financial-crisis

Know Before You Go: Greece’s Financial Crisis

The locals still benefit from your patronage. Image by Flickr user Atli Haroarson.

Greece easily ticks off all the boxes for a fantastic vacation spot — gorgeous islands, rich culture, delicious food — so I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having it on my mental list of dream destinations.

Unfortunately, if you’ve tuned into the news this summer, the image of Greece you’ll see is far from idyllic. Rioting in Athens and shuttered banks paint a troubling picture as the country attempts to climb out of crippling debt.

So, does this mean you should delay that Greek getaway?

First Things First: Your Greece Primer

  • Greece is the southernmost country in the Balkan Penninsula.
  • Its neighbors are Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
  • Greece has more than 2,000 islands (and most are uninhabited)!
  • Athens is the capital of Greece.
  • As a member of the European Union, Greece’s currency is the Euro.
  • Greece is known as “the birthplace of western civilization,” since it was the first nation to have a democracy.
  • It’s also notably the birthplace of the Olympic games!

What financial crisis? It’s all Greek to me…

Greece’s economy took a turn for the worse in the late 2000s, and it never really recovered. While few nations escaped unscathed from the global recession in those years, Greece was hit particularly hard and ended up having to get two international bailouts totaling upwards of €240 billion!

While the bailouts helped Greece avoid bankruptcy, the country has continued to struggle over the years. So it was not quite a surprise when Greece found itself in need of financial assistance again this summer.

Many were left with a bitter taste in their mouths from the last bailout’s strict conditions, meaning the negotiations this time around were pretty divisive. In fact, many in Greece wanted to refuse the measures and talk of Greece leaving the European Union. A “Grexit,” as the media dubbed it, drew a lot of concern.

However, after some intense and scary protests in Athens, Greece and its creditors reached a deal that paved the way for a third bailout in July. This was a huge step forward but by no means a quick fix.

financial-crisis
The beaches in Greece are still as beautiful! Image by Flickr user Horia Varlan.

Officials say…

The U.S. State Department does not currently have any advisories issued against travel to Greece, and the country itself very much encourages tourists to make the trip.

One of the biggest concerns for travelers has been the availability of cash, as Greece has put a limit on ATM withdrawals for residents. However, the State Department confirms that these limits do not apply to foreign cards, meaning you should have no issues taking out cash.

A number of media outlets in the U.S. and abroad have printed pieces debating traveling to Greece, but there’s really no clear consensus.

Those  against traveling right now cite the general economic instability and isolated incidents of rioting.

Those in favor of taking the trip say tourism to Greece has never been better, with booking sites even reporting a rise in popularity. According to numerous sources, travelers interviewed while visiting Greece say nothing out of the ordinary.

If you decide to go…

Be sure to bring lots of cash just in case credit cards are not accepted or ATMs are shut down. When possible, try to book tours and hotels that allow you to prepay to avoid any issues!

Also, while there may be great deals at the moment, the recently signed bailout initiative could soon cause that to change. As part of the deal, the value-added tax or VAT on food and beverages will rise, which will not only affect tourists enjoying a meal out on the town but also those staying in hotels that offer dining.

What do you say?

The situation in Greece is constantly changing, making this a particularly tough call to make. So, if you happen to have recently visited the country or live there, please share!

As always, I want these columns to be a resource for you, so if you are considering a trip but are unsure of the safety in an area, let me know! It may be featured in next month’s column.

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