Summer is finally here and along with it our dreams for a vacation and a very urgent need to take a break from all the Covid-19 madness.
This summer more than any other time, breaking away is of vital importance. The lockdowns, the measures, the sad news of death and infection, the fear mongering, the lack of privacy or rights, the inability to see or hold our loved ones, the violent cut of our connection with others – all these realities have made taking a vacation more pressing than ever but at the same time much more difficult.
The truth be said, we are now officially – whether we want to or not – out of our comfort zone and treading uncharted waters – in high winds I might add.
The good news is that we are slowly but steadily returning to our (new) lives. Our dreams of traveling later are now about traveling soon, and very soon, you’ll be on your next trip.
This said, being blessed to be living in a country that many people worldwide dream of, I can only be thankful but I can also proudly say that Greece is among the very few countries in the world to have kept the deadly virus at bay. And happily say that Greece is ready to welcome the world and to show all of us anguished by the coronoavirus reality that life does go on and to remind us that we made it through this too.
As one of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami put it:
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”Haruki Murakami
That’s exactly where we’re at right now. So take it from a country that welcomes over 33 million tourists a year, the time is right to take our first baby steps in the new post-covid reality, take heed of expert guidelines and coronavirus advice and leave fear behind. Or as the ancient Greeks always said: All in good measure.
Greece Opens to the World:
In short, Greece is ready to welcome its first visitors from abroad. All guidlelines, rules and announcements (drawn up by tourism and health experts) depend on how coronavirus management evolves in Greece and elsewhere as well as on EU and world travel policies and airline decisions.
In the beginning, Greece will be accepting visitors from countries with low Covid-19 spreads.
Travelers who are not from EU countries cannot enter Greece before June 30.
As of June 15, Greece opens to visitors traveling from low-risk airports in these countries: Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, North Macedonia, South Korea, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Romania.
However, please note: between June 15 and June 30, passengers traveling from high-risk airports, including from the US, will have to be tested for Covid-19. Those found to be negative will have to self isolate for 7 days.
As of July 1, Greece will open up to other countries, and lastly to those with high Covid-19 incidents provided they have flattened the curve.
Decisions, guidelines, health protocols have been drawn up by epidemiologists and health experts and are constantly being revised according to monitoring and incoming data and to guidelines issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
It’s good for travelers to know that Greece has been divided into risk zones depending on your ability to have immediate access to a health facility (like hospitals) – this would be mainland Greece and the island of Crete or with a health center within a two-hour proximity: the Saronic and Cyclades islands nearer to Athens, and Evia.
Most travalers’ favorite island destinations such as Santorini, Paros and Rhodes are in the second category with local health care available, and lastly the remote islands or destinations with basic healthcare infrastructure or none at all.
Just have in mind: at far-off island destinations, there will be Covid-19 screening available on floating medical units as well as emergency air transport and boosted medical infrastructure.
However, to address all possible cases and needs, the health ministry announced a far-reaching action plan stationing medical doctors and health professionals on all islands and providing immediate emergency transport by air should the need arise.
Would be a good idea to check out Re-open EU, an interactive site providing you with real-time information 24/7 in 24 languages to plan your travel and holidays to Europe, while staying healthy and safe.
You can also check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Covid-19 interactive world map here.
Greece Ready for Tourism: The Timeline
➣ June 15 – flights to Athens and Thessaloniki airports resumed on June 15 , initially welcoming visitors from airports in some 29 countries (see above).
- Travelers from France, the UK and US are not allowed to enter the country for the time being and until they manage to flatten the curve
- travelers from the EU can visit Greece without entering quarantine
- citizens from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – all countries with high infection rates – are subject to 14-day confinement
- on the same day, hotels on the islands will open
- restaurants, cafes and bars are open offering mostly outdoor services
- the Acropolis and archaeological sites and museums countrywide are also open.
➣July 1 – All flights resume normally from all destinations with the aforementioned precautions and measures in place. There will be no quarantine.
- all airports in Greece will be operating
* Alert at least 48 hours before checking in for your trip to Greece, you are required to fill in the Passenger Locator Form (PLF). This applies to all travellers irrelevant of origin of flight. It also applies for incoming visitors by road or sea.
- wear a mask. You don’t want to pay 150-euro fine for not doing so.
What You Need to Know About Travel to Greece in Covid-19 Times
➣At the Airport
- wearing masks on board and in the airport at all times is mandatory
- you are strongly advised to use hand gels regularly – these are available throughout the airport
- ticket desks and passport controls are now carried out behind protective panels
- make sure to practice safe distancing from those in front or after you in waiting lines
- domestic passengers can only bring one item of hand luggage
- be alert, be informed, be responsible
- there will be no 14-day quarantine period
- maintain social distances at all times: leave one seat empty when siting in lounge areas or during boarding at gates.
* Greek health authorities have the right at any given time or place to take random coronavirus tests.
➣At Passport Control:
- incoming passengers from Europe will not be required to remain in quarantine
- travelers from abroad will be required to fill in special Covid-19 forms.
➣In Public Spaces and On Public Transport:
- avoid using public transport if you can walk
- if you take a bus or train, avoid crowding up, wear a mask, and once you get off sanitize your hands. Always throw away a used mask.
- Cab drivers are obliged to wear a mask
- open the window – do not accept the use of air conditioning
- always wear a mask.
➣On the Ferry:
- Sit outside
- maintain distancing (1.5-2 meters – about 6ft – away from fellow travelers) at all times, including embarkation and disembarkation
- wear a mask if you decide to sit indoors or outdoors when windy
- you must fill out and hand over a pre-boarding health declaration which you can print out from here
- you will be required to undergo a temperature check prior to boarding
- ferries will be traveling at 60 percent capacity
- passengers with high temperature or symptoms will be turned away
- if you have purchased a cabin, one person is allowed, with the exception of families of up to four, and people with disabilities traveling with companions
- all ferries are disinfected after each route.
- all hotels in Greece are required by law to implement stringent health protocols
- hotels with over 50 rooms or more are required by law to have a doctor on call and available telemedicine technology
- hotels and accommodation facilities are required by law to keep a log of all visitors
- The Greek tourism ministry has designated special “quarantine hotels” in all of the country’s regions to host potential Covid-19 cases and will be covering medical costs for those infected with the virus
*Greek hotels and tourism businesses cannot be held liable for coronavirus-related charges if they have implemented the Greek ministry’s health protocols.
- The city center is being closed off to cars and redesigned to create more public space for visitors and residents with walking and bike lanes allowing for more outdoor activities and recreation
- avoid crowded spaces.
➣On the Islands
- Greek authorities have said that medical doctors and health coordinators will be stationed at small island hotels
- emergency air transportation will be available to nearest health facility and telemedicine services activated
- tourists will be able to use an application – not ready yet – that will offer real-time information on Covid-19 developments and location of the nearest health facility
- Covid testing can also be done on floating medical units.
➣Renting Sail Boats or Yachts in Greece
- rent a boat only with friends or close contacts
- social distancing rules apply to all boat rentals or charters
- visitors are not allowed on board
- a detailed log of all activity must be kept at all times
- the number of passengers will depend on size of boat
- wearing a mask and practicing hygiene are encouraged on board and mandatory in closed spaces for skippers.
➣Camping in Greece
- The entrance of your tent, camper or trailer should 5 meters (16ft) from the others and 3 meters on either side
- campers should maintain distancing rules at all times keeping at least 1.5m apart from others
- all organized campsites have emergency plans in place and quarantine space for suspected Covid-19 cases
- always wear a mask when you are inside or in all common-use areas and facilities such as reception, bathrooms and washing areas. Don’t forget to practice hygiene
- campground owners are required by to disinfect regularly.
➣On the Beach
- the keep-your-distance rule applies to all beaches with organized beaches allowing 40 people per 1,000m2 of space. Umbrellas must be set at 4 meters apart and can be used by two people with the exception of families with children.
- sunbeds should be placed 1.5m apart (about 6ft)
- bring your own towel to the beach and use on beach chairs. It’s mandatory
- beach chairs and loungers are disinfected after every use
- drinks and food can only be served as take-away at beach bars and cafes. Seating is not allowed. Keep distances when waiting in line.
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♬And I end today’s post with some music-filled travel inspiration: a song penned in 1948 by rebetis Vassilis Tsitsanis: “Akrogyalies Deilina” about Greek seashores & sunsets. Here a fresh take by Greek band Imam Baildi.