What it’s like to retire in Greece

Most people choose to retire in their home countries. Yet some would like to move to a faraway land and settle there. Many Americans, for instance, dream of moving to Europe, while Europeans want to relocate to New Zealand or Costa Rica. And many people feel they have to do it because the average pension in their countries does not allow for a decent living.

The question of the best place to retire is a tricky one. One has to consider the climate, the quality of living, political and economic situation in the country, and be prepared to go through a culture shock too. Many people believe that Greece may be an ideal alternative for a Western pensioner.

In this article, we shall consider the possibility of retiring in Greece in the light of the country's lifestyle, its economy and the cost of living there. We shall also explain the immigration procedure in a little more detail. Finally, we shall briefly review some places in the country that may be good locations for a decent European retirement.

Quality of Living

Life in Greece may easily be summarised in four words, namely:

  • comfortable,

  • beautiful,

  • healthy,

  • laid-back.

Weather and Geography

The Greek climate makes the country a perfect escape from the cold, windy and rainy Northern Europe and from dry scourging Northern Africa. Greeks are used to good weather: the sun shines throughout the year, and the temperature stays within the 12 °C to 30 °C range. It rarely rains in summer or snows in winter.

The country's diverse geography guarantees to please everybody too. Snowcap mountains and luscious valleys, stone desserts and vineyards, blue waters and sandy beaches, you will have it all in one there. Whatever your personal preferences may be, you will find Greece beautiful. 

Lifestyle

Greek people believe that there should be no hurry in their country. Laid-back throughout the day, they move slowly and speak quietly. The pace might be a little faster in the capital city, but when you go to small towns and the islands, it all feels like a lucid dream, especially if you have just arrived from London or New York.

If you dream of living a quiet life among friendly people away from noise and stress, moving to Greece may be an optimal solution for you.

 

Greek Cuisine

Greek food is delicious and healthy at the same time. Greeks are famous for living long lives: a large percentage of the population lives past 90, and reaching 100 is not uncommon either. Their healthy cuisine is one of the reasons for that, and it also makes the country score low on the prevalence of cardiological disorders and obesity. 

Healthcare

Moderate climate, healthy food and a laid-back lifestyle are greatly responsible for the good health and long lives that Greek people enjoy. Still, those three factors would not be enough, even if taken together, without proper medical services in the country. And the healthcare system in Greece is one of the best in the world.

As a general rule, Greek doctors are well-qualified and highly skilled professionals, and many of them have international work experience too. Besides, the country has the highest ratio of doctors to the total population and patients in the European Union.

Plus, medical services are relatively cheap by international standards. In fact, according to numerous reports, Greece is on the list of the most favoured destination countries for medical tourism globally. 

Crime and Safety

In terms of its crime statistics, Greece compares favourably with most countries in the West. Athens is less safe than small towns and the countryside, just as any capital city would be. Still, the current crime statistics in Athens show it to rate at the level of small towns in North America, for example. All in all, there has been virtually no negative feedback about safety from tourists or expatriates so far. 

Cost of Living

What motivates many Western pensioners to retire in Greece is a comparatively low cost of living in that country, even by the South-East Asian standards. Almost everything from food to public transport is incredibly cheap there. That is especially true for their real estate market. Private property in Greece, for instance, costs less than even in Vietnam. 

Economic Factors

The Greek standard of living as measured by the macroeconomic variables leaves a lot to be desired, though. Officially, the economy is not doing very well, although the relatively decent quality of life that the population enjoys throws a shadow of doubt on that statement.

Still, the government needs money, a big part of it has been coming from Europe. In June 2021, The European Union backed Greece's pandemic recovery plan of €30.5 billion. 

However, when Brexit was signed in January 2020, the European Union's budget lost its second-largest contributor. And that budget has been one of the most significant factors accounting for the Greek quality of living.

The government is currently trying to increase the money flow into the country, especially to the real estate market. One way to do it is to encourage foreigners to retire in Greece, making it as convenient as possible for them to do so. The only requirement is that they should purchase property in the country. 

Implications for Retirement in Greece

1. The cost of living in Greece will probably remain low for some time as the population's purchasing capacity is not high.

2. It has also affected the real estate market in Greece for the same reasons, and it now offers foreigners excellent investment opportunities.

3. The government will continue to offer foreign retirees additional benefits and financial perks. One example of that is the recently introduced 7% retirement tax for foreign pensioners. Keep in mind, though, that the retirement age in Greece is 67.

4. These opportunities seem attractive enough to increase the traffic of Western pensioners into the country, and it may cause a boom in the real estate market. It might be a good idea to invest in private property in Greece before that happens. 

Residence Permit

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a retirement visa, but you can obtain a residence permit for that purpose. To apply for one, you will only need the following documents:

  • your passport,

  • active medical insurance,

  • a specified stable income or a specified amount in your bank account.

You can contact any Greek Consulate to find out what the specified amounts are as they change occasionally. Also, make sure that your insurance covers the particular area. And you only need your insurance and the money in your account to apply for the permit, so you may do with them as you please once they have approved your application.

However, you may only apply for a residence permit when you are already living in the country. Besides, the firm belief in a laid-back life affects the work of the Department of Immigration too, and it will probably take some time before you receive your residence permit. So you may as well start thinking of sorting out the situation with your visa first. 

Entry Visas

Specific visa requirements for you will depend on your passport. Residents of one of the member countries of the European Union, for example, do not need visas at all, nor a residence permit, for that matter. And visitors from the USA may stay in the country without visas for 90 days.

Once your visa-free stamp expires, you will either have to apply for a visa or go for a visa run if you qualify for it. And, in case you intend to seek employment in the country, you will have to obtain a work permit before your first workday.

Alternatively, you can apply for a self-employment visa. In that case, you will have to attach the so-called entrepreneurship plan to your visa application. And they will require you to deposit a specified amount to your account in any Greek bank. You can inquire about the exact amount at any Greek Consulate as such requirements change from time to time.

But, with or without a visa, you will have to get registered if you stay in the country for longer than 90 days. Fortunately, it is a relatively quick and easy procedure that requires minimum paperwork, and there will be no expiry date for your registration. 

Golden Visa

One excellent and hassle-free opportunity to retire in Greece is to apply for the Golden Visa, which permits you to reside in the country permanently based on your ownership of private property. All you have to do is buy a property for at least €250,000, and it will take approximately two months to receive the Golden Visa.

You can double-check the specified amount with any Greek Consulate as it may change, in principle, although it has remained the same since the beginning. As soon as you receive the visa, they will automatically grant you a residence permit, and there will be no additional requirements to meet.

The permit will be renewable indefinitely, provided you still own the property. And you will be able to apply for citizenship when you have stayed in the country for seven years. However, given the benefits offered to the local and foreign pensioners in Greece, applying for Greek citizenship might not necessarily be a good idea. 

Best Places in Greece

The question of choosing the best place to live is another tricky one. You will be able to decide for yourself once you have spent some time in the country. For now, we would like to mention a few places that have received the most positive feedback from visitors. 

Crete

The most densely populated island in Greece, Crete seems to be the most popular destination among tourists and expatriates. One would expect the island to be a noisy and hectic place. Yet, Crete is one of the most serene and laid-back places in the country.

With its sandy beaches and the country's highest mountains, Crete is a perfect place for a holiday and a peaceful retirement in Greece. And its mild climate attracts people from Northern countries, like Iceland. 

Athens

If you would like to enjoy the diversity of city life instead, Athens may be a better choice for you. Athens has a long cultural tradition that extends into the modern age, and it is also one of the most powerful economic centres in South-Eastern Europe.

At the same time, life is more expensive there, and the crime rate is higher than in the country. On the other hand, renting accommodation in the city centre costs less than doing the same even in Bangkok. And the level of crime in Athens will probably be a relief for those who come from big cities in Europe and North America. 

Corfu

The island of Corfu is a lovely blend of a Mediterranean beach resort and a busy city culture. Corfu is home to numerous art museums, good universities and the first opera house in Greece. It has three philharmonic societies and a dozen libraries.

And you can escape it all by visiting remote caves and quiet sandy beaches or taking ferry trips to the neighbouring islands. Corfu is not the cheapest place in the country, though, since some of the wealthiest people in Europe have chosen to buy property there. 

Santorini

On the opposite end of the scale from Corfu is the small volcanic island of Santorini that may be one of the best places for those who seek escape from noise and stress. Besides its gorgeous mountains, clear waters, black sandy beaches and medieval architecture, Santorini also offers visitors and its 16,000 inhabitants the most stunning sunsets on the planet. 

Summary

Retiring in Greece might be a good idea as the country offers numerous benefits to foreign pensioners:

  • A pleasant climate that is also conducive to good health.

  • Diverse natural beauty.

  • Rich cultural tradition and multiple opportunities for intellectual self-enrichment.

  • A well-developed transportation network that allows you to travel the country in comfort and makes the rest of the world easily accessible.

  • Affordable living and low taxation burden.

  • Minimum culture shock for European pensioners.

  • Lucrative perks and little trouble from the government.

The ultimate decision rests with everybody personally. We hope that our overview will help you make that decision for yourself.

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