiassou! Melissa xo
Disclaimer: High Heels and a Backpack is in no way affiliated with any of the businesses or companies mentioned in this post. Thank you.
Note: This article on moving to Greece was originally published in November 2018. It was last updated on the 22nd of November 2019.