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Austerity in Europe: What to Expect with Summer Travel in the EU

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The European buzzword this summer is “austerity.” It has strengthened opposition governments, caused massive rallies and taken down presidents. Angela Merkel of Germany swears by it, and Francois Hollande of France ran against it. Greece is quaking beneath its expectations of budget cuts, and it’s looking as if Spain might follow suit. Now that summer has reached the halfway mark, contributor Charles Edward Hicks has put together a series about how austerity measures have affected European travel this summer and what you need to know before heading across the pond. Up first, transportation.

The plane has landed. You’ve collected your luggage. But now, there’s a dilemma ― how are you going to get around?

That depends on the country.

Take Greece as a prime example.  Since last summer, Greece has increased the cost of public transportation by 25 percent. Jenee Bearden of Journey Travel said she advises tourists going to Greece to avoid pubic transportation.

“When I do sell travel into Greece, I recommend private transfers rather than the public transportation because of all the strikes,” she said. “You can’t guarantee if the taxis will be operating or if the public transportation is going to be operating.”

She noted that her company has seen a decline of people interest in traveling to the country.

“Mainly, right now, we’re not getting a lot of calls for Greece,” she said. “Since last year, since my group went last fall, I haven’t had a whole lot of people heading that way. I think that’s because of all the stuff on the news.”

Aliki Hamosfakidou of Dolphin Hellas in Athens, Greece, said the public transportation market has not been affected. “Actually, it has probably benefited, because more people are now using the public means as the use of a car has become too expensive due to the high gasoline prices,” he said. “Many private vehicles have been withdrawn from circulation ― an estimate of about 400,000 cars country wide, according to the insurance companies. This has helped improve the traffic conditions, especially in Athens, and also the environment.”

If you are looking to fly to Greece, however, you might want to head over soon or you will have to wait until next May to get aboard a direct flight to the country from the United States, according to Business Travel News. Delta Air Lines suspended its route from New York JFT to Athens from Oct. 28, 2012, to March 23, 2013, following the example of both Olympic Air and Continental Airlines, which stopped transatlantic flights after Greece’s economic upheaval. US Airways, however, is set to continue offing its daily flights from Philadelphia to Athens between May and September.