Living in Crete new life, Moving to Crete

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Smiling woman in front of a scenic view at the rocky coastline and a blue lagoon at Balos bay on Crete. Balos bay is one of the most popular beaches on Crete. Famous landmark. Summer. XXXL (Canon Eos 1Ds Mark III)

Living in Crete is a dream that some make a reality. Whether you want to live in Crete full time and permanently or you want to a holiday home to spend part of the year on this wonderful Greek Island.

There are lots of expats living in Crete from all nationalities. Many of the expats living in Crete are from the UK.

People who want to live in Crete are drawn to it because of  the many attractions of Crete.

Combine this with the wonderful weather, high average temperature in Crete, very low crime rate, friendly and welcoming Cretans and wonderful scenery it comes as no surprise that the largest of the Greek Islands is so very popular with expats.

There are lots to consider if you want to live in Crete either full time or part time.

Whether you are considering moving to Crete, have children and/or have pets to think about, wondering how you can make your living here or just looking forward to retirement in the sun.

Greek bureaucracy can be a minefield in relation to renting or buying Crete property, dealing with utility companies, health care, day to day life in Crete and exploring Cretan culture and customs.

Crete Property

Living in Crete and perhaps buying a property in Crete is a dream shared by many.

Long lazy days spent by the seashore. A relaxed stress free lifesyle and a wonderful home to live in are so appealing. There is plenty of choice of Crete property for sale or to rent, making living in Crete a reality rather than just a dream.

Demand for Crete properties is not just for holiday homes, but also for people who are moving to Crete permanently.

Many are drawn to Crete because of its unique mixture of culture, tradition and laid-back charm, with all the amenities of modern living available.

Crete has a very low crime rate. Crete has excellent hospitals, schools and universities, while opportunities to start a business are growing in the travel and tourism industry and in property development, making living in Crete a viable option.

Unlike smaller Greek islands, Crete doesn’t depend solely on tourism, and many people now choose to live in Crete all year round, as many restaurants, shops and bars stay open throughout the winter. EU membership allows Brits in Crete to receive free healthcare too, for those over 60. However the consequences of the Brexit has yet to be resolved.

Buying a property in Crete can also be a sound investment for property buyers. Property is generally cheaper than Spain, France and Italy.

See our Crete Property section for more on what, where and why you should rent or buy Crete property.

Health Care in Crete

Expats usually find they become far healthier in Crete than there home countries. This can be put down to a stress free lifestyle, long walks in the countryside admiring the flora and fauna, swimming in the ocean and enjoying the best food from the Cretan Diet.

See our Health Care in Crete section for in-depth, impartial and independent advice and information on doctors, dentists and hospitals in Crete, pensioners health care provision, the European Health Insurance Card and the reciprocal health care scheme and who is covered.

Greek Bureaucracy

If you are planning on living in Crete permanently, there are obviously many things to consider.

Sometimes, the bureaucratic processes involved will put some people off, such as dealing with the utility companies, setting up bank accounts and transferring money to and from Greece. There’s also the issues of Residency and tax matters, which does concern people. The consequences of the Brexit has yet to be resolved.

None of these are big problems though and all can be overcome, and it is true that the bureaucratic processes in the UK are just as bad, except that it’s easier when you speak the language!

Many expats find that the red tape is a small price to pay for living on such a wonderful Greek Island.

To find out all you need to know about things like how to get a Tax number, getting your head around the IKA National insurance system, importing or buying a car, getting a residency

Moving to Crete

If you’ve yet to make your mind up about moving to Crete or already making plans then check out our Moving to Crete section covering all you’ll need to know about the logistics about relocating to Crete, importing a car, bringing pets to Crete, learning Greek and schools in Crete.

Making a living in Crete

Check out the appropriate links if you are thinking about finding employment in Crete, starting a business in Crete or

getting residency in Crete or funding your Living in Crete dream.

Day to Day life

Settling in to a new way of life, dealing with Greek Bureaucracy and the day to day issues that crop up, all can seem daunting at first.

Such things as: paying bills, getting a Residency Permit, and receiving and sending mail.

And if you have children you will need to look into schools in Crete and their health needs.

Worried about missing your favourite TV programmes? Check out our very informative TV in Crete page.

Getting and using the Internet may be very important for you, particular, if you need it to make your living in Crete.

The Internet is widely available in Crete with ADSL or Broadband in most areas.

To see more information on getting a telephone, mobile phones and the Internet check out our Internet in Crete page.

Greece insists on people having a Residency Permit if they plan to stay for more than 4 months, despite this being illegal under EU law.

See our account of getting a Residency Permit in Crete.

We needed the Residency Permit to buy a car in Crete as we deciding against importing a car to Crete

One of the things you will need to do if you are hoping to live in Crete is to open a Greek bank account.

See how on our opening a bank account in Crete page.

And for your day to day shopping see our shopping in Crete guide. For all you need to know on the Farmers markets in Crete, supermarkets and clothes shops, electrical appliance and furniture stores etc.

Customs & Culture

Crete has a fascinating culture and it’s people can boast an amazingly varied heritage of influence from advanced cultures and civilisations in the ancient world.

The friendliness of the Cretan people to visitors is renowned. There is even a Greek word for it – philoxenia – meaning to be friendly to those who you don’t know. And make no mistake, this friendliness is not just reserved for tourists – it is genuine, old-fashioned kindness and hospitality. Step into many pretty Cretan villages and you step back in time, where genuine warmth far outweighs the cold hostility unfortunately found in many places these days. A virtually crime free Crete bears witness to this.

See more about the Cretans and their culture & customs and just why we love Crete so much.

Getting to Crete

Crete is still a tempting prospect for anyone looking for a holiday home in the sun, despite recent economic woes.

Many things are still cheaper here, such as local fresh foods, rents and property. If you are looking for a holiday home, then Crete is a growing market and has a lot going for it.

Getting to your accommodation in Crete in the summer is easy with many of the cheapest flights to Crete airports (Heraklion and Chania) flying from several UK airports. Cheap flights from Crete to the UK are also readily available.

In winter you would need to pick up connecting flights in Athens or travel from Piraeus to Crete by sea and enjoy an overnight trip sleeping in a comfortable cabin on an ultra modern and up market large ferry. Crete Ferries run by Minoan Lines and Anek are recommended and take you to the ports of Chania or Heraklion.

Christmas in Crete can be far less stressful than in the UK! And with over 300 days of sunshine a year the weather in Crete in winter can be very pleasant making living in Crete even better.

Click the link for more information on the cost of living in Crete.

Living in Crete

So if you are thinking about living in Crete and buying your very own place in the sun, maybe its time to do it now. Why not book cheap flights to Crete and book into a hotel. With many coastal towns and villages vying to be the best resort in Crete it won’t be difficult to find your perfect location to start your life in Crete. So why not rent a car for a week or two and travel around this wonderful island of Crete.

Is the Chania region in Crete a good place to retire to?

Chania, the last decades, is a place where many retirees choose to go and start a new life. Its natural beauties, including stunning sea and beaches, fascinating mountains, and exciting countryside nature, will charm even the most tired retiree.

Nowadays, Chania has transformed into a melting pot of various nationalities and ethnicities of people who have migrated to the Crete island seeking a permanent or semi-permanent place of residence.

Chania has everything a retiree could want – great Mediterranean climate; an established and welcoming expatriates’ community; well-rated health care system; endless outdoor activities for fun; all-year-round cultural events; low crime rate; an affordable cost of living, especially when you consider the quality of life; and easy access both from the Greece mainland and to and from all Europe. In every municipality of Chania, there are organized structures for the support and care of the elderly living alone.

Chania has considerably more affordable housing than Athens, but home prices are still high compared with other parts of the country. Housing costs are far less in Chania than in other similar coastal European cities across the Mediterranean.

Chania is a popular place to live, enjoy warm sunny days and relax at the fabulous beaches. Chania’s mild climate allows retirees to enjoy the outdoors year-round. When you’re ready for an adventure, there is plenty to explore at the mountain trails and the countless canyons, and of course, swimming on the crystal-clear beaches around the island.

Chania is an ideal home base from which to explore Crete’s most impressive natural places.

You could spend your retirement years watching idyllic sunsets on the edge of the magnificent Cretan coastlines or at the scenic villages that are perched on the exciting, rough mountains.

If your retirement dream is to live among nature in a friendly, welcoming community, consider retirement in Chania, where you can easily find everything you might need.

Retire in Greece: The Definitive Guide for Expats

Where to retire is often a very important and difficult decision. Some retire in their own country, while others look for somewhere else to retire. When choosing where to retire, there are often many variables to consider, you want your retirement country to have specific benefits so you can enjoy the payoff from your hard work. These benefits may be:

Warm weather

Stunning beaches

Friendly locals

Affordable real estate

Wonderful local cuisine

An advantageous location for travel

Advanced healthcare

Beneficial taxing programs

It seems like it’s impossible to find one place that can offer all of the above, but luckily it’s not. Let us introduce you to Greece.

Where Is Greece?

Greece is a country located in the southeast of Europe, right on the Mediterranean. It has long been a hotspot for travelers and retirees. Greece stands out due to its waterfront real estate on year-round sunny beaches, breezy lifestyle, happy locals, high standard of living, incredible tax benefits, and fantastic historical treasures.

In short, Greece is the beating heart of the world. It’s the birthplace of modern philosophy. It mixes history, culture, and modern living in a way that almost nowhere else does.

What About the Cost of Living in Greece?

Greece is quite affordable compared to other European countries. A couple can comfortably live there for €2,500 monthly. That is because Greece’s cost of accommodation and services is low, despite the high living standards. For example, many Americans living in Greece report that they spend 30% less in Greece than in the US. Later in this article, we will break down some costs of services and goods in Greece.

All of the above sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in this guide, we’re going to walk you through all you need to know about retiring in Greece. Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’ll see that Greece is precisely the heaven on earth you need for your retirement.

Who Can Retire in Greece?

Retiring in Greece is relatively easy. Due to its active tourism sector, the Greek visas tend to be easy to obtain. Though in some cases, the process might be a bit more elaborate.

Entry Visas

EU Citizens

Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland don’t need any visa to retire to Greece. All you need to do is present your passport or identity card when entering the country.

Moreover, if you plan to live in Greece long-term, you should apply for a Tax Identification Number to make specific processes easier. We’ll discuss in-depth Greek taxes and bank accounts later in this article.

Non-EU Citizens

Non- EU citizens require a three-month entry visa known as the “D” type visa. You can obtain an entry visa by visiting the Greek consulate in your country and bringing the following documents:

Your passport, valid for at least three months after the expiration of the visa

A biometric passport Photo

The Application form, filled in English or Greek

A medical certificate filled out by a licensed doctor

Proof of medical insurance valid in Greece

An excerpt from the penal register issued by your country of origin or current residence

You should go to the Greek consulate personally, so the authorities can interview you. They will also take biometric data from you during your visit. Remember that these visas are valid for 90 days.

US Citizens

US citizens can visit Greece for 90 days without needing a visa or permit. Though if you’re visiting Greece for longer than 90 days, you need an entry visa.

Residence Permits

Applying for a residence permit will take some time in Greece. You’ll need to apply for a permit while living in the country. That means if you’re a non-EU citizen, you should get an entry visa first, as we mentioned above.

The required documents for a residency permit are as follows:

Passport

Proof of current and continuous medical insurance with coverage in Greece

Proof of a regular income of at least €2,000 monthly, or

At least €24,000 in a bank

A convenient and popular way for non-EU citizens to acquire permanent residency in Greece is through the Greece Golden Visa Program.

The Greece Golden Visa

The Greece Golden Visa a residency by investment program launched in 2013. This program gives you permanent residency in Greece through an investment in the Greek real estate market. That is an excellent idea if you’re planning to retire there.

This program has been extremely popular with investors and retirees because it has the lowest minimum investment among any Golden Visa program. You can become a permanent resident in Greece with a low cost of €250,000.

When you enter this program, you immediately get a permanent residence in Greece valid for five years. You can renew this permit every five years as long as you hold the investment. The best benefit of this program is that you can qualify for citizenship after seven years of living in Greece. However, there is a minimum stay requirement of 183 a year, and you need to pass a citizenship exam.

There are a few ways to qualify for this program, such as:

€250,000 purchase of real estate anywhere in Greece

Purchase of multiple real estate properties in Greece if the combined cost is a minimum of €250,000

Timeshare or lease, in a hotel or furnished tourist accommodation for a minimum of ten years

Ownership of €250,000 worth of real estate through a legal entity, provided that you are the sole owner of said entity

Additionally, multiple investors are allowed to invest together, as long as each of them invests a minimum of €250,000.

This is the fastest way to get permanent residence in Greece, as you can receive your permit within 40-60 days.

This program offers many benefits, such as:

Family Reunification

Retirees who want to move to Greece with their families love this perk. You and your whole family can become permanent residents of Greece within two months. The family members you can include are your spouse and children under 18 years of age. If you have children older than 18 years of age but are studying full-time and entirely dependent on you, you can also include them in the program.

Visa-Free Travel in the Schengen Zone

As a Golden Visa holder, you have the freedom to travel in the Schengen zone. Imagine popping over to Paris for the weekend, then stopping by in Austria to catch the opera on your way back to your second home in Greece.

Taxes in Greece For Retirees

When retirees or pensioners want to retire somewhere new, taxation is always an issue. That’s completely understandable, as you don’t want to get double taxed and spend your hard-earned money on fees and tariffs.

In July 2020, Greece introduced a new initiative to attract retirees. The initiative was laid out in a draft law to be tabled in parliament. This draft states that if you shift your tax residence to Greece, you will be taxed at a flat 7% rate.

To qualify for this, you shouldn’t have been a tax resident over the five years before your tax relocation to Greece. As soon as your foreign pensioner’s application is approved, all your income obtained from abroad will be taxed at a flat 7% rate for the next ten years.

This rate will apply to all your foreign-sourced income, be it rents, business activities, dividends, or pensions.

When this law comes into effect, it will be an incredible opportunity for retirees, and we highly recommend that you take advantage of it. You simply can’t find a better tax deal in a whitelisted country anywhere else.

Taxpayer Identification Number

The taxpayer identification number is known as (AFM). You’ll need this number to open a bank account, set up utilities, and benefits from the 7% flat rate if you’re a pensioner.

Applying for this number is quite simple. You just need to visit the local tax office and fill out an M1 form. You should also bring your passport with you. Sometimes the local tax office might require some additional documents such as proof of residence or a bank statement.

Healthcare For Retirees in Greece

Retirees in Greece will enjoy access to a highly-developed healthcare system. Greece offers public healthcare to both citizens and residents for free or at a minimal cost.

The EFKA is the unified healthcare system in Greece, which provides free healthcare to citizens and residents.

Public Healthcare

The public healthcare system is called ESY. EU citizens, expats, and those who are unemployed are eligible for ESY.

If you’re retiring in Greece, you’ll need a residence permit, as we mentioned above. This means that you can use the ESY system. What’s interesting about this system is that you don’t need a referral to make an appointment with a specialist. A common problem, though, is that there are long waiting lists to see specialists.

Most public health institutions in Athens have some English-speaking staff. However, they’re harder to come across in the islands or smaller cities.

Here are some of the services the public healthcare system offers:

Surveillance of public health

Control of infectious diseases

Environmental health control

Health promotion

General and specialist care

Hospitalization

Laboratory services

Discounted drugs and medicines

Maternity care

Medical appliances

Transportation

Private Healthcare

We recommend that you look into private healthcare when retiring in Greece. Private healthcare has more advanced facilities than public ones. Additionally, you are more likely to find English-speaking staff in private hospitals.

Moreover, a few private hospitals have partnerships with some American hospitals and hospitals in other countries. This means that your current healthcare insurance provider might be able to extend your existing plan to cover you in Greece.

Private health insurance is popular with Greeks and expats, because it offers better services and shorter waiting times. You can choose to have a plan that compliments the public healthcare system or an all-inclusive plan.

What does private health insurance cover?

It covers all the primary healthcare needs and some extra services, such as:

Treatment in Greece’s most advanced hospitals

Advanced dental treatment

Cosmetic surgeries

Fees when visiting a specialist

A few international health insurance providers that can cover you in Greece are:

AXA PPP Healthcare

BUPA International

Exeter Friendly Society

International Health Insurance

Note that most hospitals and clinics under foreign private health insurance schemes tend to be either in Athens or Thessaloniki.

Cost of Living in Greece

So here comes the critical question, “is Greece expensive?” Well, Greece has lower salaries compared to other European countries. That is not an issue, though, because the average cost of living and services are also much cheaper than anywhere else in Europe. Most retiree couples could comfortably live on €2000 a month, excluding rent.

The cost of living there, of course, depends on where you live and your lifestyle. For example, the islands are more expensive than the mainland regarding fuel and essential goods. Furthermore, the countryside is significantly cheaper than the cities.

Accommodation in Greece

The accommodation prices have decreased dramatically during the economic crisis. They are currently slowly emerging, but are still very affordable. If you’re retiring in Greece, you might either want to rent or buy a property.

Greece is unique in Europe because it has an abundance of properties to rent or buy. Those who take advantage of the Greece Golden Visa program realize that this is an emerging market. So, there is a good chance that you may enjoy a capital appreciation on your property.

Rental Prices in Greece

Below you’ll find a table with average rental prices in Greece:

                        Average price

One-Bedroom         City Center   400-700€

Three-Bedroom      City Center   600-1200€

One-Bedroom         Outside City Center           200-400€

Three-Bedroom      Outside City Center           350-800€

Property Prices In Greece

Below you’ll find a table with average property prices in Athens, Greece:

            Average price per m2

City Center   1500-5000€

Outside City center            900-2500€

Internet and Utility

For utilities such as gas, electricity, and water, expect to pay between 150-300€. This changes depending on the size of your house, your level of usage, and the season. The monthly cost of the internet is about €20.

Cost Of Food

The Mediterranean diet is rich with olives, olive oils, cheese, and locally grown products. Recent studies show that this diet helps increase longevity and lowers the risks of heart diseases and diabetes. Greece is known for its top-notch locally grown foods, and it’s relatively cheap. In the tables below, you’ll find the average costs of some foods and drinks:

            Price in Euro

A dozen of eggs     3

Rice (1 kg)    1.70

A loaf of White Bread        0.80

Milk (regular), (1 liter)         1.21

Rice (white), (1kg)  1.68

Chicken Fillets (1kg)          6.75

Apples (1kg)            1.52

Potato (1kg) 0.85

Water (1.5-liter bottle)        0.78

Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)          6.00

Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)    4.60

            Price in Euro

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant (for two people)     40

Big Mac Meal           7

A bottle of local beer         4

Coca Cola (330 ml) 1.60

Cappuccino 4

Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)          6.50

Local Cheese (1kg)            7.91

Transportation

Greece’s public transportation is excellent and cheap. Most cities have city buses, and Athens has a metro system.

Sometimes you’d like to own a car in Greece, in which case you have to get car insurance. Here are some prices of transportation and vehicles.

            Price in Euro

Gasoline (one litre / 0.25 gallon) 1.47

Monthly Bus/TransportPpass    30

Bus Ticket, Single-Use     1.40

Taxi Tariff, 8Km/5Mile Journey   12

Toyota Corolla (new)        18,840

VW Golf (new)         18.650

Banking in Greece

It’s always smart to have a bank account in your country of residence. Luckily, the process is pretty easy in Greece. All you have to do is go to the bank with your passport and your taxpayer identification number (AMF). Some banks might have different requirements, so we recommend checking the specific bank you want to open an account with.

Eurobank is one of the many available banks for retirees in Greece. Its website is extremely user friendly, and it has excellent customer service in English. Additionally, it makes being the bills very easy through E-banking.

Another preferred bank for expats is the National Bank Of Greece. This bank offers a virtual prepaid card for online shopping, which can be quite convenient.

Some other banks in Greece are:

Piraeus Bank

Alpha Bank

Best Places To Retire in Greece

The problem with Greece is wherever you go, you’ll find crowds trying to enjoy the Greek lifestyle. You can retire in Greece cities, such as Athens or Thessaloniki. However, when you retire, you might want somewhere quiet and away from the hustle.

Most often, when you ask the question, “where should I retire in Greece?” you’ll get a generic answer like “one of the islands.” To spare your time, rather than talking about Athens and Thessaloniki, we found some quaint villages in Greece that you might want to consider.

Five Greek Villages To Retire in

Chryso

Chryso is nothing short of magical. The population there is just over 700, and It is situated about a 2.5-hour drive from Athens, at the foot of Mount Parnassus. This village is surrounded by olive groves, which makes you lose yourself in nature.

Moreover, there are traditional stone churches that simply drown you in history. It’s also just three kilometers away from Delphi’s Monuments, which are on the UNESCO heritage list.

Ploydrosos

This is another village located on Parnassus’s slopes, about a two-hour drive from the capital. Polydorsos is close to the famous Byzantine monument, the temple of Paleopanagia.

You can visit the village of Arahova on foot through a large national park outside of the town. The hike takes about two hours. The ancient city was drenched in history and the locals are very welcoming, usually offering expats Greek coffee and food. Moreover, there’s a magnificent ski resort, which is just a 30-minute drive away.

It’s important to note that only about 1,000 people live there, making it a perfect place for some peace and quiet.

Kyriaki

Kyriaki is located on the western slope of Mount Helikon, about two hours away from Athens by car. It is uniquely picturesque and only seven kilometers away from the Corinthian Gulf.

Walking around in the village, you can find many attractions, such as the Church of St.John the Baptist in the central square, Arvanica park, and the old chapel of Agios Nikolaos.

Goura

This visually stunning settlement is built at the foot of Mount Zireia in the Olivios river valley, only a 2.5-hour drive from Athens. When you first step foot in it, you’ll feel like you are transported to a 19th-century Greek novel.

Locals enjoy hiking on Ziriea’s hills, which are dotted with fir trees. Moreover, you can take about a two-hour hike to Doxa Lake, and it might just be the cleanest lake you’ll ever see.

The best thing about this village is definitely the monastery of St.Geroge. The view is just incredible, and the monks treat visitors to sweets made from pink petals.

Steni Dirfys

This village is located on mount Dirfys on the island of Evia. You can drive there from Athens in under two hours, passing over two massive and beautifully built bridges.

What stands out in this village is the bicycle routes through the beautiful woods. If you’re a fan of hiking, cycling, climbing mountains, or picnics, then you should definitely consider this place.

You can also drive about 40 minutes to Hiliadou beach, where many people spend sunny days and swim in the pristine waters.

How Can I Retire in Greece?

If you’re thinking about retiring in Greece, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional and ask all the questions before you begin your journey. Depending on your personal situation and specific needs, an advisor can help guide you in the right direction, saving you time and money.

If you need advice on finding a property or obtaining residency status in Greece, we would be glad to help. You may get in touch with us to schedule a call.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money do you need to retire in Greece?

A couple needs about 2000€ monthly plus rent to live comfortably in Greece. The rent varies depending on the location and size of the abode.

Is moving to Greece difficult?

Moving to Greece is quite straightforward. EU citizens can move there without a visa or a permit. For other citizens, you need an entry visa. Additionally, you need to apply for a residence permit once you’re there.

What are the benefits of retiring in Greece?

Greece’s retirement benefits have recently become irresistible with the introduction of the new tax law for retirees.  The 7% flat tax rate is a tax program for foreign pensioners who decide to live in Greece. You do need to get a relevant residence permit in Greece. The Greece Golden Visa program gives you exactly that ability to get a residence permit.

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