When I think of Greece, I think of two things: rich ancient history and stunning views. From the bustling city of Athens to the many Greek islands, your trip to Greece is sure to be filled with many rich experiences. However, for travelers with food allergies, it can be a bit more complex and divided on where you go and what your allergies are. In this Greece country guide, we’ll explore the important considerations and nuances of traveling to Greece with food allergies and give helpful planning tips so you can feel armed with information when navigating your travels to Greece.
Traveling to Greece with Food Allergies
While Greece offers a ton of amazing views and activities, it’s essential to be aware of the challenges you may face associated with food allergies. Personally, I loved my time in Greece, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t notice some pros and cons of visiting with food allergies, and how that relates to my clients traveling the country as well.
From Athens to the Greek islands, access to hospitals can be a bit more complicated, especially in the Greek islands, where you’ll find pedestrian-only walkways and a lot of stairs, especially in the famous locations like Oia in Santorini. This means if you are having dinner down many stairs at a stunning restaurant, an ambulance will not be able to pull up right outside the restaurant. This makes hospital access just a bit more complicated in certain situations and areas of Greece.
For this reason, you’ll want to plan ahead and choose accommodations and places to eat that have easy access to medical facilities or ambulances if needed. Also, depending on the island or city you visit, medical care can be more limited and a transfer to another could be in the cards. So always double-check hospital locations in the destinations you are thinking of heading to.
Another aspect to consider when traveling in Greece with food allergies is what allergens are prevalent throughout the country. Sesame, wheat, gluten, fish, seafood, dairy, and more are commonly found in Greek cooking, but it can vary by location and restaurant. As always, it’s crucial to do your restaurant research, either on your own or via my restaurant research service, and communicate your food allergies clearly.
From my experience, I found most places were understanding and willing to discuss my allergies, but I also learned that everyone can make mistakes. I had one waiter forget that pastry has wheat flour, so I had to re-ask when they brought it to the table. Luckily, everything else was good and I had a positive experience. Having a food allergy chef card in Greek is an important consideration, but just make sure to go over the items you are looking to order to ensure they have a clear understanding of your allergies and needs.
Food Labeling Laws in Greece
Greece follows the same food labeling laws as other EU countries, such as France and Italy. EU regulation 1169/2011 puts in place requirements for the 14 major food allergens to be clearly labeled if they are present in any pre-packaged foods. This regulation also requires food establishments such as bakeries, butchers, confectioners, ice cream parlors, restaurants, hotels, etc, to disclose if any allergenic ingredients are present in foods that are not pre-packaged. This is not always consistent though, so be sure to ask for information if these disclosures are not on the menu, they may have an allergy binder or tell you orally.
The new EU regulation 609/2013 now sets out protections for more vulnerable groups of consumers, such as infants, young children, people with specific medical conditions, and people undertaking energy-restricted diets for weight loss. This regulation places restrictions on the marketing of food products specifically created for and marketed to these groups of people. This requires stricter labeling rules for infant formula, processed cereal-based food, baby food, food for special medical purposes, and foods for total diet replacement for weight control. It also requires greater clarity and consistency on labeling for gluten-free and low gluten foods.
Is Greece Good With Food Allergies?
Overall, I had a great experience traveling in Greece with food allergies. However, I definitely found that some individuals had more education and knowledge than others when it came to food allergies. Asking to speak with the chef at restaurants and showing my food allergy card really helped me navigate my travels with my allergies. Selecting an accommodation that could provide meals for me and my food allergies was also key on my trip. Those are a couple of important considerations to keep in mind for your trip to Greece.
What Can You NOT Bring Into Greece?
Greece follows the same importation guidelines as other EU countries. There are importation restrictions on meat, fish, and seafood products coming in from other countries, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and those products containing GMOs. Also prohibited from being imported into Greece are live animals and animal products.
If foods, such as meat products from specific non-EU countries, certain types of fish, and limited quantities of dairy products, meet a certain set of guidelines, they can be imported into Greece.
Always double-check these laws and regulations before traveling to Greece with food allergies, as they are subject to change at any time and you don’t want to be turned away or have to waste food or other items that are not allowed to be imported.
Important Guidelines and What Can You Bring Into Greece Legally
When traveling to Greece with food allergies, it’s a good idea to bring some of your own snacks, ingredients, and safe foods. While there are certain restrictions on what you can import into Greece, there are still many items that are allowed through customs.
You can bring in packaged, non-perishable snacks and food items, fruits and vegetables that are free of pests, and most baked goods, candies, and chocolates, as long as they do not contain meat or dairy products.
Of course you can always shop for snacks or ingredients once you arrive in Greece, but this may be a bit more challenging due to the language barrier and the type of items you’re looking for.
Exploring the Local Cuisine of Greece
Greek cuisine is rich, diverse, and a delicious culinary experience.
Here are some of Greece’s most iconic dishes and key things to keep in mind when considering your allergens:
- Briam – This dish is made of mixed vegetables, typically whatever is found locally at the farmer’s market. This dish is often made with olive oil and vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes
- Keftedes – These Greek meatballs can be made with a variety of ingredients, but are typically found with pork and beef, onions, stale bread, eggs, and parsley. It can include feta cheese and more.
- Souvlaki – This is a popular Greek street food made of small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer. Pork, chicken, beef, lamb, and vegetables are commonly found in this dish. Souvlaki can be eaten alone or with a pita, which can have tzatziki, fries, and vegetables for a more complete meal. Watch out for gluten and dairy products in the pita and tzatziki sauce.
- Tzatziki – This is a popular cucumber, garlic dip that has greek yogurt and spices.
- Melitzanosalata – This Greek eggplant dip is made out of eggplants, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, garlic, and parsley. Greek yogurt or even mayo can be found in some versions, so be careful if you have a dairy, egg, or soy allergy depending on the ingredients.
- Chickpeas – From hummus dip to simple roasted chickpeas, these are often popular snack options across Greece.
- Calamari – Calamari is batter-fried and served with lemon, but you can also find grilled versions made with lemon and olive oil. If you see stuffed calamari on the menu, it can contain a variety of fillings including but not limited to feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers, rice, or even bulgur wheat. Watch out for egg and dairy in the batter.
- Greek Salad – This is an absolute classic, made with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and topped with olive oil. It may also contain feta cheese, olives, capers, and spices.
- Moussaka – This is a layered dish with eggplant, minced meat, and béchamel sauce. This sauce is made from butter, flour, and milk, so steer clear if you have a dairy or gluten allergy.
- Lamb – Lamb is cooked in so many different ways, so this is a very popular meat found across Greece.
- Spanakopita – This dish is made with a phyllo pastry on top and bottom and a filling of spinach, feta cheese, parsley, dill weed, onions, garlic, eggs, olive oil, and salt/pepper. Some versions may contain leeks and more, so it’s always best to ask about the ingredients and possible cross-contamination.
- Baklava – This is made from phyllo pastry, melted butter, layers of nuts (typically pistachios or walnuts), honey, and a syrup of cinnamon, honey, and lemon over top.
Navigating Greece With Food Allergies
While I absolutely loved my travels to Greece, it really does depend on what your allergies are, where you are planning on going, your comfort level, and what you like to eat. Meat and vegetables are very common and easy to find throughout Greece, so that’s a big plus. However, when it comes to desserts, many use phyllo dough, butter, nuts, and more.
Greece With Gluten Allergies
For gluten or wheat allergies, be very cautious of phyllo dough and flour in soups or sauces. Make sure that waiters and chefs understand the many places it can be found and the risk of cross-contamination. I recommend bringing your own bread and crackers to enjoy dips with if you feel comfortable consuming them and they are ok for you to eat.
Greece With Dairy Allergies
Dairy is commonly found in feta cheese, which is used in many dishes along with butter and Greek yogurt in dips, dressings, and sauces.
Greece With Sesame Allergies
Sesame is commonly ground up in tahini and sesame seeds are used in cooking or as garnish on top of dishes. Sesame oil can be used at times, but typically, Greek dishes use olive oil. Hummus can contain sesame as well depending on the restaurant or brand.
Greece With Egg Allergies
Egg is used in many dishes like spanakopita or Avgolemono soup. Eggs can be hidden as fillers or in sauces to add density or texture. However, eggs can be found at breakfast in your standard scrambled form.
Greece With Nut Allergies
When it comes to nuts, peanuts are not the most popular nut in Greece, but they can be found in bars or some desserts. Mainly tree nuts are used in desserts, but they can also be tossed in salads or other dishes. Pine nuts, walnuts, and pistachios are the most popular used tree nuts. For the most part, simple Greek foods are generally nut-free.
Greece With Seafood Allergies
Seafood is very popular, especially in the Greek islands, from fish to shellfish and more.
Where to stay when traveling to Greece with Food Allergies
There are some amazing hotels and resorts that can cater to food allergies, but it’s definitely worth considering an accommodation with a kitchen, as that can give you the option to cook for yourself.
While traveling to Greece with food allergies will take thoughtful consideration and planning, it is possible to navigate this beautiful country with your allergies. I hope this Greece country guide helps you feel more informed and confident as you plan your trip and embark on your Greek adventure.
If you’d like support in planning a seamless travel experience to Greece tailored to your specific allergies and needs, visit my contact page to book a consultation with me and inquire about my full-service travel planning service. From flights to accommodations, activities, and more, we’ll create your perfect Greek itinerary based on your needs and desires.