For minor ailments you can do no better than ask the local chemist, who is trained to advise and recommend medication. He will also take your blood pressure too. Many times we have had visitors from the UK who are staggered to find they can buy their prescribed medication over the counter at the local chemist, far below the cost of a prescription charge in the UK.
Most large villages have a Medical Centre, where a Doctor will treat you, although it has to be said you will invariably be sent to see the Pathological Doctor (equivalent to a GP) in the nearest large hospital.
Don’t you have to pay?
If you are of pensionable age then you are entitled to free medical care and hospital care. Register with IKA in Souda road, Chania, to obtain an IKA Health Book, and you will be allocated the name of a local Doctor. By telephoning 184 – the national appointments telephone line – you can also arrange to be seen by a specialist consultant. However, this will be made easier when telephoning if you have someone beside you who can speak Greek. You will not be required to pay for medical treatment and prescriptions given under the IKA scheme may be taken to any chemist where you will be charged just 25% of the full cost.
You should also remember that personal patient care in Greek hospitals is not undertaken by nurses. Culturally patients are looked after by family members who may even sleep in a chair beside the bed. You can of course pay privately for a nurse if you prefer.
Hospital is never a place of enjoyment – and being in a foreign country and not understanding the language does little to help the stress and worry of an operation. Of the several Brits we know who have had surgical procedures, they have nothing but praise for the treatment they received from the Greek national health system. And unlike the UK there are no significant delays, waiting for an operation.
I DON'T QUALIFY FOR FREE MEDICAL CARE. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
If your main residence is in the UK you can apply for an E121 Form from the Post Office. This card provides free hospital and medical care in Crete on a temporary basis.
If you intend to reside permanently in Greece you have two options.
PAY AS YOU GO?
Visit a local doctor – the equivalent of a GP – and you will be charged around 30€ for the consultation and a prescription. Arrange to see a specialist consultant and the fee is around 50€ plus the cost of any tests required. The Gavrilakis Clinic in Chania undertake blood and urine tests, x-rays, ultra-sound, MRI scans etc. The charge for an MRI scan for example is around 240€ which would normally cost several hundred pounds in the UK. In Greece you generally get results within 48 hours. The cost of an operation such as a hysterectomy for example would cost in the region of 4,200€ - which includes all surgery costs, private room, nursing care, medication and aftercare consultation.
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE?
IMPORTANT POINT While you can receive private health insurance cover for life, you cannot be older than 60 years and six months before first applying for cover. Over this age you will be unable to take out private insurance cover.
There are many packages on offer from basic cover to the whole nine yards. A top of the range insurance from the Agrotiki Bank for example, provides cover - for a couple - and costs 2,200€ per annum. For that, you are covered GP, specialist consultant, surgery, private room, nursing care, post-operative care, medication and clinical tests. A cheaper package of around 1,000€ per annum, for a couple, gives you ‘hospitalisation’ cover of surgery costs and medical care.
For any emergency go to the Accident and Emergency Department in Chania Hospital at Mournies. Emergency treatment is usually good, you rarely have to wait too long to be seen and doctors usually speak some English. You should show your health card, IKA book or private health insurance. You will be required to pay a small cost for some tests, such as x-rays - about 5€ each – but if you are not covered by IKA, or don’t have private health insurance, you will be required to pay full costs for any tests.
All in all – no matter where you are in the world - nobody relishes the idea of hospitals. Just take solace from the fact that living the Cretan lifestyle is supposed to mean you will live a long and healthy life.
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We are always being asked - or told - “We’re in the EU, of course I can bring my car into Greece. I checked with the Greek Embassy in London.” Yes, you can bring a car into Greece, but did you ask, “How much will it cost to register my car in Greece?”
If you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the correct answer. In fact the same import rules apply for caravans and boats too.
Generally speaking it is an expensive and complicated exercise to permanently import a car into Greece and begs the question, is it really worth it? Although officially there is no import tax within the EU, Greece charges a "registration tax" on imported vehicles and this can be high, even on older second hand models. This registration tax is calculated as a percentage of the value of a new car, with a sliding scale of discount for older vehicles. We have heard figures up to 140% on value have been levied!
IMPORTANT FACT - You may have all the paperwork in place ready to clear customs, but unfortunately you’ll find the charge levied is not set in tablets of stone. The calculation is open to individual interpretation - on the day - by the customs officer in charge. It is futile to argue, or disagree. If the customs official has had a bad lunch, chances are you’ll be charged more than if he is in a good mood.
If you are intending to stay longer than six months it may be wise, and most likely cheaper, to buy a new or secondhand car in Greece, for which you will require a Resident’s Permit - but that’s another story.
However, for those who wish to make a personal stand for freedom, and wish to take on the whole gamut of bureaucracy, then please feel free, but don’t say we didn’t warn you! Your best bet is to contact the Greek Embassy at 1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP and obtain the necessary forms, or go to their web site - www.greekembassy.org.uk The best of luck!
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That’s why it’s far better to live near a working village serving the local community, because here, shops remain open and invariably you’ll find places to eat. One of the pleasures in Crete is to eat outdoors, but during the winter you dine inside, which unfortunately can often mean eating under the glare of strip lights, creating all the ambience of a bus station.
From the end of October the weather becomes variable, and while November, December and March remain mild, January and February are the coldest months - but not cold as you know it! For these two months you can expect average daytime temperatures of around 12°c - 16°c - with night time dropping to 5°c - 10°c. However, in January there is invariably one week of hot weather called the Halcyon Days, where temperatures can soar above 20°c.
The worst winter weather you can expect comprises an equal ratio of sunny and rainy grey days during the month and you can bank on there being no frost or snow - except up in the mountains.
Winter in Crete can be grey and gloomy - there can be heavy rain and storms - but you know within a couple of days there will be blue sky and sun. In the UK it begins to get dark in the middle of the afternoon, in Crete night time doesn’t fall until five or six o clock.
In a modern house in Crete - even if you are a chilly mortal - it is rare you’ll feel the need for heating during the day. It’s just not cold enough
TOP TIPS FOR WINTER
As the sun goes down, dusk can bring with it a damp chill. That’s the time to draw the curtains, or close the shutters, before the cold permeates the house. Without this insulation you’ll find the air inside your home will be uncomfortably cool.
The fabric of a house can become quite warm during the day, and as temperatures drop during the night, so air within the house condenses. Our top tip is to invest in a de-humidifier, which costs around 170€ and is very economical to run. Designed to operate only when it senses humidity it removes cold dampness in the air allowing your heating system to operate far more effectively - and economically. Not only that, you feel warmer too.
If you use your home just for the summer, then it is very important to follow a few key points. Seal all clothes in plastic bags to prevent air getting to them. Leave shoes out in the middle of the room. Leave all kitchen cupboards and wardrobe doors open. Pull furniture away from the walls to allow air to circulate. Even better is to arrange for someone to open all the windows on a sunny day - at least once a month - to give the house a good blow through. Follow this procedure and it will minimize black mould forming on walls.
Is winter a problem? No. Crete winters are quite mild - like an April in the UK, but without any frost!
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The first thing you need do is to understand the UK system of applying for a mortgage is different here. In Crete - a whole different criteria applies. In the UK administrative systems are set in tablets of stone, you will find in Greece methodology is always changing - often depending upon who you speak with on a particular day. However, as accurate as it is possible to be, here are the whys and wherefores of applying for a Greek mortgage.
You need to fill in a Bank Mortgage Application Form - which will ask for your Greek tax number, the type of loan required and the duration of the loan. This is normally 30 years, or up until aged 70. A Personal Data Form needs to be completed, which allows the bank to apply for references in the UK. You will also need to provide a current P60, a Credit Report from the likes of Experian, a recent pay slip and a UK utility bill.
Armed with all this information the branch will translate all the documents and process all the material, before forwarding the file to Athens. This takes more than a little time! Having gained approval, references are then taken up via a UK branch of the bank in London. Allowing for all the bureaucracy, and information becoming mislaid, or copies asked for, an approval, in principle will be made, that you qualify for a mortgage. Please bear in mind no confirmation letter is issued. You will probably receive an e-mail from your lawyer informing you of the news.
Several weeks prior to completion of your house a surveyor from the bank will visit the property for valuation. At this stage the bank will also ask for copies of planning, build license and sales contract and the whole bureaucratic machine creeks into motion - until maybe a document is lost in the system and replacements have to be provided! At this stage you will undoubtedly be asked to again provide recent pay slips and another P60.
Unlike the UK, where a Building Society will keep the deeds, in Crete a bank has to go into court to register their lien on the property - because you keep the deeds. To allow this, you have to do a special Power of Attorney - either in Crete or at the Greek Embassy in London.
Finally, as part of the mortgage arrangements the bank will ask you to take out a structural insurance and a mortgage protection policy. The latter will require filling out yet another form.
At long last the bank goes into court and several days later funds are advanced to your account. Phew!
THINGS TO CONSIDER
The bank will charge for legal, survey and court costs, which, together with insurance cover totals around 2,500€, which is taken off the advanced funds, so you need to budget for this.
There are several bank mortgage options currently available - fixed rate and variable - there’s even an eighteen month holiday option before you need pay a single euro. However, whichever package you opt for, bear in mind there are no horrendous early redemption penalties.
You could even consider a Greek mortgage as a cheap ‘bridging’ loan while you wait for your house in the UK to sell.
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But what with banks in chaos and lending down to a mere trickle - housing market in the doldrums - and the sterling exchange rate on its knees – is that dream of buying a home in Crete slipping away?
It needn’t be, because there is a cunning plan afoot.
Anyone serious on buying a property abroad will normally have sufficient cash for a deposit. The real problem arises on being able to find the balance - which can be more of a problem if the builder is seeking stage payments to finance the build.
When the pound was strong you were probably working on a budget of around £100,000 or so and for that, in Crete, you would expect to buy a reasonable two bedroom detached house. However that same property today would now equate to something like £130,000 PLUS purchase costs.
YOUR PROBLEM IN A NUTSHELL
You need to get round the poor exchange rate and buy more time to allow the UK market to recover.
A CUNNING PLAN
Firstly let’s consider the exchange rate. Take a look at Snobby Homes. As the builder they sell direct and therefore you save the high commission built in for an agent. While the Snobby build specification is extremely high, through strict cost control, two bedroom detached Snobbys are being developed in western Crete for around £100,000 - and that’s an all-inclusive price of furniture, furnishings, fittings AND all legal fees, taxes and purchase costs. In effect you’re paying the same amount of money as you originally budgeted way back in 2007!
On any house purchase you need to put down a deposit. Snobby Homes are the only builder in Crete to legally secure purchasers’ deposits. This means the money you put down is never at risk. The balance only falls due on completion of contract.
Now solving the big problem. Where do you find the balance? OK, you have the money but it’s all tied up in your house, and in the current UK climate it’s bound to be a couple of years before matters begin to move again.
In Crete, Snobby Homes can help you arrange a 75% mortgage on their properties with an eighteen month holiday before you have to pay a single penny. What does this mean? You go to Crete this year and decide to buy a Snobby and put down a deposit. That house will be completed by the end of 2010. The mortgage pays the builder on completion, but you won’t have to pay anything on the loan until mid 2012. That’s nearly three years from now! In effect you have the benefit of an amazingly cheap bridging loan, and what’s more, there is no punitive fee to pay either, when your house in the UK sells and you redeem the Greek mortgage.
So there you have it, a win win scenario allowing you to realise your dream of owning a house in Crete - now - with a bonus of buying it at the equivalent of 2007 prices!
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