The Greece default crisis has been all over the news in past weeks. If it feels as if you’ve heard this before, it’s because you have. In 2010, Greece was saved from financial ruin by bailouts courtesy of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In the five years since, there’s been little hubbub about Greece, with life largely returning to “normal” for most of its locals, and businesses operating as usual for visitors.
But the nation has once more made headlines for its decision to effectively reject the notion of paying back the debt it owes, paving the way for a proper default on around $5 billion. The question on our and many minds is of course what all this means for travelers. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s difficult to get cash.
Greek banks are being closed for a week in order to prevent locals from cashing out their savings and exporting those Euros elsewhere. That won’t directly impact you, the tourist — but the side effects may. Travelers on the ground are reporting that many ATMs on mainland Greece simply aren’t working, giving many no way to actually acquire Euros. To boot, credit cards have never been widely accepted in Greece, and many small business owners are refusing to accept them now due to their immediate need for cash. If you’re planning to depart soon for Greece, be sure to stock up on Euros prior to arrival, or bring sufficient currency from your home country to exchange throughout your stay.
But life on the ground is not all that terrible at all.
While the global media paints a dire picture for Greece as a whole, our friends traveling there are telling us a different story (cash flow hurdles aside). Particularly on the Greek islands — Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos, Paros, and other — life is generally calm and steady for those visiting. Since tourism makes up a significant portion of Greece’s income, locals are doing everything they can to keep operations humming. Infrastructure remains solid, with airports, taxis, and utilities operating without a hitch.
You should be safe.
Unlike in 2010, when riots broke out across Athens, locals are taking this year’s news in stride. Five years ago, strict austerity measures were forced on Greeks by parties outside of Greece, creating turmoil and resentment. This year, the decision to default was voted on by Greeks themselves, and while not everyone will agree with the outcome, they’re getting what they asked for. In turn, things have been calm and peaceful. Plus, locals have had years to brace for this day, so much of what’s happening comes as no surprise.
If you have or are planning a visit:
We think there’s no reason to cancel a trip, so long as you plan ahead for how to pay for the trip. I visited Greece in 2012, not long after the last crisis began, and explored the furthest reaches of Santorini on a rented ATV with no warranted concern for safety. My Euro went much further in Greece than it did elsewhere in Europe, too. This past week, a close friend was visiting Mykonos and saw no signs of trouble, either. His flights were on time, his hotel stay was exceptional, and his interactions with locals and visitors were as pleasant as mine.
Regardless of whether Greece remains in the Eurozone or opts to create its own currency moving forward, the country remains a fantastic place to visit. As its premiere summer season begins, visitors will see lower prices and welcoming locals that rely on tourism to remain solvent. Particularly on Greece’s islands, far away from central Athens, visitors probably won’t feel a direct impact of Greece’s financial decision. Locals, of course, face a tough path ahead, which all visitors should recognize. If you’re planning a trip to Greece, just remember to bring enough cash to cover everything — lodging, food, and incidentals. The country needs visitors more now than ever, and locals will no doubt show appreciation for those who come.