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What to Expect at a Greek Pharmacy

Greece, home to Hippocrates and Asclepius, is a land of pharmacies, and every city of the size has one. Cities will have many, with some designated to stay open all night. If a pharmacy is closed, a notice on the door will give you the address of the closest pharmacy designated to open that day.

Look for the «Green Cross»

Greek pharmacies can be seen by a green equal-armed cross, either illuminated in neon or on a white background.

Many prescription drugs in the United States are sold over the counter in Greece, usually at a fraction of the price paid in North America. Remember, however, that bringing medications home from Greece can cause problems at US Customs if you don’t have prescriptions for them.

If you are looking for something specific, having the generic or “real” name of the drug can help you find the Greek equivalent more easily.

Your friendly pharmacist

Pharmacists are usually very decent diagnosticians and speak English; they can help you with many medical problems and can be your first line of defense if you feel ill in Greece.

If you have a problem but are hesitant to go through the process of seeing a “real doctor” or visiting foreign urgent care on your trip, visit your local pharmacy and see what they have to say. You may not need that appointment after all. For medical emergencies, ask your hotel staff or call the Tourism Police for a recommendation of an English-speaking doctor in your area.

Pharmacies also carry a wide range of Greek health and beauty products, and visiting them can be a fun time to browse. They often carry products made with special Greek ingredients, a line or two of essential oils and vitamins, and other over-the-counter remedies. Due to oddities in the Greek healthcare system, over-the-counter items can cost much more than a prescription drug.

Larger pharmacies will have active salespeople in white coats waiting to help you; You will not be expected to wander the shelves without a person nearby, so it is generally not allowed to discreetly select that box of sanitary napkins or nose clippers. But the downside to the prevalence of Greek pharmacies is that your average market will have few, if any, health-related items, leaving them to the professionals on the street.

Prescription drugs need prescriptions

When taking prescription drugs to Greece or anywhere, it is best to have them in their original containers and have a paper prescription with you. If you want to take only part of a bottle, your pharmacist can make a smaller, properly labeled container for your trip.

The codeine question

In Greece, codeine is an illegal drug, classified in the same category as heroin. Medicines containing codeine or even synthetic codeine are technically illegal and can be seized and the ‘smuggler’ can be arrested, even if he has a suitable prescription for them.

In practice, however, this type of attack almost never occurs. But if “almost never” is not enough peace of mind, you may want to try a different drug while traveling in Greece.

More information for American travelers

For official information from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you can call their traveler information line: 1-877-FYI-TRIP for automated medical information.

Practical health-related phone numbers in Greece

These are accurate at the time of publication; upon arrival in Greece, you may want to confirm them locally. In most cases, the phone will be answered in Greek, but the person will speak English or know enough to find someone who can.

You can dial them from any phone:

  • 24 hour pharmacies – 107
  • Hospitals – 106
  • Emergency doctor (2 pm to 7 am) – 105 or 107
  • Ambulance – 166
  • Roadside Assistance for Car Problems – 10400

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