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Latest travel advice for Greece including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-02-14T10:55:55.469+00:00: Latest update: Summary – removal of information and advice about a planned evacuation in Thessaloniki on 12 February to defuse an unexploded World War 2 bomb

Information and advice for British nationals travelling and living in Europe, following the result of the EU referendum.

A grenade was thrown by two individuals on a passing motorbike outside the French Embassy in central Athens on 10 November 2016. A policeman received minor injuries. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. See Terrorism.

There are regular strikes, sometimes called at short notice, that can cause disruption to public transport (including air travel and ports).

Demonstrations take place regularly in central Athens, and have also taken place in other towns and cities. There may also be demonstrations in reaction to developments in Greece’s negotiations with its international creditors. You should avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice given by local security authorities. See Major pre-planned strikes and demonstrations

The currency of Greece is the euro. When travelling outside the UK you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card).

Greece imposed capital controls on 28 June 2015 and there are still restrictions on some banking services in Greece. The Greek government continues to limit withdrawals using cards issued by Greek banks to €60 per day. However, these daily amounts can now be withdrawn cumulatively on a weekly basis.

You can withdraw cash using your UK card up to the daily limit imposed by the Greek banking system (usually €600), or the daily limit imposed by your card issuer - whichever is the lower amount. The system for paying with debit and credit cards for retail transactions continues to function.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to exchange sterling for euros in Greece. There are no restrictions on taking unspent euros out of Greece at the end of your stay.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands, including Lesvos, Kos and Samos, and seeking to continue their journey via Greece to other EU countries. The British Embassy is keeping the situation under review, but at present there are no reports of any specific risks to British nationals visiting these islands or at border crossing points. You can find general information and advice about safety and security in Greece in this travel advice.

The Greek authorities have enhanced border security. Anyone attempting to facilitate or transport an illegal migrant or anyone inciting disorder or violence will be arrested and dealt with by the authorities.

There is a general threat from terrorism and acts of political violence. See Terrorism

The emergency services number in Greece is 112. Calling 999 from a UK mobile in Greece will automatically transfer you to the Greek emergency services.

British nationals make around 2.7 million visits to Greece every year. Most visits are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. See Crime

Carry a copy of your passport or other photographic ID which confirms British nationality at all times.

The Greek police won’t accept rowdy or indecent behaviour, especially where excessive drinking is involved. Greek courts impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently. Your travel insurance may not cover you after drinking. See Local laws and customs.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Safety and security

Major pre-planned strikes and demonstrations

Demonstrations take place regularly around major squares in central Athens, in particular Syntagma Square. The police have used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. You should follow local media and avoid large crowds and demonstrations. Road closures are common in Athens and are not always announced in advance. Demonstrations can be called at short notice, but there are certain dates on which demonstrations traditionally occur: 1 May, 17 November, and 6 December. There may also be demonstrations in reaction to developments in Greece’s negotiations with its international creditors.

Crime

Most visits to Greece are trouble-free, but theft of wallets and handbags are common on the metro and in crowded tourist places. Leave valuables in a safe place at your hotel or apartment. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. There have been some racially motivated attacks, mostly in inner-city areas.

Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are generally rare in Greece, although there have been incidents involving British nationals in some holiday resorts frequented by large numbers of youth tourists. In some cases the alleged attackers were also British nationals. In many cases excessive drinking by either the victim or the offender preceded the incident.

Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK.

Local travel

Certain border areas are militarily sensitive. Although you can visit these areas, you should avoid taking photographs or video footage. You should also avoid approaching or taking photographs or video footage of military installations.

Road travel

Take particular care when travelling by road. In 2015 there were 805 road deaths in Greece (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 7.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population, compared to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.

Make sure any vehicle you hire is in good condition and check that you’re insured. Hire companies sometimes ask for your passport as a form of security. Don’t hand over your passport under any circumstances. Check the terms and conditions regarding any damage to the vehicle.

If you intend to hire a moped you will need a valid driving licence with at least category A1 - ‘light motorcycle’. Category P, which is valid in the UK for driving mopeds up to 50cc, is not valid in Greece.

By law you must wear a crash helmet on a scooter, moped or motorcycle. Quad bike riders must wear a full-face helmet (or non-full-face helmet plus goggles). Failure to wear a helmet might invalidate your travel insurance if you are involved in an accident.

See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Greece.

Swimming

Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.

Political situation

Since 1974, Greece has been a stable parliamentary democracy, with its head of state elected by the Parliament. It joined the European Union in 1981. At present, Greece is going through a long-running economic crisis and its financial system is fragile. Greece and its international creditors have finalised the terms of a new package of international support, but there remains a risk of further economic difficulties and related demonstrations.

Terrorism

There is a general threat from terrorism and acts of political violence. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. High profile British interests in Greece should be vigilant and regularly review their security measures.

There have been several attacks involving explosives and automatic weapons against Greek institutions, shopping malls, media interests, diplomatic targets and the police. On 26 September 2013 there was an explosion at the tax office in Kifissia, northern Athens, which damaged the building and cars parked outside. On 4 October 2013 there was an explosion at the Panathinaikos football supporters’ club in the Athens district of Petralona, which caused serious damage to the premises, adjacent stores and several parked cars.

On 9 October 2013 there was an attack on the political office of the Greek Shipping Minister, which caused extensive fire and smoke damage.

On 30 December 2013 gunmen fired automatic weapons at the German Embassy in Athens just before dawn; there were no reported injuries.

In the early hours of 10 April 2014 there was a large explosion outside the Bank of Greece in central Athens; there were no reported injuries.

In the early hours of 24 November 2014 there was a large explosion in central Athens, close to Syntagma Square. There were no reports of any injuries, although there was extensive damage to buildings in the neighbourhood.

In the early hours of 12 December 2014 gunmen fired automatic weapons at the Israeli Embassy in Athens; there were no reported injuries.

On 12 October 2016, there was an explosion in the Exarchia area of central Athens; there were no reported injuries.

On 10 November 2016, there was a grenade attack outside the French Embassy (close to Syntagma Square); a policeman received minor injuries.

British nationals aren’t normally considered a specific target, but attacks could happen in places visited by foreigners.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Indecent behaviour, including mooning, is not tolerated. The police will make arrests and the courts are likely to impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently. Some fancy dress costumes may be regarded as offensive and therefore against decency laws.

Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind, and don’t bring drugs - including ‘class C’ drugs - from the UK. Possession of even small quantities can lead to a long prison sentence.

Driving any vehicle while over the legal drinking limit can result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment.

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

Make sure you get a receipt for any goods or services you buy. If you buy pirate CDs or DVDs in Greece you could be imprisoned.

Don’t buy any offensive weapons like knuckledusters or knives with a blade length of 10cm or above.

It’s illegal to smoke in all indoor public places. The penalty for violating this law is a fine of up to €500.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

Visas

You don’t need a visa to enter Greece. As a British passport holder you can stay as a visitor for 3 months. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residence permit.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are valid for entry, airside transit and exit from Greece.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

If you’re visiting Greece you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Greek nationals.

If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

The Greek National Health system has a reciprocal agreement with the British National Health Service. Treatment 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 basic. There are severe shortages of ambulances on some islands.

There have been some media reports of a shortage of medical supplies in Greece. While pharmacies across the country appear to be functioning relatively normally, you should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

There have been cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Greece during the warmer summer months and 1 death caused by WNV was reported in 2014 by the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 166 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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Select a country below:

  • British Embassy Athens

    Title:British Embassy Athens
    Email:information.athens@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    1, Ploutarchou str
    106 75 Athens
    Greece

    Contact: Consular enquiries only: consular.athens@fco.gov.uk (Not for visa or passport enquiries)
    Telephone: +30 210 7272 600
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Vice Consulate Corfu

    Title:British Vice Consulate Corfu
    Email:Corfu@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    First floor, 18 Mantzarou Street
    49 100 Corfu
    Greece

    Contact: Telephone (main): +30 26610 23457
    Telephone: +30 26610 30055
    Fax: +30 26610 37995
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Vice Consulate Crete

    Title:British Vice Consulate Crete
    Email:crete@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Candia Tower, 17 Thalita Street, Ag. Dimitrios Square
    Heraklion
    71 202 Crete
    Greece

    Contact: Telephone: +30 2810 224012
    Fax: +30 2810 243935
    Visiting:
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
  • British Vice Consulate Rhodes

    Title:British Vice Consulate Rhodes
    Email:Rhodes@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    29 Gr. Lambraki Street
    85 100 Rhodes
    Greece

    Contact: Telephone: +30 22410 22005
    Fax: +30 22410 24473
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Honorary Vice Consulate Zakynthos

    Title:British Honorary Vice Consulate Zakynthos
    Email:zakynthos@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    28 Foskolou Street
    29 100 Zakynthos
    Greece

    Contact: Telephone: +30 26950 22906
    Fax: +30 2810 243935
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • Department for International Trade Greece

    Title:Department for International Trade Greece
    Email:trade.athens@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British Embassy
    Ploutarchou 1
    106 75
    Greece

    Contact: Enquiries: +30 210 7272600
    Visiting:
    Services:

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