As someone who is Greek, lives in Athens, and works in the travel industry, I have been asked a lot lately about whether it’s safe to travel to Greece right now.
Greece is a country with deep history; a history of great deeds, courage, and enlightenment, but a culture that is also familiar with wars, political instability, and hard financial times. This complex past and present has molded who Greeks are and what Greece is today.
But is it safe to visit right now? While this is a personal decision, here’s some help on assessing the pros and cons of going to Greece in the current climate.
As odd as it may sound, this is actually a great time to travel to Greece. The financial crisis — while making life difficult for most Greeks — is a boon for travellers. All the things you’re looking for in a trip to Greece — mouthwatering food, deep-blue water, striking scenery, and the thrill of connecting with ancient history — are all here waiting for you… at a cheaper price.
But of course, you still need to be aware of what’s happening right now, and what that means for you, especially with the closure of local banks this week. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Most demonstrations in Greece have been quite small and generally peaceful. Those that do happen tend to take place in front of town halls, tax offices, etc., and these are generally not places frequented by tourists. Still, if you’re worried, be sure to monitor where events are happening and steer clear of those regions.
- Yes, locals are having a hard time financially, but they are also painfully aware that tourism makes up about 9% of Greece’s GDP, and residents don’t want to damage that source of income. Greece’s famous sense of hospitality is still alive and well.
- Credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa will continue to be accepted. There may be limits on how much you can spend, but according to James Hickman, managing director of currency specialists Caxton FX, these limits are likely to be set at several thousand pounds, so they shouldn’t affect ordinary transactions.
- Note that some retailers and restaurants might be reluctant to accept credit cards, preferring people to pay in cash instead. But due to mass withdrawals by locals, and a government cap of €60 on ATM transactions, accessing cash could be very difficult. Be sure to bring enough cash with you so that you won’t end up stranded.
- But exercise common sense. Greece remains a safe place for visitors, and the financial crisis has actually been going on for several years. Avoid carrying too much cash on you — leave it in a safety deposit box in your hotel, wear a hidden money pouch, or split up your cash among fellow travellers.
- Travellers’ cheques have never been widely accepted so it would not be advisable to rely on them as the only source of payment.
Still concerned? Check out what our friends at Intrepid Travel have to say about the situation, and what it means for travellers like you.