Crisis in Greece… at-a-glance guide to the latest news

With more than a million Brits heading for hols in Greece over the summer, the Euro crisis is sure to be causing concern. Read on to find out the latest Foreign Office update.

At-a-glance-guide to Greek crisis

At-a-glance-guide to Greek crisis

Here’s our instant guide to what’s happening in Greece and how it might affect holidaymakers. From money to insurance and emergency evacuations… we’ve the information you need right here.

In this feature…

Here’s what you’ll find in this feature to help plan your trip to Greece.

Latest travel advice and money
Cash, cards or cheques… we’ve the answers

Medication warning
Be prepared for shortages of medicines

Hire car problems revealed
Find out the latest news and don’t lose that car

How much cash will I need
We’ve details on local prices to help you budget

Is the Greek euro safe
How to avoid buying Greek-based euros

Where to stash your cash
Here’s the gear to help you keep your euros safe

Latest advice

Here’s is the latest advice from the Foreign Office. Find out all you need to know about travelling to Greece.

Take plenty of this to Greece

Take plenty of this to Greece

Greece update: Current July 22

What’s the official advice? Here’s what the UK Government advises:

“Banks in Greece reopened on 20 July. Only limited banking services are available. The Greek government continues to limit withdrawals using cards issued by Greek banks to €60 per day. These daily amounts can now be withdrawn cumulatively on a Friday (€300 on 25 July and €420 on each subsequent Friday).

You can withdraw cash using your UK card up to the daily limit imposed by the Greek banking system (usually €600), or the daily limit imposed by your card issuer – whichever is the lower amount. The system for paying with debit and credit cards for retail transactions continues to function. Western Union has suspended the transfer of money to and from Greece.”

What the latest ‘bail-out’ means for Brits in Greece

Greek MPs have agreed to the demands set out by Euro finance bosses in order to inject more cash into the debt-ridden country, but how could this affect tourists?

One thing’s for sure, with the deal in place, Brits heading to the country’s islands will be paying higher taxes on food and accommodation.

Prior to the deal, Greek Islands enjoyed lower VAT and tax rates to help lure the tourists who are so essential to the country’s economy, but that’s about to end as the Greeks implement the tax hikes demanded by Eurocrats in Brussels.

The deal will see tax on dining increased from 13% to 23%, while the levy paid on hotel rooms and fresh food will double to 13%. For a family of four, this could add more than £10 to an evening meal, while accommodation costs and other prices will also rise. These increases will come into effect almost immediately – so make sure you pack extra euros.

Additionally, the VAT discount of 30% offered to promote tourism on the country’s islands will be axed, but remotest islands will be allowed to keep it until 2016.

Greeks will also be subject to a luxury tax rise, which will include swimming pools. It’s possible this could lead to increased rental prices for tourists staying in villas and appartments with pools or those hiring boats.

All about money

Withdrawals are still limited for for locals and remain at €600 for tourists. However, many cash machines could become empty.

The UK Government continues to advise that travellers should take enough cash to cover their trip. It is unlikely that travellers will be able to swap sterling for euros in Greece, so please take the currency with you.

It’s also likely many smaller service providers – such as cafes and bars- will continue refuse to accept credit cards for fear of losing the money to banks.

Here is the current overview on spending in Greece.

Cash: The advice is simple here – take as much of this as possible. It’s the only sure-fire method of payment that’ll be accepted in Greece over the coming weeks. When buying your cash, ask for small denomination notes as large notes may be difficult to break in Greece; go for €5, €10 and €20 notes.

How much money will I need? Andrew Brown, from Post Office Travel Money, says his company estimate a couple will spend an around £500 in cash on a fortnight’s holiday on things such as meals out, drinks and snacks. This figure increases to £700 for a family. The estimate does not include days out, accommodation or buying goods.

Taking unspent euros out of Greece… Currently, there are no restrictions on non-nationals taking unspent euros out of Greece at the end of your stay.

This could change of course, so while tourists are being told to take ‘bundles of cash’ it would only be sensible to create a carefelly thought out budget and limit cash to what you’ll need to cover the holiday along with some extra for emergencies and delays

Travel association Abta has also updated its advice telling holidaymakers to check how much cash their travel insurance will cover. Several insurance companies – such as Aviva – have increased this amount. Check your company is one of them.

ATMs: Don’t rely on withdrawing cash; locals are still limited to the amount they can withdraw, so many will have daily queues and even run out of cash. Foreign cards aren’t subject to these controls – you can take up to €600 a day – but being a Brit won’t get you to the front of the queue or reserve cash for you.

Credit cards: In theory you should be able to use credit cards, but the reality is likely to be very different. With Greek banks on the brink, many service providers will not want to take electronic payment.

Currency cards: These will suffer the double-whammy of being limited for cash withdrawals and being turned down by retailers who don’t want ‘electronic funds’.

Is it safe to buy euros: Yes.The risk of an exit from the euro now seems to have been averted. In any case, an exit from the currency would not be instant, with many experts looking at a timescale of around 18 months before any separation would take place. You can choose not to buy Greek euros for added reassurance; see our guide below.

Travellers’ cheques: These aren’t widely used and may not be accepted.

Warning: Medications face shortage

Don't take chances with your health as Greek crisis hits local medical supplies

Don’t take chances with your health as Greek crisis hits local medical supplies

The UK Government has warned medical supplies are running out, so travellers should ensure they take enough medicine to cover their trip to Greece. Book a phone call with your doctor in advance of your holiday to speak about increasing your allowance to cover your trip and any possible delays. Be sure to take more than you need for the trip and store it in a safe and secure place. Read our guide to travelling with medicine to avoid delays or having it confiscated by airport security official.

How to travel with medication: With medications running low in Greece, it’s important to ensure you carry enough medication for your trip – with a few days’ extra to spare. Follow this advice to help ensure you don’t encounter problems at airports.

Many of us need to take regular medication and this shouldn’t be a barrier to travelling the globe – just make sure you’re aware of the rules. Click below for what you can and can’t take on the plane.

Overview: The info you need to get started

Overview: If you have a medical condition that requires medication, you should be allowed to carry quantities of more than 100ml in your hand luggage. This includes medicines and equipment such as inhalers and liquid dietary foodstuffs. However, these items must all be made available for screening if required.

Letter from a medical professional: Get the doc writing

Letter from a medical professional: Anyone who needs to carry medication in quantities exceeding 100ml, or medical equipment in hand luggage will need to have this confirmed in writing from a relevant and qualified medical professional. The letter must be available for inspection at all times. Most doctors will charge for this letter (from £10 upwards) and some might want to see you before they’ll write it, so make sure you request it at least two weeks before flying.

Original packaging: Loose pills cause problems

Original packaging: You should always keep all medicines in their original packaging and not be packed loose.

Where to pack: At-a-glance guide to travelling with your medicines

ItemAllowed in hand luggageAllowed in hold luggage
Tablets and capsulesYesYes
Essential liquid medicinesYes (over 100ml if successfully screenedYes
Hypodermic syringesYesYes
Cooling gel packsYes (if screened successfully)Yes
Medical equipment (eg CPAP and TENS)YesYes
Oxygen cylindersContact your airlineContact your airline

Possibility of strikes

The UK warns that strikes are common in Greece and the current climate could see more being called at short notice. Here’s the official advice from the UK Government:

There are regular strikes. These are sometimes called at short notice and can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece (including air travel and ports)

Travel insurance – check it now

With a degrading medical situation in Greece, the Foreign Office has stated all travellers should ensure they have ‘adequate travel travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation’. Failure to mention any medical conditions when buying insurance could result in the provider refusing to cover you in the event of a claim.

adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

Energency first aid kit

With possible shortages of medications and equipment forecast in Greece, here’s our emergency first aid kit to help ensure you are covered against mild sickness and superficial injuries.

Hire car problems reported

Some Brits have reported problems with smaller providers refusing accept vouchers that holidaymakers have been issued and are demanding cash instead. Please check with your hire car company before you travel to confirm your pre-paid booking will be honoured. For those who are yet to book a car, selecting a large, international franchise should help protect against such problems – or make it easier to clarify the situation ahead of travelling. Don’t forget your hire car code… click here for more.

Greek Government advice to travellers

The Greek authorities say: “It should be also noted that there is ample availability of both fuel and all products and services that ensure a smooth and fun stay for the visitors in every city, region and the islands.

“Greece continues to guarantee a high level of quality of services offered to visitors who have made our country a top tourist destination worldwide.

Work out how much cash you’ll need

With travellers being told to take enough cash to cover their holiday in Greece, here are details of holiday costs you’ll expect to pay for essential services and goods. The following looks at prices on Corfu and Crete but should apply across the Greek Islands, with most mainland destinations costing slightly.

Source: Post Office Travel Money Report

Source: Post Office Travel Money Report

Are Greek euros safe?

All euros come with a mark to denote which member state issued the note, with Greek currency identified by a ‘Y’. Many travellers are worried this means that not all euros are created equal and their cash could be rendered worthless in an ‘exit’ scenario – with all Greek euros instantly becoming devalued drachmas.

However, the official stance is that all euros are backed by the European Central Bank and each is worth same… regardless of nationality. If you’re still concerned, you are entitled to ask your currency exchange to avoid giving you notes with a ‘Y’ printed on them and most should be happy to oblige. If not – go somewhere that will. These non-Greek euros will be perfectly fine to spend on your hols.

Where’s that euro from?

Identify where your euros call home

Identify where your euros call home – this one’s Italian

Official advice says there’s no need to avoid Greek euros, but if you don’t feel comfortable, ask for a different host nation to provide your cash. Here’s how to tell where your note is from.

  • Look at the reverse of the note and find the serial number as above.
  • The letter at the start tells you where the note’s ‘home’ country is.
  • Greek notes start with ‘Y’ while our example is ‘S’ from Italy.
  • If you feel uneasy, simply ask for non-Greek notes

Here’s where some of the cash comes from…

German = X
Greek = Y
Spain = V
France = U
Ireland = T
Portugal = M
Italy = S
Belgium = Z
Cyprus = G
Luxembourg = R
Malta = F
Netherlands = P
Austria = N
Slovenia = H
Slovakia = E
Finland = L


Insurance and cancellations

Check your insurance and relax

Check your insurance and relax

Here is some general advice on how to ensure you don’t lose out financially if your holiday to Greece is hit by the crisis. Please check with your individual policy for insurance and credit card.

Insurance: Travellers have been advised to take enough cash to cover essentials should there be a sudden run on banks if the crisis deepens. It’s important that you read the small print on your insurance policy – or call them direct – to find out how much cash ‘loss’ is covered should you lose the money or have it stolen.

Can I cancel my holiday and get the money back from my insurance: If you cancel your package holiday, it’s likely that you’ll end up losing most of the cash. However, if the Foreign Office (FO) changes its stance and issues official advice against travel to Greece, then operators should be legally obliged to refund your money.
Get the latest Foreign Office advice here

Pay by credit card: If you haven’t already paid for your holiday, then paying for it using a credit card is likely to offer you financial protection should the crisis force suppliers to cancel you flights, accommodation etc.

Emergency evacuation plans

Don't panic - it's better to be safe than sorry

Don’t panic… it’s better to be safe than sorry

While there’s no immediate threat of problems in Greece, the Government and travel operators have made contingency plans to bring Brits home if the financial crisis deepens and affects holidaymakers. Here’s what we know so far…

What happens if Greece goes bust: With around 110,000 Brits holidaymakers in Greece at any one time over the summer, the UK Government and travel operators have put plans in place for a huge airlift to evacuate our citizens if the country crashes out of the euro.

Why is an airlift needed: The airlift could be necessary if Greece leaves the euro and banks either run out of money or imposes emergency limits on withdrawals as locals dash to grab their cash ahead of a huge devaluation of their savings that’s sure to happen. This is why Brits are being told to take plenty of cash (in the form of euros) if visiting the country.

Stash your cash while out and about…

Clothing and wallets to keep your money safe

Clothing and wallets to keep your money safe

Carrying large amounts of cash is always risky and even more so in areas you’re unfamiliar with. While Greece is not usually a high-risk country for crime, current events could make you more vulnerable to theft or simply losing your cash. Here are some tips for safely storing your euros…

1) Money belts that look like belts: Unlike traditional money belts that make an obvious target, these look like normal belts but have pockets with zips to stash cash.
How much: £10.99
Where: Get them here

2) Pocket underwear: A great way to keep your money safe. Underwear for both men and women with pockets to stash your cash while out and about.
How much: From £11.70
Where: Get them here

3) Bra wallet: Keep your cash close to your chest with this bra-mounted wallet. The lightweight wallet fits in your bra and is 100% invisible and won’t restrict movement.
How much: £6.99
Where: Get them here

4) Softflop sandals: Heading to the beach? Use your sandals to stash the cash leaving you free to head to the surf. Simply slot your cash into the hidden compartment and relax.
How much: From £15.99 (plus shipping)
Where: Get them here

5) Underclothe wallet: Traditional wallets can easily be stolen, but this lightweight wallet can be worn securely under your shirt and make it virtually impossible for pickpockets to reach.
How much: £14.99
Where: Get them here

6) Leg wallet: A stretchy leg band – or upper arm band – the wallet has two zip-fastened pockets to hold your cash while out and about. The wallet is invisible under clothing.
How much: £18.61
Where: Get them here

7) Money socks: These socks might be a little hefty for a trip to the Greek beach, but the zip-fastened pocket might make a useful place keep your cash while heading out to dinner in the cooler evenings.
How much: £9.50 (plus shipping)
Where: Get them here



2 comments for “Crisis in Greece… at-a-glance guide to the latest news

  1. Jane
    June 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I’m in Rhodes and withdrawal restrictions started last night to 60 euro per day. I took the advise given before travelling and bought plenty of euros should I need them.

    • Pete Barden
      June 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks for the update Jane. Are there queues at the cashpoints?

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