Holiday in a financially troubled country?
June 29, 2015 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever travelled to a country in the aftermath of an economic crisis or default? What was it like? Could you tell anything was different as a tourist?

(Yes, we did book tickets to Greece in October for our honeymoon. No, that was probably not the best idea.)
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd guess this will become clearer as time goes on. Tourism is very important to Greece and it would be insane for them to do anything to jeopardise it.

You may be forced to use cash though foreign credit cards work in ATMs, for now. So beware of pickpockets and be prepared to negotiate everything. It may be prudent to have a plan B for the return journey.
posted by epo at 12:55 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would prepare for the possibility that ATMs won't have any cash. The moment they are filled there will be huge lines of people trying to withdraw as much of their assets as possible. Can't predict if the bank run will be over by October, but you never know.

Perhaps purchase your Euros ahead of time and figure out a way to securely carry them on your flight (like, don't check it in your baggage) and then secure it once you're there. Plus obvious stuff like don't carry large amounts in public, etc.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I went to Iceland in 2008 early 2009, which is a different case to Greece today in many respects... the only noticeable thing on the ground was that there were a lot of building projects that had obviously been abruptly abandoned. And it was, as far as I could tell, impossible to know the exchange rate with any certainty. I just got kronur from the ATM and hoped for the best (which was, in fact, fine).
posted by mskyle at 1:07 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bring cash.
posted by k8t at 1:10 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Guardian had a good article on travel in Greece today, bring cash was a big theme.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

October will be a fine time to visit Greece. The place is not going to devolve into total lawlessness.
Greece will survive.

As everyone said, bring cash.

But also, be a little more security conscious than normally. People are a bit more desperate, and theft will be increased. That said, Greek theft will not be like American theft. The possibility of having a gun in your face during a robbery is virtually nil in Greece. Theft will be crimes of opportunity, which means greater vigilance should thwart it.

Tourism is a critical industry in Greece. Your honeymoon will be great.
posted by Flood at 1:40 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came on here to advise you to check the State Department travel advice for Greece, but they surprisingly don't seem to have included anything economic crisis related!

So maybe have a look what the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are saying closer to the date of travel.
posted by bimbam at 2:01 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, if it makes you feel better, you could always make tentative, refundable plans for an alternate honeymoon somewhere an EasyJet/Ryanair flight away from Athens.
posted by mskyle at 2:18 PM on June 29, 2015

By October you might not even need cash. Either way don't worry about it. Tourism is the last thing any of the involved parties want to screw with.
posted by JPD at 3:54 PM on June 29, 2015

Hard to know how things are going to shake out in Greece, but having traveled in Argentina fairly recently (in the midst of a currency crisis) I'd say to bring lots of small denomination currency. Like 1 and 2 Euro coins and 5 Euro notes. People won't want to make change.
posted by tealcake at 6:09 PM on June 29, 2015

I would take out the absolute best travel insurance you can find and then check the headlines and foreign governments' advice a bit before you depart.
posted by mdonley at 7:49 PM on June 29, 2015

Agree - take cash. I have been to Greece many times and never been a victim of crime. Most of the hotel and self-catering rooms we've stayed in have had lockable safe boxes although you often need to pay a small charge locally in order to use them.
posted by Heloise9 at 11:50 PM on June 29, 2015

I've been staying in touch with my Greek friends and family to see how this is all shaking out, and the advice you've been given here is sound: bring cash, but stay vigilant about pickpockets. Carry your cash in a moneybelt or something similar. ATMs still seem to work fine for non-Greek accounts, even on the tiny island where I lived. A lot of small business owners (shopkeepers, etc) that rely on tourist trade are trying very hard to get the word out that they're still open for business.

Keep in mind that transit strikes are numerous and inconvenient even at the best of economic times in Greece, so if you're travelling through the country be prepared for occasional delays. I travelled in and out of Athens a lot and sometimes I could get home in a few hours, and other times I had to stay at my backup hotel for a couple days until I could get a flight home since the ferries weren't running. Schedule things loosely so that delays become an opportunity to explore or continue enjoying what you were doing instead of an annoying impediment.
posted by annathea at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites] just posted an article from someone travelling in Greece. (Spoiler: the ATM is empty, but the tourists are very welcome).
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Follow-up from our October 2015 trip: The only real issue we ran into was a real reluctance for restaurants and shops to take credit cards. The explanation they gave was that the restrictions on bank withdrawals meant that I could pay with credit card, the credit card would pay the merchant's bank account, but the merchant couldn't actually get the money out. Seems plausible, I guess. No issues getting cash out of ATMs by now.

(Also, the VAT is 23% on the islands now, which was pretty painful. It was 16% before October 1st.)
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

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