Greece started a trial of sorts for tourists from several countries a few weeks ago, one of which was the US. Now, they are getting ready to swing their tourism doors open wide and welcome people from all over to enjoy a Greek summer vacation that millions of people missed last year. If this includes you, here is what you can expect – as of now.
Greece Opens Up to Tourists This Week
Link: Greece Travel Protocols
For months, Greece has been in one of the harder lockdowns in Europe. They closed things up pretty tight on November 7 and just started releasing the restrictions a couple of weeks ago. Under the lockdown, restaurants, cafes, malls, stores, beaches, etc were all closed. Now, things are starting to open up so here is what you can expect right now.
Greece will firm things up on this this week but as of now, here is what entering Greece entails. The day before arriving in Greece, up until 23:59 on the day before, tourists need to fill out the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) that you can do here. This will deliver you a QR code that officials will scan upon entering Greece. This will decide if you will be selected for a Covid screening/test at your airport of arrival.
If you are coming from the US, you will not need to quarantine but you will need to have your CDC vaccination card and have had your final dose at least 14 days before arriving in Greece. If you do not have this, then you will need a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Greece. This is necessary for all travelers over the age of 5.
Expect a bit of a delay at your arrival airport if you need to take another test on arrival. This is one reason you want to be near the front of the plane on arrival to ensure you are one of the first tested, if you need to be.
If you do test positive on the test taken at the airport, you will have to be accommodated at a quarantine hotel where you will have a PCR test to confirm the initial Rapid Antigen result. If that is also positive, you will need to be quarantined at one of these state-selected quarantine hotels for a least 10 days and need to test negative before being released. The expenses for the accommodations will be covered by Greece.
Traveling in Greece
At present, domestic travel is still not allowed though this is expected to be relaxed as soon as this weekend. But, there will still likely be some kind of measures in place for this travel. If you have a hotel booked as a tourist, you will be allowed to travel to that region. But, we will have to see what the final rulings are on the measures that will be in place to allow for regional travel. If you are in the early wave of tourists arriving after May 15, you may find yourself limited in travel but those limits should be lifted by the end of the month at the most.
One limit that is expected is that you will need to have done a self test before traveling. These are available at pharmacies and cost around €6 – €8 and are done on your own. You would just need to carry the proof of the result with you if stopped. Note: though the US is now accepting self tests for reentering the US, these tests would not meet those requirements since does not include any kind of video monitoring while taking the test.
Greece had assured their citizens and residents a while ago that any of the restrictions imposed on them will also be imposed on visitors/tourists as well. So, do not expect to get a pass on things just because you are a tourist! There was a Spanish visitor that was arrested for hosting a party in her flat after arriving and she had to pay a hefty fine!
But, it is expected that Greece will scrap the SMS protocol currently in place that requires people to send a SMS or fill out a movement paper before leaving their home or hotel. This should be removed by this weekend or early next week. This means that you should not have to be limited to what is on the form when you go out and about.
At present, mask use is still required in public buildings and outdoors unless you are exercising. Failing to do so will open you up to a €300 fine. This could change as far as outdoor use in the coming weeks but be aware of this for now. Some estimates place required mask use to be in place until late September.
Currently, many places in the country are set up in a Click and Shop situation or similar. This requires shoppers to make a reservation online or over the phone for each store they plan on going to – and have that SMS of the reservation handy in case stopped by police. You will be given a selection of time slots available and you will be limited to a certain amount of time in the store, something like 30 – 45 minutes. Officially. Unofficially, many stores really don’t care how long you spend in them because they are not currently filled to the legal capacity. This could change as tourists come.
But, this means that you cannot just head to a store on a whim. Even if there is no queue, you will still need to be sent a SMS from the reservation system so make sure you have a Greek phone number for this reason.
Managed beaches opened up last weekend so you should not have a problem finding a beach when you arrive! However, umbrellas are mandated to be set 13 feet apart with the chairs under them so things will be much more spread out.
This means if you are going to a beach bar/cafe to use their umbrellas and services (which only requires that you buy some drink or food from them – in many cases), expect to find them more crowded in the middle of the day. The Greek people have been waiting a long time to be able to head back to the beaches so they will certainly be doing this. With the amount of tourists that are coming, things could get crowded. So, either get there early or get a hotel/rental with a private beach.
Museums and outdoor tourist sites will reopen this week. For sure, there will be capacity limits and spacing required but this will be the first time in a longtime so people will be looking forward to this! For places that require ticket, you are definitely in luck. It means you will find places like the Acropolis more people-free than it would be in years past.
Restaurants and Cafes
For the first time in months, restaurants and cafes are now open – for outdoor seating. But, indoor seating is expected to possibly open as soon as June 1. For now, who wouldn’t want to sit outside in beautiful Greek weather while eating excellent Greek cuisine?!
Restaurants and cafes are still doing delivery and takeaway as well so those are still options also. For the seating, they are limiting it to 4 people to a table with spacing.
Returning to the US
If your flight leaving Greece is with Aegean, you can book a Covid test through them for between €40 – €60 and get the results back in a day. This test is sufficient for returning to the US. Failing this, you can also get tests at Athens airport or Thessaloniki airport as well as at private clinics. A rapid Antigen test typically costs around €20 while a PCR test is around €60.
Some things will clear up a bit in the coming days but this gives you a glimpse at what you can expect as of right now. As I have maintained for a while, if you hold off your trip to Greece until at least June, you wil have a better shot at things being a bit more normal, more or less. The most optimal time this year would likely be in August – October (though August is also the most expensive so a beautiful compromise on normalcy and price would be mid-September until mid/end October).
Millions have already booked their trips to Greece and Greece is waiting with open arms! Hopefully, you will get a chance to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the people, the food, and the historic sites of this fascinating country.