Travel News Traveling to Greece

What It Is Like to Travel to Greece During Covid-19 – Testing, Quarantine, Etc.

Written by Charlie

Here is what it is like to travel to Greece during Covid-19. This shows you what you can expect in the near future and what happens with random selections later.

Greece is extremely anxious to welcome tourists for their modified summer holiday time. But, they also want to keep low Covid-19 numbers since they have been able to keep the total number of cases in the country to just over 3,000. Here is what it is like to travel to Greece during the Covid-19 situation.

What Is It Like to Travel to Greece During Covid-19

Update July 1 – Testing will now be done in a targeted manner based on the information about each traveler. It is not mandatory for everyone anymore.

I have many, many posts about Greece during the Covid-19 pandemic that you can see here. As someone who was here during the whole situation, all of my information is first-hand. Last week, I finally needed to make a trip to the US that I had canceled on me 11 times in all. So, I will have a couple of posts this week about what to expect traveling from Europe to the US and then from the US to Europe.

Note: Since the EU countries have closed the external Schengen borders until July 1, there are only certain people who are allowed entry into most of those countries. Refer to this page for more information on whether you will be allowed in or not.

Leaving from the US

I departed out of a regional airport in New York state. This meant that if I was traveling to Athens, I would have to receive a Covid-19 test (since departing from certain countries/states on the EASA high risk list requires a test). If I had traveled from a different state that was not on the see that list here and was flying to Athens, I would only be subject to random testing.

But, I was flying to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki started receiving international flights as of June 15. Every passenger on an international flight into Thessaloniki faces required testing on arrival into Thessaloniki.

Even though I checked into the ROC airport, I had to check-in again with SWISS in Chicago with my documents. Upon presenting my US passport, I was asked for any EU ID. I have a resident permit for Greece so gave them that and they scanned that for my check-in (since US passport holders are not allowed to enter most EU countries without certain documents).

When I arrived at the gate, we were told it was mandatory to wear masks but this was just a Chicago rule. Upon boarding, it was told that it was “recommended” but not required. Still, most people on the full plane wore masks during the flight.

Arriving in Europe

Before landing, we had to fill out a health declaration. It asked about any Covid-19 symptoms we may have had recently as well as where we departed from, what countries we had been in, what seat I was in, and what our final destination in Europe was. These forms were collected and given to officials upon landing.

Going through passport control was incredibly easy since there were almost no passengers around at all. I was quickly processed in (again, having a resident permit allowed for an easy entry) and then had a long layover (another post!).

At no point in the Zurich airport was I stopped to have my temperature taken or asked any health questions, other than the form on the plane. When we boarded the plane to Thessaloniki (also full – it was the first flight from Switzerland to Thessaloniki in months), it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Arriving in Greece

Thessaloniki Airport

Before landing, we were given forms like the one below. This was to be filled out within 5 minutes and then passed back to the flight attendants.

The health declaration form for entering Greece during Covid-19

There are two sides to the form – one for people that had an origination airport in the low risk EASA locations and one for high risk. This only really matters in Athens and after July 1 when tests will be done randomly, except for some arrivals.

Health Forms

Again, once this form is given in, we don’t see those again as they are given directly to officials on landing. But, when we disembarked the plane, we were met by more officials who gave us a paper we had to fill out again. We were directed to school desks where we filled out the information on these forms.

Covid-19 Test

The information these forms required was about where we were staying in Greece and contact information. Once this was completed, we went through a line to a medical area with about 4 or 5 privacy booths. Each booth had a nurse that did the Covid-19 test. The Covid-19 tests used in Greece are not the uncomfortable ones we read about in the US – instead, it is similar to a strep throat test where they use a long swab and swab the back of your throat. It will make you gag but that it is, it wasn’t painful or very uncomfortable at all.

After the Covid-19 Test

The nurse said that I needed to remain at my destination for 24 hours. They would receive the results of this test inside of that time and if it was positive, I would receive a phone call. If it was negative, I would not be called. I imagine that I would have also received a phone call if anyone on the flight tested positive.

You do need to state where your destination is and you must remain there for 24 hours. It has to be located in Thessaloniki (or Athens, if arriving there). If you have a hotel not in the city (like if you are headed to Halkidiki), you can either stay in a hotel of your choice (and pay yourself), or the Greek government will put you up in a hotel.

I did not receive a phone call within the 24 hours following so I was all clear and did not have the virus! There was not even a phone call to check and see if I was staying in my destination.

Post July 1, testing will be random at all Greek airports for international passengers. But, there may be other restrictions in place for certain passengers, depending on where their origination was.

Tips for Arriving in Greece During Covid-19

Our SWISS Airbus A321 was almost completely full with 212 passengers. Every single passenger had to be tested. I was one of the first off the plane and the whole process took no more than 5 minutes for me but that was because I was the second to be tested. If you are one of the last off, it could take quite a while to complete the testing process!

Make sure you secure a seat near the front of the plane! Even if it costs a bit to select such a seat, it will be worth it! Also note that most flights into Thessaloniki disembark from the rear as well so that is another option, especially since those are almost always free.

Do not stop for any bathroom break or anything else when you get off – just move quickly so you do not get stuck behind everyone! Also, while they have pens available, have a pen ready to fill out the form and have your passport and trip information at the ready. There were about a dozen desks to fill out the papers but I saw about 20 people filling them out on walls and such to get done quickly. If you are ready to go and fill it out, you can be done quicker.

Bottom Line

From what I have observed, Greece is doing a very efficient job at trying to keep the number of Covid-19 cases low, especially from incoming tourists. I am not sure what would happen if someone on your plane tests positive but that could throw a wrench in the whole plan for your vacation.

Originally, passengers that tested negative were required to self-quarantine for 7 days but that has now been dropped. If you are negative, you are free to move about after the 24 hours following your test.

We will see what changes after July 1. I may have to take an inter-European flight after that so I will have an opportunity to see what is in place following that.

Vacationing in Greece is a great thing to do but if you are due to travel to Greece in the next couple of weeks, be prepared for some extra steps in your trip to ensure that Greece stays healthy.

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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.

21 Comments

  • I’m anxiously waiting for the EASA airport list to be updated. The last update was June 3. A lot has changed since then.

    Any idea how often they are going to update this list post July 1?

    Hope you got some good bougatsa in Thessaloniki.

    • I don’t get it as much as I want but will this week. 🙂 They had said they would update that more often but I think they may be avoiding it a bit until the EU borders actually open.

  • Charlie, thanks.

    “You do need to state where your destination is and you must remain there for 24 hours. It has to be located in Thessaloniki (or Athens, if arriving there). If you have a hotel not in the city (like if you are headed to Halkidiki), you can either stay in a hotel of your choice (and pay yourself), or the Greek government will put you up in a hotel.”

    This will present a problem post-July 1 for many, including ,myself, whom plan on landing in Athens and then heading elsewhere immediately. Charlie, do you know if this will be amended post-July 1? What if someone needs to be in another region that same day? They will be forced to stay in Athens?

    My worry is they make some announcements a day or two before the date they are set to implement them. Delta still has my flight on for mid July. The plane looks to be at 87 percent capacity (384 seats out of 450 are booked). I don’t think all those folks are planning on staying in Athens as soon as they arrive.

    Any idea if or how they will implement all of this then? Or if they could end up not even letting Americans in by July 15?

    To Sam’s point, the New York area cases have gone down quite a lot and continue to trend downwards. Other states are seeing spikes obviously. The equivalent of a region of NYC being grouped with Florida would be like saying travelers from Italy cannot enter because their is a spike of cases in Scotland.

    We hear conflicting reports i.e. this will be based on easa regions, or grouping a whole country on the easa list, which would make little sense..

    Then the question is if the EC makes another recommendation that member states keep a segment out until a further date, does Greece follow that? The whole thing is conflicting and confusing unfortunately. Really wish we’d get some clarification.

    • That is something I am waiting to hear more about – what happens to the people who are randomly selected for testing after July 1. My guess is that they will just tell you to stay in your room at your destination, especially since they had been having a problem getting many hotels onboard with their €30 offer for hotels (plus those hotels had to agree to exclusively be for quarantined travelers and the government would pay just €30 per day). I seriously doubt that the government is able to secure those hotels in island cities. That means that they would rely on the traveler to just stay put at the final destination.

      • https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/world/europe/coronavirus-EU-American-travel-ban.html?campaign_id=60&emc=edit_na_20200623&instance_id=0&nl=breaking-news&ref=cta&regi_id=68121303&segment_id=31652&user_id=c681c535b293b8779367fb4211fdc651

        Charlie, the big issue here is that according to this, if Greece does not following the EC guidelines, they risk closing borders in internally with other member’s of the bloc. Do you think they could enforce border patrols to appease the EU so that Americans could enter, while also quelling any fears that Americans would somehow try to travel to other EU countries via Greece if they were allowed in (which sounds utterly ridiculous as I type it).

        • I just published a post now about that. I honestly don’t know what Greece will do. On one hand, they have been dealing with closed borders internally for a while now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they work something out where Americans can enter Greece but are not allowed to board planes for other European cities. They do this now as a visa check. It would not be hard to institute and they could still allow Americans to visit via Istanbul, Doha, London, and even Israel. But, will they think American tourists are worth that? Probably not.
          The biggest wildcard to me is the Greek-Americans who do not have a form of entry during situations like this but a ton of family that they normally spend summer holidays with. For these visitors, quarantine is not a problem and Greece already has testing in place.
          I would not be surprised if Greece is pushing back hard at this. I guess we will find out soon.

  • Thanks again for the continuing updates. Looking forward to seeing what the process is like after July 1, and hoping the EU doesn’t move the date again.

    As for Sams comment about bougatsa I’m partial to bougatsa from Krinos in Athens.

    • Krinos is good, no doubt

      My wife’s family is from Thessaloniki. They are very proud of their bougatsa abilities and rightfully so! Cheese, custard, meat, etc.

    • No problem! I sure hope they don’t move it! Bougatsa is something that does have some differences between Thessaloniki and Athens!

      • Been off line for a day and need to catch up on the new information seeing that the EU is looking to block Americans. Hopefully something gets worked out.
        On a less serious note, never knew there was a difference in bougatsa nor that there was a version with meat! My family is from Athens and Crete so I have learned something new, thanks Charlie and Sam! Now to convince the family to go to Thessaloniki….assuming we will be able to get back to Greece.

  • The EASA list is worthless. Instead, use the list compiled by the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. The update it every other day.

    • The problem is that the EU countries are basing their limitations on arrivals based on the EASA list, so it doesn’t matter what the other list says. Shame that they cannot update a government-dependent list to be more relevant.

  • Hi Charlie,

    I am due to arrive in Athens on July 2nd on Qatarairways from Bali via Doha. I am an EU citizen. I was informed by Qatarairways that if I enter Greece I will be tested and have to quarantine for at least 7 days regardless of result of the test. I read from your post that this rule has been scraped so was wondering if you have more infos on that. Also, is the swab test you receive at the airport free or you have to pay for it? In this case, any idea of price?
    Thank you and enjoy your time in Greece!

    • Hi, Valentina! According to the general rules as of now, flights arriving after July 1 will only have random testing. The results are available within 24 hours so you would just need to quarantine for those 24 hours – according to what the government had said.
      But, the wildcard may be that you are arriving as a transit passenger through Doha. Greece had suspended flights from Qatar earlier this month when 12 passengers tested positive. So, maybe they will be testing all passengers on Qatar Airways flights? But, it should still be just the 24 hours. The other issue is if someone tests positive on your flight – then they would likely have everyone self-quarantine for 7 days.

      • Thank you, Charlie! It makes sense what you are saying. What about the test, is It given for free or do we have to pay for it?

        • It is free, at least for the visitor. 🙂 Strangely enough, clinics in Greece are charging €120 for a quick test that gives results in an hour and is a quick cheek swab. The tests at the airport take up to 24 hours (but likely less, just cushioning for the time to get all the results to the labs) and is like a strep culture, swabbing the back of the throat.

          • Hi! Thanks for all this info. Do you know where any of the clinics are located which offer Covid testing? I will be staying in Piraeus for a couple nights before my flight to Italy, and it is required passengers from Greece get tested before going to the Amalfi coast. The airport offers the tests but unfortunately my flight is too early and they don’t start testing until 7am. I was hoping to do a test somewhere else in Athens or Piraeus the day before, but I just don’t know where else the tests are offered. Thank you!

          • Hi, Alison – the public hospitals do offer testing (I think it is €50?) but I am not sure which ones in Athens do that and how long it takes to get results. If you can manage it, the best thing to do may be to go to the airport the day before for the testing. It should be quicker with the results even though I know it would likely be inconvenient.

BoardingArea