With No Credit Cards Allowed, No Cash In ATMs, No Banks Open, Tourists In Trouble In Greece

Banks all across Greece are closed today, and will remain closed for the rest of the week. Not because it’s a holiday, but because the Greek government is trying to stop the banking system from collapsing as money flows out of the country while its long-running debt crisis reaches a critical point. As a result, tourists in Greece are finding themselves unable to pay for basics like food and shelter.

Before the banks even closed, a number of businesses stopped accepting credit cards and went cash-only, reports the Wall Street Journal.

That would be fine if people had access to cash, but ATMs have run dry and banks aren’t able to refill them with money to meet the demand.

“We planned this family holiday for two years,” one tourist from Michigan, who says he tried unsuccessfully to get cash from five different ATMs this Saturday, tells the Journal. “But I am not sure we can stay for more than three days if we can’t get money.”

A newlywed couple from Italy say that their honeymoon has been ruined by the crisis.

“Greece has been in the headlines for some time now, but we never imagined things can get this bad,” the new bride says. “The ATMs don’t work and the hotel manager in Athens is asking for cash because he fears banks will close and he won’t be able to get his money.”

The owner of a souvenir shop in Athens’ tourist-heavy Plaka district says he’s made the change to cash-only in advance of limited access to banks.

“In return I offer them discounted prices, but many tourists just leave,” he tells the Journal. “Every day that passes we are heading closer to total financial ruin.”

Athens and the Greek isles like Santorini and Rhodes are popular tourist destinations for European and American visitors. About 9% of the country’s gross domestic product comes directly from tourism, with more than double that amount received in indirect spending.

While carrying wads of cash with you while you travel may save you from being stuck and unable to pay for meals and hotels, it could also make you a target for thieves. Additionally, if you’re a big spender and plan to enter or leave the U.S. with more than $10,000 in cash, you’ll need to declare this on a FinCEN Form 105 [PDF], and even then the TSA might hassle you for more information about why you’re carrying so much money.