Heading to Greece? What to know before you go
After 61.3 per cent of Greek voters voted “No” to an international bailout proposal for the country's financial crisis on Sunday, Canadian travellers may wonder whether their travel plans to the island are financially secure. However, all three large travel agencies we spoke to say tourists have nothing to worry about.
“It is business as usual.” says Debbie Cabana, a spokesperson for Transat. “Of course, people are calling us asking some questions, but there's no fear, no one is asking to have their money back and they know they can go there. There are no restrictions on fuel supplies if you rent a car, or services, both on the islands or in Athens.”
Travelive, a luxury travel company that offers made-to-order vacations and tours in Greece, also reports having no problems funding the vacations its clients have booked.
“Our company and our partners remain financially solid, so we don't have any concerns in terms of not being able to deliver the services that people have booked with us,” says Mina Agnos, Travelive's president and co-founder.
But with banks closed or running low and ATMs limiting withdrawals, what's the money situation like once you get there?
Cards are king
While there are limits being placed on Greek debit cards (€60 daily withdrawal) those limits don't apply to foreign debit cards.
“As long as they are traveling with their own Canadian or American credit and debit cards, then they should be fine,” says Agnos. “We do recommend that they travel with a little more cash than they would normally.”
Transat is advising their clients to prioritize their credit and debit cards as methods of payment and iTravel2000.com recommends you prebook as much of your trip as you can.
“My advice to all my clients has been preplan as much as you can in advance,” says Rita Sanduja, a salesperson with over 20 years travel experience. “If you want to book any local excursions or transportation, do so in advance. Many suppliers even offer packages which include meals, so go for those.”
Safe and secure
Now Canadians can breathe a sigh of relief that their travel plans and access to money can remain virtually unaffected by Greece's financial turmoil, but what about all those protests we see on the news? Can you say the same about the country's safety?
“I don't have any concerns in terms of safety and security,” says Agnos. “At this point, we've had a lot of guests who are traveling. On the islands in particular, there really is no effect. It is business as usual. We've got people traveling and having a really, really wonderful time. The Greek hospitality remains intact the way that its been. There is uncertainty on the part of the Greek people, but that has no effect on tourists or tourism.”
The Canadian Government shares these sentiments, listing no nationwide security advisory and advising travellers to “exercise normal security precautions.”
Still, the large rallies and protests on the streets may scare some vacationers away from Athens, but Travelive has some alternatives in place for their clients.
“The rallies have been peaceful,” says Agnos. “But, for travellers who may not want to be in that environment where there are a lot of people gathering, we do have the option of moving them to the Athenian Riviera where they can be closer to the beach in a more suburban type of area and then they're outside of central Athens where there are no safety concerns whatsoever.”
Opportunity favours the bold
So with the path clear for travel to Greece on all fronts, the uncertainty of others may offer those unafraid to journey to the island a golden opportunity, especially with the dollar so strong against the Euro.
“The hotels are desperate for tourism and the prices are cheap, so this is the time to go to Greece now because Europe is normally expensive during its winter and unaffordable, but this is the time, things are cheaper and you should take advantage of that because you won't be seeing these prices for very long,” says Sanduja.
“After all, Greece is a beautiful country and all of us in the travel agent community believe this is a temporary thing.”