Greece is undoubtedly one of the best options in Europe for a shot at a summer vacation – at the very least, the best southern European destination to plan for. Greece has had very low numbers of infection from coronavirus and, as of yesterday, is in the process of re-opening the country stage by stage. The Greek Prime Minister just said yesterday that the best-case scenario is to open Greece for summer holidays on July 1. Here is what their plan is for the re-opening.
Greece Could Open for Summer Travel July 1
Phased Re-Opening of Businesses and Gathering Places
May 4 was a big day in Greece – it marked the first day in almost 2 months where people were free to go out in their local area of the country. Not just did everyone have this freedom of movement but it was possible to go out without sending a message detailing which one of six allowable activities people were going out for. Breaking the lockdown resulted in a €150 fine – and the Greek police gave out over €4 million in fines!
During the lockdown, many people did go out for those activities which included things like nearby exercise, going to a grocery store, and helping a person in need. The Greek government had set up a free SMS number for people to send their movements to (or they could fill out a form for the police in case they were stopped). They received over 100 million SMS messages during the lockdown!
But, now, people are free to go out in their area of the country without having to notify the authorities and many small shops have reopened. The Greek government will be monitoring every 24 hours for a surge in virus cases but if everything stays calm, here is the schedule for reopening the country. Do note that it has been said that some of this can be moved to a week earlier if everything is going very well.
The Important Dates
- May 11 – some schools will reopen (for those in the grade for ages 16-17)
- May 17 – churches will reopen but there will be strict rules in place
- May 18 – Other grades and classes will reopen
- Also, people will be free to travel anywhere within the country, with the possible exception of traveling to the islands (will remain for residents only)
- June 1 – shopping malls and department stores will reopen and restaurants will be allowed to host guests
- Hotels (that are normally operating 12 months a year) will reopen
- Domestic flights will start up again
- Entertainment and sport arenas will be open (but things like sporting events will either be canceled or held without spectators)
The June 1 date is a big one and everyone will be watching to see what happens in the week following that. This date will allow more travel around the mainland (though the islands may still be closed a bit longer) and large places like shopping malls will reopen. But, if everything goes well, then the date of July 1 for an opening to tourists will look very good.
Included above is part of this but it includes the resumption of domestic flights as well as the reopening of hotels. The hotels will open in two-phases – hotels that are normally open for 12 months of the year will reopen June 1. Seasonal hotels will not open until July 1.
May 8 – New Health Protocols
Also, this step will involve working out special rules for the health and safety of common areas of tourists and vacationers – hotels, marinas, pleasure yachts, tour buses, airplanes, and airports. These new rules are expected May 8 and will inform the people of Greece as to what their summer holidays will look like in terms of health practices at these normally busy places during the summer.
Diplomatic Relations for Travelers From the US and Other Countries
Another part of the travel involves diplomatic relations. The Greek PM acknowledges that tourists from countries like the US will likely not come to Greece for vacation if they need to enter a 14 day quarantine period upon their return to the US. This phase will work to try and figure out what kind of health protocols would put countries at ease.
This could be things like a “health passport” that has been talked about before. This would show that the person has been tested shortly before coming to Greece. I would imagine that these negotiations would address this and possibly also have something similar to Vienna for those passengers returning to their homes from Greece.
This one is very good news for all people that want to enjoy some of the beautiful Greek beaches and sunshine! Tourism makes up almost 20% of the Greek economy so Greece absolutely needs at least part of a tourist season this year. Since the virus count in Greece has been very low compared to many other countries, it could give some travelers a positive outlook on spending some time in Greece from July – October.
The great news about all of this is that Greece does want to open up to countries outside of the EU/Schengen countries. This means that even people traveling from America could come and spend some beautiful summer days in Greece.
Will This Happen?
Of course, this is assuming that everything goes well with the phased openings of the country. This also assumes that airlines will want to resume flights to Greece. American Airlines actually does have flights scheduled to Athens from Chicago from June 5. Norwegian starts flying from JFK on June 16 (as of now). Emirates has flights scheduled out of Newark again as of July 1. Delta jumps in the mix with non-stops from JFK as of July 2. But, United has nothing on their schedule for Athens this year.
This means that the airlines are definitely hoping that things will be open by July 1. Of course, they could push the schedules or cancel them altogether but the fact that they are suspended until those dates likely means that they feel pretty good about offering these flights for sale. Remember, no airline wants to have to deal with more cancellations right now and passengers that are going to want their money back.
The independent hotels in Greece need this to happen. If you are looking at traveling to Greece this year, check beyond the chains as you may find some good deals with the many, many independent hotels that are hoping for travelers.
Just remember – if you have been to Greece before, Greece this summer may not be the same place you are used to (like this one beach bar using plexiglass barriers). The Greek PM even said that there may be some places closed, social distancing will be in effect but the same great natural beauty of Greece will be here. And, the fabulous Greek hospitality will do its absolute best to make sure you have a very memorable time.
Greece has done a great job of keeping the virus counts low and the country is just now reopening in phases. If things continue to go well, there still could be time this year for a fantastic summer holiday in Greece! Not only will you need this beautiful sunshine and sand but Greece needs you as well!
Get ready – it could be possible as soon as July 1!