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Monday, 29 June 2015

Travel advice for Greece

On opening my 'regular' news websites today, I cannot believe the CRAP I am coming across about Greece. This post is intended to inform travellers to Greece about what is happening right this minute as I write: this 'advice' comes from a real Greek who lives and work here, and not an automated western-world governmental response to an unknown situation.

In Hania, I saw three things over the last two days - a bank run on the ATMs (that;s now over becos capital controls have been put in place - 60 euro per card), a petrol run (people are topping up out of panic) and a supermarket run, because people are topping up on staples. By staples, I mean real food that you can cook with - flour, rice, beans, sugar, pasta: stuff like that, not junk and ready to eats. (Greeks still know how to cook real food. Not all people do).

I only use credit cards at the supermarket and when I buy petrol. I never ever use cash for these purposes. Today I went to two supermarkets: they both accepted my credit cards (a different one was used for each supermarket) without any problem. 

I only use two petrol stations in my town: the ECO on the road out of Hania going onto the motorway, and the big BP (Kapetanakis) in Souda, as you leave Souda to get onto the motorway. I never use any other places - I know that these two places reputable. (Because I always get the petrol I expect to get.) On Saturday night, I was able to top up the car at the ECO station with my credit card. But  I heard that Kapetanakis is not accepting a debit card. A debit card is seen as withdrawing money from the bank straight from the account, but if banks aren't open, they will not be able to process the transaction. A credit card is like making a purchase, which will be paid later. Interest will not be charged on overdue payments while the banks are closed, ie while you will not be able to make a payment; this applies to Greek bank holders, not foreign bank accounts. (i read this in a report this morning - i need to find the link and will post it here once i find it - some information can be found here in Greek: http://www.tovima.gr/finance/article/?aid=717627 , and there is a bit about it in the Guardian live updates here http://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2015/jun/29/greek-crisis-stock-markets-slide-capital-controls-banks-closed-live#block-5590e9cfe4b024248ae9a664 ). 

Tourists with cards linked to foreign banks do not have capital controls forced on them while they are visiting the country. This advice comes from the news reports I am reading this morning: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite2_1_29/06/2015_551651 The capital controls on ATMs are only for Greek banks. 

I think that the problems for tourists are mainly in the places they choose to spend money on - small tavernas in small places may not do credit cards. I think this is their problem and not the tourists'. If in doubt, just ask, and if they say they don't accept credit cards, go elsewhere. Anyone who allows you to use a credit card is not ripping off the tax department (cash-only businesses are definitely not showing all their income).

I think that small out-of-town petrol stations are asking for cash only, so that they can force your cash out of you, so that they can hoard it. There is no other real explanation not to accept a credit card. You really need to look for places that will always allow you to use a credit card - they are most likely to be found in the urban areas rather than the rural areas. Reputable businesses do not hoard cash.

When I travel out of Greece, I always use my credit cards to make transactions. I do not actually use much cash at all. This is very unlike most of my compatriots who are cash hoarders. I don't like carrying a heap of cash on me. If you feel comfortable with that, then do it. I wouldn't. If you absolutely need to pay in cash, then have some cash on you. But that's the difference between a reputable business and a fly-by-nighter. I rarely need to pay by cash, but then again, I rarely go out for a meal. 

By the way, public transport is free up until the day after the referendum (ie July 6). See http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_29/06/2015_551653

On the issue of Grexit: Greece will never ever ask to leave the euro (€) or the EU. I can guarantee that. The only way for Greece to not be part of the euro (€) or the EU is for someone to deny her access to it. In other words, someone else will make her leave. If you ask Greece to leave, she won't. You will have to force her out. (So what Cameron is saying here http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_29/06/2015_551663 is effectively BS.) If you wake up to hear that Greece is out of the euro (€) or the EU, then you can guarantee that someone threw her out - she didn't leave of her own accord.

On the day of the referendum (July 5), there will be no hint of panic or chaos. I can guarantee that. Most people will go about their normal Sunday duties (sleep in, have lunch with family/friends, go to the beach if they live on the coast). There will be a hieghtened sense of security, so don't be surprised to see more police in the area - see http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_28/06/2015_551641 This is to be expected.

I can guarantee that if you are planning to come to Greece soon on holiday, you will probably have a really good time. As a Greek, I wouldn't travel out of the country now. I haven't made any travel plans at all. Why miss out on a Greek summer? 

UPDATE 30-6-2015: just popped into the INKA supermarket for my MiL's food needs - the supermarket accepts both debit and credit cards - it's a heap of shite what we are being told, that some companies can only operate on a cash basis: quite simply, they are evading taxes and hoarding cash.

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