A brief Thessaloniki student housing guideBased on the Greek Ministry of Education, there are approximately 330.000 students at Greek public universities at any one time. Thessaloniki accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total number of students in Greece with an estimated 100.000 students (including those attending private colleges and other higher education establishments).For a city of 800.000 people (city population 2011) this means a particularly high proportion of students, which is evident from the lively atmosphere and nightlife. The majority of the students are coming from other Greek cities, from Europe via exchange programs and from the Balkan countries in order to study at high quality private colleges. Estimating that on average a full-time student spends about 4 years in Thessaloniki (excluding exchange students), this means that there are approximately 25.000 new students in the city every year. And they all need a place to stay...This article will provide a brief guide to the types of available student housing, the areas, prices, and things to be aware of regarding student accommodation in Thessaloniki.1. Types of student accommodation1a. University public dorms.The University of Thessaloniki offers dorms to students, based on need and mainly on financial criteria. They are provided free of charge. In practice this means that it is pretty difficult to get a dorm room even if you are eligible to get one. The dorms are mostly located close to the university campus, but their quality is very low and maintenance is a big issue, along with issues about safety etc.1b. University Student Hostels.These are private properties (entire buildings) which are subleased by the University and are provided mainly to exchange students requiring accommodation for a few weeks or months. These are usually ERASMUS students. As of 2011 there are two student hostels, "Matsi Street 7" and "Kassandrou Street 134", both very close to the university. They offer fully furnished "dorm-style" rooms with ensuite private bathroom and kitchenette (Kassandrou 134) single and double rooms, a laundry area and wireless internet access.1c. Private hostels.For students wishing to stay only a few days/weeks, these hostels are more appropriate and a better solution than a hotel. However, these are hard to find as private hostels that rent rooms/beds by the day/week are not legal in Greece unless they are Non-Profit Organizations.1d. Private rental flats.These are standalone flats (studio, 1 or 2 bedrooms) located all over the city that students can rent from private owners. You can usually find them through real estate agents (beware) or online ads. You will need to find the appropriate one to suit your needs. Most of them are unfurnished or partly furnished and are more suited to students who plan to stay in Thessaloniki for a few years (as you'd have to buy electrical appliances, fridge, cooker, etc).When you move in you will need to enter into a contract with the electricity company DEI, the water and sewage company EYATH and the gas company for heating (or oil if there is petroleum central heating). Be aware that apart from the rent you will need to pay for the monthly "communal" expenses (i.e. elevator maintenance, cleaning, communal lighting, repairs, etc.), so check for the rough monthly amount beforehand as this can vary wildly. This is obviously not the best solution for a student coming to Thessaloniki for a few months or a year as the hassle is too much.1e. Rental student studios. This is a new breed of student housing that is very popular with both full time students as well as exchange students. This trend began in the late 90s with just a few companies offering this type of accommodation. The main concept is that of a building with rental studios, where each student has his own private fully furnished room with en-suite bathroom and fully equipped kitchenette. This creates in effect a private high quality dormitory with single bed studios. The student atmosphere is maintained along with the feeling of privacy and safety.Some companies offer additional amenities such as a laundry area, gym, storage for bulky items, bicycle parking, etc. This solves the main problems a student would have if he rented a studio from a private owner. In addition to this, some companies offer an ALL IN rent which includes the cost of heating, electricity, water, communal expenses, etc. even a fixed line ADSL internet connection. This way students won't have to deal with the Greek public authorities in order to get a contract for everything. This is especially suitable for exchange students who don't have the time or knowledge to deal with this.Finally, some companies also offer a number of additional safety measures (fire alarms, access control cards, etc). There is usually a porter at these buildings for anything that the students may need. However, be careful which company you choose as few offer all of the above.2. Student accommodation areasSince the university campus is in the city center of Thessaloniki, the most popular student accommodation areas are also there. However, since the city center is expensive, most students look for properties to rent near the university above Egnatia street and mostly around the streets of Agiou Dimitriou and Kassandrou. This is also where many student shops and cafes are located.Other areas popular with students are towards the east side of the city such as Depo, Toumpa, Harilaou, etc. These however are far from the center on foot and lack the distinct "student feel" of the areas near the university. In addition, traffic can be very bad at certain times of the day towards the university.Overall, both the city center and the areas to the east are very safe all day long.Lastly, there are the areas to the west of the city center such as Stavroupoli, Evosmos, etc. where rent prices are lower but these areas are not favored by students. They are very densely populated and traffic is also a problem, plus many students (and especially their parents) do not choose these areas as they have a reputation for higher crime rates.3. Accommodation pricesRent prices range from 200 euros per month for a standalone studio in Evosmos to 650 euros per month for a 2 bedroom apartment in the city center. The communal expenses can also range from 15 euros for a studio without central heating to 80 euros per month for an apartment with central heating. Of course rent prices can fluctuate depending on the condition of the flat/studio.On average a student will pay about 350euros for an unfurnished studio near the university plus 30euros/month for communal expenses. Don't forget to add the monthly cost of electricity, water, heating, telephone/internet, etc to this.ALL IN prices for the organized student studios which offer all kinds of amenities and include electricity bills, water bills, heating, hot water, internet, laundry, gym, etc. can range from 390 to 460 euros per month for a furnished studio near the university. For the average student who wants to have the privacy of his own place, but also live the student life, this is the most economical option which also saves him the hassle and stress of dealing with the Greek public sector. One last advantage is that you can plan your budget ahead, as you know how much your living costs will be, so there will be no surprises at the end of the month...4. Legal issuesIn order to rent a private property you need to know the following:If you are a EU citizen, you will need to get a Tax Registration Number (ΑΦΜ) from the local tax office. This is an easy procedure that takes 5 minutes and that only requires your passport. If you are a non-EU citizen you first need to get a residence permit and then get the above Tax Registration Number. This is absolutely necessary in order to legally rent a property in Greece.If you stay at a hotel you need to know that you cannot stay for more than 3 months.If you rent a property, you have to sign a lease.Do not accept to stay at rental rooms without signing a lease as this could get you in trouble. You need to know that it's illegal to stay anywhere without a lease, unless it is a hotel.Always insist that the landlord hands you back a copy of the lease "stamped" by the tax office. It is not uncommon for landlords to rent properties without a lease or without an official "stamped" lease - this is illegal. Do not put yourself in a position where you could get in trouble. Always demand to sign a formal lease.
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