So I went to Greece.
And I got a lot of cat photos.
But I also got to explore a country that’s been headlining many news reports lately, and not necessarily for positive reasons. Many of my friends were surprised when I announced I was going to Greece, now of all times, wondering if it was safe, or even wise. What about the migrants? What about the banks, and the riots we see on TV?
So… Should You Travel To Greece?
As it turns out, if I hadn’t watched the news before I left, I wouldn’t have known there was trouble in Greece. That there are no riots.There are no protests or anything remotely like that. There are virtually no visible tensions, even in Athens. At least for visitors — perhaps locals will tell you otherwise, seeing as the crisis is the topic of choice between shop owners as they are far more concerned about and impacted by this than tourists.
But otherwise? Not a single sign of unrest. The images of crowds gathered in front of the Greek Parliament we see on the telly date back to the referendum in July, and are no longer pertinent.
Don’t ever underestimate how much the media can manipulate a story in order to get more viewers. Slow news days are a real thing, and unfortunately, this has caused the Greek crisis to get astonishing coverage, making the situation appear much worse than it is in reality. Always, always be critical of what you see on the news.
The Migrant Crisis
You’d be surprised by the quantity of people who’ve asked me about this before I left. Aren’t you worried about the migrants? How does the presence of tens of thousands of Afghans, Syrians, and Iraqis affect daily life and transportation in Athens? Is the capital a giant refugee camp?
To be completely honest, I fail to see how this even matters to tourists. These questions are simply not legitimate, and frankly, they’re quite insulting to migrants — these are not the dangerous people we need to worry about. They’re simply a group of persecuted people trying to improve their lives by moving to the European Union in tragic conditions with the little means they have at their disposal.
But if you must know, no, Athens is not a giant refugee camp. In fact, refugees barely even venture out of the port or the main train station – Greece isn’t their final destination, as most refugees are heading towards Northern Europe.
Greek Banks and the Economy
If you’re even remotely interested by the topic, make sure to read the New York Times’ recently updated piece on the Greek crisis.
Banks are still open, and withdrawal limits do not apply to tourists with foreign debit cards. So there isn’t anything to worry about on that front.
The big difference is that tourists now need to carry more cash than they normally would, as some restaurants and shops might are more reticent to accept credit card because of the higher fees they now have to pay. But if you ask nicely and purchase for more than just a few euros, you should have no problem. A smile and a efcharisto (Greek for “thank you”) go a long way in this country.
The Bottom Line
In summary, everything seems to be running quite smoothly in Greece. Yes, you should absolutely go, and no, you should not let news report keep you from planning your dream Greek holiday. The country remains just as beautiful and hospitable despite the profound changes it is currently undergoing. Mykonos’ beaches are still as picturesque, the Parthenon is still old as fuck, and Santorini is still the stuff of dreams.
The New York Times (sorry to link to the same publication twice, but their articles are straight-forward and easy to understand for neophytes) recently published an update on how travel in Central Europe is affected by the migrant crisis: in a nutshell, things are getting back to normal, but longer security checks on trains and at borders cause delays, even within the Schengen area where passport control isn’t common under normal circumstances.
Why Should You Go Right Now?
It doesn’t take a PhD in maths to understand that the best way to recover from such a complex and critical economic crisis is to have substantial foreign investments pouring in – Greece has a long way to go before financial recovery, and you can be part of the solution. If there was ever a good time to visit Greece, it’s right now. Especially with the US dollar being at an all-time low against the Euro.
Maybe it’s the socialist Canadian in me talking but hey, I firmly believe in fair wealth redistribution. By travelling to Greece, you are choosing to help restart archeological digs throughout the country, encourage small businesses and independent shops, and lower the unemployment rate, among other things.
Are you looking for a place to spend your money? Make it rain, bitches, and go to Greece. Help that wonderful country get back on its feet.
Have you been to Greece recently?
Are you worried about the conditions there, or are you, on the contrary, only more eager to visit?