Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Leaving Greece: Packing and shipping goods

Leaving Greece? Living in Greece but thinking of moving on? It is essential to inform yourself on the regulations and cost of exporting/importing household effects, car(s) and pets before deciding what to sell and finding a mover, removals and shipping company.

*Article last updated October 22, 2013. However, answers in ‘Comments’ reflect whatever was true at the time.

Before the move

A minority of people living in Greece have been here a short time and may only have the items they arrived with, especially if their apartment rental is furnished or shared with roommates. But most of us acquired far more over the years, either through purchases or by inheriting the possessions of people who departed previously.

Before packing up your worldly possessions to leave, take a look at customs regulations and import tax and duties charged by the target country on household goods and vehicles when moving back, plus restrictions on what can be brought back and special rules for pets. It may help you decide what to sell, keep or give away.


Australia: Moving/emigrating to Australia with household goods and personal effects, Returning to Australia, Bringing cats/dogs to Australia

Belgium: Moving to Belgium, Belgian customs, at your service

Canada: Moving back to Canada, Returning to Canada

Netherlands: Moving to the Netherlands from an EU country, Cars and motorcycles at the Dutch border

Sweden: Bringing goods into Sweden, Moving to Sweden: Food, pets, goods, Repatriation to Sweden

Switzerland: Clearing Swiss customs without delay; importing a car without delay

United Kingdom: Customs and duty: Sending personal goods back to the UK from abroad, Bringing food, animals or plants into the UK, Importing vehicles, Moving back to the UK

United States: Moving back to the United States with household goods, Shipping pets from Greece

If your destination is not listed, search the relevant government website in the appropriate country on topics of customs, importing household goods and pets, and repatriation. The embassy or consulate representing that country in Greece will seldom have a section and runs the risk of being outdated if it does. How do I know? Not only have I made several moves back and forth to Greece, but I checked.

Packing it up?

There are five options, when leaving or taking household items:

1. Sell: Take out a classified ad, spread the word through personal and professional networks or forums, find a second-hand shop, have a car boot or garage sale.

2. Donate: Give away whatever doesn’t sell, find a charitable organization, offer anything in good condition to a friend in want/need. Here is a list of organizations in Athens, Thessaloniki and other parts of Greece that take donations or arrange swaps: “For Free.”

3. Store (if returning to Greece in the future): Put things in storage with a trustworthy friend/relative who won’t be inconvenienced, or hire a storage area by asking for a recommendation, inspecting the space and getting a quote.

4. Recycle, when possible: Old appliances can be recycled by the municipality or at drop-off points; local business owners will sometimes buy them for parts, i.e., A refrigeration repairman in my neighborhood buys old refrigerators and air conditioners.

5. Pack and ship your personal effects back home or to a new country.

Leftover items can be placed on the street, and a paliatzi may pick them up. Not the best solution, but it’s better than putting everything straight into the trash.

Finding a mover, removals/shipping company

Finding a mover, removals and/or shipping company is not an exact science and does not guarantee everything will go perfectly because life happens. Some suggestions:

Seek recommendations: Start by consulting friends, family or acquaintances you trust, keeping in mind that their fabulous experience may also be yours, or not; ditto for people in forums, who are strangers and perhaps less reliable. In rare cases, your Embassy or Consulate may have a list but take it as a suggestion, not necessarily a recommendation. Some companies act differently with diplomatic and military personnel than they do with everyday citizens.

If your personal circle and embassy/consulate have no recommendations, take a look at classified ads in English and select a few companies. Recommendations in ‘Comments’ should be taken as impartial suggestions, not endorsements or advertisements.

Get an estimate: A reputable and conscientious mover, removals company or shipping company will want to see what items are being shipped, assess the square meters (not always weight) and give you an estimate on cost,  delivery and associated fees. Many offer to pack items for an additional cost that includes boxes, bubble wrap, tape and cardboard. Keep in mind that cheaper is sometimes not better, and delivery time can be impacted by sailing/flight conditions and strikes.

Ask questions: Inquire about what packing materials they use, if any documents or receipts are required by Greek customs, things to expect, how long it will take, and who they partner with in the destination country (write it down and look them up). Also ask about who assumes responsibility if belongings are damaged in transit; this will help you decide whether to buy or keep insurance — especially on your car(s) — until they reach your new home.

I also use gut instinct on all matters concerning Greece. If something doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t.

Where to get boxes

Grocery stores receive shipments early in the morning and normally have boxes broken down by 8:00, which are then put near the dumpster or stacked on the loading dock. Some people have no problem putting them aside, if you ask nicely and pick them up when promised. Retail stores have boxes available sporadically throughout the day and may also put them aside.

Laundry detergent boxes are perfect for packing heavy things like books. Boxes from retail clothing stores are great for packing clothes, and even larger boxes from toy stores or sporting goods shops hold rugs, linen and pillows. They’re free of charge. Choosing boxes of the same brand or size will stack nicely and keep them stable. Leaning and collapsing boxes are not pretty.

Brand-new boxes are available for purchase at moving companies and retail stores where you would find do-it-yourself (DIY) supplies for the home.

Don’t skimp on packing tape. Buying something cheap means it may peel back in humid or hot weather, and boxes break open. Also not pretty.

If it’s a long-distance move with exposure to several parties and you pack everything yourself, consider numbering all of the boxes and keeping a list (hard copy, computer file, email) of their contents in a separate place. Not labeling the boxes beyond a number minimizes the temptation to steal since no one knows what’s inside, and you can pick and choose which boxes to unpack first. From personal experience, the latter is particularly important if you’re a two-career household.

Stories from those who left

Leaving Greece” — Sphaera Ephemeris
A Greek cat’s journey to the New World” — Olive to Austin


— First-hand experience of myself, plus two expats in Greece (CO & NK) who gave permission to share what they learned when leaving and moving away from Greece
— U.S. Embassy in Athens, Canadian Embassy in Athens, Australian Embassy in Athens
— Government websites of the countries listed/linked above

Related posts

Should I move to Greece?
Acquiring EU citizenship through ancestry or naturalization
Collecting U.S. social security while living abroad


  Ahoy! wrote @ April 9th, 2010 at 17:53

Thank you for your site!

I need to ship several boxes of books and clothes from Northern Greece to America, and I’m trying to find the most cost-effective way of doing it. Speed is not an issue. I understand that one can send cargo by boat, and the embassy’s listings are a starting-point. However, as I am new to this, I don’t know how to evaluate their reliability or keep from getting ripped off along the way.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

Kat Reply:

I apologize for the delay in answering your question, but I thought it was a good one and turned it into a post so everyone could benefit. Wishing you all the best in this new chapter of your life.

  dwain wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 19:04

Kat, you are a gem! This has been on our minds recently as a lot of friends start to pack to leave after their contracts end in June, and we’ll be needing it next year when ours do. I owe you many a drink-of-your-choice!

Kat Reply:

The question may have been posed by one of your colleagues. You owe me nothing; you’ve done your part in recommending me and giving back to the website whenever possible by sharing your experience. 🙂

  Vana wrote @ April 26th, 2010 at 11:28

This is a great site! Thanks for your effort and time in maintaining it!

When I moved to Greece three years ago, I tried to find storage areas, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. Is there really anything like Public Storage here? Your post implies there is.

Also, regarding packing material: I was told that stores sell boxes, bubble wrap etc when it’s moving season in Greece (I guess that would be early or late summer) but I haven’t verified this.

I think that the moving company we used handles moves back to the US as well. They had quite good prices for our US->GR move and nothing broke (I packed all boxes myself) but I wasn’t very satisfied with their handling of our furniture. If any other poster is interested in more details and/or their contact info, feel free to forward my email address.

Kat Reply:

Hi Vana,

To answer your question, there are storage areas but they aren’t comparable to Public Storage in the USA. These storage areas are spaces in empty buildings or containers that allow you or a moving company to deposit them once, lock them up with the company present and get them when you’re ready to remove them permanently in the presence of the company hired. A lease is signed for a fixed period; it’s not month-to-month, and any extension or decision to remove them early may result in penalty fees (depending on the contract). There are no in-and-out, self-service privileges.

In the article, I advise people to inspect the space and accompany their household items to the storage area or container because of a bad experience I had. The company was reputable and came recommended by two longtime friends who used them several times over a decade. I was pressed for time, so I trusted them. Months later when I retrieved my items, I found they’d stashed them in a basement exposed to water leakage and extreme heat, so the majority of my possessions were ruined. I had insurance, but no one reimbursed me for any damage and suing them would have taken years and more money.

So, to reinforce the point I make in my article: A dozen people having a fabulous experience doesn’t guarantee everyone will.

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment to share your experience. Hope to see you here again! 🙂

  krystal wrote @ June 16th, 2010 at 10:15

Hi Guys!

Im relocating back to Australia and ive really only got clothes that i need to send back but a lot of them!! Are you able to recommend any shipping companies? i dont really know of any and neither do any of my friends!! thanks in advance!! 🙂

Kat Reply:

Please take people’s recommendations as suggestions and not endorsements, since your experience may still differ. I think it’s important to look at a few classified ads and do your own assessment; or depending on what you have, call UPS and/or your airline and see what they would charge for overweight/extra luggage or shipping on your own.

  Jessica wrote @ June 17th, 2010 at 09:29

Hey Kat! Since my recent move from Athens/Greece to the U.S. is so fresh in my mind, I thought I’d put my two cents in, in case it might be able to help anyone out.

In my situation, I lost my job in Athens and basically my “severance” was a plane ticket home. I was fine by that, but they only gave me a two week window from saying bye bye to the day I needed to step on the plane. Hectic? Oh god yes. Doable? Sure.

First I looked at the shipping options. Since I didn’t know anyone who had left Greece, I couldn’t get a good word of mouth recommendation. I’ve seen several companies advertise in the Athens News for international shipping, but I also decided to just do a google search. I consulted three companies, and I basically went with the one that was willing to give me an estimate up front, and that managed to get back with me in a timely manner. (I finally got a reply from a fourth company a month after I was back in the U.S. “How can I help you with your move?” ha ha)

I went with The owner is super nice and speaks perfect English. Most importantly, for me, he replies to all emails in a near instant time frame. This is something I really really missed, being in Greece so long. He was very helpful and explained all my options. What I can tell you is, shipping by boat: cheaper initially, BUT for some reason there is a boatload (pun intended) of extra paperwork for that method, and extra fees, which may make them cost about the same, depending on what you ship. I think this option could be beneficial for those who have a lot of time to invest in doing the research, and then the running around the city with the paperwork to get the proper signatures and stamps from the various offices. You will be expected to do that yourself. I didn’t have the luxury of time, so I was pretty much forced to go with the air option. The owner was in constant communication, and there was a bit of paperwork involved, and one trip to the bank to pay, but everything else was done by fax, which was super convenient.

The only quibble I have is that they use UPS, which I have no problem with, but had I known that I probably could have just done the whole thing on my own and not bothered with a third party company. The good thing about using them though, I left in the middle of the period when customs was on strike for ages, as well as the airport was taking sporadic strikes. There was some sort of extra fee… because of storage at the airport or something, because of the strikes, but the moving company just took care of it for me since it was out of my control. Very nice.

The only thing I caution about shipping is, make sure you know EVERY item you are putting in those boxes, because they WILL be checked. I was stupid and had some flower seeds I bought years ago and stuffed into a jewelry box, which I forgot about. That was a lot of fun for the US Dept. of Agriculture, let me tell you. So yes, that was a hold up, and it held up the entire shipment, not the one box, but still it was my stupid mistake and could have been totally avoided, had I just paid better attention.

I also came back with a Greek cat. Animal situations are pretty straightforward, and if you take your animal to any vet, they will be able to tell you anything you need to know. BUT, one of the requirements is a rabies shot, which is no biggie; however, it needs to be administered a month before the flight. I obviously didn’t have even close to that amount of time, so my wonderful vet “fudged” the date of the injection on the booklet. Sometimes, Greece can be pretty cool like that. Yes, I had to pay lots of fees for her, but I also insisted on kitty riding with me as carry on, and not in a cargo hold. I didn’t mind paying the fees, in that case. The biggest pain was finding a carrier with the right dimensions. They are VERY particular with that, and it may vary from airline to airline. That’s probably something you’ll want to discuss with the travel agent or the airline or both, just to be safe.

Anyway, for me, the shipping and cat were my main issues. I basically got rid of everything in my apt, whether it was giving things to friends, leaving outside for whoever, or donating to the new second hand shop that conveniently opened by my house before my move. In retrospect, I got rid of some things I definitely wish I hadn’t, but… oh well. International moves are a pretty big deal and you will have to end up chucking out things you love.

I can’t decide if it’s better to plan a move over a long period of time or not. When I moved TO Greece, I had a year to prepare both physically and mentally. When I had two weeks before I left, there really wasn’t enough time to get stressed, nostalgic, or scared. There was too much to do. That was actually kind of nice, surprisingly. And that long rambly bit is my perspective. I hope it helps someone. I definitely know has helped me immensely (being in Greece on an expired visa for about four years? yup!) in my various times of need.

p.s. There’s a Greek restaurant in Columbus that actually makes saganaki with kefalograviera! Opa!

  peter wrote @ June 25th, 2010 at 23:51

When i moved from greece to australia, i used Orphee Beinoglou. Very professional and really looked after our stuff.

  Morii wrote @ July 15th, 2010 at 11:40

I would like to donate some clothing items in Athens before I move. Would you be so kind as to tell me where I can drop them off? Thank you!

Follow-up: Dear Kat, Thank you very much! I’ll make some inquiries. With gratitude, Morii

Kat Reply:

All of these places take second-hand clothing and have English-speaking staff. I’ve never donated to these places myself, so you may want to contact them first to see when/where to drop things off.

— Greek Caravan:
— Sporos (Seed):
— Helping Hands:

Follow-up: For you, sure. All best.

  Morii wrote @ July 18th, 2010 at 18:14

One more question:

I am planning to send books in the mail overseas. Where can I buy boxes that would be suitable for this purpose?

Thank you, again.

Kat Reply:

You didn’t say how many books you’d be sending. But if it’s just a few, you can purchase boxes at the post office, stationery or office supply store, and some bookstores.

If you’re talking about a lot of them, see the article above for suggestions.

  Gordon wrote @ August 21st, 2010 at 10:57

I am moving back to California in November after being away for 21 years, both in the UK and now here in Greece. I have a collection of eight guitars plus a small amplifier and personal bits & pieces along with my clothes that I want to send back. I know things are, well a little S-L-O-W here in Greece, but it would be nice to even get a response from shippers. I don’t think they want the business. I did get a quote from Provident Movers, but I think the price quoted is about double what it should be. Can anyone recommend a good reliable shipper that doesn’t charge a fortune (1200 Euros for 1 cu.m)
Thanks in advance

Kat Reply:

Peter (above) made a recommendation, plus Jessica’s comment and my article both say to look through ads and interview several people. I don’t endorse a particular moving, shipping or removals company in Greece.

Since you have a bit of time, you may want to wait until September when people have returned from August vacations. It may be the reason they’re slow to respond and not necessarily because they don’t want your business.

  Gordon wrote @ August 21st, 2010 at 11:22

Thanks for the fast reply. I didn’t notice Peter’s post before but have now contacted that company.

I understand what you are saying about August vacations, but I have contacted large shippers including DHL and Pickfords and neither have even bothered to reply!

We’ll keep trying. Thanks again

Note: Sure thing. If the company is in Greece and any of its employees are Greek, it makes no difference if it’s a big company or not. I know a chain store operating with a mere two employees at each location, and they don’t have time to respond to email or return phone calls at the moment.

  Laura wrote @ August 29th, 2010 at 17:56


When I was living in Paris a couple years ago, I was able to send about 25 books back to the US at a really cheap rate (about 20-30 euros). It was allowable only provided that I ship only books and other printed materials. I sent the books in a box, but they arrived to my home in California in a big burlap sack.

I have read about this program, called “M bags” that was started after WWII to help soldiers ship their books back at a lower rate. I was wondering if this same service is possible from Greece to US.


Kat Reply:

Hi Laura,

I’ll be including this information in a future article dedicated to mailing and shipping using postal services and couriers in Greece.

The ‘M Bag’ service is available, and I know this because Amazon used this method to ship my books to Athens; the box was inside a huge, plastic-like woven bag secured with a nylon cable tie. The service is only possible under a reciprocal agreement. However, I and no one I know has used this method to ship books or other printed material from Greece to the USA, so I cannot tell you how much it costs per kilo or give you first-hand experience. There is a weight limit, usually around 25-30 kilos.

Thank you so much for your excellent, thoughtful question and for saying ‘hello.’

  Labrini K wrote @ February 11th, 2012 at 19:08

I’ve been trying to find shipping information and comoanies for sending items from thessaloniki to australia. Can anyone help me plsssssssss????

  pauline wrote @ February 20th, 2012 at 13:18

I will be moving back to the US after 13 years in Greece. my question is what if any electrical appliances (mixers, tv, stereo etc..) can i take back with me?

Kat Reply:

You can take all of them or none of them, depending on the voltage, the cost of shipping and if you’re willing to use converters/adapters.

What do I mean?

First, look at the voltage reading on the device or appliance. Does it say 110V or 200/220V? The USA uses 110V.

Small electronics are typically dual voltage or have a range of 110-220V, such as iPods, curling irons, phone chargers, etc. The pin of the plug would only need an adapter.

Large appliances and electronics such as TVs, stereos, microwave ovens, etc. are usually 220V if you bought them here, and you could technically take them with you if you’re willing to use a converter to change the voltage and an adapter to change the pin of the plug. I don’t necessarily recommend this because the appliance or electronic suffers some damage over time, plus the cost of shipping can be expensive if heavy.

A friend of mine took his handheld frappe maker to the USA and uses a converter and an adapter because it’s an appliance not easily purchased there. I have an Oster blender from the USA in my Greek kitchen because it’s cheaper and more powerful than anything I could buy in GR. So it’s a matter of choice.

  Frances wrote @ October 30th, 2012 at 10:28

Hello, I am wondering if anyone knows how I can transport 2 Dalmatians back with me to the United States… Thanks

Kat Reply:

The only first-hand experience shared here is from commentator ‘Jessica’ who brought a cat from Greece to the USA. Please take a look at what she wrote, then consult your vet and call the airline you’ll be traveling with.

Thank you for your question. All best.

  Maya wrote @ May 6th, 2013 at 21:57

Hello everyone!
I’m a Canadian who is moving to Crete, Greece. I’ve been looking into shipping a container with all my favorite furniture, kitchen appliances, books, clothing, etc… as I have found that purchasing anything trendy for the home is exorbitantly over-priced and hard to come across in Crete.
Does anyone have any recommendations for a moving/shipping company? What is considered a fair price per sq/foot, or sq/meter? How long should it take?
I’m also contemplating bringing my cat with me. Carry-on seems to be complicated and very expensive airlines only. Has anybody traveled with a cat in the luggage section?
Thanks for all/any advice, it is greatly appreciated!!

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.