When traveling anywhere, especially if your route before or after your charter includes a visit to a large city, carrying excessive amounts of cash on your person is simply not a good idea. Having all your cash pickpocketed is not a pleasant start (or end) to an exquisite sailing vacation in paradise.
In some places, it’s easy to rely on credit cards while traveling and carry only small amounts of cash. On a charter vacation here in Greece, that won’t work. While plastic is widely accepted in and around Athens, few restaurants, tavernas, or shops in the islands and small villages will honor credit cards—because the fees are simply not worth it. Even shops selling gifts, jewelry, and other items that do accept plastic will inevitably give you a slightly better deal – or sometimes, a significantly lower price – if you pay cash.
Traveler’s checks – a favorite option for many who venture outside their home countries – are also not advisable for a trip to Greece, as few establishments welcome them. They may refuse them flat out, or, if they do accept them, they may do so very reluctantly. This stems from a universal Greek suspicion of checks of any type – this is a country where bills are still paid in person, in cash, and where the majority of people by choice elect to have savings accounts, not personal checking accounts. Checks of any type are rarely used here.
The best approach to getting cash while traveling in Greece is to bring only what you’ll need for the first few days, and after that, rely on ATMs to top up your cash supply. There are ATMs almost everywhere in larger villages. Most work successfully with any debit or credit card equipped with standard inter-bank links such as Cirrus, Interlink, or NYCE – and your personal password, of course. (To be certain your ATM debit card will work abroad, check with your bank before departure). Also, make sure you know your password as a number, since many European ATMs don’t show letters on the keypad.
Almost all ATMs at multinational bank branches (or even the larger Greek banks) have touch-screen menus in both Greek and English. Fees for foreign ATM transactions vary, but are usually quite minimal (about $2 per transaction); check with your individual bank before you go. ATMs in foreign countries, of course, automatically dispense funds in that country’s currency while simultaneously debiting the equivalent amount from your account, in your native currency, at that day’s exchange rate. By using ATMs, you also avoid paying the obligatory commissions charged on each transaction by walk-in money-exchange offices.
Whatever you do, be sure that, for both credit cards and debit cards, you notify your bank or cardholder of your travel plans before you leave home, or they may put a stop on any charges or withdrawals you attempt to make while traveling, especially outside your home country. You also might want to increase your daily withdrawal limit before you go, depending on how much you think you may need.
If you’re staying in a city before or after the charter, it’s a good idea to leave extra cash and your passport in your hotel’s safe or the lockbox in your room, and carry with you only what you’ll need for the day, along with a photocopy of your passport. (If you opt to change money in person, at a bank or other office, you’ll need to have your actual passport with you.) In and around Athens, the same precautions you’d use when in any large urban center apply: Men should not carry wallets in pants pockets (an around-the-neck, under-the-shirt travel wallet is best), and women should use small handbags that can be slung diagonally across the shoulders and held in front of the body, not dangle carelessly from a shoulder.
In Greece, in the small villages and islands, petty crime is almost unheard of – but ATMs abound. When you board your yacht, you can relax, kick back, and enjoy yourself, knowing that funds are only an ATM-walk away when you need them.