So, it would have been fairly difficult to miss the fact that there is a financial crisis in Greece at the moment. We won’t go into a lot of detail on the ins and outs of the crisis, because there is plenty of that on the internet, but the key thing is that the government has put in capital controls to help manage the country through the crisis.
Banks in Greece are closed until midnight tonight (16 July), and the Greek government has advised that there may be disruptions to banking until 20 July 2015. So what does this all mean for travellers to Greece?
Firstly, the capital controls put in place by the Greek government do not apply to foreign visitors wanting to withdraw money from a ATM or carry out any type of transaction using credit or debit card issued overseas. So, you can use your credit and debit cards in over the counter or ATM transactions up to the daily limits set by your own bank. The controls in place only apply to Greek citizens and Greek debit and credit cards.
The Greek Ministry of Tourism has advised that they expect no interruptions to the every day holiday experience of tourists in Greece, either on the mainland or the islands. In fact, the country is working as hard as it can to ensure that tourism remains unaffected, because tourism is responsible for around 18% of the country’s GDP.
Of course, while it is great to know that tourism is not being affected right now, it is always wise to plan for the unexpected, so make sure you have several alternative sources of payment and enough back up cash to ensure that you are prepared should the situation suddenly change. Make sure your cash is in a range of denominations (preferably smaller notes) just in case the situation should change, and if you are carrying more cash than normal, make sure you take normal personal safety precautions such as spreading it between bags etc.
There have been some protests in Athens by locals around the financial crisis, and so to be on the safe side, avoid large gatherings and protests – Syntagma Square in Athens is the main place to avoid.
The experience of our Fez Travel groups travelling through Greece this week is that everything is operating normally!! Credit card payments at hotels, restaurants and shops continue normally. All transportation systems are working regularly and there are no interruptions at the services of airlines or ferries. The only issue is that queues at ATMs are slightly longer than normal. Lots of locals have expressed concern that photos in the media of empty supermarket shelves have been taken out of context and sensationalized. If anything, tourism workers are working harder than ever to make sure that tourists have a positive experience and have an unforgettable holiday in Greece.
While you will be able to use your ATM cards, one way to help the local economy is to pay for as much as possible in cash and support small local businesses. When you pay with cash you are directly injecting money into the local economy, and helping the locals get their hands on much needed hard currency which is what is lacking right now and is the primary concern for Greek citizens.
There have been some reports that pharmacies are running a little low on supplies, so it’s also a good idea to make sure that you have enough of any prescription medication you may need to cover your time in Greece as well as some basic first aid supplies.
Greece always has been, and always will be one of the world’s most beautiful holiday destinations. It’s beauty has not been affected by the crisis, nor has the warmth of its people. The sun is still shining, the beaches are still a great place to chill out, and the food is just as amazing.
This is a time to show solidarity with the Greek people, and support the hard working folk in the tourism industry, and with a bit of pre-planning, there is no need for the financial crisis to adversely affect your holiday. We look forward to welcoming you to Greece.
If you are interested in visiting Greece and Turkey with Fez Travel, you can check out our Greece and Turkey tours here.