In the face of protests over the looming austerity bill that has been deemed "harsh" and "ineffective" by Greek citizens, many travelers are asking themselves whether it is safe to travel to Greece. And while some are deciding the answer is “no”, even more are going ahead with their travel plans. Indeed, Thomas Cook reported last week that summer bookings for Greece are 13% higher than a year ago. photo
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There is no pretending that the images and video footage coming out of Athens right now aren’t disturbing, even frightening. The Guardian published a series of photos today that put the violent protests on full display to a global audience hungry for these sorts of sensational images. As someone whose city was very recently in the glare of the global spotlight for all the wrong reasons, I have seen how quickly media outlets will jump on a bad news story, and how slow they are to reassure the public that violent images do not tell the whole truth.

Residents of Athens are speaking up through various social media channels, including the TripAdvisor Message Boards, trying to tell the story the traditional media is not: “After the protests by that small group of approximately 100 troublemakers (out of thousands upon thousands of people who had gathered peacefully, as they have for the past month), were initially broken up, the peaceful protesters returned, and they will be back again, peacefully, tomorrow… You can choose to believe TV images which have been selected and filtered before being broadcast, or you can believe what the locals and many visitors have been saying again and again over the past months: that Athens...and all of Greece...are safe to visit.”

The U.S. State Department has no travel warnings or alerts regarding Greece, but it did issue a warden message last week advising travelers to be wary of protests in Athens and Thessaloniki.

"U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations, and if they find themselves within the vicinity of protests, they should exercise extreme caution and depart the area as quickly as possible," the message reads.

It is important to note that the protests are limited to Athens’ famous Syntagma Square – historically the scene of civil demonstrations. The rest of Athens remains quiet and the Greek Islands, a popular summer destination, "remain as peaceful as ever," according to travel expert Pauline Frommer of Frommer Guidebooks, who also says “I don't think you can write off the entire country because of problems in the capital."

Bargains galore await travelers who are still heading to Greece this summer. Tourism accounts for one in five jobs and almost 18% of the nation’s GDP, so the socialist government has given the sector special emphasis in the hope that it will help resuscitate the battered Greek economy. Ferry tickets are now cheaper, as the administration abolished costly levies. There are no longer landing and take-off fees at airports outside Athens, reducing the cost of air travel. VAT for hotel stays has been lowered from 11% to 6.5% to make accommodation prices more competitive.

The lower prices have not gone unnoticed by travelers. According to Expedia, the world's largest online travel agency, Greek holiday reservations have been made for as late as November for the first time ever. Hopefully international travelers will monitor the situation in Athens, but continue to make their way to this beautiful but recently beleaguered nation to spend their travel dollars where they will make a real difference to locals severely affected by the nation’s economic downturn.

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Comment by Anil on July 9, 2011 at 6:52pm

I think there are protests, marches and demonstrations to the UN HQ on 1st Ave and 42nd St. in New York on a regular basis. From a handful of protestors to thousands, it does not disrupt the flow of life in New York. A presidential visit to the city, on the other hand has more gridlock and perceived inconvenience to locals and visitors alike. 

If one is away from the path of demonstrators/protestors, and avoids roadblocks, one is going to be fine in Athens. I would say its better to take the underground/subway in Athens on those days than surface transport such as buses or taxicabs.

 

Comment by Keith Kellett on July 9, 2011 at 3:55am

I think a lot depends on where exactly you're going in Greece; if I may quote King Abdullah of Jordan, who once said that not to visit his country because of trouble in the Middle East is like saying ' ... if there is a riot in Boston, I shouldn't go to Cincinnati'

 

My experience is that riots and demonstrations like this are fairly easily avoided, and are rarely targeted at visitors ... in fact, I got caught up in one in Madrid. I didn't have any trouble vacating the area; indeed, one man politely explained what the demo was about!

Comment by Sara Cooke on July 5, 2011 at 1:28am
Thanks for sharing that, Bev. Hope you have an excellent trip! I was in Indonesia in 1998, and I know my parents saw far more riot footage on TV than anything I actually saw in person as a traveler there. So long as you keep your wits about you, keep abreast of the situation and use common sense, a situation like the one in Greece should present no difficulties.
Comment by Bev Malzard on July 4, 2011 at 11:58pm
I'moff to Greece at the end of this month. years ago I was in the Peloponesse when there were contentious local elections - every one was out at night and footpaths were being blown up with oild WWII surplus dynamite - but then again, when lent was over there was often an explosion and a wall was blown up in the villages - volatile and loving an explosion. Gotta love the Greeks.

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