Traveling to Greece

Greece Opens Official Tourism Doors May 15th – Here is What to Expect (as of now)

Written by Charlie

Greece is opening their tourism doors this week – May 15. Here is what you can expect inside Greece as of now. But, things are changing quickly!

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.

List of Non-Stop Flights from the US to Greece

Entering Greece

Passengers from some “high-risk” countries may be tested on arrival

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

Thessaloniki, 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.

Movement Restrictions

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.

Shopping

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.

Beaches

deal on DJI Mavic Air

This is from a beach in Halkdiki, Greece

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.

Tourist Sites

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

The meat portion of an amazing meal we enjoyed at a restaurant in northern Greece

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

17 Comments

  • Heya.
    I discovered your blog a few weeks ago as I’ve been planning a trip to Greece this summer and am also a (not very fast!) runner. Thanks for all of the great info!

    You mention above to make sure to have a Greek phone number, and I’m wondering if you could suggest where I should sign up for one. I and everyone I’ll be travelling with are on iPhones, in case that makes a difference. Thanks in advance for your help!
    Shari

    • Hi, Shari! Glad the information has helped so far and a runner is a runner! Speed is all relative for sure but we all enjoy the journey! 🙂
      They are scrapping the whole reservation system for shopping as of Friday (I will be doing an update tomorrow) so you will no longer need a number for that. If you want to have service while in Greece, you can get a prepaid SIM card at any of the Greek companies – Vodafone or Cosmote would likely be the best options (but Wind would also be good if you are in the cities). If you only wanted to use data (so you could still do things like FaceTime or use data calling services), you could get a data sim card from Vodafone. It is free and you can load as much data on it as you want. We typically use the €10 for 40GB option – and you can add as many of those as you want!
      If you have a US carrier that has a nice overseas package, then you will not need any of that. If you do not, consider getting a Google Fi sim as that is $10 per GB – pricier than Vodafone but it will work wherever you are, including transit airports, and incoming and outgoing SMS messages are free.
      Let me know if you have any other questions and feel free to shoot me an e-mail as well – charlie@runningwithmiles.com. If you are visiting northern Greece, that is where I am so I can give you some additional tips for that.

      • Thanks for all of this incredibly useful information and for the great updates! I’ll just turn on international phone service with our US carrier for the month we’ll be travelling and we should be good. I’m sure it will be a bit more expensive, but it seems like the most convenient way to go if we don’t need a local number. We’re not going to make it to Northern Greece this trip. We’re dreaming of island beaches after a year of no travel! 🙂

  • Hi Charlie,
    Thanks for all this great information!
    We are arriving to Athens airport this weekend and staying in Athens for the night because of the arrival time.
    Wondering if we will be able to take the ferry from Piraeus to the Saronic islands the next day?
    Thank you!
    Isabel

    • Hi, Isabel! Thanks for the encouragement! Glad you are able to visit Greece!
      Ferries are running but require covid tests – even self-tests work (you can get those at pharmacies for under $10 each). Full vaccinations – as long as it has been 14 days – also work for the ferries. Many ferries are running so you should be ok, just check the schedule. Also, if you are not vaccinated but you get your PCR test within 72 hours of arrival, as long as it is still 72 hours by the time you are taking the ferry, that will work as well.
      Enjoy your time!

  • Hi Charlie
    Any idea how quickly the ATH testing site returns results?
    Arrive in ATH from Naxos at 7PM with a Turkish flight to US via IST the next morning at 10AM. Thinking I might take the earlier Naxos departure at 9AM.
    THANKS FOR ALL YOUR UPDATES!
    Danny

    • Hi, Dan, they say it is same day but it could be slower during overnights. If possible, you may want to go for the earlier departure unless you can get a test in Naxos. You could e-mail your hotel to see if they know since they are well aware of the testing requirements for many countries, especially the US. Thanks for the kind words! more updates coming!

  • Hey Charlie, I have been noticing a trend where the prices for hotels in Greece seems to have increased dramatically compared to pre-COVID-19. I had a trip booked for last May that obviously got canceled due to the pandemic.

    In looking at prices for the exact same hotels that we had booked last year, they seem to have increased dramatically this year.

    For example, our Santorini hotel (May 9 – May 11 2020) cost 454EUR. This year, the exact same room at the same Hotel costs €1170 for Sep 18 – 20th. Prices do go down once you get into October, Oct 2 – Oct 4th costs €738… so while that is cheaper than the September dates it is still obviously significantly pricier than our May dates from last year. (I wasn’t sure which Fall dates would most closely correspond to the early May dates that I had booked last year, but I felt like comparing September or October dates was a fair comparison versus May).

    Similarly, for our two night stay in Mykonos from May 7 to May 9, 2020 we had paid $341. For October 7 to October 9, 2021 the price for the same room is $445. Not quite as drastic as the Santorini hotel… but still a significant increase.

    What are your thoughts? Have you seen or heard about this trend as well?

    • Hi, HoKo! Yes, I have been seeing that and there are (I think) a couple of reasons for this.
      A lot of hotels did vouchers for canceled reservations last year but a lot of those were for the amount paid. By hiking prices this year, they are still able to get some fresh cash from the people that booked last year. Another reason is that everyone is worried that a new wave could hit at some point and the government locks things up again (unlikely before October but you never know). If that does happen, they are going to want as many reservations on the books as possible. Another thing is that the demand is huge right now. Millions of tourists have already booked trips to Greece so the hotels are raising prices in response.
      I am working on a post now for point options as this may be a perfect year for that, especially at some of the boutique style places under the World of Hyatt umbrella. We are actually going for a more private villa setup (through Travelocity – credit with them) since the prices have not gone up as much as hotels and we have a lot of people in our family!
      October is way higher in many island areas this year since they are trying to squeeze as much of the summer as they can. I was amazed at how much more some places were for late September/early October than they were for even June!
      Hope you find some things that work for you!

  • Without non stops in place yet, tough to get to Greece from the US. Can’t transit Germany or any Schengen country so guess Turkey and perhaps the UK and UAE are the best options.

    • As others have said, you can transit through Germany and some Schengen countries, with the exception of Switzerland (for right now). Just have the printout of that from the airline/country website in case you get an officer that does not think that is the case. We saw one such situation when we we were entering Greece earlier this year but I imagine most of the confusion is gone now for officers.

      • That’s great news. I thought because you were going non-Schengen to Schengen, you had to enter Germany, which wasn’t allowed. I understand a non-Schengen to non-Schengen transit is no problem, but didn’t think that Americans were allowed to enter the Schengen area, even if just for transit. Once you’re in Schengen, you could just walk out the door couldn’t you?
        Enjoy the blog and the great Greece updates. Looking forward to running the Athens Marathon again (did so in 2019).

  • Hello,
    My husband and I have been fully vaccinated since April and have a direct flight from JFK to Athens booked for June 4. From there we have hotels booked in Crete, Santorini & Mykonos. Our flight from Athens to Crete is booked as well as our ferries from the other islands. Will we have any issues traveling within Greece given we are fully vaccinated? Also any guesses as to when music will be allowed again?

    Thank you!

    • Hi! They are talking about revisiting the music rule in June but I think early June may be a bit too soon. Who knows for sure, though! 🙂
      As long as it has been 14 days from your final dose and you have your vaccination card, you will not have any issue with travel to or inside Greece. The only thing to note is that you will still be required to wear a mask outdoors and inside public spaces – except for things like the beach or when seated at a restaurant.

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