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When in Greece...

Friday, August 07, 2015

Everyone’s packing their bags and heading to Greece amidst its latest financial crisis — and while that may not be such a bad idea, you need to be well-prepared! Yamini Walia & Pooja Salvi bring you a guide that will come in handy

96 billion US dollars — this is how much the latest Greek bailout agreement is worth! When a country is in such bad financial condition, you cannot help but wonder if it’s really such a good time to visit. Since around 20% of the GDP in Greece is generated from the tourism, you may actually be thinking of generously adding to their coffers with the holiday of a lifetime. We know you’re still sceptical about how safe it is. Greece is still however, as beautiful as ever and they could use a boost from travellers who are willing to enjoy the marvellous food, history, beaches and culture. Read on to find out more about the crisis and about how you can make the most of a holiday to Greece. What is the crisis about? If you have no idea what the Greece crisis is about, you are living under a rock. It takes great effort to not know about news that is trending across all social platforms and making headlines in the newspapers. In simple terms, Greece had borrowed huge sums of money in the name of bailouts to try and buy itself time to stabilize its finances. While the bailout money did help Greece to a certain extent, the economic problems haven’t completely gone away. The bailout money mainly goes to paying off Greece’s international loans rather than making its way into the economy. Besides this, the government has a staggering debt load that it cannot get rid of unless they somehow manage a recovery.

Should I be worried about strikes, violence and/or any civil unrest?
There aren’t any recorded instances of politically induced violence against tourists in Greece since the 70s. The only way tourists in Greece die is by irresponsible drinking and swimming. The country and its citizens have been sure to be patient with tourists throughout this crisis. In fact, we think visiting Greece is a win-win situation for both the parties— it is a bargain due to the low prices and the tourists can help Greece get on its feet.

Where can I expect a bargain or a decrease in price for cruises, hotels, food, accommodation and shopping?
Nothing in Greece is going to be very cheap. After about five years of deflation in the country, prices have definitely gone down compared to the 2010 rates, especially in services but not in products. Popular places such as Mykonos or Santorini are comparatively expensive places because demand and supply define the prices. On an average, you can assume they are going to be standard European Mediterranean prices. You can expect the hotels to be around 20-30% cheaper and the trip will cost you around 10-20% less than it otherwise would have.

A bonus with the newly elected government is that there are no demonstrations, riot police is (almost) not present on the roads, no tear gas is used and there are no fences in Syntagma square!

Will I be able to use my credit card?
Your credit cards should still work in Greece, but some hotels, restaurants and shops may insist on accepting payments via cash only — which is completely understandable. However, you should be aware of the possibility that banking services (including credit card processing and servicing of the ATMs) throughout Greece could potentially get limited on short notice. Hence, we suggest you keep some cash on yourself.

Will I be able to get cash from the ATM, or will I have to roam around with Euros in my pocket?
The ATMs in Greece are allowing Greek cards to withdraw only 60 Euros per day. However, the tourists aren’t experiencing any troubles in terms of withdrawal — you can withdraw as much as you want as there are no local limits, except obviously the limit your bank has set for your card. But, it is advisable to keep some cash with yourself to cover the duration of the stay and in cases of emergencies and/ or unforeseen circumstances and any delays. Credit cards are used almost everywhere, especially large supermarkets, large gas stations and hotels and most restaurants in tourist areas.

Will there be any food, medical or petrol shortages?
The tourist office of Greece confirmed that the provision of food and medical supplies in the country are fine and adequate. With reference to petrol shortage, travelling in Greece is somewhat similar to travelling in Goa— you hire bikes or cars. In this case, the suppliers have their own fuel reserves on site, so when hiring cars or bikes, the customers should contact the supplier if they are doubtful about the fuel situation. Also, several car hire companies allow customers to pick a car or a bike with a full tank.

“During end of June and the first week of July, when the crisis took place, you could negotiate and get better deals because there was a loss in inventory. But, now there’s no point of waiting — just book now! Some people have travel insurance which protects you from cancellations. So, if your insurance covers trip protection, you would definitely benefit. However, it all depends on the type of travel insurance as in India, most people buy only health-related insurance, which doesn’t really cover trip expenses. To sum up, I would say that all our customers, who have been to Greece lately have had happy trips. There has been no problem in terms of food or even, ATM withdrawals. It’s more of media hype with regards to tourism.” — Kanika Gandhi, COO at Cutting Edge Journey

Travel Tips
We help with you some travel tips that will help you explore Greece on a budget.

  • It’s ideal to rent a moped, especially when you can’t ride the train. It’s comparatively cheaper than renting a car and a convenient way to explore the various towns and cities.
  • Try to book the ferries well-in-advance. You can save up to 25% if you book the ferries at least two months in advance.
  • If you’re planning island hopping, booking overnight ferries is the best option. Otherwise, the inter-island ferries can prove to be quite expensive.
  • Try to indulge in street snacks as they’re relatively cheaper. They will keep you full in less than 10 Euros per day.
  • If you’re travelling on a very tight budget, avoid a visit to Mykonos. It’s a very expensive island with hardly any budget accommodation.

We all know how beautiful Greece is, so there are several things you can do or places that you can visit while you’re in the country. Here we tell you about a few of those.

Land of islands
Yes, we can certainly term Greece as the land of islands as it apparently has over 3,000 islands! But, only 130 are inhabited. So, island hopping might be the right thing to do, with the Cyclades Islands being the perfect option as each island boasts of stunning scenery and has its own distinct character.

Athens will transport you back in time with its sheer wealth of history. The centre of Athens is a 3km pedestrian zone leading to the archaeological park where you can witness the majesty of the Acropolis with its legendary Parthenon temple, Ancient Agora and Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Think: White and blue houses! What is the first place that pops in your head? We’re sure it’s the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini! This ‘precious gem of the Aegean’ is considered one of the most romantic places on earth, with idyllic cliff top towns, glorious sunsets and volcanic beaches with red, white or black sand.

Your visit to Athens is incomplete if you don’t witness the architectural marvel that is Acropolis.  Built entirely of marble, the temple used to house a giant statue of Athena, the city patron goddess. Stone-paved paths will lead you to a plethora of white Doric columns, monuments and temples gleaming in the sunlight. Illuminated at night, the Acropolis is a magnificent view that will leave you spellbound.

This can be easily termed as the Little Venice of Greece with its winding streets, colourful balconies and other charming hideaways. Mykonos is also the perfect destination if you’re looking to party the night away.

The Meteora
The Meteora of Thessaly, Central Greece, is a collection of six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on sandstone rock pillars. If you’re a hiker, this is the perfect place for you as the monasteries are accessible only by steps cut into the rock formations. 

Crete beaches
From secluded beaches with the softest white sand and enchanting coves with glistening coloured pebbles to vast stretches of sandy gold and rocky coastlines, Crete beaches are everything a true sun-lover dreams of. However, when you feel the need to stay off the sun for a little while, head to the magnificent Knossos Palace.

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