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Remember when we didn’t have to set aside part of our day for visiting an ATM? Those were the days! By now, anyone living in Greece has perfected the fine art of ATMing – can we officially call if a verb yet? Young and old, if we have a card, we’ve stood in an ATM queue. Here is your essential guide to the most efficient way to get through the capital controls.
1: Take Water
Volunteers have been handing out bottled water in cities across Athens to people queuing at ATMs, mostly the elderly. In this heat, water is important. You might not always be able to find an ATM with shade nearby. Keep a cold bottle in the fridge to grab as you head off if you can’t avoid ATMing in the sun.
2: Take a hat
Keep a hat in your handbag (for the ladies) or near the door where you keep your keys and other things you grab as you leave your house, for the same reason as above.
3: Find a Foreign Friend
Foreign cards are not restricted to the capital control limit of (allegedly) EUR 60 (more like 50). Track down who in your network has a foreign card, and ask if you can keep them on hand in case of an emergency such as a sudden, unexpected expense or a plane ticket to visit a hospital outside Greece. There is an atmosphere of helping each other out more than ever now, you’re unlikely to be turned down. Better safe than sorry.
4: Play Fair
If you yourself are in possession of a foreign card and live in Greece, stick to the daily limit so that the ATM doesn’t run out of cash that others need access to as well.
5: Know your ATMs
Know where the ATMs are in your immediate vicinity – are there any lesser known ones tucked away, for example outside a supermarket or a restaurant? Make a mental note of which ATMs are close to a source of shade if you’re not someone who can get to an ATM in the morning or at night (see point 6).
6: Timing is key
Early morning and late at night are good times to visit an ATM. Queues at these times are short. The other day I was downtown in the tourist district just before 10am when the shops are starting to open, and I found an ATM with nobody queuing at it which was dispensing cash. Jackpot! If you time it just right, you can be at an ATM when the clock strikes midnight, saving yourself an extra trip.
7: No Queue usually means No Cash
If there’s an ATM in a busy area that people are not queuing at, don’t waste your time. It’s probably empty.
8: Stay safe
We’re all walking around with cash on us now, which we weren’t doing before. Don’t advertise it. I sat opposite an elderly gent recently who kept taking out a wad of cash from his pocket, checking it, and putting it back. I hope no one with bad intentions was watching. Be as discrete as you can.
9: Avoid sensitive topics
Although things are peaceful, when you’re in an ATM queue, you’re there with a whole mix of people. None of you know how long it will take, all of you have better things to do, and all of you are frustrated. If it’s a hot day or the news out of Brussels/Syntagma has been bad, tempers fray easily. I’ve seen a few shouting matches in queues. Disengage. It’s not worth it. There will be plenty of time for political debate in other circumstances.
10: Keep Your Sense of Humour
We’re living in very strange times and it’s hard not to get down. But just remember, it won’t be like this forever.