Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.
In Greece, business-related customs, etiquette, and dress are similar to those in the United States and other Western European countries. Prior to Covid-19, a handshake was the customary business greeting for both men and women, while during Covid-19, this was replaced by a fist or elbow bump. Business cards are usually exchanged in the initial meeting. An exchange of gifts is not customary in Greece unless you have already established a business relationship. During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, an exchange of greeting cards and/or gifts is common, while in Easter it is common to exchange greeting cards.
American businesspersons should note that face-to-face contact is very important in Greece and a physical business presence in Greece is often essential. If one is doing business in rural areas or the islands, it is best to ask the advice of a businessperson familiar with the region. Physical presence often is an indicator of commitment whether the presence be through a representative or through one’s own office.
Current travel advisory information is available on several websites including: the Embassy website, the State Department website, and CDC website among other government sites. Moreover, given the global Covid-19 situation, the Greek Ministry of Tourism has issued further guidelines related to Opening Greece to International Travelers. As guidelines and regulations are constantly changing, we encourage travelers to constantly review official guidance and check with airlines for any additional measures that may be imposed.
Strikes and demonstrations are common throughout Greece. They are usually peaceful but can escalate quickly. U.S. travelers are cautioned to avoid these types of gatherings and to check the U.S. Embassy’s website for Alerts and Messages via the following https://gr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/.
For U.S. citizens, a visa is required for stays in Greece over 90 days or if you are traveling on an official or diplomatic passport. Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link: State Department Visa Website
Greek nationals seeking visas to enter the United States should review guidelines from the following websites to determine the appropriate visa category based on their nature of travel. Based on the visa category, the waiting time and requirements will vary. Visa applicants should go to the following link: Consular Section – U.S. Embassy Athens, Greece
The unit of currency is the Euro (€). Banknotes come in € 5; € 10; € 20; € 50; € 100; € 200; and € 500. However, the Central European Bank announced the gradual removal from the market of the € 500 banknotes. The coins are in € 1 cent, € 2 cent, € 5 cent, € 10 cent, € 20 cent, € 50 cent, € 1, and € 2. The approximate exchange rate is USD $1.00 = Euro €0.90
OTE is the primary service provider throughout Greece but other major providers include Vodafone and WIND. The country code for Greece is 30. Public telephones, though fewer and fewer these days, accept phone cards which may be purchased at kiosks. Most travelers opt for pre-paid sim cards or use roaming plans after confirming charges with their U.S. based providers. International calls can be made by calling cards, and other data-based services.
The cellular network throughout Greece is excellent. One needs a tri-band cell phone (GSM) to be able to make calls within Greece, from Greece to the United States, and vice-versa. Many U.S. cell phones do not work in Greece, but GSM cell phones may be rented or purchased. There are three mobile operators - Cosmote, Vodafone, and WIND - that offer cellular services in Greece. Internet use in Greece is steadily growing. In larger cities, high-speed Internet access is available, and an increasing number of businesses have wireless Internet service. There are Internet Cafés in large cities, and most cafeterias and central areas in large cities offer wireless Internet service free of charge.
Prior to the 11-month Covid-19 lockdown, many businesses did not have an online presence and many things could not be conducted online. The pandemic accelerated digitalization as services, shopping, education, and work were migrated online. However, Greece still lags behind other European nations, SMEs make up over 80% of business and many do not have websites. Web-based publishing has increased and may develop further.
Air: The Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (AIA) is approximately 28 km outside of Athens and is modern and efficient. Over 75 airlines use AIA. Transportation to and from AIA is excellent. The airport is easily accessible by auto, taxi, and public transportation (Metro and bus). Other ground transportation to AIA is available at major hotels. In regular traffic, it is about a 30-minute ride from AIA to central Athens by vehicle or taxi. For more information, please refer to information on access to public transportation.
Automobiles: There are many car rental agencies at the airport and throughout Athens. Driving in Athens can be difficult due to crowded streets and traffic. Parking can also be difficult to find. Road accident death rates in Greece are among the highest in the EU. Main streets and highways throughout Greece are paved, while secondary roads are generally not. Most roads are two-lanes, except the Attiki Odos and parts of the Ethniki Odos, which have four lanes. The road network is decent with access throughout the country.
Taxis: Taxis are plentiful throughout Athens. Taxi drivers are required to use a meter and provide a printed receipt upon request. In the recent days, taxi apps have become popular and include Beat (the most popular in Athens) and Taxiplon. Many prefer the apps as the price is displayed at the time of booking, and you can pay in cash or by credit card (through the application).
Rail: The Hellenic Railway Organization (HRO) is reliable, but slow compared to other forms of travel. Check information regarding passenger transportation services and for on-line booking (http://www.trainose.gr/en/passenger-activity/).
Bus/Tram/Trolley: These are common and inexpensive means of transportation in larger cities in Greece. The network, especially in Athens, is extensive and the service is generally good. For more information, please visit OASA’s website.
Athens Metro: The Athens Metro is a reliable, safe, and inexpensive transportation method to use within Athens or going to Athens Airport. Check information of fares and time schedules, and maps (http://stasy.gr/index.php?id=8&L=1).
Ferries: Ferries are the most common means of transportation to the islands. Fares vary, and one may take a fast or slow ferry.
Ships: The largest ports are Piraeus (adjacent to Athens), Thessaloniki, Patras, Chania, and Volos. Cargo services from the United States are provided by Zim Lines, Maersk Lines, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), Hapag-Lloyd, and CMA CGM.
Greek is the official language spoken. However, language is not a barrier to conducting business because a high percentage of Greek businesspersons and government officials speak English.
Medical facilities are adequate, and some, particularly the private clinics and hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki, are quite good. Some private hospitals have affiliations with U.S. facilities, and generally their staff doctors have been trained in the United States or Europe.
Given the global Covid pandemic, the Greek National Public Health Organization, has published further guidance.
Public medical clinics, especially on the islands, may lack resources. Care can be inadequate by U.S. standards, and often, little English is spoken. Many patients - Greeks and visitors alike - are transferred from the provinces and islands to Athens hospitals for more sophisticated care. Others may choose to transfer from a public to a private hospital within Athens or Thessaloniki. U.S. citizens choosing to do so would arrange for an ambulance belonging to the private hospital to transport them from the public hospital to the private one. The cost of the ambulance for this transfer, as well as all expenses in a private hospital, must be borne by the patient. Private hospitals will usually demand proof of adequate insurance or cash before admitting a patient.
Please ensure that you have an adequate supply of your prescription medications when travelling to Greece as you may not be able to find a local equivalent in the pharmacies.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
The time in Athens is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Greece is a member of the EU and observes Daylight Savings Time. Due to Covid-19, EU decided to postpone its decision to abolish the time change. Greek business hours vary, and the following listing approximates business hours in major urban areas:
Private sector office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with a one-hour lunch).
Manufacturing establishments operate from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Banking hours are 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Several of the larger banks (mainly located at Syntagma Square), are open on Saturday mornings. Government hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Nevertheless, many businesses, especially small and medium-sized stores, keep more traditional Greek office hours and are generally open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from Monday through Saturday and again, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Many shops keep late shopping hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Additionally, there are supermarket chains, like OK Market and 362 that are open 7 days a week from 08:00 through 12:00 a.m.
Greek holidays to take into account:
New Year’s Day January 1, 2021
Epiphany January 6, 2021
Kathari Deftera March 15, 2021
Independence Day March 25, 2021
Good Friday April 30, 2021
Holy Saturday May 1, 2021
Easter Sunday May 2, 2021
Easter Monday May 3, 2021
May Day* May 1, 2021 (observed on May 4, 2021)
*White Monday, June 21, 2021
Assumption Day August 15, 2021
OXI Day, October 28, 2021
Christmas Eve December 24, 2021 (half day holiday)
Christmas Day December 25, 2021
Boxing Day December 26, 2021
New Year’s Eve December 31, 2021 (half-day holiday)
* White Monday is not observed by all Greek businesses, but government offices, banks and some businesses will be closed.
New Year’s Day January 1, 2022
Epiphany January 6, 2022
Kathari Deftera March 7, 2022
Independence Day March 25, 2022
Good Friday April 22, 2022
Holy Saturday April 23, 2022
Easter Sunday April 24, 2022
Easter Monday April 25, 2022
May Day May 1, 2022
*White Monday, June 13, 2022
Assumption Day August 15, 2022
OXI Day, October 28, 2022
Christmas Eve December 24, 2022 (half day holiday)
Christmas Day December 25, 2022
Boxing Day December 26, 2022
New Year’s Eve December 31, 2022 (half-day holiday)
* White Monday is not observed by all Greek businesses, but government offices, banks and some businesses will be closed.
The Greek business community traditionally observes a long, uninterrupted summer hiatus in August. Gathering even basic business information and arranging appointments are difficult during this period. U.S. business visitors are advised to avoid Greece for business purposes during the summer, particularly during August.
Two other periods in which U.S. business visitors may face challenges would be the Christmas holidays from December 20 through January 6 and the Easter Holidays, starting with Holy Week and ending the week after Easter, I.e., April 18 – 30, 2022. This is because Greeks usually travel to their villages to celebrate Easter with families and friends.
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
If you enter Greece by air and/or sea, items valued at euro €430 or less are duty-free. The monetary threshold for travelers of all other transport means has decreased to euro €300. The duty-free amount is reduced to euro €150 for travelers under 15 years of age, regardless of the mode of transportation they are using. The quantitative limits of tax-exempted tobacco products include as many as 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250 grams of smoking tobacco, or a proportional combination of these different products. The quantitative limits of tax-exempted alcoholic beverages include four liters of wine, 16 liters of beer, one liter of an alcoholic beverage exceeding 22 percent vol. (i.e., whisky, vodka, etc.), or two liters of an alcoholic beverage not exceeding 22 percent vol. (i.e., sparkling wines, liqueur wines, aperitifs, etc.). Medications for the personal needs of the traveler are also tax-exempt. One each of the following articles may also be brought in duty-free for the traveler’s personal use, provided that the articles are re-exported upon departure: still and movie cameras, with suitable film; binoculars; portable radios; record players; typewriters; CD players; and computer laptops. Check for more information on temporary entry.
Travelers must obtain special permission from Greek police authorities before bringing firearms and ammunition into the country. Also travelers are prohibited from bringing flower bulbs, plants, and fresh fruit into Greece. Foreigners residing permanently in Greece may import used personal effects duty-free.
Foreign currency in any amount may be imported into Greece freely. However, in accordance to 1889/2005 (L 309/9/25.11.2005) any person entering or leaving the EU and carrying cash of a value equal to or greater than Euro 10,000€ must state this sum to the competent authorities of the Member States. So, travelers carrying bank notes or personal checks / travelers’ checks exceeding the equivalent of euro €10,000 must make a declaration upon entry at the Greek customs office. For more information and/or questions please refer to Q&As on EU’s rules on cash controls. Though the export of foreign exchange was liberalized in May 1994, Greek and foreign travelers must declare any amount exceeding the equivalent of euro €2,000 upon departure.
The EU Commission adopted a new legislative framework to balance the need for increased security with protection of fundamental rights and economic freedoms. As EU Commission’s regulations and decisions are automatically binding thought the EU and must be incorporated into national law by EU countries, Greece adopted subject regulation by law 4537/2018. The legislative framework is part of a Commission action plan against terrorist financing, established in 2016 following a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe. For more information regarding fight against money laundering and terrorist financing please refer to Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.