Europe urges tourists to carry cash if visiting Greece

People queue to withdraw money from an ATM outside a branch of Greece's Alpha Bank in Athens, Greece on Sunday.
People queue to withdraw money from an ATM outside a branch of Greece's Alpha Bank in Athens, Greece on Sunday.EPA

BERLIN (AFP) - European nations urged Sunday their nationals to carry cash with them when vacationing in Greece as the country hurtles towards a banking crisis.

The German foreign ministry recommended that tourists "take sufficient amounts of cash" when visiting Greece, a top vacation spot for Germans, keep tabs on the evolving situation and check for any updates to its travel recommendations.

After talks in Brussels broke down in acrimony Saturday between Athens' left-wing leaders and the rest of the eurozone, Greece is hurtling towards a default with its EU-IMF creditors.

The ECB refused Sunday to increase emergency cash available to Greek banks despite a bank run being underway, mounting pressure on the government to impose capital controls to prevent a collapse of its lenders.

One option open to the Greek government would be to close the banks for up to several days, and then impose withdrawal limits.

Many bank cash machines in Greece are already empty and there were long lines at those still working.

Britain's foreign office warned travellers "of the possibility that banking services - including credit card processing and servicing of ATMs - throughout Greece could potentially become limited at short notice".

It said "make sure you have enough euros in cash to cover emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and any unexpected delays."

If capital controls are imposed, businesses may not want to accept credit cards any longer as they would have trouble accessing their bank accounts, even if card transactions are authorised.

"There is some information according to which some restaurants and filling stations haven't accepted card payments for some time and are taking just cash," said the Swedish foreign ministry.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz last week urged Poles visiting Greece to "not rely only on cards and ATM machines ... best to take cash with you".

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands also warned their nationals not to rely on cards and take cash when visiting Greece.

But Andreas Andreadis, President of Greek Tourism Confederation, said that so far "nothing has changed".

He said "foreign clients have no problems with money transactions" and that "their credit cards won't be compromised by capital controls".

However he said his group would set up a help line for hotels so they could better advise guests.