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Living In Gavalochori

Living In Gavalochori

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After you have spent some time vacationing in the Gavalochori area, you might start thinking about moving here. It’s actually not all that difficult to do, compared to some countries, in part because the Greek government has taken steps to encourage the immigration of people with assets that make them self-sufficient once they settle in Greece. That said, there are complications and bureaucratic hoops that you will need to surmount in order to make such a move successful. Following is information about taking up permanent residency in Greece that can help inform the decision process around the question, “Should I move to Gavalochori?”

If you build or buy a house in or near Gavalochori, there are some local resources that you will find useful:

  • Katerina Bakatsaki, a civil engineer whose office is on the main square in Gavalochori.  Telephone: 2825 0 22 155 or 6944 899 233.
  • Giorgos Lenas, a carpenter and cabinet maker in Gavalochori. Telephone: 6945 632 287.
  • Apostolos Christoulakis, owner of a stone-cutting business just outside of Gavalochori on the road to Almyrida. Telephone: 2825 0 23 338 or 6944 500 036

Permits and Visas

Greece is a member of the European Union (EU), so residents of other EU countries can move to Greece with minimal processing. If you are one of these people, you only need to apply for a permanent residence permit and meet some basic financial requirements. One option for securing this permit is to obtain a “Golden Visa” by investing in property in Greece in the amount of a minimum of €250,000 or through monetary investments in other Greek financial instruments. Another way to obtain a permanent residence permit is to provide proof of work, but this approach can be difficult (see the section on work below). A third way to get the permit is by providing proof of a monthly income of €2,000 or more along with proof of adequate health- insurance coverage.

If you don’t want to become a permanent resident but want to live in Gavalochori for extended periods, you can obtain a visa for a long-term stay. Visitors are required to secure visas if they are in the country for 90 days or more during a 180-day period. Although such a visa is required, the provision is only minimally enforced.

Working

Perhaps the greatest barrier to moving to Gavalochori if you have not yet retired is how difficult it is to find suitable work here. Remember that unemployment among Greeks and especially young people is very high, and that is true of the Gavalochori area. In order for you to work here if you currently live outside of the EU, your employer must prove that there is not another suitable candidate in either Greece or the EU. This is complicated by the fact that making such a case requires the generation of much paperwork and some time for the bureaucracy to churn it. If you live in an EU country and are able to find employment in Greece, you have a much easier time working in Gavalochori: You can simply get to work—your employer doesn’t have to prove anything. 

The internet has opened up possibilities for living in Gavalochori while working for a company located in another country. A key factor in making remote work possible is understanding where your taxes on such work will be levied. If you have to pay work-related taxes in Greece, those are likely to be high because Greek taxes on employment and business are high. You also might discover that while Gavalochori has decent access to the internet and there are several services that provide internet access to houses here (including COSMOTE, the regular telephone company, and satellite companies), the internet is sometimes unstable or goes out altogether. Remote work via the internet, then, can sometimes be difficult.

Cost of Living

In the old days of the drachma currency, the difference between the cost of living in Greece and elsewhere was substantial, and Greece was very inexpensive. Since Greece’s adoption of the euro in 2001, however, the cost of living here has climbed, and although it hasn’t risen to the level of Northern European countries, Greece now ranks 17th among the 40 European countries in terms of cost of living. Prices at tavernas and in grocery stores in the Gavalochori area are still relatively cheap, though, in comparison to some other parts of Greece and other European countries.

Health Insurance

In order to become a permanent resident of Greece, you have to show proof of health insurance. The key options are:

  • You have a private health-insurance policy.
  • You have health coverage by your home country’s government via an existing agreement between Greece and that country. At present, this means an EHIC card or, at least for now, a British national health card.
  • If you are working in Greece, you can pay regularly into the EFKA system and receive health insurance. 
  • If you are a permanent resident, you can pay into and participate in a public insurance system such as ΕΣΥ(National Health System). 
  • Your native country and/or current or former employer may have a system that will cover you. In this case, you simply need to have proof of coverage.
Living In Gavalochori

Buying or Building a House

Gavalochori has a variety of housing options, many of which are priced below such options in other EU nations. You still sometimes might find centuries-old houses for sale in the middle of the village, but they are much less available than they used to be in part because residents are turning them into vacation rentals. Talking to people who live in Gavalochori might yield some houses for sale that you might not learn about in conventional ways. New houses continue to be built in Gavalochori, especially on the hills surrounding the village, and if you work with a reputable realtor and a good local attorney and properly vet any builder you decide to hire, you will be fine. 

Buying a Car

Rental cars can be easily accessed in Gavalochori through businesses in nearby Almyrida and Kalyves or at the airport in Chania. If you will be staying for long periods of time or are planning to live in the Gavalochori area permanently, though, you might want to buy a car.

The variables that come into play when buying a car in the Gavalochori area are similar to those in many other countries. Buying a new car, of course, is the most expensive option, but new cars come with a higher degree of reliability, warranties, and the assistance of the car dealer in navigating the process of registering and licensing a car in Greece. 

Purchasing a used car is the most economical way to acquire a vehicle, but reliability is always a factor in such purchases. You might be able to find an older, high-mileage car that is still reliable because it was previously owned by someone who used the car to travel no farther than Chania and perhaps the south coast. Also keep in mind that Crete is only 60 kilometers (37 miles) wide at its widest point and 260 kilometers (160 miles) long, so if your car breaks down, you are never very far from help. As in many countries, you can also sign up for on-call road service. 

Gavalochori does have its own car mechanic, so assistance with car repairs is close by if you need it. You can find the Michalis Auto Service (Μιχάλης Συνεργείο Αυτοκινήτων) on the back road from Gavalochori to Vamos. He serves most of the locals in the area and, from all reports, does a good job. As you are heading toward Vamos, look to your left as you come to the top of a hill. You’ll see a large pink house and a white garage next to it behind a stone wall. 

Some costs related to owning a car in Greece are:

  • Annual fees for vehicles made before 2011 are based on the size of the engine. Annual fees on cars built in 2011 or later are taxed on the level of CO2 they emit, so cars with engines larger than 1600cc can incur substantial yearly fees. Also, there is now a luxury tax on vehicles with engines larger than 1929cc that are up to 10 years old. 
  • Insurance can range widely in monthly cost depending on the coverage you select and the value of the car. Expect to pay a minimum of €100 a month to insure a used car.
  • Used cars need to be inspected every two years for safety, and cars that don’t pass the safety inspection (called the KTEO) need to be repaired before returning to the road. Cars also need to undergo emissions testing annually.
  • As a foreigner, you can own a car in Greece provided you follow these basic processes: (1) Assemble the required paperwork, including your tax number, residency permit, vehicle-inspection form, and proof of insurance, (2) Register the car, which will require your passport, a certificate of ownership, a copy of your driver’s license, and a permanent residence permit if you are not an EU citizen, and (3) You need to show that you have equipped your car with a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and a warning triangle. 

Instead of purchasing a car, you also might strike a deal on a long-term rental of an off-season rental car with an agency in Almyrida, Kalyves, or Chania. In the off season, there are thousands of unused rental cars parked in fields with little or no prospect of being rented. Depending upon the bargain you make with the rental agency, this approach can give you a nearly new car for not much money monthly. Of course, insurance will be a significant cost in such an arrangement.

Bureaucracy

Greece is well known for its time-consuming and often very frustrating bureaucracy. If you stay a tourist in Gavalochori, you’ll be somewhat insulated from the bureaucracy, but if you decide to live here, you won’t be. Examples of bureaucratic challenges include: (1) Having to have an original and/or notarized copy of a document for it to be accepted, even though there is no legal rationale for such proof of authenticity, (2) Waiting long past your appointment time while watching employees who can help you socializing in a break room, and (3) Having to use the influence of a community leader or politician in order to move paperwork forward that would otherwise remain on a bureaucrat’s desk.  

Over the years, various efforts have been undertaken to reform the bureaucracy, but it persists. One reason for this is that the political parties in Greece have long used the public sector as a place to offer jobs to supporters and thus to guarantee votes. Although slightly reduced today, at one time Greece had approximately 800,000 individuals on the public payroll, a very large number for a country of only 11 million. This large volume of public servants generates “make-work” projects and processes and weighs against change. 

As a resident, there is not much you can do about the Greek bureaucracy except to be patient. Persistence can also help—even if the bureaucracy doesn’t want to help you, it also doesn’t want to see and hear from you on a regular basis and so might finally take action. If your Greek language skills are not good, you also might want to bring a Greek friend with you who can help explain your issue clearly. For an amusing glimpse into some cats that got caught up in Greece’s bureaucracy, check out this article.

It’s Different in Winter!

A summer vacation in Gavalochori doesn’t provide the same perspective as living full time in the village does. If you are considering making Gavalochori your home, you’ll want to remember a few key factors. One has to do with weather. Although the weather in Gavalochori is sunny much of the year, there are two and sometimes three months in the winter when it rains a lot, and some winters, Gavalochori even gets an occasional dusting of snow. Also be prepared for high winds that can last for a few days to a month and that can be strong enough to knock over trees. The temperatures in the winter are in the range of 8 to 15ºC (46 to 59ºF). 

Fewer businesses are open in Gavalochori in the winter. Arismari Taverna, for example, is open only on the weekends and closes entirely for one month. Monica’s Taverna is open only in the mornings for coffee and on the weekends for lunch and dinner. The musical events that you’ve probably been enjoying in Gavalochori and the surrounding area are few and far between during the winter, so you’ll have to be able to amuse yourself without relying on external activities and establishments. All of this being said, many people who live in Gavalochori actually prefer life here in the winter!

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