People from around the world are hoping to be able to travel the beautiful, friendly, and sun-bathed country of Greece this summer. While many are tourists, there are also family members that are eager to return to the villages of their ancestors or to see family that they have been unable to be with in person for over a year. If you are planning on making the trip, here are some things to expect.
Traveling to Greece? Some Things to Expect (Subject to Change, Of Course!)
Tourism Workers to Be Vaccinated
This is certainly a bit of a sore spot with some Greeks but part of the plan for allowing people to enter Greece has been to vaccinate the 800,000 workers that are in the tourism industry.
This is a bit sensitive with some because they are just now working their way through vaccinating the 60+ age people and those with health issues. This week, they hit the 2 million mark with a high day of 53,000 in a day.
So, to vaccinate all 800,000 tourism workers, they will need to start in the coming weeks and vaccinate only those people at 50,000 per day to have everyone receive the jabs by the May 14 opening date. Of course, you have to figure the 2-shot schedule into that as well and the period of time following that last shot so just know that not everyone in the tourism space in Greece will be vaccinated by the time May 14 rolls around.
This does mean, however, that most should be fully vaccinated and at work by the middle/end of June.
Outdoor Dining or Hotel Restaurant
Outdoor dining still has no opening date in Greece. This means that you will need to just do takeaway or delivery for a bit if you arrive in the early days of the tourism opening date. The Greek government has said that they “hope” to have the outdoor dining scene open up sometime after the Greek Easter, which lands on May 2 this year.
However, hotel restaurants will be allowed to operate as normal, or at least, Covid normal. This will follow the health protocols of last year that mean no more than 4 to a table and no self-serve stations.
The self-serve part is a bit of a disappointment as hotels that have buffets are an incredible place to just enjoy everything that Greece has to offer, available for the taking. Now, it will need to be done through a menu or the pointing system when you get up to the food.
So, if you arrive in May or June, be prepared that some restaurants may not be open for dining – possibly outdoor but likely not indoor. But, hotel restaurants will be operating so you can always eat at your hotel.
Also, consider that many family-owned restaurants will not reopen. If you have had a favorite from past visits, do not be surprised if it is not open this year. At the same time, if your favorite is open, do the owners (and yourself!) a favor and eat there. You will love the food, again, and help a wonderful place to stay open a little longer!
When In Greece…
At present, Israeli tourists are allowed into Greece at the rate of 10,000 per week. These are tourists that have the Green Pass, which means they have either been vaccinated or fully recovered from the virus. Right now, they are able to travel around Greece without a problem. But, citizens and residents of Greece are not allowed to do even this. Except for weekends, people that live in Greece are not able to travel outside of their municipality.
But, this will change when May 14 comes around. Whatever restrictions Greek citizens and residents have to observe will need to be observed by all visiting tourists as well. This means that if they are limited in traveling to certain cities/municipalities due to surges, you will be limited as well.
This is the same for mask use. Right now, masks are required everywhere – indoors and outdoors – except in one’s home. Failing to wear a mask means you risk getting a ticket for €300. Not all police are giving these tickets out and several people are going without a mask outdoors (especially those that exercise, which is allowed). I would imagine that police will likely not give a ticket right away to a tourist, either. It will probably come as a warning.
But, there are also restrictions against parties/gatherings. Nothing over 6 people or else the organizer/host gets a €3,000 or €5,000 ticket while those in attendance will receive a €300 ticket. A Spanish visitor had this happen so make sure you follow this rule!
When you arrive in Greece, you will receive a text message about certain rules and restrictions. This will help you to know what is expected. For more help, ask your hotel/host for what is currently allowed. This is the same for curfews. At present, the curfew kicks in from 9PM until 5AM for most of the country.
While many outdoor archeological sites are open (like the Acropolis), there may be many museums that are still closed in the early phases of the tourist opening.
But, if you come in May or June, you may have places like the Acropolis mostly to yourself (and a few dozen others) at a time of year that traditionally sees long lines of non-socially distant people in attendance.
So, it will be hit and miss – some places will be closed, some open. Those that are opened will have fewer people inside than in past years so it means you get some more unobstructed views than in the past.
Beautiful Beaches – Still Here!
If you visit Greece for the beaches, they have not changed! You can expect them to be pretty much the same as in years past! But, do not think they will be not crowded! This is because people in Greece have essentially been restricted to their homes for the past 6 months and they are eager to get out. Once it is permissible to go to the beaches, locals will likely be going in droves – and probably more frequently than in years past.
So, if you crave a less crowded beach scene (which will likely have capacity limits announced in the next couple of weeks anyway), look for a hotel/property that has a private beach. These will likely be closely monitored by management/owners to ensure that their guests are getting the secluded experience they are advertising. Another thing is to visit a beach cafe earlier in the day. As long as you keep buying snacks or drinks throughout the day, you will have a nice seat and close access to the water.
Arrivals and Departures
Greece has maintained all year that they will not require visitors to be vaccinated. But, if you are not vaccinated, you will need to be carrying a negative test with you. For the last 7 months, this has been a PCR test which is more expensive and takes longer to get a result from than a rapid antigen test. Depending on where you live, it will be a cost you may need to consider adding on to your trip.
Greece will also be doing random testing on arrivals for passengers. This could include vaccinated passengers. But, don’t worry. None of the arrival tests I have received have been the more invasive nasal swabs but just inside the nose or a cheek swab.
Be assured that there will be protocols in place in case you do test positive. Like last year, the government has said they will absorb the cost of your quarantine in Greece.
Lastly, when you are preparing to leave, if your destination country requires a negative test, this is easier and cheaper to obtain in Greece than in the US! If you need a PCR test and are flying with Aegean, you can get one for €40-50 and have the results in 24 hours. If a rapid antigen test is sufficient, these can be had for around €20 and you will have the results in an hour or less.
There are several Greek islands that currently have had all residents vaccinated. The country avoids calling these “virus-free” because they do not want to give the idea that they are vaccinating these places to guarantee a virus-free experience.
Yet, keep in mind that there are many smaller islands that may be attractive to some since they are now virus free. But, also keep in mind that some of the residents on these islands may not look all that kindly on a host of visitors on their islands, even if they have tested negative.
Not in years has the Greek economy been so anxious to have tourists visit! This means that you will find many people more than ready to welcome you – and your tourist dollars! It also means that you could find that your tourist dollars go further than in previous years as hotels, restaurants, and tourist operators will want to be as attractive as possible to those visiting.
For sure, the world’s travel industry has suffered quite a bit in the last year. But, for countries like Greece, this suffering has impacted a lot of the country as it is a primary income source for the country. If you visit Greece, this could be one of the best years to do so as fewer people will be here than in most years and many travel-related operators will be only to happy to have you as a customer!
The Greek government has promised that their updated travel and health protocols will be released in the coming weeks. We will know more then but here is a little bit of a glimpse at what you can expect if you do plan to visit Greece this year.
I still maintain that the latter end of the summer may be the most reliable time to come, if this good for your schedule. But, no matter when you are able to visit, Greece is still here as beautiful, friendly, and tasty as ever!