Greece Health Care and Vaccinations
Members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland are entitled to free emergency medical treatment providing they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Visitors from outside the EU are strongly advised to take out travel medical insurance before visiting Greece. Respective consulates and Athens-based embassies can help visitors find hospitals and doctors in Greece, should the need arise. Note that most Greek doctors speak basic English. If you plan to do any ‘extreme’ sports, such as scuba diving whilst on holiday, you should also look into extra insurance cover.
For minor problems, it may be sufficient to visit a pharmacy – pharmacists in Greece are highly qualified and can offer advice and medication for mild conditions.
Emergency care, in the case of accidents, is provided free of charge to all nationalities at public hospitals. However, be aware that there is a certain degree of corruption within the Greek healthcare system. Even in public hospitals, doctors often expect under-the-table payments from patients in return for priority treatment, and sometimes receive kickbacks for referring patients to private institutions. Public hospitals are frequently understaffed, so it is not unusual for family members to bring patients meals from home and sometimes even stay overnight to help with basic nursing care. Private hospitals usually require the proof of adequate insurance or cash before admitting foreign patients.
Note that the Greek health care system is heavily concentrated in Athens (and to a lesser extent Thessaloniki), so that people from the islands and rural areas usually have to visit to the capital to see consultants and receive treatment for more serious ailments.
For emergencies, ring 166 (public ambulance).
Tap water is drinkable in Athens and other cities – in fact, in areas where the local water is good, bars and restaurants are obliged by law to provide customers with glasses or jugs of tap water free of charge upon request. So don’t be ashamed to ask. However, visitors should be wary of drinking tap water in remote areas, and on many islands – even if the locals do it. Bottled water is widely available and prices are strictly controlled on the mainland and islands. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are considered safe to eat.
Visitors to forested areas should consider getting the vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis three months before their date of travel. In summer 2011, there were reports of several cases of malaria in Greece, attributed to local transmission. However, the situation has not been deemed serious enough to warrant foreign visitors taking anti-malarials prior to their visit, as Greece is still considered extremely low-risk.