This last 2/3 weeks I have been following the various commentators providing their take on the Greek Financial Crisis. Travel correspondents have been no less vocal on this matter than their economic colleagues; all are presenting visions of plane-loads of UK holidaymakers arriving at their destinations with their pockets stuffed with cash!
I went through a UK airport the other day and of the 3 flights to Greece before me, I saw no etched lines of worry on holidaymakers faces and certainly no Euros peeping out of their pockets!
The truth is simply this; no-one really knows what is coming next!
Therefore, we all have a responsibility to calmly assess the situation and be less prone to the speculation as to whether Greece is about to crash out of the Euro!
Note 7/7/15: We have since provided an update to this article which can be found here!
Two things are however clear:
- Firstly, the Greek people are suffering and it looks like it will be a long time before it is alleviated. For the present we must acknowledge that a 'humanitarian crisis' could arise, with food, fuel and medical shortages, with all the attendant consequences that will follow!
- Secondly, holidaymakers from the UK, who are ordinary people just like the Greeks, coping with all that has been thrown at them since the 2008 financial crash, will no-doubt find themselves in an extraordinary situation; both need our support!
So to try and plot a way forward for intending holidaymakers, I shall set out some practical advices which may help you make the best of your holiday:
- In the first instance, speak with your travel insurer and ask them about the Greek Crisis and get them to explain how this will affect your insurance cover! Get them to explain if they will cover you, what limits will they pay up to for stolen money, possessions or medical cover, and, importantly, what assistance will they provide you in the event that the crisis breaks into civil disorder. Obtain their responses in writing!
- If your Travel Insurer now refuses to provide you with cover or severely limits your cover, you must seriously consider getting another Insurer to cover you (asking the same questions);
- If you cannot get new Insurance or your insurance is severely limited, you should speak to your Travel Company! Why? Because in the terms and conditions of your holiday contract, there will be a clause which requires you to have fully comprehensive insurance. Beware a Travel Company that tells you that a limited cover is OK or if they offer you another Travel Insurance; you have to make sure you ask the same questions of that Insurer!
- If Travel Insurance becomes an issue and the Travel Company insist that you can travel, then you should ask them to confirm in writing that they will either indemnify (in other words cover) you for full or partial losses!
- If they refuse to indemnify you for potential losses or they fail to acknowledge the risk of you travelling with a limited Travel Insurance, you should confirm to them in writing how you believe that there is a potential breach of the Insurance Clause in the Contract and that you have done everything you can to try and mitigate this problem. In the event that you either suffer losses or that you experience problems in Greece, you will be seeking recovery of those losses and compensation!
- Take care not to cancel any Travel Arrangements because holidaymakers in other 'crisis' situations have experienced difficulty in claiming their holiday costs back! This is because travel companies refuse to accept that there is a problem in any country or resort because the Authorities have not stated that it is unsafe to travel. Note this interview with the representative from ABTA who is referring to Foreign Office advices and how 'booking conditions' apply!
- Check the UK Foreign Advice for Greece! Do not rely solely on the UK for Guidance, so check US State Department, Canadian, & Irish Foreign Travel Advisories (you may want to look at other countries advisories);
- Keep up to date by checking Travel Review websites - see what other holidaymakers are saying!
- Check news outlets, not just the BBC but other foreign news networks and also check newspapers, particularly English Language titles;
- If before you travel, the situation in Greece becomes difficult because of any potential Public Order, Other Personal Security, or Hotel/Resort issues, then think Consumer Rights; Think pre-departure 'Significant Change' Rights under Regulations 12 & 13 of The Package Travel Regulations;
- If problems exist in Greece that affect Personal Security or any other issue that affects the viability of the holiday, then bring these to the attention of the Insurance Company and Travel Company - let them know what your concerns are - present them with copies of your research from points 7, 8 & 9 above!
- If the Travel Insurer either refuses to cover you or limits cover, then repeat the actions at 1 to 6 above!
- If the Travel Provider refuses to accept this information or accept that a 'Significant Change' has occurred then acquaint them with your new-found knowledge at 10 above and confirm in writing that if your holiday fails you will be seeking your rights under Regulation 12, 13 & 15 of the Regulations and compensation when you return back to the UK!
- Make sure that you have the telephone numbers for the UK Consular Service and the UK Embassy in Athens recorded in your telephone!
- Make sure that your family have telephone numbers for where you are staying - set up Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp accounts and agree a protocol of contact with your family;
- Make sure you take with you your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and keep a check as to its status through the UK Government;
- Prepare a First Aid Kit to take with you - don't forget to bring your normal medication - bring over the counter medication to deal with normal sickness or injury;
- If you are then going to travel to Greece then you need to consider how to transport your cash; here are my suggestions:
- You should take sufficient cash and I would suggest that you split it between your group and carry it with you at all times in a money belt;
- When you are in Public, do not display any cash openly, go somewhere private and safe to extract whatever cash you need;
- I am loathe to say this, but this extraordinary event, coupled with the desparation of a people may lend itself to uncharacteristic behaviour - guard your personal security at all times!
- If you feel under threat or are suspicious about any behaviour, then call 112 on your phone - this is the link to the Emergency Services;
- Beware that Banks can close at any time or that tills may run out of money - factor that into how you intend to carry money;
- Think about credit cards! Currently there appears to be no block on their continued use, so:
- Bring your normal range of credit/bank cards;
- Never store your PIN Number in your wallet or on your phone;
- Think about obtaining a pre-paid but main banking credit card to spread your cash;
- There is a great deal of 'moral panic' about how the Euro will suddenly become useless if Greece is thrown out of the Euro-Zone!
- Let's think about this!
- Firstly, if Greece is thrown out of the Euro-Zone, there will still be 18 Countries using the currency!
- Secondly, if Greece adopts the Drachma again, then currency exchange and controls will operate as if you were visiting another country;
- This logically suggests that you should be able to exchange what currency you have for any new currency produced although this scenario is likely to take some time to enact!
- I am now going to deal with personal security whilst you are there!
- I wrote some advices for those travelling to Egypt & Tunisia back in 2010/11 and I think these apply now to Greece:
- Make sure that you keep an adequate stock of water & snacks in your room in case these basic items run short!
- If you are in resort and are affected by any ‘risks’ on Personal Security as I have outlined above, follow the advices of the Foreign Office, your Tour Operator or Security Services;
- Call the UK Embassy to let them know where you are and what you are experiencing - follow their guidance!
- Make copies of any warnings notices you are given or are presented on notice boards – keep that information with you at all times;
- Keep a record/diary of everything that is said to you;
- Take photographs and videos to demonstrate the conditions you have endured;
- DO NOT sign any disclaimer(s) or accept any offer without seeking some independent guidance (you could contact us in that regard);
- DO NOT assume that your Travel Insurance will continue to cover you whilst you remain in a ‘risk destination’:
- Contact your Travel Insurer;
- Advise them of the situation;
- Follow their advices;
- Keep a record of what is said to you;
- Follow News Channels for up to date information;
- DO NOT expose yourself to any risk!
- Consider an early evacuation from the destination; follow the lead from your travel provider, insurer or the Foreign Office.
- On a final point, many of you will be travelling to All-Inclusive Resorts. You will have expectations that stem from your booking and brochure. You should be prepared to experience a shortage in facilities, food and drink. You should before departure write to your Travel Provider and seek clarification as to whether or not you will receive the full package; get them to confirm that in writing. If they advise that there will be shortages, then follow points 10 & 13 above!
- If you have received reassurance that everything is OK, but, when you get to your hotel and find that a 'significant proportion of services' is not available, then you should speak with your Travel Company and demand your rights under Regulation 14 of The Package Travel Regulations!
I hope that this guide will help those intending to travel to Greece and that it will put some balance on some of the rather more panicky articles I have been reading!
The Greek people are in a desparate situation and taking some care in our preparation may remove some of the angst of travelling there. Equally, I will expect the UK Foreign Office and Travel Industry to apply some common sense and a more informative format over the next few weeks as we get into the holiday season and that the protection of holidaymakers becomes truely paramount!
Remember, if you get stuck in trying to make sense of this with your travel provider either before you go or whilst you are there, then just use the contact form on this website and we will guide you further.