Planning a trip to Greece? The recent closure of Greek banks means tourists need to reconsider their travel money options. Here are some tips on how to manage your cash while in Greece.
In late June 2015, Greece faced the peak of their financial crisis when the nation shuttered its banks and imposed ATM withdrawal and money transfer restrictions in an attempt to keep things from going from bad to worse. If you have a trip to Greece coming up, you’ll need to prepare some travel money alternatives if you were planning on using your credit card or prepaid travel card to fund your trip.
Why did the Greek government close the banks?
On Sunday June 28, Greece found itself on the brink of economic downfall when banks shut nationwide and officials scrambled to prevent the country’s financial system from collapsing in panic. This rapid escalation was triggered by the Greek government’s decision to close the nation’s banks after the European Central Bank froze the liquidity lifeline that has kept them above the surface after spending the last six months running on deposits. The Greek government removed negotiators from bailout talks and is now predicted to default as early as this week. Greek banks and stock markets were closed almost immediately, and ATM withdrawals have been limited to €60 per person, per day.
As financial analysts have anticipated that banks will remain closed for at least a week and that the nation may be forced to abandon the Euro, this puts both Greek citizens and tourists in a bind.
What are the options for tourists?
Australian travel cards or credit cards
The Greek government has ensured tourists that they will be able to withdraw cash with a credit card issued in their home country. The capital control measures do not apply to transactions or withdrawals made on foreign bank cards. Although this provides tourists with more financial flexibility than Greek citizens, Aussie travellers should still consider organising alternatives when travelling to Greece during the financial crisis. For our Greece travel money guide, see here.
While taking large wads of cash overseas is usually discouraged among modern travellers, Australian tourists heading to Greece are being encouraged to do exactly this. While representatives from Sydney’s Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre would usually advise tourists to take about €100 to €200 in cash, now €500 euros might be more appropriate. Although you can still access funds from an ATM, there may be shortages in larger cities and tourist attractions such as Athens. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket by divvying up your cash, leaving some in your wallet, some in the hotel safe and some in your luggage in case of an emergency situation.
A combination of the two
While you can never over prepare for a holiday, this has never been truer than for Australian tourists travelling to Greece right now. Rather than preparing one financial option, those heading to Greece should organise more than one means of payment, whether it be cash and a credit or debit card. Travellers should also organise funds to cover more than the expected necessities in case they need to cover any emergencies or unexpected delays.
Despite the recent financial crisis, the number of Australians heading to Greece for holidays is thriving. According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, the number of Australians travelling to Greece rose by 41.8 percent between 2014 and 2015. With these numbers showing no sign of slowing down, Aussies need to take a little extra time preparing their finances before their next holiday to the Mediterranean.
How have other Aussie tourists prepared?
Greta was leaving for her Eurotrip the following day when the news broke that Greece had shut down its banks. About to embark on a month-long trip to Europe, here’s how Greta prepared her funds while travelling in Greece.
- What travel money options had you already planned?
I’d saved up all my money before my trip and loaded it onto a Commonwealth Bank Travel Money card. I also had money in my Australian bank account that I can transfer over if I need to. I’m travelling with my sister who also has a Commonwealth Bank Travel Money card and the Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard.
- What is your travel money strategy now?
First we reconsidered even going to Greece. We weren’t sure what the situation was going to be in a few weeks when we visited, whether there would be civil unrest or problems that would make it dangerous for us to go. But, because we already had flights and accommodation booked we decided to continue. We’re going to take enough cash to see us through Greece but keep it secure. We’ll set out a daily budget and stick to it – there’s no other option, really. Keep some money in the hotel, different pockets of bags, on us, things like that.
- How did you compare travel money options and come up with an alternative?
Our plan with most countries was to get a decent amount of cash out at the ATM when we arrived to make sure we don’t take more of one currency than we need. I’m mainly thinking about ATM fees with my travel money card rather than fees when I pay in-store, so reducing the times we use the ATM is important. For Greece, I think it’s just going to take a bit of pre-planning before we arrive.
- What advice would you give other Australians heading to Greece in the coming weeks/months?
Plan your trip and your money before you book. I didn’t really know what the situation was going to be like when I booked my trip, but if I had this knowledge I may have planned it differently. I think pre-booking as much as you can is a good idea and reducing your need to get cash out or use any kind of bank card in Greece is also important. Keep an eye on the situation as well – that’s what we’ll be doing.
Although it is difficult to predict the outcome of Greece’s financial crisis, the best thing Australian tourists can do is be prepared. Organising your travel money in advance is your best bet, as well as your prepaid travel card or credit card. Make sure to have cash on you and in other safe places such as your hotel safe or luggage. If you keep an eye on the situation and manage your funds efficiently, there’s no reason why you still can’t enjoy your time in Greece.Back to top