Going to Greece? Load Up on Cash and Keep Your Eyes Open

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If you have a vacation planned soon in Greece, don’t worry: The financial crisis in Greece shouldn’t ruin your vacation plans.

That’s the word from the Greek tourism industry even as the country’s economy reels with major bank and stock market closures and fears of bankruptcy. Just days ago, the country officially defaulted on a $1.7 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund.

Although Greek citizens are limited to ATM withdrawals of 60 euros (about $67) per account, tourists to the country don’t face the same restrictions, according to USA Today.

“The tourists that are currently in Greece as well as those that are going to come will not be at the least affected by the latest developments and can continue to enjoy their vacations in Greece without the slightest problem,” said Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura in a statement.

Still, despite the reassurances from Kountoura and other Greek tourism experts, many ATMs have run out of cash, leaving some travelers in a lurch.

Not surprisingly, tourism is hugely important to Greece, so canceled trips would be yet another devastating blow to an already struggling country. It is, in fact, the lifeblood of the Greek economy, Konstantinos Georgiadis, general manager of Amphitrion Holidays, a Washington-based tour company that focuses on trips to Greece, told USA Today.

“It’s very, very important for Greece,” he said. “The summer period opens up opportunities for part-time jobs especially for young people who have been hit hard by the economic crisis.”

If you have upcoming travel plans to Greece, don’t fret. Instead, be prepared. Here are four things you should know, according to Money:

  1. Bring cash, and lots of it. With the uncertainty of ATMs being able to dispense cash, you should plan accordingly and bring lots (and lots) of cash. Some Greek businesses aren’t accepting credit cards, Money reports, so cash is king. It’s also a good idea to bring smaller denomination bills, to help ensure that Greek businesses can make change.
  2. Be safe. “The State Department recommends you maintain a high level of security awareness and avoid political rallies and demonstrations as instances of unrest can occur,” the U.S. Embassy states. “Exercise caution and common sense: Avoid the areas of demonstrations, and if you find yourself too close to a demonstration, move in the opposite direction and seek shelter.” Also, keep your money safe from thieves by securing it in a hotel safe or in a money belt or neck wallet.
  3. Plan for lines and delays. Although ferries and gas stations have not yet been affected by the financial crisis, there is speculation that strikes and political demonstrations could drain Greece’s fuel supply, so it’s best to plan for long lines, potential delays and other potential travel disruptions.
  4. If you cancel, your travel insurance probably won’t cover it. Most travel insurance policies only reimburse for a canceled trip in the event of an immediate family death, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or large-scale civil unrest, Money said. So if you cancel your trip to Greece right now, it likely won’t qualify as a reimbursable situation.

On July 5, Greek citizens will vote in a referendum on whether the country should accept the latest bailout deal. If Greeks vote against the deal, it may lead to Greece’s departure from the eurozone, USA Today reports.

Have you traveled to Greece? What do you think of the country’s recent financial crisis? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.