This question is partially informed by Tourist SOS… Sunscreen, hat and emergency Grexit preparedness!, which appeared on June 21 and starts and ends as below (emphasis mine):

The U.K. Foreign Office is on the brink of issuing new travel advice to British holidaymakers as Greece looks set for an economic meltdown. London’s officials state that current advice is “under review” even though the final draft is set to be made once the situation becomes clearer. Among the “issues” that tourists may be challenged by is the risk of cash machines shutting down if Greece defaults and the violent protests that could take place if the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) caves in to its international creditors demands.

Travel agencies are also considering contingency plans ahead of an emergency summit of European leaders in Luxembourg on Monday with tourists arriving with wads of cash in case bailout negotiations fail and banks limit withdrawals.

Background: At the end of this month, June 2015, Greece needs to make an €1.6 billion repayment to the International Monetary Fund. Informed sources tell us that the likelihood of meeting this payment is in doubt. In addition, Greece also owes a mind-numbing €320 billion to other countries, many of which are EU members. This raises the spectre of a flight to quality, which in turn will force Greek banks to temporarily close. By knock-on effect, banks in other EU countries with large resident Greek populations may also close to prevent a run on the Euro.

This means travellers may not be able to access cashpoints (ATMs) in Greece, and possibly surrounding countries, until mid-late July or August. On a wider scale, the Euro will undergo a period of intense volatility and this leaves credit card users vulnerable to being hosed down by Euro emergency exchange rates. This has happened previously in Iceland (2008) and Argentina (2001).

The Daily Mail ran a related item the same day, saying this in part:

Spending money: Cash will be king for travellers to Greece this summer. A currency crisis could result in withdrawals from cashpoints being restricted or the shutters at some banks coming down, albeit temporarily.

How should travellers prepare for a nation-wide closure of banks in Greece, and possibly for a brief period, the EEA in general: bring lots of cash / cancel their trip / travellers cheques / pay for everything up front?

The impulsive answer is to bring along lots of cash so that ATMs are not needed and credit card usage is minimal. But every pickpocket and street hoodlum across Greece is going to know that tourists are loaded with cash, so is this strategy really going to work?

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    Why is Greece' membership in the EU and Schengen often questioned in connection with a potential grexit? Even if Greece would leave the euro-zone, that alone would not be a reason for Greece to leave the EU or Schengen as well. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 17:21
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    The question is not about travel but about the detail of the Grexit. I'm voting to close.
    – Calchas
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 18:27
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    @Calchas the detail of the potential Grexit is a distraction, I think. The real question is, what should travelers do if they plan to travel to an area where major financial instability is possible? The second paragraph from the end is the real question, and would apply to places other than Greece. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:18
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    @Tor-Einar Jarnbjo: Technically, a member state that has introduced the Euro can only opt out later by leaving the European Union completely. In practice, though, the EU members have a long history of bending or even ignoring their own rules, so I very much doubt that Greece is actually going to leave the EU anytime soon.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 21:35
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    Greece has now announced that its banks will remain closed during this week, and the amount of money that can be withdrawn from ATMs be limited. It's unclear whether the latter measure extends to customers of foreign banks; then again, ATMs may run empty soon. EUR/USD dropped by around two cents.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


I have noticed that Travelex has advised...

“No one can know for sure what will happen, however we want to ensure our customers are prepared for all possible scenarios and make contingency plans before they travel. As always, we recommend travellers take a combination of cards and cash. To avoid running out of cash, if there are shortages or restrictions at banks, travellers should take enough Euros to last for their first 3-5 days – and then keep their euros topped up throughout their stay. If they are planning to be on one of the islands for any length of time, they may want to take more Euros than usual as it could take longer for Euros to be supplied to the islands if there are any disruptions.

Travelex’s advice for travellers heading to Greece

Whereas Mark Bodega of HiFX says...

Consider locking in the exchange rate using a prepaid currency card that allows you to preload with currency and then use at cash machines, restaurants, and shops when you get there.

And Carol LLoyd at GoCompare advises...

We recommend that when buying cover you specify that you are going to Greece so that you are certain of having the right level of cover. Don't just say 'Europe'

And from a different viewpoint, the Association of British Travel Agents is advising tourists that the increased volatility may present an excellent shopping opportunity like it did in Argentina in 2001 and in Cyprus several years ago.

What this amalgamates to is...

  • Be sure to specify Greece if you are purchasing trip insurance
  • Plan to take more Euro than you usually would
  • Consider the benefits of using a prepaid currency card


The media has also published these strategies...

Anastasia Alden is planning to stock up on euros before her week-long trip to the Greek island of Mykonos in August.

Anastasia, 26, says: ‘Since there is a risk that banks won’t be open I don’t want to be without money. I normally rely on plastic for my spending but I’m going to take about a week’s worth of spending money – €350.’

The public relations executive from Balham, South London, will be staying at a villa rented by parents Martine, 50, and Richard, 51, and siblings Alex, 16, and Sophia, 19. Anastasia says: ‘The villa and car hire have been paid for upfront so I hope it will all be OK. My parents plan to bring a lot of cash too.’

It’s not all bad news even if Greece heads for the euro exit door. Capital Economics economist Jonathan Loynes says a switch to the ‘new drachma’ could mean a devaluation in the Greek currency of 20 per cent or more. He says: ‘For British tourists everything would become 20 per cent cheaper.’

This happened before – Iceland in 2008 and Argentina in 2001. Alma Parra Campos, an academic from Mexico who is carrying out research in London, recalls a trip in 2001 to Argentina, which was undergoing its own mega debt and currency crisis and saw the peso more than halve in value.

She says: ‘Everything was so cheap. I bought a beautiful designer coat for less than £15. I still have it. The shop assistants were desperate for tourists to spend, spend, spend.’

Source: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-3132729/As-Greece-s-D-Day-looms-s-make-money-GREXIT-PROOF-heading-country-summer-staying-home.html

This indicates that tourists bringing extra cash may be able to enjoy a shopping bonanza.

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    Be aware that cards are not very widely accepted in Greece.
    – tricasse
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 21:23
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    You could also take some amount of money in another hard currency if you're really worried about the Euro and not only about Greece.
    – tricasse
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 21:23
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    US dollars instead of the local currency works well in Africa and other countries that don't have trusted currencies, but I'm not sure about Greece.....
    – Formagella
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 22:03
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    The Greek economy (GDP) stands for only 1.8% of the euro zone or 1.3% of the EU. It does not make sense at all to compare the situation in Iceland or Argentina, countries with their own and before the crack volatile currencies, to a potential Greek default. Since we've never had this situation before, it is pure speculation and crystal-balling to assume anything about what will happen in case of a grexit. My guess is that it won't have much impact at all on the value of the euro, since the remaining governments will play all their cards to keep the euro stable. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 10:43
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    @GayotFow The text in your question drifts in so many directions, that I'm honestly not in any way sure what you're actually asking. If the real question is "how should travellers prepare for a nation-wide closure of banks in Greece", my comment does not answer your question. I was just trying to point out that your comparison with Iceland and Argentina (both in the question and in the answer) does not seem appropriate since this is a completely different situation. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:18

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