Family holiday in Greece? Here’s what you need to know

If you're travelling to Greece this summer, read this before you go...

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With the current financial turmoil, you may be feeling a little anxious if you’re taking your family away for a Greek holiday. So what extra planning should you be doing to make sure your summer holiday goes smoothly? We give you the lowdown on everything you need to know…

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I’ve seen all the demonstrations in the streets. Is it safe to still go to Greece?

It’s perfectly safe to travel to Greece. The demonstrations are isolated and are most definitely not targeted at tourists. It’s worth remembering that the backbone of Greece’s economy is the tourist trade, so most Greeks will be truly thankful that you’re visiting their country. That said, if you’re heading for Athens, it’s probably worth asking your hotel’s staff if there are any particularly demonstration-prone areas to avoid.

What do I do about money?

Cash is the best policy in Greece right now. And Euros are fine. Even if Greece does leave the Euro, it will take at least 18 months to roll out a new currency. 

Can I use an ATM?         

Greek banks are shut for the moment, and Greek nationals (and those with Greek bank accounts) are only allowed to take out 60 at a time. But this limit does not apply to tourists.The Embassy of Greece in London has confirmed that tourists can use their debit or credit cards to withdraw cash up to their own personal limit. Of course, this situation may change, and it’s also possible that ATMs on some of the smaller Greek islands, may run out of cash. 

Can I use credit cards?

Yes, at present you can still use your credit cards but you definitely check with the individual companies before you fly if you’re due to pay for a hefty bill such as accommodation or renting a car. A lot of smaller companies, including some restaurants, are no longer taking card payments. Certainly, if you haven’t booked any accommodation yet and can pay in advance in sterling, it may well be the easiest and the least stressful way to go.

How much money should I take with me?

Make sure you have enough money for all your everyday expenses, as well as a little bit extra for unforeseen emergencies. You might feel a bit uneasy about carrying so much cash but your hotel or complex should have security boxes, so that you only need to take part of your cash each day. But, as credit cards may not always do the tricks and ATMs possibly running out of cash, you’re definitely going to have a much more enjoyable holiday if you err on the side of taking too much cash into the country rather than not enough.

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Can I pay for anything in advance so I don’t have to take so much money with me?

It’s really worth checking with your holiday company whether you can pay for activities in advance. If you’ve looked at the brochure and you want to take advantage of organised day trips, there’s no harm in asking if you can pre-book and pay up front. You might even find that, if you’re staying in a complex, you can pre-buy meal vouchers, too.

If I go strictly cash only, will my insurance cover me if it’s stolen?

You will need to double-check with your insurance company. Aviva has actually doubled its insurance policy for holidaymakers traveling to Greece, so it’s definitely worth calling up your provider to see if they’ve done the same, or shop around if you’ve yet to book. 

What happens if we come unstuck and run out of money or can’t use our cards?

Somebody back at home can transfer money into the country using the service provided by Western Union.  It might be worth setting up an account before you leave home just in case.

Will my insurance cover me if my hotel/B&B/holiday accommodation owner goes out of business?

If you have booked you holiday through an ATOL company, you are automatically covered if you company goes out of business. If you have booked your accommodation separately, you will need to refer to your insurance terms and conditions or contact them directly to double-check. Also, if you are planning on booking activities in advance, do check again that they are covered in your insurance if the company goes bust.

Are the hospitals still open?

Yes but Greece’s health services have been seriously affected by the recession and massive budget cuts. In mid-June, the Greek government came to a preliminary agreement with medical suppliers to help pay off the debt and continue to supply much-needed medicines to the hospitals, but the debt is still in its billions so it’s hard to know how long this will last, and how long you would have to wait to be seen in an emergency. There are, of course, private hospitals but you need to check your insurance would cover you if you used one.

What about pharmacies?

The pharmacies are going through a similar situation, so if you need to take medication, make sure you pack more than enough for your holiday. It’s also worth thinking about taking your own first aid kit to ensure you’re also covered for little emergencies too.

Is it cheap to go to Greece right now?

It is actually a really cheap time to go to Greece at the moment. Holiday companies such as Thomson, Travel zoo, Travelsupermarket.com and Ionian Holidays have slashed prices by up to 50% to encourage holidaymakers to the area. You will also find that locals restaurant have become very competitive with their pricing and eating is far cheaper than many other European destinations.

What happens if I get stranded in Greece?

If you have booked a package holiday through an ATOL company, they will have a contingency plan to get you home. If you have booked your flights separately, you will need to check with your airline. And, obviously, if there are any major concerns prior to your travel, and you’ve booked through a travel company, they will contact you and cancel your holiday automatically.

Can I cancel my holiday at this stage?

You can but, if you do, it is very likely that your holiday insurance company won’t pay up. They will typically only do this if the Foreign Office issues a warning advising people not to travel, The Foreign Office’s travel advice site  is updated regularly with news about safety issues so, if you have an concerns, it’s worth checking regularly but, at this stage, there aren’t any major concerns about anyone travelling to Greece.

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