This escalated fast and it will be a shock to many who may have thought about visiting Greece for the holidays or to enjoy a nice winter vacation as this will hit the pocketbook hard as well. As of December 19, all visitors to Greece will be required to have a negative PCR test to enter the country.
Greece Will Require Negative PCR Test for ALL Visitors
Link: Greece Ministry of Health Announcement (this page is in Greek)
Let me start by saying this at the top – this new directive is so new that the Greek official travel page does not yet have this requirement on it. This is the page that you use to generate the Greek PLF and this is still saying that you can enter with just a vaccination certificate.
Because of this, that means that certain information will not be entirely clear until later today or even this weekend. The main piece of information that we need cleared up is what “all” means. Currently, that Greek page says that “all” travelers will need a negative PCR test or rapid test if they are not vaccinated but they go on to specify that this means everyone over the age of 12. So, will this continue to be the parameter for the required age or will it go down to even 2 year olds like the US requires (though for rapid tests).
The New Rules on Greece and PCR Tests
Here is the information you need to know now: As of December 19, all visitors (again, clarification needed on the minimum age) entering Greece will need to have a negative PCR test that was sampled less than 48 hours before entering the country.
This means that even if you are vaccinated, you will need a PCR test. Until earlier this year, non-vaccinated people could only use a PCR test and it had to be within 72 hours of entry. But, they later added rapid antigen tests as an option and those had to be done within 48 hours. With rapid antigen tests, a 48 hour window is easy since the results are available in minutes or less than an hour.
However, if you are traveling from the US to Greece, a 48 hour window from the time the sample is taken until you arrive in Greece can be very difficult and very expensive. Remember, you need to have your negative test in hand before you board your first flight on your itinerary. That means that if you have a connecting flight to your international gateway to fly towards Greece, you could be looking at starting your journey 18-24 hours before you arrive in Greece.
The only exception is for travelers that had been in the countries prior to Greece for less than 48 hours (we need clarification on this as it could seem to some people that they could jump to another country for 24 hours and then fly to Greece even though their travel was actually originating in the US). This will likely shake out to mean that you had been in Greece 48 hours before arriving back in Greece or you had flown from Greece and only spent 48 hours in the country you are returning from.
This Could Get Expensive for Many
If that is the case, many PCR tests will not be available to you and you will have to spring for the rapid PCR tests that can be delivered in an hour or two – but these cost $250 or more per test.
This really did escalate quickly because it was just a couple of days ago that they announced that all travelers from the UK and Denmark needed to follow this as of Sunday, December 19. But, even though there are only 10 confirmed cases of Omicron in country, Greece has decided to step it up and require this of all travelers. This decision was made last night and no word yet on how long it will last.
In addition, the Greek Prime Minister also said that he is not ruling out new “health protocols” to keep Covid numbers down. At present, if you do not have a vaccine certificate, you are only allowed to enter supermarkets/grocery stores, food places for take out only, and, with a laboratory negative test from the day before, houses of worship.
This is all about the upcoming Christmas season which is typically very busy and popular for people to move around to visit family during. The normal holiday season in Greece lasts from just before Christmas until after January 6.
Skip Travel to Greece Right Now?
So, at this point, I would plan on skipping travel to Greece right now. Since the beginning of this whole Covid situation almost 2 years ago, I have never discouraged people from visiting Greece but given the extra cost and requirement of the PCR tests now as well as the potential for increased restrictions, this does not seem to be the best time to visit. That is, unless you are planning to just visit and stay with family.
Hopefully, this is only about the Christmas travel season and these changes will be rolled back or relaxed a bit after that has passed.