Healthcare in Greece for expats

Greece has an excellent healthcare system by all international standards. According to recent surveys, the country has become one of the most popular destinations for medical tourism worldwide. Our purpose in this article is to provide a general overview of Greek medical services, relying on the numerous reports by foreigners living in this country.

We shall describe the differences between public and private healthcare, explain how to apply for public or private medical insurance in Greece and highlight the benefits of obtaining international medical insurance. We shall also answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning the average costs of medical services in Greece and the general state of the country's medical emergency and pharmaceutical sector.

Quality of Greek Medical Services

There are plenty of decent and reliable public hospitals and private clinics in Greece, all equipped with the most advanced medical technology. In addition, the country has the highest number of medical practitioners per capita in the European Union, and only 5% of Greek doctors are general practitioners.

In most cases, local medical personnel are highly skilled and well-qualified specialists with extensive international experience. Medical services are pretty cheap by Western standards, even in private clinics. On the other hand, private healthcare is not as affordable for the expatriates living in Greece and earning local salaries as it might be for medical tourists coming to the country specifically for this purpose. 

Public Medical Services in Greece

Even though the government healthcare sector in Greece had a noticeable downturn during the last economic crisis, public medical services are still at a very high level by international standards, especially in big cities. Plus, the government has exerted considerable and largely successful efforts in helping them to recover from the downturn.

Public medical care is completely free for the citizens, holders of the Greek permanent residence permits, EU citizens and residents and the unemployed. For this reason, the queues are long, and you might decide to consider going to a private clinic instead, especially if the treatment you seek is not desperately expensive. 

Applying for Public Medical Insurance

The procedure of applying for public medical insurance will differ slightly, depending on whether you are self-employed or have an employment contract. 

Application Procedure for the Employed

When you find a job in the country, you will receive a social security number upon signing the employment contract. In that case, it will be your employer's responsibility to pay for medical insurance and arrange a provider of medical services for you. You will only have to submit the following documents with your application for the social security number:

  • the S1 Form,

  • your Greek tax number,

  • a copy of your identity document,

  • your national social security number,

  • two passport-size photographs,

  • your Greek residence permit (if applicable).

Application Procedure for the Self-Employed

In the case of self-employment, you will need to obtain medical insurance from the local branch of the Greek Organisation for Self-Employed. In that case, you will have to submit the following documents to the Organisation:

  • your passport or Greek ID,

  • proof of insurance payments for the previous three months,

  • two passport-size photographs.

Whether you obtain public medical insurance as an employee or self-employed, the following members of your family and your dependents will have access to free medical care via your insurance policy:

1. Your husband or wife in the case of your spouse's unemployment.

2. Your children in case they are:

  • single, reside with you and are younger than 18;

  • unemployed, single, reside with you and are younger than 24;

  • single students, live with you and are younger than 26 (or for two years after their graduation, whichever happens first).

3. Physically or mentally challenged children or siblings with a disability score of at least 67%.

4. In some cases, your parents and ex-spouse.

Private Medical Services in Greece

The private healthcare sector in Greece provides far superior medical services compared with the government hospitals and polyclinics. In addition, they use far more advanced equipment, which can make a big difference in the case of complex surgical interventions, for example.

Another benefit is that private doctors are more likely to speak decent English, which is a pleasant bonus. And the gap in the quality of services provided is not that large between big cities and the countryside. You will pay a lot more for the private medical services, though, and if you start earning an average Greek salary, you might not even be able to afford them at all. 

Applying for Private Medical Insurance

Many people prefer to sign up for private medical insurance, and its benefits are definitely worth paying the higher fees. The thing is, public insurance covers such a narrow range of expenses that it almost makes no sense to have it at all. On the contrary, private insurance in Greece is quite generous by all standards. For example, it pays for, in most cases, such services as:

  • in-patient treatment in top-class hospitals,

  • plastic surgery,

  • advanced dental treatment.

The cost of private medical insurance, on the other hand, is the next most complicated system in this country after the Greek taxation. It depends on an almost infinite number of factors which includes everything from your payment frequency and age to your nationality and even gender. However, a typical case would be to pay $170–200 per year, and the insurance plan would cover 80–90% of all your medical expenses. 

European Health Card

There is an additional option of obtaining the European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC for short. The EHIC is available specifically for the citizens and permanent residents of the EU member states and only when they travel within the European Economic Area.

If you hold the Health Card, you become eligible to receive medical treatment for the same fees as a citizen of the country you are travelling, provided it is in the EEA. For instance, if the medical service in question is free in that country, the Card entitles you to receive it free of charge as well.

However, keep in mind that, in Greece at least, they will only accept the EHIC in the public healthcare sector. And at no time can the Card serve as a substitute for the medical insurance required for virtually all types of visas in this country. But on the bright side, you may use it freely for a long list of dental treatments. 

Note: if you would like to obtain the European Health Insurance Card in Greece for free, you will have to apply to your local branch of the Social Insurance Institute or any Citizen Service Centre.

Advantages of using the EHIC

1. The Card is easy to use, with absolutely no bureaucracy involved. You only have to show it to the doctor you visit. They all know what it looks like, which eliminates the risk of a language barrier.

2. You may use the Card an unlimited number of times, and for any amount of money too. Plus, it is valid for the entire duration of your travel. That makes it an ideal solution for people with some persistent or life-long medical conditions.

3. The Card also makes you eligible for all the regular maternity care services, except the actual childbirth.

4. The EHIC is easy to obtain, and it will cost you nothing at all. 

Disadvantages of using the EHIC

1. This medical insurance only covers emergency treatment, and it does not work in the private healthcare sector.

2. You cannot use the Card in the EU member states which are not part of the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland.

3. The Card does not work in the case of a medical intervention while you are on a sea or river cruise.

4. The European Health Insurance will not cover any medical fees if medical tourism is your formal purpose of visiting the country. 

Medical Visa in Greece

If you want to travel to Greece specifically as a medical tourist, you must apply for a medical visa. In that case, you will need to submit the following documents with your application:

  • a copy of your travel document,

  • your medical insurance,

  • accommodation reservation for the entire stay in the country,

  • proof of employment or any stable source of income,

  • recent bank statement,

  • a medical certificate issued or confirmed by a registered doctor,

  • two passport-size photographs. 

Medical Emergency in Greece

If you happen to require emergency service, you may legally receive it for free in Greece, whatever your legal status in the country is. The problem is, the ambulance and other medical emergencies might not be as reliable and accessible in the countryside and on the islands as in big cities. And the language barrier could be another problem, especially in remote parts of the country and on the phone. 

Note: the numbers to call are 166 for the ambulance and 112 for all other emergency calls.


However, we strongly recommend you to call 112 in any case since you will have better chances of having someone to speak English on that number. 

Costs of Medical Services in Greece

Medical care in Greece is relatively inexpensive, both public and private, compared with many other European countries, North America and Australia. The fees might not differ that much for the routine visits and insignificant medical interventions, though, unless you have public medical insurance, in which case it is all free for you.

It is when you have to go for some more serious treatment that you appreciate the difference between Greece and, say, the States. The table below provides just one example of the gap: 



Greece (public)

Greece (private)

Visit to a doctor




Moderate surgical intervention




Of course, the private sector is considerably more expensive than the government hospitals are, and this is where the problem for the expats comes in. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they end up having to use private medical services, but they still live in the country, and many of them earn Greek salaries.

It is a different story for medical tourists, of which there are many in Greece. Even private clinics in big cities seem pretty affordable if you come from the States, Germany or the UK. In other words, we may rank order the three groups in terms of their satisfaction with the costs of local healthcare this way:

1. First, the tourists, medical or not, who arrive from the countries with a higher average salary and extortionate medical fees. They can enjoy even private medical services without a real financial strain.

2. Next, the locals who earn a low or moderate salary and pay little or nothing for public medical services.

3. Last, the middle-class expats who have decided to abandon the teaching profession or other lucrative freelance occupations to start earning salaries as low as the middle-class Greeks do but continue to rely mainly on private medical services.

On the other hand, the situation is not as bad as it seems at first. For one thing, public medical services in this country are pretty good indeed by all international standards. Besides, one of the expats' primary motives for seeking formal employment was to get access to the public funds, so to speak.

They have got that, but the price to pay was several leaps down the socioeconomic ladder. It was only a question of legalising their original (or potential) income, paying taxes and obtaining public medical insurance, all of which many middle-class expats in Greece seem unwilling to do. The bottom line is, they might have shot themselves in the foot that way - when it comes to medical services, at least. 

Summary and Conclusion

Medical services in Greece are very high quality by all international standards. More often than not, the doctors are well-trained, very experienced and know what they are doing. The clinics have all the modern equipment you might need for most purposes, although you would probably have to search for an exceptional hospital to get some highly complex treatment.

Of course, you could end up in trouble if you had to visit a public polyclinic somewhere in the sticks, and the general rule is, the closer to the centres of big cities, the better medical services. Yet, the more significant factor in this context is the quality of your medical insurance.

And there is, probably, little point in wasting your money on public insurance unless you are still young and healthy anyway. Still, private insurance in Greece is worth paying for since it covers an impressively broad range of services and is pretty affordable by most Western standards, as well as for what an average English-speaking expat in this country could make.

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