Older American Traveler
Older Traveler FAQs
- I am an older American with accessibility concerns. What’s your advice?
- How are the medical facilities?
- My medical insurance covers me overseas, right?
- Can I get my medications while traveling?
- I hear that the pharmacies can go on strike. If I need to obtain over-the-counter medication, what should I do?
- Can I use Travelers’ Checks in Greece?
- We will be arriving in Athens in late July. Is there anything special we need to know about the weather in Athens?
While in Greece, older travelers and those with some physical disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from the United States. While laws mandate access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities, enforcement is inconsistent and is a work in progress. While handicapped parking spaces and sidewalk ramps exist or are being constructed throughout the country, they are often occupied or blocked by parked vehicles, thus hindering accessibility for disabled persons. On the bright side, many sidewalks in Athens have detectable warning and wayfinding systems of bumps and lines for visually impaired travelers and a few traffic lights are equipped with audible crosswalk signals. For more information, check out the City of Athens Visitors’ website’s information for traveling with disabilities here. To see all that Athens has to offer to older Americans visiting the city, click here.
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.
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.
Not necessarily! It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
- Does my policy cover me when I am outside of the United States?
- Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it is a really good idea to take out travelers’ insurance specifically for your trip. If you plan to participate in even slightly “extreme” sports that are popular in Greece, such as SCUBA diving, white-water rafting, or water-skiing, you might consider adventure travel insurance options. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
Can I get my medications while traveling?
Bring enough of your prescription medications so that you will not run out while away from home. Also, know the generic name of the medication you’re taking, in the event you must see a doctor or are hospitalized.
Pharmacies to close during certain strikes, however, each neighborhood must have a duty pharmacy which remains open. In addition, the pharmacy at the airport in Athens does not participate in strikes, so you can obtain medicines upon arrival.
Most of the banks we canvassed advised us that they will cash travelers’ checks from major providers, such as Thomas Cook or American Express. However, our research revealed that, in practice, it is up the branch manager to decide if they will cash the check. In addition, most advised that they could cash no more than 500 Euros per day. Many travelers come with credit cards and an ATM or debit card. For more information on this topic, you can refer to our Country Specific Information.
Think HOT and dry. Always carry water with you or plan to make frequent stops at the small street kiosks to purchase bottled water. Sunscreen is a must and a hat is strongly recommended. Consider spending the afternoon hours, when the sun is hottest, in the museums and see outdoor sights in the morning hours. You don’t want to spend two days of your vacation in the hospital, recovering from heat stroke! For more information on Greece’s weather and climate, click here.