Living in Greece: The Ultimate Guide for Expats

Why Live in Greece?

Greece is the birthplace of philosophy, democracy, and western civilization as we know it today. Located at the heart of the world, it has unfettered access to Asia, Africa, and Europe. There are many expats living in Greece, mostly moving there to enjoy the sunny weather and fantastic beaches.

You can find abundant natural beauty in Greece, whether in mountains, forests, coasts, or 6000 islands spread out the Mediterranean, life in Greece seems like living in a fairy tale.

Furthermore, it’s an enthralling mixture of history, sun-drenched islands, buzzing cities, and timeless traditions. So if you’re thinking of living in Greece, rest assured that whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find there.

Greece has so much to offer that you can find your own secret “paradise spot” away from the crowds. Even in the summer, when the islands, beaches, and ancient ruins are teeming with excited visitors, you can always find a beach on an island or another away from all the hustle.

In this guide, we’re going to provide all you need to know when living in Greece, which seamlessly mixes history and urbanism in a way that few other places do.

Cost of living

Greece is not only known for tourist attractions and incredible weather; it also has a reputation as being very affordable. When moving to Greece, or anywhere, there are a few points that everyone has on their checklist, such as:

Rent and Utilities

Living in Greece is quite affordable! According to Numbeo, in Athens, the most expensive city, you can find a one-bedroom apartment in the city center for 300-500€, and outside of the center for 200-400€ per month. If you’re looking for something a bit larger, you can find a three-bedroom apartment for 500-1000€ in the city and 400-800 € per month outside the city center.

When it comes to utilities, you should expect to pay about 150-300€ depending on the size of your house, the season, and your level of usage.

Food And groceries

Of course, the price of food is on everyone’s checklist when thinking about moving somewhere new. You should expect to pay €10-18 in an inexpensive restaurant. For a meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant expect to pay between €35 and €60.

Furthermore, Greece is famous for its agricultural products, such as olive oil, wine, cheese, and saffron. Recent studies show that Greece’s Mediterranean diet increases longevity and reduces heart disease and diabetes risk.

We have collected a price list of various grocery items and would like to present it to you in the table below to make your life easier:

 

ItemPrice In Euro
Milk (regular), (1 liter)1.21
Rice (white), (1kg)1.68
Chicken Fillets (1kg)6.75
Apples (1kg)1.52
Potato (1kg)0.85
Water (1.5-liter bottle)0.78
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)6.00
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)4.60

Transportation

Greece boasts many modes of transports between cities and inside the towns. Athens has a very well known tram system that connects various neighborhoods. For a one-way ticket for local transport in Greece, you should expect to pay about €1.40 and €30 for a monthly pass.

The Job Market

It is no secret that Greece suffered a painful economic set back during the global financial crises back in 2008. Unemployment rates were at an all-time high, and real estate prices dropped to unprecedented levels.

Surprisingly though, the Greek economy has started to retake shape in the past couple of years, thanks to the relentless Greek workforce and various government initiatives to encourage investors such as the Greece Golden Visa.

The job market is a bit tricky for expats living in Greece since large international companies are not abundant. That being said, the Greek government encourages expats to work there, especially in multinational companies or in the travel industry.

Many expats in Greece tend to work as English teachers, as it is a very sought after profession there, especially in suburban areas and some of the Islands.

As a professional English teacher, you should expect a salary between €1200-€1800, which is comparatively low but so is the cost of living there.

What is the minimum wage?

The minimum wage in Greece is fixed at €758.33 per month, which is not that high. However, most citizens in Greece who only make minimum wage, tend to live with family or have inherited homes.  That makes it easier to get by with such a modest income.

What is the average salary?

The average salary in Greece is between €1,428 and €2,788, depending on the work and the experience of the professional. Below you’ll find a table listing various professions and their average salaries:

ProfessionMonthly Average Salary
Accountant€1,794
Attorney€4,055
Bar Manager€2,668
Computer Technician€1,994 
Concierge€1,562
Graphic Designer€1,853 
Hotel Manager€3,873
Nurse€2,388

Moving To Greece

If you’re an EU citizen or a citizen of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, you don’t need any visa. You need to present your passport or identity card when entering the country.

If you’re a citizen of any other country, then you must apply for a three-month entry visa known as the “D” type visa. 

Entry Visas for Greece

You can obtain an entry visa by visiting the local Greek consulate and providing the following documents:

  • Your passport (valid for at least three months after the expiration of the visa)
  • A biometric passport Photo
  • The Application form, filled in English or Greek
  • A medical certificate filled out by a licensed doctor
  • Proof of medical insurance valid in Greece
  • An excerpt from the penal register issued by your country of origin or current residence

You’ll need to be present in person at the Greek consulate or embassy when submitting the application, and you might be invited for an interview. The authorities will take biometric data from you during your visit. Furthermore, the visa is valid for three months from the date of entry.

Residence permits for Employment Purposes

EU citizens moving to Greece for employment purposes need to apply for a residence permit upon arrival, which is a simple procedure.

For non-EU citizens, the process is slightly more elaborate. The Greek government issues different residence permits depending if one is classed as “executive” or “regular staff”

The following documents are needed to obtain a residence permit at the Ministry of Interior after you move to Greece:

  • Two completed application forms (you can obtain those at the Ministry of Interior office)
  • A Passport and copy of each page
  • Three biometric passport photos
  • A health certificate that is filled out by a hospital in Greece
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay
  • Employment contract (if applicable)

Residence permits for employment purposes are initially issued for one year after moving to Greece. They need to be renewed within two months of expiration, and the renewed permit must be prolonged every two years.

Taxes in Greece

Non-residents in Greece get many tax benefits, which is yet another appealing quality about Greece. If you’re a non-resident in Greece, you only have to pay taxes on your income there.

In other words, you are exempt from taxes on any income from outside of Greece.

Furthermore, Greece has Double Taxation Treaties with various countries to prevent double taxation. Check out the FAQ section for a list of countries that have a double taxation treaty with Greece.

Taxpayer Identification number

After moving to Greece and finding a job there, you should apply for a taxpayer identification number known as (AFM), as you need this number to open a bank account and set up your utilities.

To apply for your identification number, you need to visit your local tax office. Usually filling the M1 Form and bringing your passport with you should be enough, but always consult your local tax office to see if additional documents are required.

You must pay taxes in Greece if you meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Having a permanent residence in Greece
  • Having spent more than 183 days during any calendar year in Greece
  • Being employed or carrying out a professional activity in Greece
  • Having an investment or business in Greece
  • Receiving an annual income of more than €3000 (from self-employment, salaries, pensions, alimony, or agricultural activities.)

Types of taxes in Greece

In Greece, there are four different types of taxes, which are:

  1. Income Tax
  2. Social Security Tax
  3. Capital Gains Tax (taxes on lottery gains, inheritance, and on real estate property transfer)
  4. VAT (Value Added Tax) on the prices of services and products in the country.

The rates on various income and capital gains taxes vary dramatically. It can vary from 9% on employment income up to €10,000 to 44% on income over €40,000. Below, you may find detailed tables of income and capital gains taxes in Greece:

 

INCOME TAX ON EMPLOYMENT AND PENSIONS INCOME (2020)
TAXABLE INCOME (EURO)Tax Rate
Up to €10,0009%
€10,000 – €20,00022% on band over €20,000
€20,000 – €30,00028% on band over €30,000
€30,000 – €40,00036% on band over €30,000
Over €40,00044% on all income over €40,000

 

INCOME TAX ON BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL INCOME (2020)
TAXABLE INCOME (EURO)Tax Rate
Up to €10,0009%
€10,000 – €20,00022% on band over €20,000
€20,000 – €30,00028% on band over €30,000
€30,000 – €40,00036% on band over €30,000
Over €40,00044% on all income over €40,000

 

INCOME TAX ON REAL ESTATE (2017-2020)
TAXABLE INCOME (EURO)Tax Rate
Up to €12,00015%
€12,000 – €35,00035% on band over €12,000
Over €35,00045% on all income over €35,000

 

INCOME FROM CAPITAL (DIVIDENDS, INTEREST, ROYALTIES, REAL ESTATE)
Capital incomeTax Rate
Dividends10%
Interest15%
Royalties20%

 

INCOME TAX ON REAL ESTATE 2017 – 2020
TAXABLE INCOME, €Tax Rate
Up to €12,00015%
€12,000 – €35,00035% on band over €12,000
Over €35,00045% on all income over €35,000

 

For a comprehensive understanding of Greece’s taxes, please check out our Taxes In Greece: A Guide For Foreigners.

Opening a Bank Account

After moving to Greece you’ll need to open a Greek bank account. If you get a job with a Greek employer, your salary will be paid into a Greek account. Even if you are self-employed, you’ll need a Greek bank account to apply for residency, plus it’ll make living in Greece easier.

Opening a bank account is a straightforward process, you just need to go to the bank with your passport and your taxpayer identification number. Additionally, each bank usually has a list of documents that you need to take with you. So we recommend that you check the specific bank.

There are a few international and Greek banks there, the most well-known being:

  • Piraeus Bank
  • Alpha Bank
  • National Bank of Greece
  • Eurobank

Education in Greece

Education in Greece is compulsory from ages 6 to 16. The school system is made up of a six-year primary school (Diomotiko), a three-year lower secondary school (Gymnasio), and a non-compulsory upper secondary school. The upper school can be either technical or academic.

Most Greek children go to public school. Furthermore, there are plenty of non-compulsory public and private preschools and kindergartens in Greece. Children can start attending preschool at the age of two years and six months, and then attend kindergarten before starting the compulsory primary school.

International Schools

Greece has a good number of international schools. About 15 schools in Greece offer an “International Baccalaureate Degree”, which paves the way to study at universities outside of Greece after graduation.

Keep in mind when living in Greece with a family, that most international schools tend to be in Athens or Thessaloniki. Additionally, you can find various languages of instruction, such as English, French, German, and Japanese.

Here are a few international schools in Athens which offer an English Curriculum:

  • International School Athens
  • Saint Catherine’s British School
  • Campion School
  • American Community School Athens

Health Care

The health care system in Greece is competitively developed despite the previous financial crisis. Citizens and residents in Greece can enjoy access to public healthcare for free or at very little cost. There is a unified health care system in Greece called EFKA, which provides free healthcare to all citizens.

There are two types of health care In Greece: Public and Private.

Public Healthcare

ESY is the public healthcare system, and it provides free healthcare to citizens and residents alike. Furthermore, you are eligible for the ESY even if you’re unemployed, an EU citizen, or an expat. If you’re employed in Greece, your contribution rate for public health is about 30% percent of your salary, and arranging it is your employer’s responsibility.

The public healthcare system in Greece offers various services, such as:

  • Surveillance of public health
  • Control of infectious diseases
  • Environmental health control
  • Health promotion
  • General and specialist care
  • Hospitalization
  • Laboratory services
  • Discounted drugs and medicines
  • Maternity care
  • Medical appliances
  • Transportation

Finally, it is essential to mention that unlike most countries, you don’t need a referral from a GP to make an appointment with a specialist. However, there might be long waiting periods to meet with a specialist.

Keep in mind that in most big cities such as Athens, you’ll probably run across English speaking healthcare professionals in public health centers. Though, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the same in the smaller cities or islands.

Private Healthcare

Needless to say, private health care tends to have newer facilities and equipment than public facilities. Additionally, the medical staff is more likely to speak English in private hospitals.

Moreover, some private hospitals have partnerships with some American hospitals or with other hospitals in various countries.

Many citizens and expats choose private health care over the public system due to better facilities, more coverage, and shorter waiting periods.

You can choose to have complimentary private health insurance, which covers what the public one doesn’t, or go for an all-inclusive one, which covers everything.

What is covered by private health insurance?

Other than a full range of primary health care, here’s what is covered:

  • Treatment in Greece’s most advanced hospitals
  • Advanced dental treatment
  • Cosmetic surgeries
  • Fees when visiting a specialist

In some cases, you may be able to extend your private insurance in your country of origin to cover you in Greece.

For more information, please read our Healthcare In Greece For Expats And Foreigners guide

The Greece Golden Visa

The Greece Golden Visa is an RBI (Residency by investment program) launched in 2013.  The program allows any investor, provided they are not an EU or Swiss citizen, to obtain permanent residence in exchange for an investment in Greek real estate.

This program has been extremely popular amongst investors because it boats the lowest minimum investment in any Golden Visa program in Europe at just 250,000.

This program grants the investor a permanent residence in Greece valid for five years and renewable every five years indefinitely, as long as the investment is maintained. Remember that if you live in Greece for seven years, you can qualify for citizenship, provided that you spend a minimum of 183 a year.

To qualify for this program, you need to make one of the following investments:

  • 250,000 purchase of real estate anywhere in Greece
  • Purchase of multiple real estate properties in Greece provided that the combined cost is minimum 250,000
  • Timeshare or lease, in a hotel or furnished tourist accommodation for a minimum of 10 years
  • Ownership of 250,000 worth of real estate through a legal entity, provided that you are the sole owner of said entity

Multiple investors can invest in a property together, as long as each of them invests a minimum of 250,000€.

After making the investment and applying for the golden visa, you can usually obtain your permanent residence within 40-60 days. For more information, please check out our Guide To Greece Golden Visa

Most Popular Cities with Expats In Greece

Athens

Most expats living in Greece choose to reside in Athens. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world, stretching all the way back to the Neolithic Age. It has a population of nearly four million and is located near the Bay of Phaleron on the Aegean Sea, the site of Athens’s port, Piraeus.

Moreover, Athens account for over half the jobs in Greece, especially in handicrafts and industry, due to its proximity to the Piraeus bustling hub.

Finally, average salaries tend to be higher than anywhere else in Greece. Even though Athens was definitely affected by the economic crisis, it has been recovering at a steady rate, especially the real estate sector.

So if you’re moving to Greece, Athens should be on the top of your consideration list.

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is no stranger to expats living in Greece either. It is the second-largest city in Greece with a population of about 800,000. The city was named after Alexander the Great’s sister and was founded in 315 BCE.

Furthermore, Thessaloniki emerged as a major industrial center in the 1960s, with the opening of oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and steel mills. Additionally, it’s a major exporter of agricultural products, manganese, and chrome.

Unfortunately, much of the city was destroyed by a horrific earthquake in 1978 and suffered a painful economic hit during the economic crisis. On a happier note, it has shown solid growth and investor confidence rose again in the past couple of years.

So if you prefer a slightly small city with a rich history and a strong industrial economy, then Thessaloniki might just be for you when moving to Greece.

The Pros and Cons of Living in Greece

The old adage “Nobody is perfect” also extends to “Nowhere is perfect”. Here are a few pros and cons of Living in Greece:

Pros

  • Greece is super affordable especially when compared to North America and much of Europe
  • English is widely spoken thanks to the vibrant tourism sector
  • The quality of medical care is excellent
  • Greece is one of the safest countries in Europe

Cons

  • Living near popular tourist attractions is fairly expensive
  • It’s not very easy to find employment if you don’t speak Greek
  • You might need to be sponsored by a Greek employer to gain residency there

FAQ

Is it difficult to move to Greece?

For EU citizens it’s very easy, however, for other citizens, you might need to go through some bureaucratic processes.

How much money do you need to live in Greece?

You should be able to live comfortably in Greece with a monthly income of about $2000.

Which countries have a double taxation treaty with Greece?

Greece has (DTTs) with 57 countries on income and capital. These countries are namely Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Morocco, Mexico, Malta, Moldavia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Uzbekistan.

It has agreements on estates and inheritances, and on gifts with the following countries: Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States.

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