I just got back from Greece. And, for a traveler, everything was OK.
I returned from a 16-day trip to Greece on Sunday, and the first question everyone has been asking is, how were you affected by the crisis? The answer is…not very much at all. The biggest inconvenience we faced was that there were a few times when we had to go to several ATMs before we found one that actually had cash to dispense. When that was the case, we might have had to stand in line for all of about five minutes. Even when the banks imposed a 60 euro a day limit on withdrawals, that didn’t seem to apply to those of us who were accessing American bank accounts. Plus, most places we went took credit cards.
We traveled in the Peloponnese, up to Meteora, spent a couple days in Athens, and then went to Santorini and Mykonos. From talking to people who deal with tourists in the areas outside of Athens, it seemed like they’re not feeling the crisis much at all. They’re seeing fewer Greek tourists, but international visits are still going strong. Nick, the owner of our guesthouse in Santorini, Langas Villas, said they’d been booked solid since April. And in Athens, it really felt like business as usual. We were there on a Saturday night, and wandering through the Plakas and Monastiraki districts in downtown, the sidewalk cafés, shops, and restaurants were lively and full of people—Greeks and tourists alike. The signs of crisis we saw were more casualties of the long economic downturn Greece has suffered: unfinished construction projects sitting abandoned, empty car dealerships.
We flew out the morning of the referendum, and talking to people before the vote, we got the sense that they weren’t expecting much to change no matter which way the vote went. It wasn’t going to change the facts of the economic situation, and nobody knew how it would affect the negotiations. Our cab driver on Saturday night said he hoped that the No vote would win, just to give other countries hope that they could stand up to the European bureaucrats.
Having said all this, we were lucky. Our trip went smoothly. Our brand-new rental car didn’t break down. We didn’t have to go to the emergency room. If any of those kinds of things had happened, maybe we would’ve seen more cracks in the system. Instead, we saw what makes Greece an incredible destination. The scenery is beautiful—I recommend the drive over the mountains from Sparti to Kalamata—the history is almost overwhelming, and, if you’re going soon, it’s worth the trip just for the tomatoes.
So if you’re going, I would suggest getting a stash of euros before you leave, just in case. It’ll save you some ATM stress. And obviously, stay abreast of what’s happening. But from my experience, there’s no reason to cancel your trip. In fact, bringing Euros to spend in Greece is one small way to help.
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Photo by Lara Dalinsky