It feels a bit weird to write a post like this while so many countries are still in lock down mode but the truth is that Greece has done an incredible job in containing the virus, they are starting to open up, and they really want tourists to come visit!
COVID-19 Notice: Obviously, the world is still struggling with the effects of the coronavirus and is still may not be the time for travel in most places. But, Greece is working hard to get protocols and procedures in place to make sure the people in Greece stay healthy as well as the people coming to Greece.
Greece Open for Summer Travel
The Ramp Up to Greece Opening for Summer
First of all, Greece is making some great moves as they reopen the country in phases. We are currently in Phase 2 which has many stores open now with the exception of malls. It also has restaurants and coffee shops open for takeout or delivery and people are free to have movement within their area of residence (like the city and nearby villages).
Soon, people will be able to travel freely through the Greek mainland, people will be able to start flying to Greece from many countries in Europe (this will lift May 15), and hotels will start opening June 1.
This is all part of a measured build up to open Greece for foreign tourists on July 1. Greece is talking with the EU leaders about protocols to have in place to ensure that those coming to Greece from within Europe will not have to go into quarantine. This will start as of June 15 and these measures will be helpful for welcoming guests as of July 1.
Also, by July 1, travel to the islands will be open as well. In addition, there are ancient sites that are being opened in phases as well so those should be available to check out for your summer trip also.
When Should You Travel to Greece?
Greece is treating their September and October dates as part of their summer travel season this year as well – and it looks like the weather may cooperate with that. It is forecasted that Greece could have one of the hottest summers in recent years so that means that end of September could still yield some great beach and swimming weather.
For those that want to take a chance on the airlines keeping their schedules as they currently are, early-mid July could actually yield some very good rates that are quite a bit below the regular July prices for Greece and the islands.
But, if you want to make plans with as great a confidence level as possible this year, I would say to look for mid-September until the end of October. With many schools starting up again in early September, there should be good availability as well as some great weather still existing.
Avoid the week around August 15! This is one of the biggest holidays for Greeks and is a time when many head to the beaches. In fact, the cities are extremely quiet during this time as everyone moves to their beach homes and hotels.
Making Flight Plans to Visit Greece
US airlines have Athens on their schedules, starting July 2 with Delta. American follows the next week (pushed back from their former June dates which were on the schedule last week) and United does not have any flights to Athens on the schedule.
Other European airlines will be flying to Greece as well, including the holiday-type airlines like Wizz Air, Ryanair, and EasyJet.
Tip – Check With Miles First
While business class may not be available in abundance with miles (at least on non-stop flights from the US), economy will be open and available. I mention to use miles since airlines are still giving people a hard time with cash refunds for canceled trips. In those cases, they need to give the money back but they are making the rules up as they go along as to when they need to give a refund.
So, while airlines do need money right now, I would say that, for travelers, the best bet will be using miles for travel in the months of July and August. This way, you will be more protected if the airlines cancel – they have to give you the miles back and you won’t be out cash for any amount of time.
- Miles could keep your cash safe in case of airline cancellations
- But, cash fares in September and October could both be safer and cheaper so consider that
- For travel from the US, consider using a Star Alliance partner for mileage awards – like Aeroplan, Avianca, or United
Making Hotel Plans to Visit Greece
While you may want to use hotel points, you may also want to look at more independent hotels. This is a tough call, however, since it is guessed that over 10% of these hotels may go out of business. Of course, you do not want to have to be out of your money for a while (even though you can file a chargeback with your credit card – make sure you use a card that has strong traveler protections, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve).
But, the reason to look beyond the chains is two-fold – there are some great deals to be had as they try to get customers and they really need the customers.
So this is really a way where you can help out the local economy while receiving some great value in return. Not only that, but the smaller, independent hotels also have some perks in light of this COVID-19 age – things like private beaches, fewer guests, more social distancing opportunities without feeling squished, etc.
On the other hand, going with chain hotels (Hyatt has over 20 hotels available for booking through their system in Greece) can give you some points for your stay, benefits, and the assurance that the hotel will likely not be going out of business this summer.
So, check out the smaller, boutique hotels on the islands to find something that could give you great value and give that hotel the boost it so richly needs.
- Independent hotels could offer better deals than chains to get more business
- Chain hotels could offer more stability
- Great mix would be something like the SLH hotels booked through Hyatt
Beaches and Tours
Greece is doing everything it can to try and make the beaches work for vacationers. It will be difficult since most summer weekends have the beaches absolutely packed.
So, you will need to be prepared for beach time to possibly be less than normal. This may include things like scheduling time with your hotel for the beach, or maybe renting a car so that you can take off and find some public beach that may be a bit more secluded.
If you are on the mainland, definitely look at Halkidiki in northern Greece. There are hundreds of really great beaches available on the three fingers of this area of the country and it still puts you anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours from driving to tour one the great city of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and has some great restaurants, ancient sites to visit, and a beautiful waterfront.
This is all to say that while things like restaurants, cafe-bars, and beaches will be different from years past, you can still plan a great vacation. Instead of all beach, check out some of the sites as well. There are many beautiful places around Greece and this summer would be a great time to escape from where you have been in quarantine while helping the Greek economy.
While renting cars can be a very pricey thing in Greece in the summer and the driving is not for the faint of heart, in light of COVID-19, it could be a nice option to have your own car.
This will let you avoid the public transportation while also giving you the independence to go wherever you want, when you want. I suggest you go ahead and look for a rental now and reserve it without paying for it now – make sure you can cancel for free. The reason is that not everyone is making plans to go yet so you could snag a better deal now than later – and you can always cancel later for free.
Dining and Refreshments
Greece is known for some amazing food and, depending on where you are in Greece, it can be incredibly cheap. For instance, in many restaurants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, you can get an amazing spread of local food for a couple for less than $50. That is a lot of food! For a regular dinner, you can do a nice restaurant and good food for under $25.
Or, you can grab the classic gyro sandwich for around $3 – and get a good amount of meat in it to fill you up!
If you love coffee, Greek coffee is great and also quite cheap. There are Starbucks in the main cities but the prices are similar to US prices and that means it will likely cost you for one Starbucks beverage what you could get two Greek beverages for that are really great as well. In fact, you can even grab a Greek frappe for just €1 at many places!
When it comes to staying hydrated, water is cheap. A .5 liter bottle of water, by law, costs no more than 50 cents. That means you can stop at any roadside stand or store and grab a cold bottle for just 50 cents.
The Greek leaders have said that this will not be your typical Greek summer holiday. Be aware that some things may not be like you had imagined or that you may be a bit more restricted in some things like visiting full beaches, cafes, etc. They are doing a great job of getting things open but they also want to stay safe and healthy – you will still have a great time but just keep in mind that there will be health safety measures at work as well.
Greece is confident in their reopening plan and they are working on some smart measures to make sure that their country stays safe from the COVID-19 spread while also welcoming foreign tourists. This means that you could absolutely be on a beautiful Greek beach in just a couple of months!
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about Greece or travel to Greece! Watch for more posts about travel to Greece to help you plan a great summer holiday!