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Greek banks closed indefinately?

We have tickets to Athens for July 7. The most recent news states Greek banks are closed indefinately. We were already planning on getting euros on the layover. I'm uncomfortable with that much cash even in a money belt. Ideas? We plan to spend 3 weeks in Greece. My first trip to Europe too. If the banks are shuttered is it unwise to go to Greece.? How would we change plans at this late date. Aaaak I really want to go to Greece. Ideas anyone?

Posted by
384 posts

Hi Lisa,

According to the BBC, the banks are expected to re-open on July 7. Whether they'll have any money in them is a totally different issue.

-- Mike

Posted by
5789 posts

If we could only predict the future. In the meantime rumors abound from bank shutdowns to fuel panics.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/28/us-eurozone-greece-idUSKBN0P40EO20150628?irpc=932

Sunday afternoon 6:48 pm. EDT 6-28-2015:

Banks are expected to be closed all next week, and there will be a daily 60 euro limit on cash withdrawals from cash machines, which will reopen on Tuesday. Capital controls are likely to last for many months at least.
The euro fell sharply against the dollar and safe-haven U.S. government debt futures rallied as investors exhibited fears of a Greek default and exit from the euro zone.
"That is going to have a real big impact on markets and that will generate increased volatility," said Ian Stannard, European head of FX strategy at Morgan Stanley in London.
The euro (EUR=) fell nearly 2 U.S. cents to a one-month low in early Asia Pacific trade.
Travel companies had been warning tourists for some weeks that they should be prepared to take extra cash, given the likelihood of problems with the system. But the sight of cash machines that had run dry was a visible shock to many tourists.

Posted by
6879 posts

No one can give you a totally accurate answer as the situation is evolving (the press is reporting a lot of conflicting info so keep track of specific, concrete actions instead of news stories or speculation). Don't stress, just be prepared with having cash on you (get it overseas at your layover airport ATM, not here) and using your credit card where you can. You'll be visiting while history is being made - that's an interesting first trip to Europe and one you won't likely forget.

Posted by
10344 posts

Lisa,
Because this is a very unusual situation, it's difficult to know what the best advice or course of action would be.
Of course you can buy cash euros here, and that may be your best choice. But unfortunately the amounts of cash you would need for the whole trip would be large and would require you to pay "fees" that would be substantial.

But if you "hope for the best" and simply assume (with no reason for your assumption except wishful thinking) that you can get euros out of ATM machines in Greece, and then it turns out you can't--well, you would just be standing there at the ATM machine with nothing you can do about it, and that would put you in a difficult situation.

Maybe some other people here know of a less expensive way to obtain euros before you go.

Assuming the credit card systems/arrangements of Greek hotels and larger restaurants are not affected by what's happening, you would of course plan to pay for hotels with your credit card (you could contact your hotels to verify that they are still accepting credit cards).

Posted by
2829 posts

The last currency crisis in Europe happened in Iceland, in 2008. It is pretty much a guess what will happen in Greece.

If things are solved quickly, you (and everybody else) should have access to ATM by then. If a more serious crisis ensue, then ATMs would be very busy with locals withdrawing whatever money they can and you could expect banks to be shut down or with lengthy queues.

In the chaos scenario, what happens to card acceptance is anyone's guess as well.

Since you are travelling next week already, I'd suggest that, contrary to what I say 99.9% of the time here, carrying physical Euro with you is the less hassle alternative.

Posted by
2950 posts

From "Clausar" in the Fodor's Greece forum: "The Greek Government informed that holders of credit or debit cards that are issued abroad are not subject to any limit, and can use their cards for withdrawals from ATM's or payments as usual."

Posted by
6879 posts

Regarding prior comment: although it may be true that foreigners may face no limits on withdrawal amounts, the ATMs will still run out of money at some point. Greece can't afford to hemorrhage more cash because the EBC is not replenishing withdrawn money (at least that is the case today...tomorrow, who knows?). The banks are practically out of money; hence the capital controls to save whatever is left and ration it in slow drips.

The government wants to not scare away tourists, which is understandable.

Posted by
4 posts

In the post "Will I be able to get Euros from ATMs in Greece", DebbieP said the State department is warning that banking services could be interrupted, including credit card transactios"

Posted by
9 posts

Our best plan seems to be: euros on the layover, And be ready for the adventure!

Posted by
10344 posts

Lisa,

There could be a couple of problems with your "euros on the layover" plan:

1) An ATM has a transaction and a daily limit on how much cash you can get. And the ATM limit at your layover airport may not be nearly enough cash for your entire visit. Usually this isn't a high stakes issue because, if a layover airport ATM limit is, say, 200 euros, no big deal, you just get more cash from ATM's at your destination. But it's looking like there's a definite possibility that you can't get euros at Greek ATM's.
The ATM limit at your layover airport will be determined by 2 things: a) your US bank account's daily limit for ATM withdrawals from your account's limit, and b) the limit set by the financial institution that controls the ATM overseas (in this case, your layover airport ATM).
Bottom line: You may not get nearly enough cash as you need to fund your entire cash needs for the entire Greek trip.

2) Sometimes ATM's don't work the first time. You're standing there at the ATM and it's not giving you cash. Again, usually not a big deal, you simply get euros from a Greek ATM. But in your case, it's high stakes, because if for any reason the layover airport ATM doesn't work, you're just standing there holding the bag, and I don't mean a bag of euros.

Posted by
24 posts

I am currently in Greece on a RS tour. We brought Euros with us from the U.S. I would strongly suggest you do the same as most ATM's are currently empty. You can order euros from your bank in the U.S. I suggest getting mostly smaller denominations.

Posted by
1955 posts

Lisa,
My opinion is that in crisis time, one needs a crisis plan -- especially when one will be in a foreign land. In a crisis plan, it is good to have a primary plan then a back-up plan -- call it a safety net. What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? Have a plan, and then a back-up plan.

If strikes happen (trucks) such that fuel is not being pumped (yes that happened a few years ago), if you have E60 cash on hand, maybe you could offer a local to take you to the airport when you need to leave, if that local still has a tank of gas. If a hotel is suddenly closed for some reason (in ability to process payments, workers not able to get to work, or whatever unforeseeable situation), cash might be able to negotiate somewhere to stay....another hotel, a private home or place of worship (that you carefully evaluate as being safe).

While the suggestion to get euro from an ATM on a layover would normally have great merit (and still could work quite well in your circumstance), I personally would not have that be my only plan if I wanted to ensure I had enough euro cash to go about my 3 week trip.

This is an unusual circumstance, and a lot can happen in 3 weeks.

I would do two things:

1) Pull my travel insurance policy to see if it would cover my trip, so I could reschedule for a more peaceful time. Before I cause a flurry of people criticizing me, do remember the Greeks are very passionate people, and any inconveniences tourists might face are multiplied for people who live in Greece. In the past, the passion has often been expressed in strikes, some with a few violent actions, as frustration mounts.

All could work out just fine, but I would call it a 50/50 chance at this point.

2) Get whatever amount of cash euro that you will need BEFORE you leave the US (from your bank). Pay the fees and call that your safety net. Get your euros in 10s/20s for more flexibility. Order an extra neck wallet and/or money belt from Rick's travel store, or pop into a local store that sells that type stuff. Is it a wod to wear, yep....but will you be able to buy food? Yes, more likely. (And, of course, pre-sort, pre-count the cash you need before each day, so no one knows you are carrying around so much cash.

We know how you feel......years ago, we were leaving for a cruise when in the months/weeks prior, Greece was a mess with protesting, food, fuel, etc. not moving. We were very worried, but the strikes stopped and our trip was lovely. Just steps from our hotel in Plaka, weeks earlier I saw on tv an explosive device (bomb of some sort) set off. A few windows were still boarded when we arrived, but it was otherwise peaceful. THIS TIME, for you, though, having banks closed for a week is a different situation. All I can share is what I would personally do, if I were in your shoes. Am I right, am I wrong? Who knows? I hope things work out such that any precautions or safety nets you had to put into place turn out to be un-needed. But, I sure don't want to see you on international news as a tourist lined up hoping to find cash or food or shelter.

Have a safe (and hopefully seamless, fun) trip. Or, if you have trip insurance that will cover any lost deposits, watch the situation and decide the day before you are scheduled to go whether to go or bail.

Posted by
6 posts

Lisa, my husband and I were in Greece with our two teenage children from June 1- June 10. Of course everything was still normal then but here is what I learned about money there. #1. If you haven't already DO pay your hotels/transfers/ferries in advance. We used Aegean Thesaurus Travel Agency (Sandra) to make our land arrangements and so all of this was prepaid for us and helped tremendously. If you booked these on your own contact them and pay in full now. We used a credit card that pays us back so that offset exchange fees, but the peace of mind was worth a small fee anyway. If you only booked the hotels but not transfers/ferries, assuming they are reputable hotels, contact them and ask them to arrange your transfers in advance so you can pay that ahead, or go to Matt Barrett's site: http://www.greektravel.com/ and find George Kokkonos Taxi Service. I can't tell you how nice it was at each stop to have these services handled ahead of time and they were delivered exactly as promised. #2. Except for the pricey resort type restaurants in Oia, Santorini where we stayed 3 nts, food restaurants were very affordable compared to U.S. prices. We found credit cards accepted at many more places than we had been led to believe ahead of time, but don't know if you can count on that now. So we exchanged about $150 here in U.S. before leaving and then planned on exchanging more upon arrival in Athens, but not at airports because despite everyone on these forums recommending them, they still have very poor exchange rates compared to what you could get in Greek banks. That is now not going to be an option for you tho. The amount we did exchange our first day in Athens was about $550. We expected to have to change money again since we were staying 10 days but that lasted us with money to spare. But like I said, we had paid the big stuff in advance and were able to charge while there. #3. Re: carrying cash around, every place we stayed, even on the small island of Sifnos, had a safe in the room. We were warned about pickpockets but never felt unsafe. I would, however, be especially on guard now, tho, since thieves will be aware of tourists having more cash on them due to circumstances so USE THE SAFE. #4. If you are able to change money when you get there, go to the Post Office vs. a Bank. Our "bellboy" John at the Athens Gate Hotel was full of advice and that one was brilliant. Much better rate and lower fees then at banks and especially vs. airport. #5. Remember there's always a bright side: You are liable to encounter much smaller crowds and Greeks thrilled to have your business due to the situation. We found everyone there to be unbelievable kind and patient. Hope you do too.

Posted by
16883 posts

If a particular ATM (e.g. at your transfer airport) has a low transaction limit, then you are allowed to make multiple withdrawals from that machine or others. But you will still run into your bank's own daily withdrawal limit, which is not much related to the funds you have on deposit, so check that limit before you leave home, and ask for it to be raised. Typically, a traveler might get a limit raised from $300 to $500/day, for instance; getting it raised over $1000 might take some negotiation (although our corporate cards do allow it).

Posted by
638 posts

Another thing to consider if you plan and wait to get Euro at a layover airport is the other travelers doing the same thing. Though the machines may not run out of cash the lines at the ATMs could potentially be very long because everyone has the same mindset, that is "I may not be able to get cash in Greece, better get it now". Just think about it, your flight to Athens has 200 people for example, half those people could be in line at the ATM in front of you. Since it's a layover you'll be on limited time and may not even be able to get to the machine. Normally I'm not a proponent of getting cash before leaving home however this is one case where it just might be prudent.

Posted by
10344 posts

It seems uncertain whether the OP can get sufficient cash euros out of airport layover ATM's to fund the cash needs of their entire trip to Greece (because of daily limits on cash withdrawals imposed by their US bank).
If they can't, the stakes could be high.

Posted by
1811 posts

I know this is not a popular choice, but last year we got our euros through AAA before we went to Greece. i do 't know if that is an option for you, but we got $1,000 so they didn't charge us the fee. They are also better at giving you small bills. We split it up between us and put it in several locations. We never felt unsafe- money belt crowd. This year we used our bank because everyone here recommends that and I don't think we saved that much, plus the bank gave us large bills ( try cashing 100 euro notes!). So, if you do use your bank, make sure they give you small bills.

Another note of caution, the ATM on the layover is probably going to be the option everyone else is planning to use.

We loved Greece, hope it goes well.

Posted by
9363 posts

I think in this case, your best option would be to order cash from your bank before you leave. Yes, there are fees, but other methods hold too many restrictions or possible problems in this case. AAA may not charge fees, but their exchange rate was horrendous the last time I checked. Once you are there, if you can use your credit cards, do so (to preserve your cash).

Posted by
715 posts

Bring your euros with you and help the Greeks out. They would be fit from an infusion of cash from out side the country.

Posted by
11613 posts

Patty, ordering euro through your bank allows you to choose denominations.

Posted by
112 posts

I think carrying 3 weeks spending in Euros is unsafe. If there is a pro-Europe vote on July 5 (probably won't know the result until July 6), then maybe the ECB will provide more money to the banks. One could go to Greece for a few days with that cash and then see if it's worth staying.

If it were me, I'd pick another country and enjoy my time in Europe. I know others here will think this cowardly. We canceled our tour of Greece in December after the new government was elected and are going on a southern Italy RS tour instead. Vacations are suppose to be fun.

Could you get the airlines to change your flight destination? Could you land in Athens and then hop over to maybe Italy or Turkey? Even Israel would be easier I think.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for all the info and encouraging words. We're figuring out plans B, C, and D. The whole situation is a moving target. Who knows ???

Posted by
10344 posts

Lisa,
This is from someone now in Greece, who said this on another thread here:
"I am currently in Greece. You should bring Euros with you. Do not rely on getting them at a layover airport as you won't be able to get enough."

Posted by
9 posts

This has all been very helpful. And it's the first time I've used a forum like this. Our plan at this point is to get euros before we leave, stay in Athens the three nights we have booked and then evaluate. One way or the other we'll have a good time in Europe.