COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Greece is a developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State’s Factsheet on U.S. - Greece relations for further information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Greece, please take the time to tell our Embassy or Consulate about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling also will help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Athens
U.S. Consulate General Thessaloniki
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Greece is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. Citizens may enter Greece for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Stiff fines may be imposed for overstaying the 90-day period. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of your stay. You may also need to demonstrate at the port of entry (or during the visa interview if you are applying for a visa) that you have sufficient funds for your trip and that you have a return airline ticket. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet. For other entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of Greece at 2221 Massachusetts Avenue NW,Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 939-1300, or the Greek Consulate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Tampa, New York, or San Francisco.
If you are a U.S. citizen born in the Republic of Macedonia, please note Greek Immigration Officers at all ports of entry (land, air and sea) will not place entry stamps in passports listing the traveler’s place of birth as Macedonia or the Republic of Macedonia. These travelers are required to complete a short form on which the entry stamp will be placed and which the traveler should keep with their passport for the duration of their stay in Greece and present upon departure.
Please note: If you are traveling with a U.S. official or diplomatic passport, you MUST obtain a visa prior to arrival. Travelers arriving with official or diplomatic passports without visas will not be allowed to enter the country.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Greece.
Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Government remains deeply concerned about the heightened threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. Like other countries that are members of the Schengen Agreement for free cross-border movement, Greece’s open borders with other members of the Schengen zone allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. As the first entry point into Schengen from points south and east, Greece’s long coastline and many islands increase the possibility that foreign-based terrorists might try to enter Europe through its borders.
Greece continues to experience sporadic violence attributed to terrorist organizations. In 2012, a previously unknown domestic group placed an improvised explosive device (IED) that failed to detonate in a metro train car, and another group crashed a stolen van into the lobby of a corporate headquarters in Athens before activating an attached improvised incendiary device (IID, also known as a Molotov cocktail). In 2013, unknown individuals conducted attacks on the homes of journalists and judges, as well as several political party offices, in Athens and Thessaloniki; a previously unknown domestic group claimed responsibility for planting a small bomb in a prominent shopping mall in a northern suburb of Athens, causing minor injuries to two people; and alleged members of the domestic terrorist group Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei were arrested for armed bank robbery in northern Greece.
Strikes and demonstrations are a regular occurrence. As a result of austerity measures imposed by the government and the ongoing economic recession, labor unions, certain professions, and other groups affected by the current financial crisis hold frequent demonstrations, work stoppages, and marches throughout the center of Athens. Strikes in the transportation sector often affect traffic and public transportation, to include taxis, ports, and airports; most are of short duration, but you should always reconfirm domestic and international flights before heading to the airport. Demonstrations also occur annually on November 17, the anniversary of the 1973 student uprising against the military regime in power at the time.
University campuses are exploited as refuges by anarchists and criminals. Demonstrators frequently congregate in the Polytechnic University area; Exarchia, Omonia, and Syntagma Squares in Athens; and at Aristotle Square, Aristotle University, and the Kamara area in Thessaloniki. U.S. citizens should be aware of demonstrations and avoid areas where demonstrations are underway.
While most demonstrations and strikes are peaceful, on occasion violent anarchist groups have joined these demonstrations to clash with police and vandalize public and private property. Riot-control procedures often include the use of tear gas and/or water cannons. Visitors should stay informed about demonstrations from local news sources and hotel security. Information regarding demonstrations that have been brought to the attention of the U.S. Embassy can be found on the Embassy website and on our Consular Section Facebook page.
There has been a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent. Travelers are urged to exercise caution, especially in the immediate vicinity of Omonia Square from sunset to sunrise. Travelers should avoid Exarchia Square and its immediate vicinity at all times. The U.S. Embassy has confirmed reports of U.S. African-American citizens detained by police authorities conducting sweeps for illegal immigrants in Athens.
U.S. citizens are strongly urged to carry a copy of their passport or some form of photo identification with them at all times when traveling in Greece.
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CRIME: You should take the usual safety precautions you would in any urban or tourist area during a visit to Greece. Crimes against tourists (such as pick-pocketing and purse-snatching) occur at popular tourist sites and on public transportation - especially the Metro - and in some shopping areas in and around Thessaloniki. If you travel by Metro, keep track of your purse/backpack/wallet at all times. Thieves will often try to create a diversion to draw your attention away from your immediate surroundings. These diversions can include “accidentally” sneezing or spilling something on you and loudly accusing you of having bumped into them. Thieves ride the trains in from the Athens Airport, so be especially careful when you first arrive. You may be tired and a bit disoriented and you may have just visited the ATM or exchanged money. Be discreet when discussing plans and organizing your belongings upon your initial arrival. Always keep a close eye on your suitcase. Try to avoid standing near the doors, as thieves will often wait to strike just as the train/bus doors open and then dash onto the platform and disappear into the crowd. Omonia, Vathi, and Kolokotroni Squares in Athens, while very close to the tourist sites, are areas with high crime rates; Glyfada Square has a significant organized-crime network associated with its clubs, which should be avoided if you get a “hard-sell” pitch for business. Never agree to go to a bar or club with someone you have just met on the street. Sexual assaults of U.S. citizens, including date or acquaintance rape, are not uncommon. Drink alcohol in moderation and stay in control. Never leave your drink unattended in a bar or club. Some bars and clubs serve counterfeit or homemade spirits of unknown potency.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even those widely available, along the sidewalks in Central Athens or Thessaloniki. Not only are these goods illegal to bring back into the United States, the purchase of bootlegs and “knock-offs” in Greece violates Greek law.
Due to an increase of card skimming at ATMs throughout Greece it is recommended that you use one located inside a bank or hotel. Do not use ATMs located in dark or isolated areas. Before using an ATM, check to see if anything is stuck to the machine and/or if it looks unusual in any way. When using an ATM, always stay focused on what you are doing, and cover the keypad with your free hand to prevent anyone from seeing your PIN.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Greece are 112 for life-threatening emergencies (this is a Europe-wide emergency number and has English-speaking operators), 100 for the Police, 166 for an Ambulance, and 199 for the Fire Brigade.
The Consular Affairs webpage has help for U.S. citizen victims of crime overseas, including information on possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Greece, you are subject to its laws, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Greek laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Greece are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Mace or pepper-spray canisters, though legal in the U.S., are illegal in Greece. Such items will be confiscated and may result in detention and arrest.
If you are arrested in Greece, the authorities are required to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate on your behalf.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Greek customs authorities have strict regulations concerning the export from Greece of antiquities, including rocks from archaeological sites. Penalties range from large fines to prison terms. You should ensure that you get a receipt for any item that you buy.
In addition to being subject to all Greek laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Greek citizens. Greek males between the ages of 20 and 45 are required to perform military service; this applies to any individual whom the Greek authorities consider to be Greek citizen, regardless of whether the individual considers himself Greek, has a foreign citizenship and passport, or was born or lives outside of Greece. If remaining in Greece for more than the 90-day period permitted for tourism or business, men of Greek descent may be prevented from leaving Greece until they complete their military obligations. Generally, obligatory, non-voluntary military service in Greece will not affect U.S. citizenship. Specific questions on this subject should be addressed to the citizenship section of the U.S. Embassy in Athens. For additional information, see our information on Citizenship and Nationality. For additional information regarding military service requirements, contact the nearest Greek embassy or consulate as listed above.
If you plan to use public transportation, be sure to buy the appropriate ticket and to validate it correctly, mindful that service to the airport is more expensive than other bus and Metro services, and that ticket inspectors circulate among passengers on trains and buses, and in stations, assuring compliance with ticketing regulations. Currently, the fine for passengers without tickets or with the wrong ticket is 60 times the basic fare, or 84 Euros. If the fine is paid on the spot or within 10 days of the issuance of the ticket, the amount paid is reduced to 50%. The Government of Greece does not permit the photographing of military installations; violators are subject to arrest.
Disaster Preparedness: Greece often experiences forest fires during the dry summer months. Travelers should be particularly mindful of the risk of fires, taking care not to spark one inadvertently through carelessness. The Government of Greece has also produced an earthquake-safety pamphlet for tourists and visitors. Greece experiences frequent seismic activity; tremors are common and serious earthquakes have occurred. Detailed information on Greece's earthquake fault lines is available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Disaster preparedness information and specific suggestions to help mitigate the impact of wildfires and earthquakes is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In any natural disaster, follow the instructions of local authorities. The General Secretariat for Civil Protection, which responds to emergencies, may be reached at 210-3359932/33.
Accessibility: While in Greece, individuals with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. While Greek law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and intellectual disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other government services, in practice, enforcement of these provisions is uneven. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities and special ramps for the sidewalks and means of public transportation; however, enforcement is inconsistent and is a work in progress. While handicapped parking spaces and sidewalk ramps exist or are being constructed throughout the country, they are often occupied or blocked by parked vehicles, thus hindering accessibility for disabled persons.
The general condition of the sidewalks can be problematic. They are very narrow in places and there are often broken paving stones, large holes, and poorly-positioned signs. A small but growing percentage of public buildings are fully accessible to persons with physical disabilities, with the majority in Athens. Many buildings with special ramps might not have accessible elevators or lavatories. You should ask your hotel before booking. The Athens Metro and Athens International Airport are fully accessible and have ramps and elevators installed.
The Deputy Ombudsman for Social Welfare handles complaints related to persons with disabilities, especially those related to employment, social security, and transportation.
Many sidewalks in Athens have detectable warning and way-finding systems of bumps and lines for visually impaired travelers and a few traffic lights are equipped with audible crosswalk signals.
Scams: In the last few months, we have seen a number of instances of “Grandparent Scams.” This scam targets elderly citizens in the United States and convinces them to wire money to assist a relative (often a grandchild) in distress overseas. Review our Financial Scams page for the full picture on this and many other scams.
LGBT RIGHTS: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Greece are protected by anti-discrimination laws, and there are no legal or governmental impediments to the organization of LGBT events. At the same time, non-government organizations report that societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is widespread in Greece but focused on gay relationships. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities are adequate, and some, particularly the private clinics and hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki, are quite good. Some private hospitals have affiliations with U.S. facilities, and generally their staff doctors have been trained in the United States or Europe.
Public medical clinics, especially on the islands, may lack resources; care can be inadequate by U.S. standards, and often, little English is spoken. Many patients-- Greeks and visitors alike-- are transferred from the provinces and islands to Athens hospitals for more sophisticated care. Others may choose to transfer from a public to a private hospital within Athens or Thessaloniki. U.S. citizens choosing to do so would arrange for an ambulance belonging to the private hospital to transport them from the public hospital to the private one. The cost of the ambulance for this transfer, as well as all expenses in a private hospital, must be borne by the patient. Private hospitals will usually demand proof of adequate insurance or cash before admitting a patient.
Nursing care, particularly in public hospitals, may be less than adequate. For special or through-the-night nursing care, it is suggested that a private nurse be hired or a family member or friend be available to assist. One parent or a private nurse should always plan to stay with a hospitalized child on a 24-hour basis, as even the best hospitals generally maintain only a minimal nursing staff from midnight to dawn on non-emergency floors or wards.
Please insure that you have an adequate supply of your prescription medications when travelling to Greece as you may not be able to find a local equivalent in the pharmacies.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed, country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it is a really good idea to take out travelers’ insurance specifically for your trip. If you plan to participate in even slightly “extreme” sports that are popular in Greece, such as SCUBA, white-water rafting, or water-skiing, you might consider adventure travel insurance options. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Greece, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Drivers and pedestrians alike should exercise extreme caution when operating motor vehicles or when walking along roadways or crossing streets, mindful that Greece’s traffic fatality rates are the fourth-highest of the 27 nations that make up the European Union. Visitors to Greece must be prepared to drive defensively. Heavy traffic, poor roads, and high speeds pose hazards, especially at night or in inclement weather. Be especially careful if you are riding a motorbike. The law in Greece requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet. You may see many “wearing” theirs on the arm, but do not be tempted to follow their example. When driving, be sure to double-check rear and side mirrors, as motorbikes will often ride between lanes and pass on both the left and right. On many two-lane highways, slower traffic will drive on the shoulder and cars will pass straddling the center, double yellow line. Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in Greece; the police check cell phone call records when investigating accidents. Driving while under the influence of an alcoholic substance is illegal. A breath-alcohol test (BrAC) showing 250-400 carries a fine of €200; from 400-600, it is €700 and a three-month suspension from driving; if your BrAC is more than 600 the case is remanded to the local court of misdemeanors. Additionally, the blood-alcohol content limit is 0.05% (mg/L), lower than the U.S. limit of 0.08%. For motorcyclists, professional drivers, and those holding a license less than two years the limit is 0.01%. Exceeding the limit may result in arrest, heavy fines, and/or license confiscation. There are a number of nationwide auto-service clubs and plans, similar to those in the United States, providing towing and roadside service, which a tourist can call and pay for per service; the largest, quite similar to AAA, is ELPA, whose nationwide phone number is 10400.
Tourists and temporary residents who will stay in Greece for fewer than 185 days, and plan to drive, must carry a valid U.S. license as well as an international driver's permit (IDP). Failure to have both documents may result in police detention or other problems. The U.S. Department of State has designated two organizations to issue IDPs to those who hold valid U.S. driver's licenses: AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Issuance of an IDP is quick and inexpensive, but must generally be done before a traveler leaves the United States. Vehicles may not properly be rented without the IDP, although sometimes they are. A driver without one, however, will be cited for failure to have one in the event of an accident, and may be open to civil suit as well. Fines are high. Small motorbike rental firms frequently do not insure their vehicles; customers are responsible for damages and should review their coverage before renting. Individuals who expect to spend more than 185 days in Greece should either obtain a Greek license or convert their valid U.S. license for use in Greece through their local Nomarchy’s Office of Transportation and Communications.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Greece’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This document replaces the Country Specific Information for Greece dated November 15, 2012 to update Threats to Safety and Security, Accessibility, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.