04 Ott TRAVELING TO GREECE? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Amid stories of bank closings and empty ATMs, our Traveler travel specialists tell you what you need to know before heading to Greece this summer.
Updated, 7/8/15: Greek citizens have voted “no” to an EU–proposed austerity bailout plan, extending Greece’s financial uncertainty and increasing the chances it will leave the eurozone. As Greece pursues another loan request from the World Bank, there has been some short-term fallout. Banks remain closed and ATM withdrawals limited for locals. The same advice for tourists still applies: Bring plenty of cash in case ATMs have long lines or run out of money. Capital controls are also in place; services such as PayPal and the iTunes store are reportedly not letting customers with Greek credit or debit cards buy anything. Like the ATM withdrawal limits, this seems only to affect Greeks.
Panagiotis Zarifis, a banker in Athens, told CNN that even if Greece decides to return to using the drachma, it’s likely that businesses will still accept euros and possibly U.S. dollars, since a major currency switchover can’t happen overnight.
Originally published June 29.
Yesterday, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert regarding the shaky Greek monetary situation. The news of the closed stock market, expiring IMF bailout, and ATM cash withdrawal limits is understandably making travelers nervous. Luckily, the State Department does not recommend canceling travel but instead suggests caution and planning ahead. “U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays,” read the alert. Additionally, the release cautioned visitors to be on the lookout for political unrest caused by the financial insecurity, such as protests or demonstrations.
To allay the worries of those biting their nails over upcoming Greece vacations, Condé Nast Travelerspoke with travel specialist Ileana Von Hirsch of the Five Star Greece luxury villa rental company, who clarifies the situation and urges visitors to take a deep breath before changing their travel plans.
“The inconvenience of capital controls is for Greeks wanting to send money outside Greece, not for people wanting to bring money into Greece,” she explains. She is advising her clients heading to the country this week to get cash ahead of time; many U.S. banks can give out euros, and there are currency exchange counters at most major airports so you can exchange money before arriving in Greece, where many ATMs are reportedly tapped out.
Ronnie Liadis of the Pennsylvania-based tour operator Liadis Travel, Ltd. confirms those reports. “All guests holding cards issued by non-Greek banks will be able to withdraw money from the ATMs normally and without any limit, in order to serve their everyday needs,” she says. “The same will apply for credit and debit cards as well. Cardholders will be free to use their credit and debit cards up to their contracted credit limit without any restrictions.” Nervous travelers may want to get their credit card limits upped just in case and let their bank know they will be traveling to prevent any accidental “suspicious holds” on ATM cards.
“Tourist islands are a priority,” Von Hirsch adds, saying that banks catering to foreigners are more likely to have cash on hand. “As Greeks can only take out 60 euros per day, there is plenty [left over] for the tourists. Athens may have the ATMs that run out the most frequently in the next few days, as that is where most people are. So bring cash for Athens, and credit cards for the islands as usual.”
For more read www.cntraveler.com