Greece

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 28 August 2015.   Parliamentary elections have been called for 20 September. Demonstrations may occur in the lead up to the election. There has been a significant influx of irregular migrants entering Greece, particularly on islands close to the Turkish coast (see Local travel). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Greece.

Greece overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Greece. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • Greek banks reopened on 20 July. Capital controls are still in place. Further disruptions to banking services are possible. Credit card processing and servicing of ATMs throughout Greece remains limited. Foreign credit/debit cards are still generally being accepted in Greece but this cannot be relied on. Daily ATM withdrawal limits do not currently apply to most major foreign debit/credit cards. Make sure you have sufficient cash in various denominations to cover emergencies and unexpected delays. You should take appropriate security precautions against theft. See Safety and security.
  • Parliamentary elections have been called for 20 September. Demonstrations may occur in the lead up to the election.
  • Protests and demonstrations can occur in cities across Greece with little warning. Australians are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Areas in Athens that have been affected by demonstrations and riots include Syntagma Square, Omonia and Exarchia.
  • Strikes affecting air, sea and rail transport, as well as taxi services happen regularly in Greece. If you are affected by transport disruptions, you should monitor the media, maintain contact with your airline, your travel agent and your insurer, and be prepared to change your travel plans. See Safety and security.
  • Australians travelling to Greece should ensure they have appropriate travel insurance. If you require medical care, hospitals may require up-front payment in cash if you do not have suitable insurance cover.
  • If you intend to hire cars, quad bikes, motorcycles, jet skis or engage in adventure sports such as bungee jumping, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy, and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as if you are not licensed for those vehicles in Australia). Read more at our Travel insurance page.
  • If you intend to drive in Greece, you must carry a valid International Driving Permit and your Australian driver licence.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Greece is party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows Australians to enter Greece without a visa in some circumstances. For further information read our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention. In emergencies, Australians may, for a fee, apply to extend their stay in Greece at the Kentro Allodapon (Aliens Police).

Entry and exit conditions (such as visa requirements, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Greece for the most up to date information. You may also visit the embassy website at Embassy of Greece or visit the official Greek Tourism website for additional information.

People travelling directly to or from a country outside the EU carrying 10,000 Euros or more (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Under the legislation, the term "cash" includes cheques, travellers' cheques and money orders. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country.

Australian citizens born in Greece should note that they may encounter problems entering Greece on travel documents that use place names (for example, place of birth) not officially recognised by Greece. There have been cases where Australian passport holders have been denied entry into Greece on this basis, particularly when attempting to enter Greece from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

If you plan to travel to Greece with medication, see Laws for additional information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Money and valuables

Greek banks reopened on 20 July. Capital controls are still in place. Further disruptions to banking services are possible. Credit card processing and servicing of ATMs throughout Greece remains limited. Foreign credit/debit cards are still generally being accepted in Greece but this cannot be relied on. Daily ATM withdrawal limits do not currently apply to most major foreign debit/credit cards. Make sure you have sufficient cash in various denominations to cover emergencies and unexpected delays. You should take appropriate security precautions against theft.

Australians travelling to Greece should ensure they have appropriate travel insurance. If you require medical care, hospitals may require up-front payment in cash if you do not have suitable insurance cover.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

In Greece, report the theft of your passport to the Australian Embassy in Athens on +30 210 8704067.

Terrorism

Groups opposed to the Greek Government, Greek institutions and Western commercial and diplomatic interests have bombed government, commercial and other buildings in Greece on several occasions. Such attacks have resulted in injuries, and further attacks cannot be ruled out. The latest attack occurred in April 2014 when a car bomb exploded outside the Bank of Greece building in central Athens. No injuries were reported, however buildings in the vicinity sustained damage.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities, including Paris, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Madrid, Moscow, Oslo and Volgograd. Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by European security services in recent years.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Civil unrest/Political tension

Parliamentary elections have been called for 20 September. Demonstrations may occur in the lead up to the election. Australians should monitor local news and avoid large gatherings.

Protests and strikes can occur in cities across Greece. Air, sea and rail transport services, as well as taxis may be disrupted by industrial action. Strikes, including by air traffic controllers, can occur with little warning. We recommend you monitor the media and be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions. In the event that you are affected by transport disruptions, you should contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance. For information on possible disruptions to flights you can contact Eleftherios Venizelos airport information on +30 210 3530000.

Australians are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Areas in Athens that have been affected by demonstrations and riots include Syntagma Square, Omonia and Exarchia.

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

Crime

Petty crime is a serious issue and is on the increase in tourist areas, including Monastiraki and Syntagma Square, and on public transport. Australians should exercise particular caution around tourist attractions in central Athens and the islands. Australians should at all times be alert using public transport and be extremely cautious on bus and train routes to and from the airport as pickpocketing, bag snatching and even the slashing of luggage resulting in theft of personal belongings are regular occurrences.

Australians should be vigilant when walking alone in isolated areas after dark especially in the Athens suburb of Omonia, and the two railway/bus stations of Larrissa and Peloponissos.

Tourists have been the victims of serious physical and sexual assaults in Greece, including in Athens and on Greek Islands.

Australians should be aware that racially motivated, and homophobic attacks have also been reported in Greece.

Local travel

There has been a significant influx of irregular migrants entering Greece, particularly on islands close to the Turkish coast, such as Lesvos and Kos. There have been similar concentrations on the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. You should expect larger crowds and possible delays in these areas.

Driving in Greece can be hazardous due to aggressive driving practices and poorly maintained roads and vehicles. For further advice, see our road travel page.

International Driving Permit: A valid International Driving Permit along with your current Australian driver licence is required to drive a vehicle in Greece. Driver licences must be valid for the type of vehicle being driven, including for cars, quadbikes, motorbikes, mopeds, scooters and other similar vehicles. International Driving Permits are issued through state and territory motoring clubs. To obtain an International Driving Permit contact the relevant authority in your state.

When travelling by motorcycle or motor scooter, both the operator and any passengers must wear a helmet. Failure to do so is illegal, and may also invalidate your travel insurance if you are involved in an accident.

If you intend to hire cars, quad bikes, motorcycles, jet skis or engage in “adventure sports” such as bungee jumping, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy, and seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as if you are not licensed for those vehicles in Australia). Read more at our Travel insurance page.

The safety standards you might expect 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 recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Airline safety

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

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Greece, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

You must carry photographic identification, such as a clear photocopy of your passport, with you at all times. It is recommended that your original Australian passport be kept in a safe location.

Driving offences attract heavy penalties.

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

Australians who travel to Greece with medication that contain narcotics such as Codeine (an opiate), should have a prescription and a letter from their doctor. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Greece for information if you have a concern. The website of the Australian Embassy in Athens also has information which may be useful.

As in Australia, carrying offensive weapons, including knuckledusters, can lead to heavy penalties and even prison sentences.

It is illegal to take photographs of military installations, military personnel, and locations where signs are displayed prohibiting photography.

Be aware that behaviour and dress acceptable in tourist locations and resorts may not be appropriate in other locations, including religious institutions.

Smoking is illegal in indoor public places and can result in fines of up to 500 euros.

The export of Greek antiquities is subject to strict customs regulations. Penalties for illegally exporting antiquities range from large fines to prison terms. Further advice can be obtained from the Greek Ministry of Culture or the nearest Greek Embassy or Consulate.

Homosexual activity is not illegal but is not widely accepted in Greek society. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Public displays of affection are not recommended especially in rural areas.

Information about laws affecting tourists, can be obtained from the Tourist Police by dialing 1571 (locally). Tourist Police headquarters are situated at 43-45 Veikou Street, Koukaki 11742. Email: ttourathinon@astynomia.gr.

Prostitution is illegal in Greece for both heterosexual and homosexual acts, and any sexual conduct with a minor (under the age of 18 years) is illegal and treated as a criminal act.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Greek dual national males, or those of Greek descent born outside of Greece, could be subject to compulsory military service and other obligations. Under the Greek Military Penal Code there are penalties for non-compliance. Adult male travellers who hold, or may be eligible for Greek citizenship, are strongly advised to seek further information and advice from the nearest Greek Embassy or Consulate, well in advance of travel.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

Visitors should be aware that shortages of essential supplies are being reported, including medical supplies. Australians travelling to Greece should ensure they have appropriate travel insurance. If you require medical care, hospitals may require up-front payment in cash if you do not have suitable insurance cover.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Greece varies from very basic to international standard. The public hospital system has 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 expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident, particularly when in a remote country area or on a Greek island, medical evacuation to Athens, or to another destination with the required facilities, might be necessary. Costs could be considerable if uninsured.

Health risks

Outbreaks of food-borne diseases (including brucellosis) occur from time to time. We recommend you avoid raw and undercooked food, and avoid unpasteurised dairy products.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station, or on the emergency assistance number 112. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Greece for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Athens

Thon Building, Level 6
Cnr. Kifisias and Alexandras Ave.
Ambelokipi
Athens 115 23 GREECE
Telephone: +30 210 870 4000
Facsimile: +30 210 870 4055
Website: www.greece.embassy.gov.au

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

Limited consular assistance, which does not include the issue of Australian passports, may be obtained from:

Australian Honorary Consul, Thessalonki

28 Archeologikou Mouseiou Street
Thessaloniki 546 41 GREECE
Telephone: +30 2310 827 494
Facsimile: +30 2310 827 494

If you are travelling to Greece, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Greece is in an active seismic zone. Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes and volcanic activity, can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Bush and forest fires often occur during the summer months in Greece (usually June to September), particularly in heavily forested regions. In the event of fire, updates in English are available from local authorities by calling +30 210 324 8098.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice and obey instructions of local authorities.

Additional Resources



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.