Should I go to Greece this year?
Greece has hit the headlines in recent weeks due to the possibility that it might exit the euro and because of the political uncertainty that is sweeping the country. As a result, many holidaymakers are becoming concerned about travelling to the destination in the coming months.
However, there are currently no restrictions in place from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on travel to Greece, and the vast majority of holidaymakers who have already visited the country in 2012 have experienced no disruption to their trip.
In fact, with the pound currently at a three-and-a-half year high against the euro and with the price of many Greek holidays being slashed, British holidaymakers could actually benefit from the eurozone turmoil and get more for their holiday money in summer 2012.
To help you decide whether Greece should be on your travel radar, and to explain the situation if you’ve already booked a trip, we’ve answered some common Greece holiday questions below.
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Is it still safe to book a holiday to Greece this year?
Yes, and searches for Greece holidays have actually increased by 17.5% on TravelSupermarket so far in May compared to April.
However, as with any holiday you book to any destination, ensure you are covered should something go wrong while you are away.
If you can, book a package holiday protected by the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) ATOL scheme. If you do this and any part of your break were to collapse, you would be covered by the scheme and wouldn’t lose any money. If you were away at the time of a collapse, the CAA would arrange for you to be brought home at the end of your arranged holiday period.
If you aren’t buying a package holiday, but are booking a flight plus car hire or accommodation through the same travel provider, you could still be protected by ATOL through the CAA’s new Flight-Plus scheme. To be covered you have to book the two elements of your trip within 24 hours of each other. Read more about the Flight-Plus scheme and whether your holiday will be covered by it here.
All holidaymakers should also ensure that they have adequate travel insurance before they go away, but if you are going to Greece, you should check your policy carefully to make sure you would be covered if your travel plans were affected by a strike.
For even more protection – and especially if your holiday is not covered by ATOL – look for an insurance policy that covers ‘end supplier failure’. This will protect you should any part of your holiday collapse and will allow you to rebook the failed element without incurring an extra charge.
Finally, for a belt and braces approach, pay for your holiday using any credit card or a Mastercard or Visa debit card. You will then be protected under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or the Chargeback scheme respectively.
I’ve already booked a holiday to Greece – what should I do?
As mentioned above, you should make sure that any holidays to Greece are fully protected by either the ATOL scheme or travel insurance. If you have these measures in place, all you need to do is look forward to your break.
Our travel expert, Bob Atkinson, recently returned from a trip to the country and has not been put off from travelling to Greece at all.
Bob said: “Not having been to the country for a number of years, I found my recent trip really inspirational. I am now planning more Greek breaks to make the most of the good food, the walking opportunities and the glorious weather which will allow me to laze about on the beach and cool off in the clear waters.”
I want to cancel my holiday to Greece – can I do this?
As there are currently no restrictions in place from the FCO for travel to Greece, if you were to cancel, you would be charged a cancellation fee from the company you booked with. For example, if you were to cancel a package holiday booked through Thomson 15-21 days before your departure date, you would have to pay a cancellation charge of 90% of the value of your holiday.
Will I be affected by strikes or political unrest?
The vast majority of holidaymakers have not been affected by any political unrest while on holiday in the country – especially those travelling to the Greek islands.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) is also keen to stress that, despite all the press coverage, the number of strikes and demonstrations in the country in April-May 2012 actually reduced compared to the same period last year, and the association said that the chance of strikes in the country this summer is “lower than in most other European countries”.
However, as mentioned above, for peace of mind check that your travel insurance would cover you should any strikes take place and affect your plans. And, if you are aware that any strikes are planned during your trip, it is worth calling your insurance provider to check that the cover still stands.
What about my travel money?
While now is a good time to buy euros generally due to the favourable exchange rate (read more in Clare Walsh’s article ‘Should I buy my euros now?’), if you are heading to Greece, you may be a little less sure about buying your currency in advance.
While we would normally advise shopping around online in advance for your travel money and opting for a pre-paid card for the bulk of your currency, this method may not be suitable for Greece.
Instead, keep an eye on the situation in the country in the run up to your break and buy your currency the week before you travel. If there is no talk of an imminent exit from the euro, we would advise taking your currency in a mixture of euros and sterling in low denominations, as well as a credit card which is suitable for overseas use. This way, if anything did change, you would have access to cash should ATMs be out of action.
However, taking more currency away than normal with you has its risks too, so check the limit on your travel insurance policy for lost or stolen cash. Think carefully about where you will store your cash when it isn’t on you, as many policies won’t cover lost unattended cash unless it is kept in a secure place such as a safe.
What happens if Greece stops using the euro while I am in the country?
It is important to remember that, even if Greece exits the euro while you are on holiday, the change to another currency such as the drachma is unlikely to be immediate, and there will probably be a transition period to bed the new currency in.
While you may suffer some disruption – for example, cash machines and electronic banking might be frozen while the country processes the change – if you are prepared with notes in a low denomination and a credit card suitable for overseas use, you should be able to carry on with your holiday as normal.
And, in the long run, a return to the drachma could actually benefit holidaymakers as trips to Greece are likely to become even better value.