The British media may be reveling in the traumas of the Greek economy – but at least the government here is doing something about it. Unlike the UK, where despite a deficit being just as dire, all parties remain like ostriches, heads firmly stuck in the sand, refusing to come clean and take the necessary drastic action to solve the problem. Before the taxing sword of Damocles falls and cuts your quality of life in the UK, isn’t it time to make the move and get out?
There is greener grass to be found in Crete. Brits who have taken the plunge now enjoy a lifestyle they couldn’t better in the UK.
Crete enjoys 320 days of sunshine every year – guaranteed! It has the lowest crime rate in Europe so you can rest easy, and a hospital system which is surprisingly good – with no MRSA or waiting lists. Housing too, is far cheaper. You get far more bricks for your pound in Crete.
COST OF LIVING IN CRETE
Sell up in the UK, buy a Snobby in Crete and chances are you’ll still have a nice nest egg left over. So you have a pension and investment income of around £12,000 per year. You can either stretch to make things meet in the UK – or live the life of Riley in Crete, where a pension goes a whole lot further. For a start there’s no council tax. Typically that’ll save you about £1,400 for a start.
What about everyday living? We did a little price comparison and took standard prices from ASDA and compared them with what you pay in Crete – using an exchange rate of 1.1€ to £1.00 and quoting all prices in sterling.
UK - ASDA ............................... Crete - AB Supermarket
£2.21 - Twinings Ceylon Tea - £1.38
£1.50 - Fairy Washing-up Liquid - £1.45
£6.78 - Persil Non-Bio - £4.05
£1.36 - Butter (250gm) - £1.29
£0.95 - Granulated Sugar (1 kilo) - £0.75
£0.64 - Tinned Tomatoes - £0.42
£4.10 - Premium Toilet Rolls 10 pack - £3.90
£5.98 - Pork chops (per kilo) - £4.08
£3.38 - Chicken thighs (per kilo) - £2.72
£0.76 - Potatoes (per kilo) - £0.63
On this basis our shopping basket, with a much wider range of products, cost 12% less in Crete. We did not factor in any special promotions, or own brands, at either supermarket, which would affect a true comparison.
Also, there is 21% VAT levied on food in Crete. How long will it be before the UK follows suit with the rest of Europe?
Typically a monthly supermarket shop of meat, fish, groceries and cleaning materials, for two people living in Crete, costs £200 - £400 depending how frugal you are.
A couple living in a two bedroom Snobby would be likely to spend the following each month. (Prices quoted in sterling)
Housekeeping - £400
Water and electric - £80
House insurance - £9
Telephone and broadband - £45
1.3cc Hatch back car – Car insurance and road tax - £40
Petrol - £45
TOTAL - £619
That leaves a disposable income of over £381 per month. Typically you can eat out, including wine, for around £20 - £25 per couple, so you can afford quite a few romantic dinners each month and still have money to spend.
LOWEST NEW BUILD DETACHED HOUSES IN CRETE
With the financial muscle of no bank borrowings, careful cost control and selling direct without the cost of agents, Snobbys are the best value you’ll find in Crete.
Our small developments of two and three bedroom Snobbys in the village of Drapanias in western Crete have sea views from roof terraces and are within walking distance of local amenities and the beach. Already three of the seven houses are sold. Prices start from 109,950€ - and that’s all-inclusive of purchase costs, legal fees and a high specification of features and luxuries other builders charge extra for.
In the UK a two bedroom detached house would set you back around £180,000 plus!
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It’s all very well taking the UK media’s arrogant approach of pillorying a mismanaged country borrowing too much, but people in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.
UK economists are saying Great Britain will be in the same boat as Greece with a similar budget deficit of around 12% of GDP. Government borrowing in 2010 alone is expected to hit 180 billion pounds. Is there any hoo-hah about that? No! What steps have the British government taken towards rectifying this horrendous borrowing? Nothing!
Greece is a small country without a manufacturing base, with a GDP amounting to less than 4% of the euro zone as a whole. Despite the furore on whether it will be bailed out by the EU, or calling in the IMF, Greece has taken draconian steps to bring down its deficit, and put its own house in order, without any outside aid. That should be applauded. When the UK economy ran into problems in 1976,with inflation running at 20%, the then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan had to run cap in hand to the IMF asking for help. Will history repeat itself this time?
It’s worth noting that Greece has taken steps to ensure its borrowings are reduced to the acceptable EU cap of 3% of GDP by 2012. On 16th March the UK government rejected calls by the European Commission to do more to cut its ballooning deficit. The UK is not expected to bring down its borrowing to the accepted level of 3% until way beyond 2015.
WHAT ABOUT RIOTS – WHAT ABOUT THE GREEK ECONOMY?
Over the last two years overblown credit and poor lending by banks almost brought Britain to its knees. Greek banks were far more sensible and did not follow the same path as their counterparts in the UK and USA - and being a cash society, there is not the same heavy personal borrowing in Greece.
As you would expect, when a government brings in austere measures, there are always demonstrations, but that’s not the whole country up in arms. Think back to the Thatcher years, did we all publicly march in protest? Of course not. Mind you, what with increased fuel costs and rumors abounding that VAT in the UK is likely to be increased to 20%, will you be taking to the streets?
In Crete we recently had a protest by farmers who blockaded the main highway, preventing the movement of traffic. You can imagine the headlines. However, the blockade lasted half an hour, traffic was allowed to pass and thirty minutes later up went the blockade again for a further half an hour. How civilized!
WILL I LOSE OUT IF I BUY A HOUSE IN GREECE?
Unlike the UK, Greece has not suffered from a plummeting housing market either. Consequently property prices have remained stable, with none of the fire selling of distressed sales that have gone on in Spain. Crete represents some 85% of the overseas property market in Greece and is recognized as being a prime holiday destination and popular location for buying property abroad. Due to this popularity EasyJet have just launched a new scheduled service of direct flights from Gatwick to Chania. This investment certainly bodes well and says a lot about the stability of the country and its continuing popularity.
VAT in Greece has just gone up to 21%, but on checking food prices, which attracts the full tax, groceries are still around 15% lower than in the UK. Mind you I recently read both the leading political parties in the UK are considering the option of putting 3% - 5% VAT on food!
The Foreign Office has just published research showing 42% of the UK’s 55+ age group are considering making the move abroad? Is it any wonder? You don’t pay council tax in Greece, the weather is glorious with 320 days of sunshine per year and a couple can still live really comfortably on an annual income of 12,000€.
Certainly from the increased response we are getting at Snobby, for homes in western Crete, there is a move afoot, which will only get stronger. Come on over. The water’s warm and life is good.
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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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