Health & insurance
Before You Go
If you’re an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC; formerly the E111) covers you for most medical care but not emergency repatriation home or non-emergencies. Citizens from other countries should find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free medical care between their country and Greece. If you do need health insurance, make sure you get a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
No vaccinations are required for travel to Crete, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.
- Bring your medications in original, clearly labelled containers.
- Get a signed and dated letter from your doctor describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names. In Greece it is illegal to import codeine-based medication without a doctor’s prescription or certificate.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
- If you need an ambulance call 166.
- For minor illnesses, pharmacies provide valuable advice, sell medication (often available only on prescription in the US and other European countries) and advise on whether to see a doctor.
- Medical training is of a high standard in Greece, but the health service is chronically underfunded. Public hospitals are often overcrowded, hygiene is not always what it should be, and relatives are expected to provide food for the patient. That said, Iraklio, Hania and Rethymno have modern public hospitals.
- Conditions and treatment are much better in private hospitals, but these are expensive. All this means that a good health-insurance policy is essential.
- Condoms are widely available (in kiosks, supermarkets and pharmacies) but emergency contraception may not be.
- Tap water is chlorinated and safe to drink in most of Crete.
- Bottled water in plastic bottles is widely available, but think about environmental considerations.
- Mosquitoes are annoying, but there is no danger of contracting malaria.
- Electric mosquito-repellent devices are usually sufficient to keep the insects at bay at night. Choose accommodation that has flyscreens on the windows wherever possible.
- The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which may be encountered in mountainous areas, can be a voracious daytime biter. It is known to carry several viruses, including the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which can affect the central nervous system and cause severe complications and death.