Bound for Greece with cash in hand

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Norwegians heading off on Greek holidays are stocking up on euros before departure, but otherwise not letting the country’s economic crisis stop them. Some automated teller machines (ATMs) in Norway ran empty of euros during the weekend, but Norwegian banks assured travelers that they had enough of the currency to meet demand.

Norwegian travel by the thousands every year to spend holidays on beaches like this on Crete. The current economic crisis isn't prompting them to cancel this summer's plans. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Norwegians travel by the thousands every year to spend holidays on beaches like this on Crete. The current economic crisis isn’t prompting them to cancel this summer’s plans. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported long lines at the ATMs with foreign currency exchange at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen on Sunday. In Stavanger, the city’s own economic downturn caused by lower oil prices didn’t seem to be hindering local residents’ plans for summer holidays in Greece. SpareBank 1 SR-Bank’s ATMs at Stavanger’s airport at Sola ran out of euros by early Monday morning, but were due to be replenished.

“We were caught by the Greek effect, pure and simple,” Thor-Christian Haugland of SR-Bank told told NRK. Norwegian tourists pulled the equivalent of NOK 2 million (EUR 230,000) out of what Norwegians call “minibanks” at the airport since Friday evening.

“We just have to admit that an enormous amount of money was withdrawn during the weekend, much more than we had expected,” Haugland said Monday morning. “We are sending more cash out to the ATMs now, and can only apologize to those who couldn’t get euros before departure.” The day’s first charter flight from the airport at Sola left ta 6:20am.

Norwegians are also attracted by archaeological sites and hiking in the hills. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Norwegians are also attracted by archaeological sites and hiking in the hills. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

With news over the weekend that Greek banks would close for six workdays starting on Monday, there were no guarantees that minibanks would be working and it was unlikely they’d been replenished with cash. It was also unclear whether bank- or credit cards could be used, so Norwegian tourists have been advised to have carry cash.

Most heading off on holiday have already paid for lodging and often some meals though package tours, but will still need cash for other meals, shopping and incidental expenses. Neither the foreign ministry nor the tour companies like Ving, Star Tour and Apollo are advising against travel to Greece, as the country faces banruptcy because of its failure to meet international loan payments coming due July 1.

Norwegians are in fact being encouraged to travel to Greece to help support the country’s economy and its important tourism industry. “I think it will be a fine, Greek summer for the tourists,” Elisabeth Larsen-Vonsett of Ving told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday. Many Norwegians are escaping unseasonably cold and rainy weather at home, and Larsen-Vonsett said she’d never experienced such Greek hospitality as on a recent trip to Crete. “They’re doing all they can to make sure we’re satisfied,” she said.

Norwegians are cautioned against carrying too much cash with them while in Greece and to use hotel safes when possible. Travel insurance companies will only cover a maximum loss of NOK 3,000 (EUR 340) per person and NOK 6,000 per family.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund