The Greek debt crisis has drawn a lot of attention in the media in the past two years, and this has created some false impressionsabout the current situation on the ground. No doubt, many Greeks have turned to the streets to protest against largely unpopular austerity measures, and occasional violence has erupted. Does this make Greece a dangerous place? Not at all.
And here is why: The occasional unrest is very localized; it takes place within a few blocks from the parliament building at Syntagma Square in Athens. Even during the most difficult days of protests, only those who chose to be near the parliament building during the demonstrations were affected. Any danger could easily be avoided just by staying away from the government buildings.
Life away from Syntagma Square continues as normal. Only a few blocks down, in nearby Monastiraki or Plaka, where you’ll find many of the antiquities, restaurants, shops and coffee houses, you will see Greeks pursuing their daily tasks and visitors exploring the city’s attractions. It’s always wise to check local experts (try our Facebook and twitterfeed) or your hotel concierge about the latest strike news. Unfortunately, most of the strikes are announced in Greek and at the last minute, so you’ll need a local contact to help get around them. Athens is not a dangerous place, let alone the rest of Greece, where absolutely nothing happens on the days of these well-televised demonstrations. The news tend to report only the occasional violent incidents around a very limited area of the capital, failing to note that the rest of the city and the country on those particular days – and even that area during all other days of the year – is a most peaceful place with a long and exciting history.
If you do visit Greece this year, there are a few things you can do to minimize any turbulence and maximize your enjoyment. Take extra euros. The crisis is making for a favorable exchange rate, which will make your trip more economical across the board, but occasionally ATMs may run out of bills over the weekend. Just be prepared with extra cash on hand. Also, be sure to double-check opening hours of the sites with your hotel or by phone. Guidebooks and websites are frequently out-of-date, and low-tourism numbers may mean early closings. The good news is there will be shorter lines, less-crowded sites and business owners with more time to be great hosts to the guests they do have. Take advantage and plan to visit Greece now. The financial crisis has—paradoxically— made right now the best time to go.