As countries around the world talk about opening up and welcoming visitors this summer, especially those vaccinated, people are certainly getting excited to travel to these places.
Want to Travel to Greece? Here is What You Should Know
One of the places that tops the list for many is Greece. From its gorgeous (and plentiful) beaches and islands to the superb food, hospitable people, and historical sites, there is a lot to love. There were millions of people that missed out on visiting Greece last summer due to coronavirus and with the Greek government promising a tourism season this year, people are anxiously eyeing Greece.
The date that the Greek Tourism Minister has said will be when they will open the country’s doors to travelers from all over is May 14, 2021. The country will actually open a full month earlier to travelers from around Europe and Israel, which should allow for a bit of a “soft opening” in preparation for the hoped-for flood of tourists that come later.
Airlines with non-stop flights to Greece are beginning those flights from the US to Athens starting in early May. United had originally scheduled and advertised flights starting as early as April 30 but they have now canned that (as I thought they would) until June. Early June is when all these airlines with non-stops to Athens will have their flights going – that means American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, and United.
Greece has said they will not make it mandatory to have the coronavirus vaccine to enter Greece. Instead, you will either need your vaccination certificate (no word yet on what will be required for this, a CDC certificate would likely end up being ok), or proof of having had the virus and recovering from it (in the form of a positive test more than 2 weeks before and/or an antibody test, most likely), or a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before entering the country.
There will also be random testing done at the airports as well and chances are very good that Greece will continue to use their PLF – passenger locator form – to know who is coming, where they had been, and quickly determine at the point of entry if they should be tested again.
But, it is not expected that there will be a quarantine, except maybe for passengers carrying a negative PCR test. In this instance, they may need to self-quarantine for 24 hours after getting tested again at the airport on arrival, should they be selected.
So, When Should You Visit?
Will Greece Open if the EU Stays Closed?
Here is the problem – there are a number of things still up in the air. For starters, Greece is part of the EU and the Schengen Zone. Typically, that would mean that they can open up to non-Schengen member countries when the EU Commission decides that this is ok. In practice, Greece has been open to non-Schengen countries for a while now that were not approved by the EU, including Qatar and most recently, Israel.
According to many sources, Greece may very likely go it alone this year as far as entry procedures. Last year, the Greek summer tourism was scuttled when the EU decided to remain closed to most countries. This year, Greece is already talking about opening up no matter what. If this is the case, travelers from the US would most likely want to travel on the non-stop flights to Greece since transiting through Germany, for instance, would normally be where you would “enter” the EU/Schengen Zone. If they have not opened to Americans, this may not be possible. So, non-stop flights from the US to Greece will be your best bet – and likely be very full.
Greece Still In Lockdown
The second problem is that Greece is still in lockdown, a lockdown that was put in place in November. Not only that, but cases have not decreased with the record day for positive cases happening just last week with just over 3,000 in one day (though at the somewhat-normal positivity rate of 5%). This lockdown has actually grown more restrictive in the last couple of weeks, restricting people from even venturing outside of a 2km radius from their home to go even to the grocery store (the only kind of “store” currently open) unless the stores inside of that range does not have what they need. Today, hair salons and beauty salons opened but regular retail stores are not expected to open until early April at this point.
Along with this lockdown is the ban on travel. People cannot travel between regions, either by air or by car, unless they fit one of a few narrow parameters. Sure, outdoor historical sites have opened again but this is far from what the locals would hope to have in terms of the country reopening.
So, is Greece really going to welcome people from all over the world, including Americans, a mere few weeks after reopening the country for movement for their own citizens and residents?
Not Right Away – With One Exception
Unless you book your flights with miles and hotels with points, I would not recommend you book travel to Greece for anytime in May or even early June. There is still too much up in the air at this point and you may have to wait a long time for a refund should those plans get canceled. If you book with miles and points, you are in a much better place.
But, if you do have the miles and points, early June could be an exceptional time to book travel. I say this because there will still be many groups and tourists waiting to see what happens and the nation’s school year will still be going on into mid-June. This means that you may very well have some of the quietest summer beaches that Greece has seen in a very long while! It also means that lines and crowds at places like the Acropolis may be non-existent, something that was just not seen in pre-Covid Greek summers.
Late Summer/Early Fall
I would suggest any trip planning otherwise take place for months like August – September. Sure, that timeframe of August is one of the more expensive times but it would certainly be the timeframe that Greece would absolutely be open should they keep to their word and open up this summer.
Even better could be mid-September since the weather is still excellent but school is back in session and prices have come down quite a bit. Even October could be good this year. Many seasonal hotels would typically close by mid-October but since they need to get income to survive, they could stay open even later this year.
We are less than two months from the stated date of Greece opening to the world. But, there are many things that still make it seem doubtful that it could happen at that time. I will keep you updated with news from the ground here so that you could have a good idea of when travel to Greece looks like a sure thing.
For those with miles and points, I would definitely look at June. Worst case, your flights are canceled and you have your miles back right away and you can book something else. Best case, you may find entire hotels to be very quiet along with the beaches they are lined up on.
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