Where to retire is often a very important and difficult decision. Some retire in their own country, while others look for somewhere else to retire. When choosing where to retire, there are often many variables to consider, you want your retirement country to have specific benefits so you can enjoy the payoff from your hard work. These benefits may be:
- Warm weather
- Stunning beaches
- Friendly locals
- Affordable real estate
- Wonderful local cuisine
- An advantageous location for travel
- Advanced healthcare
- Beneficial taxing programs
It seems like it’s impossible to find one place that can offer all of the above, but luckily it’s not. Let us introduce you to Greece.
Where is Greece?
Greece is a country located in the southeast of Europe, right on the Mediterranean. It has long been a hotspot for travelers and retirees. Greece stands out due to its waterfront real estate on year-round sunny beaches, breezy lifestyle, happy locals, high standard of living, incredible tax benefits, and fantastic historical treasures.
In short, Greece is the beating heart of the world. It’s the birthplace of modern philosophy. It mixes history, culture, and modern living in a way that almost nowhere else does.
What About The Cost of Living in Greece?
Greece is quite affordable compared to other European countries. A couple can comfortably live there with €2500 monthly. That is because Greece’s cost of accommodation and services is low, despite the high living standards. For example, many Americans living in Greece report that they spend 30% less in Greece than in the US. Later in this article, we will break down some costs of services and goods in Greece.
All of the above sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in this guide, we’re going to walk you through all you need to know about retiring in Greece. Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’ll see that Greece is precisely the heaven on earth you need for your retirement.
Who Can Retire in Greece?
Retiring in Greece is relatively easy. Due to its active tourism sector, the Greek visas tend to be easy to obtain. Though in some cases, the process might be a bit more elaborate.
Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland don’t need any visa to retire to Greece. All you need to do is present your passport or identity card when entering the country.
Moreover, if you plan to live in Greece long-term, you should apply for a Tax Identification Number to make specific processes easier. We’ll discuss in-depth Greek taxes and bank accounts later in this article.
Non- EU citizens require a three-month entry visa known as the “D” type visa. You can obtain an entry visa by visiting the Greek consulate in your country and bringing 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 should go to the Greek consulate personally, so the authorities can interview you. They will also take biometric data from you during your visit. Remember that these visas are valid for 90 days.
US citizens can visit Greece for 90 days without needing a visa or permit. Though if you’re visiting Greece for longer than 90 days, you need an entry visa.
Applying for a residence permit will take some time in Greece. You’ll need to apply for the permit while living in the country. That means if you’re a non-EU citizen, you should get an entry visa first, as we mentioned above.
The required documents for a residency permit are as follows:
- Proof of current and continuous medical insurance with coverage in Greece
- Proof of a regular income of at least €2,000 monthly, or
- At least €24,000 in a bank
A convenient and popular way for non-EU citizens to acquire permanent residency in Greece is through the Greece Golden Visa Program.
The Greece Golden Visa
The Greece Golden Visa a residency by investment program launched in 2013. This program gives you permanent residency in Greece through an investment in the Greek real estate market. That is an excellent idea if you’re planning to retire there.
This program has been extremely popular with investors and retirees because it has the lowest minimum investment among any Golden Visa program. You can become a permanent resident in Greece with the low cost of €250,000.
When you enter this program, you immediately get a permanent residence in Greece valid for five years. You can renew this permit every five years as long as you hold the investment. The best benefit of this program is that you can qualify for citizenship after seven years of living in Greece. However, there is a minimum stay requirement of 183 a year, and you need to pass a citizenship exam.
There are a few ways to qualify for this program, such as:
- €250,000 purchase of real estate anywhere in Greece
- Purchase of multiple real estate properties in Greece if the combined cost is a minimum of €250,000
- Timeshare or lease, in a hotel or furnished tourist accommodation for a minimum of ten years
- Ownership of €250,000 worth of real estate through a legal entity, provided that you are the sole owner of said entity
Additionally, multiple investors are allowed to invest together, as long as each of them invests a minimum of €250,000.
This is the fastest way to get permanent residence in Greece, as you can receive your permit within 40-60 days.
This program offers many benefits, such as:
Retirees who want to move to Greece with their families love this perk. You and your whole family can become permanent residents of Greece within two months. The family members you can include are your spouse and children under 18 years of age. If you have children older than 18 years of age but are studying full-time and entirely dependent on you, you can also include them in the program.
Visa-Free Travel in the Schengen Zone
As a Golden Visa holder, you have the freedom to travel in the Schengen zone. Imagine popping over to Paris for the weekend, then stopping by in Austria to catch the opera on your way back to your second home in Greece.
For a comprehensive understanding of this program read our Greece Golden Visa Ultimate Guide
Taxes in Greece For Retirees
When retirees or pensioners want to retire somewhere new, taxation is always an issue. That’s completely understandable, as you don’t want to get double taxed and spend your hard-earned money on fees and tariffs.
In July 2020, Greece introduced a new initiative to attract retirees. The initiative was laid out in a draft law to be tabled in parliament. This draft states that if you shift your tax residence to Greece, you will be taxed at a flat 7% rate.
To qualify for this, you shouldn’t have been a tax resident over the five years before your tax relocation to Greece. As soon as your foreign pensioner’s application is approved, all your income obtained from abroad will be taxed at a flat 7% rate for the next ten years.
This rate will apply to all your foreign-sourced income, be it rents, business activities, dividends, or pensions.
When this law comes into effect, it will be an incredible opportunity for retirees, and we highly recommend that you take advantage of it. You simply can’t find a better tax deal in a whitelisted country anywhere else.
Taxpayer Identification Number
The taxpayer identification number is known as (AFM). You’ll need this number to open a bank account, set up utilities, and benefits from the 7% flat rate if you’re a pensioner.
Applying for this number is quite simple. You just need to visit the local tax office and fill out an M1 form. You should also bring your passport with you. Sometimes the local tax office might require some additional documents such as proof of residence or a bank statement.
Healthcare For Retirees in Greece
Retirees in Greece will enjoy access to a highly-developed healthcare system. Greece offers public healthcare to both citizens and residents for free or at a minimal cost.
The EFKA is the unified healthcare system in Greece, which provides free healthcare to citizens and residents.
The public healthcare system is called ESY. EU citizens, expats, and those who are unemployed are eligible for ESY.
If you’re retiring in Greece, you’ll need a residence permit, as we mentioned above. This means that you can use the ESY system. What’s interesting about this system is that you don’t need a referral to make an appointment with a specialist. A common problem, though, is that there are long waiting lists to see specialists.
Most public health institutions in Athens have some English-speaking staff. However, they’re harder to come across in the islands or smaller cities.
Here are some of the services the public healthcare system offers:
- Surveillance of public health
- Control of infectious diseases
- Environmental health control
- Health promotion
- General and specialist care
- Laboratory services
- Discounted drugs and medicines
- Maternity care
- Medical appliances
We recommend that you look into private healthcare when retiring in Greece. Private healthcare has more advanced facilities than public ones. Additionally, you are more likely to find English-speaking staff in private hospitals.
Moreover, a few private hospitals have partnerships with some American hospitals and hospitals in other countries. This means that your current healthcare insurance provider might be able to extend your existing plan to cover you in Greece.
Private health insurance is popular with Greeks and expats, because it offers better services and shorter waiting times. You can choose to have a plan that compliments the public healthcare system or an all-inclusive plan.
What does private health insurance cover?
It covers all the primary healthcare needs and some extra services, such as:
- Treatment in Greece’s most advanced hospitals
- Advanced dental treatment
- Cosmetic surgeries
- Fees when visiting a specialist
A few international health insurance providers that can cover you in Greece are:
- AXA PPP Healthcare
- BUPA International
- Exeter Friendly Society
- International Health Insurance
Note that most hospitals and clinics under foreign private health insurance schemes tend to be either in Athens or Thessaloniki.
Cost of Living in Greece
So here comes the critical question, “is Greece expensive?” Well, Greece has lower salaries compared to other European countries. That is not an issue, though, because the average cost of living and services are also much cheaper than anywhere else in Europe. Most retiree couples could comfortably live on €2000 a month, excluding rent.
The cost of living there, of course, depends on where you live and your lifestyle. For example, the islands are more expensive than the mainland regarding fuel and essential goods. Furthermore, the countryside is significantly cheaper than within the cities.
Accommodation in Greece
The accommodation prices have decreased dramatically during the economic crisis. They are currently slowly emerging, but are still very affordable. If you’re retiring in Greece, you might either want to rent or buy a property.
Greece is unique in Europe because it has an abundance of properties to rent or buy. Those who take advantage of the Greece Golden Visa program realize that this is an emerging market. So, there is a good chance that you may enjoy a capital appreciation on your property.
Rental Prices in Greece
Below you’ll find a table with average rental prices in Greece:
|Apartment Size||Location||Average price|
|One-Bedroom||Outside City Center||200-400€|
|Three-Bedroom||Outside City Center||350-800€|
Property Prices In Greece
Below you’ll find a table with average property prices in Athens, Greece:
|Location||Average price per m2|
|Outside City center||900-2500€|
Internet & Utility
For utilities such as gas, electricity, and water, expect to pay between 150-300€. This changes depending on the size of your house, your level of usage, and the season. The monthly cost of the internet is about €20.
Cost Of Food
The Mediterranean diet is rich with olives, olive oils, cheese, and locally grown products. Recent studies show that this diet helps increase longevity and lowers the risks of heart diseases and diabetes. Greece is known for its top-notch locally grown foods, and it’s relatively cheap. In the tables below, you’ll find the average costs of some foods and drinks:
|Shopping||Price In Euro|
|A dozen of eggs||3|
|Rice (1 kg)||1.70|
|A loaf of White Bread||0.80|
|Milk (regular), (1 liter)||1.21|
|Rice (white), (1kg)||1.68|
|Chicken Fillets (1kg)||6.75|
|Water (1.5-liter bottle)||0.78|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||6.00|
|Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)||4.60|
|Eating Out||Price In Euro|
|Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant (for two people)||40|
|Big Mac Meal||7|
|A bottle of local beer||4|
|Coca Cola (330 ml)||1.60|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||6.50|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||7.91|
Greece’s public transportation is excellent and cheap. Most cities have city buses, and Athens has a metro system.
Sometimes you’d like to own a car in Greece, in which case you have to get car insurance. Here are some prices of transportation and vehicles.
|Transportation And Vehicle Prices In Greece||Price In Euro|
|Gasoline (one litre / 0.25 gallon)||1.47|
|Bus Ticket, Single-Use||1.40|
|Taxi Tariff, 8Km/5Mile Journey||12|
|Toyota Corolla (new)||18,840|
|VW Golf (new)||18.650|
Banking in Greece
It’s always smart to have a bank account in your country of residence. Luckily, the process is pretty easy in Greece. All you have to do is go to the bank with your passport and your taxpayer identification number (AMF). Some banks might have different requirements, so we recommend checking the specific bank you want to open an account with.
Eurobank is one of the many available banks for retirees in Greece. Its website is extremely user friendly, and it has excellent customer service in English. Additionally, it makes being the bills very easy through E-banking.
Another preferred bank for expats is the National Bank Of Greece. This bank offers a virtual prepaid card for online shopping, which can be quite convenient.
Some other banks in Greece are:
- Piraeus Bank
- Alpha Bank
Best Places to Retire in Greece
The problem with Greece is wherever you go, you’ll find crowds trying to enjoy the Greek lifestyle. You can retire in Greece cities, such as Athens or Thessaloniki. However, when you retire, you might want somewhere quiet and away from the hustle.
Most often, when you ask the question, “where should I retire in Greece?” you’ll get a generic answer like “one of the islands.” To spare your time, rather than talking about Athens and Thessaloniki, we found some quaint villages in Greece that you might want to consider.
Five Greek Villages to Retire in
Chryso is nothing short of magical. The population there is just over 700, and It is situated about a 2.5-hour drive from Athens, at the foot of Mount Parnassus. This village is surrounded by olive groves, which makes you lose yourself in nature.
Moreover, there are traditional stone churches that simply drown you in history. It’s also just three kilometers away from Delphi’s Monuments, which are on the UNESCO heritage list.
This is another village located on Parnassus’s slopes, about a two-hour drive from the capital. Polydorsos is close to the famous Byzantine monument, the temple of Paleopanagia.
You can visit the village of Arahova on foot through a large national park outside of the town. The hike takes about two hours. The ancient city was drenched in history and the locals are very welcoming, usually offering expats Greek coffee and food. Moreover, there’s a magnificent ski resort, which is just a 30-minute drive away.
It’s important to note that only about 1,000 people live there, making it a perfect place for some peace and quiet.
Kyriaki is located on the western slope of Mount Helikon, about two hours away from Athens by car. It is uniquely picturesque and only seven kilometers away from the Corinthian Gulf.
Walking around in the village, you can find many attractions, such as the Church of St.John the Baptist in the central square, Arvanica park, and the old chapel of Agios Nikolaos.
This visually stunning settlement is built at the foot of Mount Zireia in the Olivios river valley, only a 2.5-hour drive from Athens. When you first step foot in it, you’ll feel like you are transported to a 19th-century Greek novel.
Locals enjoy hiking on Ziriea’s hills, which are dotted with fir trees. Moreover, you can take about a two-hour hike to Doxa Lake, and it might just be the cleanest lake you’ll ever see.
The best thing about this village is definitely the monastery of St.Geroge. The view is just incredible, and the monks treat visitors to sweets made from pink petals.
This village is located on mount Dirfys on the island of Evia. You can drive there from Athens in under two hours, passing over two massive and beautifully built bridges.
What stands out in this village is the bicycle routes through the beautiful woods. If you’re a fan of hiking, cycling, climbing mountains, or picnics, then you should definitely consider this place.
You can also drive about 40 minutes to Hiliadou beach, where many people spend sunny days and swim in the pristine waters.
How much money do you need to retire in Greece?
A couple needs about 2000€ monthly plus rent to live comfortably in Greece. The rent varies depending on the location and size of the abode.
Is moving to Greece difficult?
Moving to Greece is quite straightforward. EU citizens can move there without a visa or a permit. For other citizens, you need an entry visa. Additionally, you need to apply for a residence permit once you’re there.
What are the benefits of retiring in Greece?
Greece retirement benefits have recently become irresistible with the introduction of the new tax law for retirees. This law states that pensioners will be taxed a flat 7% rate on all their universal income.