Greece travel guide
A flavourful melting pot of sparkling nightspots, fresh seafood, sizzling Mediterranean passion and mythical legend, Greece is a fascinating and enchanting destination.
The country has long held appeal for travellers who flock to its shores to lounge on beaches, explore ancient relics and take advantage of the legendary Grecian hospitality.
Yet despite its popularity, there is still an undiscovered feel to parts of Greece with Mount Olympus, the Peloponnese coast and some of the more remote islands slipping, for now at least, under the radar of mass tourism.
The first port of call for most visitors is Athens, the country's stunning capital, which combines a modern centre with the stark ancient beauty of the Parthenon and a position overlooking a cerulean stretch of the Saronic Gulf.
Like the rest of the country, Athens was built on a classical civilisation that produced some of the world's greatest thinkers, philosophers and poets. The ancient Greeks also brought the world democracy, which locals cheerfully remind visitors about, and a pantheon of deities, who are celebrated through statues and local folklore.
Everywhere has its own legend; from the tiny island of Ithaca, home to the wanderer Odysseus, to the rugged stretch of the Peloponnese, the onetime playground of divine beings.
Though the glory days of the Ancient Greeks have passed, the country remains one of Europe's leading holiday destinations, thanks largely to its gorgeous collection of islands, which are scattered like confetti across the Mediterranean Sea.
Greece boasts 6,000 islands and islets in all, all of which only 277 are inhabited. Among them is Rhodes, which was home to the ancient Minoan culture and, legend has it, the terrifying Minotaur. Today it is better known for its stunning beaches, charming seaside towns and lively nightlife.
The islands of Corfu, Crete and Santorini are also established hangouts for sun-seekers and merrymakers, while Kos has begun to attract deities of a very modern kind – the world’s rich and famous. Ultimately, though, in democratic Greece, everyone is welcome.
131,957 sq km (50,949 sq miles).
10,473,455 (UN estimate 2019).
81.7 per sq km.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou since 2020.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis since 2019.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Greece on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do in order to enter Greece.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
What to do if you test positive while in Greece
If you test positive for COVID-19 while in Greece you must self-isolate for 5 days from the date of the positive test result. You may leave self-isolation after 5 days if you have not had a fever in the past 24 hours, otherwise you should continue to self-isolate.
There is an exception for tourists leaving Greece to return home. You may leave self-isolation before the end of the 5 day isolation period in order to travel back to your country of origin, provided you wear a high protection mask and do not have a fever.
If you test positive for COVID-19 you should inform your accommodation provider. If you have serious symptoms you may be transferred to a medical centre dedicated to COVID-19 treatment. The UK government will not cover quarantine costs for British nationals.
The above guidance may not apply in the case of variants of special interest. These cases will be assessed by the EMEA (Greek health authority) and appropriate instructions will be given.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
EHIC or GHIC cards cannot be used to cover any additional expenses you incur while self-isolating. Make sure you have access to funds to cover the costs or take out insurance, checking the policy has adequate cover.
Find out more from the NHS website about EHIC and GHIC healthcare cover abroad.
Wearing a mask
It is mandatory to wear a mask on all public transport, including taxis and indoor spaces on boats, and in hospitals and care facilities for the elderly.
It is also advised to wear a mask in pharmacies.
Public spaces and services
Regional Units have imposed local measures in the past, when the spread of Covid-19 has been particularly high and hospital capacity limited. Travellers should check the latest local guidance.
All hotels are permitted to open, and other types of accommodation, including e.g. Airbnb, private rentals and hostels, are also available. However, you should note that many operators are likely to reduce their offer and close some accommodation during the winter months.
Healthcare in Greece
If you think you have symptoms of Covid-19, including a fever or respiratory difficulties such as shortness of breath or a cough, you should avoid visiting local health facilities, but contact a doctor remotely to see whether a test is recommended. There is likely to be a cost associated with this, for call out, examination and testing, which you will have to pay.
If you are staying in a hotel or resort, your accommodation provider will have a list of private doctors that they will call to assess your symptoms and conduct a COVID-19 test.
If you have arranged your own accommodation you can find details of English speaking, private doctors on our list of healthcare providers.
For more information, consult the Greek National Public Health Organisation (NPHO) online or via telephone (dial 1135, or 210 521 2054, from within Greece).
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Greece.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Strikes and demonstrations
There are regular strikes, sometimes called at short notice that can cause disruption to public transport (including air travel and ports), as well as road networks and borders. Political demonstrations can also occur frequently.
Avoid demonstrations wherever possible and follow the advice of the local authorities. Some demonstrations in the past have turned violent. If you do find yourself unexpectedly near a demonstration, move away to the last known safe place. Be aware that security forces often use CS/Tear gas to break up demonstrations, which can adversely affect your breathing and vision.
Demonstrations take place regularly around major squares in central Athens, in particular Syntagma Square. Nationwide strikes and protests can occur at any time and may disrupt road, air, sea travel and cause delays/diversions at border crossings.
Demonstrations can be called at short notice, but there are certain dates on which demonstrations traditionally occur: 1 May, 17 November, and 6 December.
Most visits to Greece are trouble-free, but theft of passports, wallets and handbags are common on the metro and in crowded tourist places, particularly in central Athens. Leave valuables in a safe place at your hotel or apartment and carry a photocopy of your passport with you. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK.
When driving on holiday, keep your valuables out of sight and lock your vehicle at all times. Always park in a well-lit area or secure car park. Be alert to car crime.
In 2022, 33 cases of rape and sexual assaults in Greece were reported to British consular staff. We also saw a small number of other personal attacks reported, and in some cases the alleged attackers were also British nationals. We recommend that all travellers take note of the following the advice:
- saving the location of your accommodation on your maps app, so it’s easier to find at the end of the night;
- setting up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with each other;
- keeping an eye on each other’s drinks to make sure they don’t get spiked;
- not letting a friend walk back to their hotel alone;
- not giving a drunk person more alcohol.
You should immediately report anything you see that doesn’t feel right to local authorities or hospitality management.
There have been some racially motivated attacks, mostly but not restricted to inner-city areas.
Alcohol, drugs and use of nitrous oxide can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. We recommended only purchasing branded and labelled drinks.
See the European Commission, AA and RAC guides on driving in Greece.
In 2021 there were 578 road deaths in Greece (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2021. If you are planning to drive in Greece, see information on Driving Abroad.
Licences and documents
You can drive in Greece with a UK driving licence.
You should read our guidance on driving in the EU from 1 January 2021.
Driving a British car abroad
You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.
Make sure any vehicle you hire is in good condition and check that you’re insured. When renting mopeds or quad bikes, insurance sold by the hire company usually only provides third party insurance, which only covers the cost of damage to another vehicle. Any damage sustained to the rental vehicle in many cases may need to be paid for by you, or you may face arrest if you do not pay and the hire company decide to press charges.
Quad biking is considered an extreme sport and carries the risk of serious injury or death. Specific travel insurance to cover quad bike rental is essential to avoid you having to pay the costs of private health care and/or repatriation to the UK. Always take care to read the details of your insurance cover before you travel on holiday, paying particular attention to the small print and exclusions on your insurance policy.
If you do rent a quad bike, choose a category in accordance with your driving licence and age. Drivers and passengers must wear helmets. Failure to do so may invalidate your insurance and if stopped, you will be fined and your licence taken from you. If you intend to hire a moped you will need a valid driving licence with at least category A1 - ‘light motorcycle’. Category P, which is valid in the UK for driving mopeds up to 50cc, is not valid in Greece.
You shouldn’t approach or take photos or videos of military installations, vehicles or buildings at any time. The Greek authorities will arrest and possibly prosecute anyone doing so. Certain border areas are also militarily sensitive. Although you can visit these areas, you should avoid taking photos or video footage.
Water sports and swimming
Follow local advice if jellyfish are present.
If you are considering taking part in water sports activities, do so through a licensed water sports centre and make sure paperwork is completed before starting the activity. Check the Safe Water Sports website for more information.
However inviting the blue waters may be, make sure you follow any warning signs, adhere to instructions from lifeguards and observe the flag indicators on beaches.
Since 1974, Greece has been a stable parliamentary democracy, with its head of state elected by the Parliament. It joined the European Union in 1981. Greece is recovering from a long-running economic crisis and its financial system is fragile. Greece has made positive steps in reducing its debts. Following the latest economic review, international creditors have released funds, but there remains a risk of further economic difficulties and related demonstrations.
Since 2015, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands, including Lesvos, Kos and Samos, and seeking to continue their journey via Greece to other EU countries. The flows have recently reduced significantly. At present there are no reports of any specific risks to British nationals visiting these islands or at border crossing points.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Greece. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.
There have been several attacks involving explosives and automatic weapons against Greek institutions, shopping malls, banks, media offices, diplomatic premises and the police.
British nationals aren’t normally considered a specific target, but attacks could happen in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Carry a copy of your passport or other photographic ID which confirms British nationality at all times.
The Greek police won’t accept rowdy or indecent behaviour, especially where excessive drinking is involved. The police will make arrests and the courts are likely to impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently. Some fancy dress costumes may be regarded as offensive and therefore against decency laws. Your travel insurance may not cover you after drinking.
Drugs and alcohol
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind, and don’t bring illegal drugs from the UK. Possession of even small quantities can lead to a long prison sentence.
Alcohol, drugs and use of nitrous oxide can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.
The Greek authorities are clamping down on the sale of nitrous oxide as it is illegal to buy or sell for recreational use in Greece. You will be liable for arrest as well as a possible fine. You should also be aware of the health risks associated with its use.
Driving any vehicle while over the legal drinking limit can result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment.
Taking food and drink into the EU
You cannot take meat, milk or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions for medical reasons, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.
It’s sometimes necessary to time stamp or validate your ticket on public transport for it to be valid. Check with local providers.
Purchasing goods or services
Make sure you get a receipt for any goods or services you buy.
Don’t buy any offensive items like pepper spray, knuckledusters or knives with a blade length of 10cm or above. These items are listed as weapons in Greece and fall under the current weapon possession law. You need to have a special licence from the local police authority to carry any weapon otherwise you might face arrest and legal charges. The same applies for knives; you need to have a special licence to carry any knife that is not made for domestic, professional, artistic or hunting use.
Same-sex sexual relations are legal in Greece and civil unions between same-sex couples have been legal since 2015. The age of consent in Greece is 15 – this applies to partners of both the same sex and opposite sex. Transgender people are able to change their legal gender. Anti-discrimination and hate speech laws apply to gender identity.
Public attitudes towards homosexuality vary throughout the country; public displays of affection by same-sex couples may be frowned upon, especially in rural areas.
Attitudes are generally much more welcoming in Athens and on many Greek islands, particularly on Lesvos, Mykonos and Skiathos, which are well known for their gay and lesbian scenes. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
It’s illegal to smoke in all indoor public places. The penalty for violating this law is a fine of up to €500.
Military Service obligations
Men, aged 19 and above, born to a Greek national parent may have military service obligations, regardless of any other nationality they hold. Authorities can prevent you leaving Greece until you complete military service obligations.
This page has information on travelling to Greece.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Greece set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Greece’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
The following requirements for entry to Greece apply regardless of your vaccination status, and apply to all travellers.
Precise rules are subject to change and you should follow any instructions given on arrival at immigration or airport testing facilities. For more information, check the Greek authorities’ advice.
Passengers arriving in Greece do not need to show a proof of COVID vaccination, a negative COVID test, or a certificate of recovery from COVID. You do not need to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF).
Travellers are still required to wear a mask on public transport.
Additional restrictions on entry by air
Air connections with Greece are liable to suspension or amendment, sometimes at short notice. If you are due to fly to or from Greece, you should contact your airline or operator for the latest information.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.
Your passport must be:
- issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)
You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.
Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
If you are travelling to Greece and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
To stay longer, to work or study, for business or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Greek government’s entry requirements. Check with the Greek Embassy what type of visa and/or work permit, if any, you may need.
If you are travelling to Greece for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.
The entry requirements for touring creatives have recently changed, more details of the new rules can be found on the Greek Embassy website.
If you stay in Greece with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Greece as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.
You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.
You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are resident in Greece, read our Living in Greece guide for passport stamping information.
Travelling with medication
According to Greek law, a visitor can bring up to 5 different prescribed medicines for personal use, with a maximum of 2 boxes of each medicine.
Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines available in the UK, including medication containing codeine, are considered controlled substances in Greece. A doctor’s prescription is required in all cases, which should mention your details, the types of medicine and the condition treated. On arrival, Greek Customs may in some cases require you to obtain permission from the Greek National Organisation of Medicines - if you need to carry more than the permitted number of boxes, for example. The National Organisation of Medicines examines these requests on a case by case basis.
For more information on controlled medicines, contact the Greek National Organisation of Medicines (telephone: 0030 213 2040 285 / 307 / 225, open Monday to Friday, 12pm to 3pm Greece time, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are valid for entry, airside transit and exit from Greece.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For more information on regulations in Greece, see Travelling with medication
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Greek nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
Uninsured individuals are not able to get medical treatments or diagnostic tests from private doctors in Greece, only from public hospitals and primary healthcare centres.
Prescription medicine for uninsured individuals are only dispensed from pharmacies at hospitals or those pharmacies registered with the EOPYY healthcare fund.
Read our guidance on healthcare if you’re visiting the EU.
If you’re living in Greece, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Greece guide.
Treatment and facilities are generally good on the mainland, but may be limited on the islands. The standards of nursing and after care, particularly in the public health sector lag behind what is normally acceptable in the UK. The public ambulance service, which will normally respond to any accident, is basic. There are severe shortages of ambulances on some islands.
While pharmacies across the country stock a good supply of medicines, you should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 166 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
There is a risk of West Nile virus in Greece. You should consider preventative measures to minimise exposure to mosquitoes. Visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website for more information about the transmission season and advice for travellers.
Greece can experience earthquakes and earth tremors. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow advice given by the local authorities. The Greek General Secretariat for Civil Protection website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, and issues announcements about ongoing incidents.
Forest fires often occur during the summer months across Greece due to the dry/hot weather. In the case of wildfires, the situation on the ground can change quickly, so you should stay up to date with official advice and alerts by subscribing to the Civil Protection’s SMS or email service, or via “112 Greece” on twitter (to translate to English, click on the tweet and press ‘Translate Tweet’). The Civil Protection Authority publishes a daily map during the high risk period detailing fire risk by area (1= low risk to 5= Emergency).
Forest fires are highly dangerous and unpredictable. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas. Make sure cigarette ends are properly extinguished, and don’t light barbecues. Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Greece even if unintentional. If you see a forest fire, call the emergency services on 112.
Forest fires can also cause travel disruption in wider areas. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the Greek Meteorological Service or European Meteorological Services, follow the advice of local authorities at all times and check with your travel provider for travel updates.
For further information on the risk of forest fires, visit the Civil Protection website. For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website.
You can register on the Greek government’s Emergency Communication Service to receive emergency alerts.
Localised or severe weather extremes can affect areas of Greece over the extended summer period and this can at times cause travel disruption. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the Greek Meteorological Service or European Meteorological Services website and check with your travel provider if necessary. You should follow the advice of local authorities at all times.
You can withdraw cash using a UK card up to the daily limit imposed by the Greek banking system (usually €600) or the daily limit imposed by your UK card issuer - whichever is the lower amount.
You should be able to pay for retail transactions with debit and credit cards, but always check beforehand as not all business hold a machine for processing card payments.
When travelling outside the UK you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.’