I'm going to Santorini, Greece, in a month. I'm naturally concerned, of course, about what I should be prepared for in light of the ongoing financial turmoil in Greece.
So, I reached out to a friend on the ground there to ask a few questions to get answers for what travelers should expect. Sandra Schmitt is owner of Mar-A-Mar Travel, which is in its first season operating sailing trips on a yacht in the Greek Cyclades islands, running routes from Santorini and visiting ports such as Mykonos, Naxos, Ios, Milos, Domousa and many more. I will be joining Mar-A-Mar on a sailing in the first week of September to tell you all about sailing trips through Greece, but I thought it important to get some details ASAP to help travelers know what to expect when going to the country.
Greece has defaulted on an enormous debt payment ($1.8 billion) owed to the International Monetary Fund. Upheaval in the economy and questions about whether the nation will be leaving the European Union and euro currency understandably raise questions about what will happen to tourism. Greek residents are limited to 60 euro withdrawals at ATMs, and banks are closed this week ahead of a referendum July 5 for citizens to say "yes" or "no" to terms of a bailout set forth by a trio of Greece's creditors: the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. Holders of foreign bank accounts face no withdrawal limits.
I asked Schmitt about what she is seeing as she conducts her sailing business and hosts travelers on her boat.
This week I tried about five ATMs and was able to get 1600 euros from two accounts at one machine, so my worries have subsided. I would recommend that travelers bring euros to Greece when they come so that they don't have to try the machines.
Needless to say, it seems tourists are not deterred from planning a vacation in Greece because we are getting about three to four inquiries per day.
Other tour operators have not mentioned any concerns, so I don't have any update for you on that front.
Note that it is early in the process, and things are likely to be changing as the weeks pass. The referendum July 5 could help clarify which direction Greece is headed, but the banking system could remain frozen for a while, and people might begin to find more ATMs out of currency.
You see that Schmitt had to try five ATMs to get her money, and that was in the very early hours after the banks closed their doors after the missed payment by Greece triggered this crisis.
Widespread reports also note that many places of business are not accepting credit cards.
So, if you are traveling to Greece, keep a watch on any advisories sent out for tourists, and plans to get your euros at your home bank before heading to Greece. Also, consider how you will keep your money safe and secure as you travel (maybe a travel safe; I've posted a type of safe you might consider below). I fear that travelers could become targets for crime as unscrupulous or desperate people realize that tourists probably are carrying more cash than usual.
If you have any information about the situation in Greece and advice for fellow travelers, please share it here.
Thanks for reading,