In my last post, I mentioned my recent trip to Greece to interview fertility clinics to learn more about social egg-freezing.
In this post, I will elaborate more on getting to Greece and share tips for your arrival and highlight some things you may want to consider when choosing a place to stay while going to the fertility clinic.
Just to shore-up a common base, in this post, I explain the ins and outs of what the egg retrieval process looks like.
Before we begin…Why exactly Greece?
Thank the women who have paved the way to Greece to seek more cost-effective and readily available fertility treatments. Greece, due to the pandemic, extended the age to 54 to women who wish to undergo IVF. Also, there are at least 50 IVF clinics in Greece. Greece has a total population of just over 10 million people. 1 clinic per 200,000 population. Not bad. The United States, by comparison, has about 500 fertility clinics and with a population of over 332 million that comes to 1 clinic per 664,000 population.
We can assume that the total population does not represent the population that would be using the services of a fertility clinic; however, just looking at the disproportionate relationships of the numbers, it is absolutely safe to assume the numbers reflect how much more accessible fertility clinics are to the Greek population than the American population. We also need to account that the numbers already include male same-sex couples as well as single fathers by choice. These groups also need access to fertility care providers in order to family build.
The way to Greece has been well-paved by those who are hoping to family build, and so long as you choose a reputable ISO-certified clinic in Greece, traveling for social egg freezing is a wonderful alternative to egg freezing within your own country if the egg freezing in your own country is cost prohibitive. More on these certifications can be found here.
Some of the smallest clinics I interviewed in Athens report that they have done over 6000 cycles of IVF. That’s at least 6000 egg retrievals!
If you are not living in a bigger city in North America, your flight to Greece will likely involve a flight to a larger city within the U.S. and then another flight to large cities in Europe that are hubs for carriers like (KLM) Amsterdam, and (Lufthansa) Munich or through Paris (Delta). It may be necessary to take another flight to Athens from one of these cities.
If you live in a large city like Chicago or New York, it will be much easier to find direct flights to Athens. Chances are you are taking a connecting flight on the front end, or the back end, maybe both. Since this is not a travel-hack-focused post, nor am I a travel blogger, I won’t go into much more about air travel in getting to Greece. Still, I will mention I have flown with the Greek air carrier Aegean Air and am happy to say that I think that both the airline and the new airport left me with great impressions of Greece.
Fertility Clinics in Northern Greece: Egg Freezing in Thessaloniki
I visited two clinics in northern Greece, both in Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, with a metro population of just under a million. Thessaloniki is significantly smaller than Athens (which has a metro population of over three million people.)
Of course your foremost deciding factor is the clinic that you ultimately select. But, just what is the appeal of a smaller town like Thessaloniki if you could choose between clinics?
While I was visiting Thessaloniki I asked the director at one of the clinics where they recommend staying in Thessaloniki when undergoing egg freezing. She recommended to stay downtown. This can be a good thing if you would like to access the downtown restaurants and shopping more easily and the museums and the tourist attractions on the days you won’t be going to the clinic.
This is a point that I feel is often overlooked by clinics. Finding a relaxing and comfortable place to stay can help you with the stress levels from the hormone levels fluctuating in your body due to the medications as well as the stress from traveling. In Thessaloniki, it can also be possible to choose a place that will be near the beach as well as some really parks.
So where exactly are these fertility clinics located in Thessaloniki?
Both of these clinics are located in a part of town called Kalamaria (Yes, just like the food calamari). Kalamaria certainly is and feels like more of a suburb of Thessaloniki. In fact, the streets are wider and there are more gas stations and the area is more designed to be accessed by vehicle. The buildings are set back further from the street with car parks located in front.
From downtown Thessaloniki, depending on traffic, it is a 20 min taxi. I downloaded and used the app Beat, which is an Uber or Lyft-like app that works in both Athens and Thessaloniki. I stayed at an Airbnb in between downtown and the clinics (I stayed on the edge of Kalamaria closest to downtown and loved the location because I could still walk to restaurants on the water and walk downtown (about a 40 min walk) and be a 10 min cab or Uber to the clinics.
The taxis/Ubers/Lyfts were inexpensive compared to Ubers at home. Getting to the clinic from my AirBnB was around $7. The clinics shared that the bus lines 1, 2, and 3 from downtown go all the way out to where the clinics are located. I simply found taking a taxi easier and thought the taxi rates were very affordable. During your stay, it is unlikely you will be going to the clinic every day so if you prefer to stay downtown, I think it will be very reasonable to budget for transportation within Thessaloniki.
New Life and EmbroLab: Egg Freezing options in Greece
The two clinics I visited, NewLife and EmbryoLab are located next to one another. Next to one another. It is best to look at both when you are comparing. They are so close to one another that you will always wonder what it would be like at the other if you didn’t include both in your research.
Amenities near the fertility clinics New Life and EmbryoLab
It was important to me to preview the area for these amenities in case of delays and needing to kill time. There are not a lot of restaurants or coffee shops located nearby at the time of writing that is easily accessible by foot. At the time of writing, a mere McDonald’s was within walking distance. If you don’t mind crossing the busy four-lane road, there was a Chinese fashion shop with a heavy emphasis on beachwear across the street back towards town within a 5 min walk that reminded me of the Ross Dress For Less Stores in the U.S.
I loved the area where I stayed in Kalamaria because it was a little more residential than staying downtown and felt more like a genuine city neighborhood with bakeries, a market, and many nearby restaurants within walking distance that would be filled mostly with locals. complete with an amazing farmers market that would set itself up right outside of the door of my building and occupy two streets filled with local Greek produce from yogurt to nuts. It was great to grab some seasonal fruit like plums and apricots. It was a 15-minute walk to restaurants on the beach, passing through neighborhoods with playgrounds and churches. At night many locals would go for a stroll as the restaurants would only start to fill up once the sun went down. Families would be out with their dogs and strollers going for a night time walk during the evening when the sweltering heat would finally dissipate as the sun fell and you could really appreciate the breeze rolling in off of the ocean. I certainly enjoyed the more residential part of Kalamaria that was closer to downtown yet still close to the clinics Newlife and EmbryoLab.
Bonus Travel Tip: A few notes on Business hours in Greece
I arrived in Thessaloniki on a Sunday around 5 pm, and most businesses and restaurants were closed. I also noticed that many shops and restaurants observe a siesta break during their business hours. I came to think of it as a late lunch break where even stores like mobile phone providers closed for a few hours. As I visited Thessaloniki in July, this could have just been an observance of summer hours due to the heat, and have to say that I saw fewer of these afternoon closures in Athens, so it may just be a practice that the other smaller towns observe only in the summers. Leave me a comment if you know why some Greek businesses observe this mid-day closure, as I am curious to know if it is for reasons other than the extreme heat in the summertime.
In my next post, I go into the specifics of what I noticed between visiting the two clinics in the largest city: Athens. Athens has an entirely different vibe altogether. And in near future posts, I hope to cover what all the clinics believe is a major plus to coming to Greece for egg freezing: visiting one of the islands post retrieval.
I love offering you even more information to empower yourself in your decision to preserve your fertility. If you have liked what you have seen, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter list so that you can be notified when more of this content comes out and when I share tips and tricks to help you select a clinic for your egg-freezing needs.