Travelling to Greece? Tourists are being urged to take cash as banks empty

An army contingent carry a Greek flag in front of the Temple of the Parthenon before a hoisting ceremony at the Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
An army contingent carry a Greek flag in front of the Temple of the Parthenon before a hoisting ceremony at the Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Tourists travelling to Greece this summer are being advised to take enough euro in cash to last their entire holiday and cover any emergencies amid fears the country is heading towards a financial collapse.

Holidaymakers are warned that cash machines in the country are swiftly being emptied and trying to use debit or credit cards may prove futile as businesses desperately try to get hold of cash.

Greece is dangerously close to having to leave the eurozone after pleas for an extension of bailout plans over a 1.6 billion euro (£1.1 billion) debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund were rejected.

The Greek government has announced that banks will be closed all week, and the Foreign Office (FCO) has advised tourists they may not be able to access cash in the country.

Around two million Britons make tourist trips to Greece every year, and Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at website TravelSupermarket.com, said those travelling this summer should take steps to ensure they are not left stranded without access to money - a position echoed by the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta).

He also urged tourists to take out insurance that will cover them against travel disruption.

Cash withdrawals from ATMs in Greece have been limited to 60 euro (£42) a day, and Mr Atkinson said people have been queuing up to empty machines of whatever they can get, with reports that only 40% of ATMs have any money in them.

He said: “The likelihood of you finding an ATM now with cash in it every day is slim, so we are now saying you should take enough cash in euro to last for your entire holiday because we don’t know how long it will be before the ATMs are back to working normally.

“Some people might say just pay for everything on card, but the problem with that is that many small retailers, such as restaurants, cafes and bars, are saying they don’t want cards, they want cash.”

Mr Atkinson advised tourists to take all the holiday money they think they will need in cash, and to have cards as a back-up.

He also urged travellers to ensure their travel insurance will cover for travel disruption and delays that could arise from civil action such as strikes, and they should also be aware of the possibility of hotels and businesses going under during the summer.

Those travelling independently by booking their own flights and accommodation should ensure they have a policy with cover for “end suppliers failure”, he added.

“That will cover you if you have booked independent travel arrangements and a hotelier or car rental company or whatever went out of business, you would have some kind of recourse and possibly get your money back.”

He also recommended those considering a trip to Greece and who are yet to book to ensure they opt for a package holiday backed by the Civil Aviation Authority’s Atol scheme, which would offer protection against cancellations and delays and ensure holidaymakers have alternative transport arrangements and get their money back.

Mr Atkinson also urged people to heed the FCO’s travel advice, which can give information on money issues, demonstrations and civil unrest.

The FCO has issued updated travel advice for Greece warning tourists of potential problems of using credit and debit cards and getting money from cash machines, which may become limited.

It said: “Make sure you have enough euros in cash to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays.”

Mr Atkinson said the 60 euro withdrawal limit from cash machines was only intended for accounts linked to Greek banks, and tourists should be able to take out up to their normal daily card limit.

But he warned there were no guarantees that ATMs will have been set correctly to recognise the difference in accounts, and that they may automatically have a 60-euro limit.

A spokesman for Abta said: “At this time, there are no limits on cash withdrawals for tourists using cards at ATMs. However, there are mixed reports on availability of cash from ATMs.

“We advise holidaymakers and travellers heading out to Greece this summer to take enough euros in cash to cover all of their needs. Other payment methods such as credit and debit cards are accepted as normal in shops and restaurants.

“We would also advise holidaymakers and travellers, as we would with any destination, to take out travel insurance as soon as they book their holiday to provide protection should they need to cancel.”

Abta said it did not expect tour operators to have to rebook tourists into different destinations, and said it has “no indication” of any disruptions for holidaymakers.