If you’ve seen any newspaper, news website or news program this week you’ve surely seen the headline “Eurozone In Crisis.” These are tumultuous economic and political times in France, Greece and Spain and the repercussions are being felt across Europe. Many are saying this past week’s elections in France and Greece are repudiations of the continent-wide austerity measures, and the direction of the Euro is very much up in the air. Meanwhile, Spain has slipped into recession and this week decreed that retired Spaniards will have to begin paying for their prescriptions. As part of that measure, Spain is implementing tougher rules on expatriates and non-residents who have headed to Spain for the great healthcare.
So, what does it mean for travelers who might be thinking of a summer jaunt to the Continent?
There are two main considerations for travelers – the financial aspect of traveling to Europe, and the potential infrastructure implications caused by the debt crisis.
First, let’s look at the financial piece. Right now, the dollar is performing fairly well against the Euro – so that’s good news for U.S. travelers to Europe. But with the European debt crisis ongoing, this is an important thing to keep your eye on. But in the meantime, you might consider taking a cruise – the industry is hurting, especially in the Mediterranean, meaning you might be able to find a good deal.
The second consideration is what the Euro-turmoil means for the infrastructure. For travelers, this means we’re talking about intercontinental transportation and, potentially, healthcare services. Transportation is fine for now, but as we discussed last week, there is the possibility of austerity measures creating long lines at crowded venues and making getting around inconvenient.
In terms of healthcare, the fact that the European health system is state-run theoretically ties it more closely to what is happening with government budgets. But, frankly, this is no big deal at this point – you’re unlikely to notice any difference in public healthcare services at this stage. Healthcare workers go on strike all the time in Europe and the UK – the hospitals just focus their resources for that day on emergencies, rather than elective care, but it is something that tends to happen a couple times a year as contracts come up for renewal. Traveling to Greece is a little more dicey because that country is in the most turmoil and anyone with a serious illness will want to think twice and plan wisely.
Visitors to Europe need to remember to purchase travel health insurance policies. We also recommend downloading a destination-specific mPassport app to help you navigate the system should you or a member of your party fall ill. By taking these precautionary steps before traveling, you should be able to better deal with any health issues you encounter, regardless of the debt crisis.
The key for visitors to Europe this summer is to understand that these are interesting times in the Eurozone; you should keep up to date on the latest news and information. But otherwise, there’s no reason to cancel that trip you’ve been planning since winter.
Photo by eadaoin_o_sullivan.