Despite a loud call for healthcare reform from both the voters and the political establishment, the nation’s healthcare system has received very high marks from the World Health Organization (WHO), a branch of the UN. However, many citizens prefer private healthcare for longer-term hospital stays. Depending on the age and nature of a particular hospital or clinic, services range from adequate to excellent. Healthcare is free and universal for all citizens, as well as for all EU nationals upon presentation of an EHIC card (Formerly the E111 form). For non-EU nationals, only emergency care is provided for free.
A network of helicopter ambulances serves the islands, transporting patients who need immediate attention to the nearest island or city with a major hospital.
The country’s pharmacies and medications are of top quality, and pharmacists are highly trained experts in their field. Many medications that can only be acquired by prescription in the US and UK, can be purchased without prescription in Greece. When sick with a simple, common illness, a visit to the pharmacist will provide you with the medication you need. If you are looking for a specific medication, be sure to know its generic name, as brand names might be different. Most pharmacies close on Sundays, but a sign will be posted on the door indicating the nearest pharmacies that are open.
Healthcare provision is different to Anglosphere nations in that many specialists are located in the community. GPs are replaced by community pathologists. Hotels and tourist agencies can provide advise on where to go if you are ill.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) exist in Greece as elsewhere, and travelers who may engage in sexual activity while visiting Greece should remember that even if one is on vacation and one’s sexual partner is also a traveler, perhaps from one’s own country, neither of these facts suspend the laws of biology. According to recent reports in the Greek and British media, unprotected sex among visitors to Greece, with a consequent rise in STIs and unplanned pregnancies, is especially common at the party resorts favored by younger people, such as Ios, Malia, Kavos, and Faliraki. Condoms are available at any pharmacy and at many kiosks.
Sun and heat pose risks that summer visitors should take precautions for. Take a good, light sun hat and sun glasses, and drink plenty of water.
In late spring and summer, the government runs public service announcements on television reminding Greeks to wear their sunblock at the beach. The Mediterranean sun tends to get quite strong, and can burn skin that has not been exposed to the sun for a long time. Any excessive daily sun exposure can also cause long-term damage to skin. Sunblock and sunscreen are widely available throughout Greece at supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and special stores selling beach-related items, though they tend to be expensive, and the higher SPF factor blocks can be hard to find.
During the hottest months, while visiting archaeological sites, wear tank tops, carry umbrellas, and carry water. Daily high temperatures stay at about 95-100 F. The sun is merciless. Athens in recent years has been subject to periodic summer heat waves where the temperature can reach above 100 F.(38Β°C), posing a risk of respiratory problems and heat stroke for some people. Be aware that many islands, especially in the Cyclades, have very little shade to ameliorate the summer heat; if hiking around such islands, including going by foot to distant beaches, it’s especially important in hot weather to wear a hat and sunscreen, to take water, and to avoid being caught walking during the hottest part of the day.
Jellyfish periodically infest some beaches and their stings can be severe. The red ones are particularly dangerous. Sea urchins are common along the Greek coast, usually clinging to underwater flat surfaces such as smooth rocks and sea walls. They usually inhabit shallow water so they’re easy to see. Care should be taken not to step on them, since their spines can be painful.
It’s inadvisable to go hiking cross country in Greece alone: even in popular places, the countryside can be surprisingly deserted, and if you get in trouble while you’re out of sight of any houses or roads, it could be a long time before anyone notices you.
Lifeguards are rare at Greek beaches, though most of them where people congregate to swim are locally considered safe. Some beaches have shallow water a long way from shore, others suddenly shelve steeply. If in doubt about safe swimming conditions, ask locally.
There are no required inoculations for Greece and the water is almost everywhere safe (see above under Drink.) Look for ‘Blue Flags’ at beaches for the highest quality water (which tend to also have good sand and facilities)