Is It Safe to Travel to Greece Now?
Had it been year 2008 and you asked the question, ‘Is it safe to travel to USA now?’, our answer to your question would be, ‘NO’. But since we are in 2015 and the country in question is Greece, we will revisit our answer. Instead of giving you a simple one-word answer, we will cover some details that will help you become a better judge.
Let us start by asking a question. Why did you ask the question in first place?
There can be several answers:
- The Ukraine/Crimea Crisis:It take 23 hours and 14 minutes of flight time from Ukraine to reach Greece. Between Greece and Ukraine sits Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. So, you should be pretty much well-padded against the military conflict there and the ever-increasing Russia-NATO crisis. Russia is not eyeing for Greece. You will stay very much safe in Greece.
- The Syrian Crisis: Okay, this may be a little bit of a concern because the Syrian crisis has actually pushed millions of people out of their homes. Millions of people from Syria are entering Europe with hopes of asylum. They are taking a very common route. They are first getting into Turkey. From there, they are making their way to Athens through the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. From Greece, they are moving into Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, France and other European countries. Of course, Greece is the gateway to Europe. So, there may be some conflicts between Greek police and refugees. However still, most of the refugees are eyeing beyond Greece or are staying in Turkey because Turks have turned out to be extremely hospitable to the refugees. Thus, keeping in mind the pressure on Germany, France and other European countries, Greece is pretty much immune to the refugee influx in Europe. This isn’t really a big threat for tourists because refugees are trying to save their own lives. They are not after anyone else’s life.
- The Economic Crisis in Greece: Well, this is definitely the most important problem that people are thinking of, especially those who are planning to travel to Greece as tourists. Is this your problem? Allow us the opportunity to shed some light on this problem.
The question we need to be asking now is, “What has caused the financial crisis in Greece?” The problem came because of national or economic debt. Greece is not really a rich country and on top of that Greece has this habit of spending more money that the nation’s overall earnings. She takes billions of Euros as loan from European Union, in particular from European Central Bank that controls the currency in Euro Zone.
Good news for Greece however is that she is not as much in debt as the US economy which has this gargantuan debt of $18 Trillion. Can you even think of how big this amount is? Compared to that, the amount of money Greece owes to other European countries is far less. Still, billions of Euros or Pounds in debt is not really a good sign.
The Greek financial crisis is not a new one. It started back in 2001 when she joined Euro. It was a strict requirement for countries joining the Eurozone that their spending should not exceed their gross domestic product by 3%. This was not the case with Greece. She continuously hid her poor economic conditions. By 2004 when the new government came in power, her budget deficit was 8.5%. Instead of revealing the misdeeds of the previous government and trying to do something about reviving the economy, the new government once again hid the problems from Eurozone members because Olympic Games were approaching fast and Greece was supposed to host it. She was proud as Olympic Games originated in Greece.
Nonetheless, in the wake of 2008 depression that started in USA and then trickled down to entire world, Greece’s economic problem became too big to be kept hidden. Other member countries came to know about the problems in 2008. The member countries understood very well that if they did not help Greece, their own cost of borrowing will skyrocket. So they decided to bailout Greece from her problems.
International investors however came to know about Greece’s condition in 2009. They all lost confidence in Greece and now as credit worthiness of the country was spiraling down, other countries said, ‘Fine, we will loan you money but at higher interest rates!’
In 2010, Greece received €110 billion in loan but at higher interest rates.But, the European nations also said, ‘Hey, cut down your expenses, increase your taxes.’ That was the most logical thing Eurozone countries could say.
The Greek citizens weren’t happy about this and they opposed. The government however had nothing else to do and they, did exactly what was suggested by other countries. The result?
The citizens of Greece paid more taxes (income taxes). This means, they were left with little money for spending. Because they had little money for spending, they started buying less. So essentially, they start paying less sales taxes and other value added taxes. So, while income tax earnings of government increased, the other tax revenues plummeted. Also, government had to save money. So, the government started laying off employees. Unemployment increased.
Things became worse between 2010 and 2012. Greece took more loans and then with the effective loan amount standing at € 246 billion, the total money Greece owed to others was 135% bigger than the total earnings of the country in a given year.
By 2015, the conditions didn’t improve. Now however, Alexis Tsipras led the left-wing government. Problem! The relationship between Greek Prime Minister and international lenders is not very good. Though Tsipras and his finance minister were trying hard to get another bailout loan, all negotiations broke completely in June.
As June came to end, Greece defaulted again and this time, she failed to repay IMF or International Monetary Fund. Result? Capital control measures were introduced quickly by the government. This was in form of limiting the daily money withdrawal limit for Greek citizens.
Weeks later, Greek government wanted to introduce a set of new measures to deal with the debt. These new measures were again at the cost of well-being of Greek citizens. How come? The new measure was to ask for more loan. Somehow, EU did give more loan and this time € 86 billion.
So, back to the question: “Is it safe to travel to Greece now?”
Let us find out!
- Greece is in debt. She needs to pay back money. So the question is, ‘Will she try to block a revenue source, namely tourism?’ No she won’t! Rather she is now as actively a recipient of tourists as she was in past. Tourism is a source of income.
- Withdrawal restrictions of € 60 (nearly $ 66) a day for Greek citizens do not apply to tourists. They are allowed to withdraw as much as they need. Simple logic here! They more they spend, the more Greece earns.
- Public demonstrations are more localized and are pretty much restricted in main cities. Outskirts of Greece barely look touched by the financial crisis.
- Air fares have gone down. This is simple! The lower the air fare, the likelier it is for tourists to come in.
- Carrying multiple payment means can save the day! In short, apart from plastic money, it is necessary to carry cash. Sometimes, waiting time at ATMs is way too long and hence, carrying cash is far better.
- In case banks in Greece collapse, having cash in hand is a good way to travel around without relying on the banking system.
- Avoiding gatherings that can quickly escalate into violence is a good thing to do. Those gatherings are Greece’s domestic problems and steering clear of such mobs is always going to keep you safe.
- Greek businessmen in tourism industry have become far more hospitable to tourists in the wake of the financial crisis. So, it will be a really enjoyable stay at Greece.
- As a matter of fact, experienced travelers are flocking to Greece now because conditions are ripe enough to enjoy a lovely tour at lower rates because in conditions like these tourists are in a better position to strike a good deal. Why? Every hotel owner or tour operator will want some extra cash from tourists in the current economic conditions. Whoever gives a better deal gets new tourists. So, it’s a price war that Greeks are fighting and the ones who are benefiting are the tourists.
- Finally, there are absolutely no reports of goods shortage in Greece. Only thing that is short at this point is money. Your arrival there is more like a bag full of money arriving in a country that desperately needs money. You are really going to be a respected and highly welcomed person!
So, don’t drop your ideas of not visiting Greece. It is not only safe to travel to Greece at this point in time but is actually beneficial. Be there and enjoy the majestic beauty that the country has to offer.