Traveling to Greece

When Should Americans Plan Travel to Greece?

Written by Charlie

The beautiful beaches of Greece are beckoning to millions of people this summer, but when is the best time for Americans to plan travel to Greece?

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.

Important Dates

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.

Entry Protocols

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 pointsearly 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.

Bottom Line

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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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.

25 Comments

    • Yep – and the lockdown fatigue is real here. People are just done with it, especially as the majority of the elderly population has been vaccinated now (over 1 million people in total have received the vaccination).

  • Governments love lockdowns. They know zero covid is impossible but use the fact covid will (therefore) never go to zero to continue the lockdowns. They also view mask-wearing as an outward sign of obedience.

      • Umm, you must have found the wrong site and post. This is about Greece, not Trump. Also, as far as masks and lockdowns go, Greece is hitting their highest one day total ever of positive cases – today, almost 5 months into lockdown. That’s more than the cases before lockdown in a single day. I deeply care for those who are sick (and the hospitals are under quite a burden in Greece right now) but there is real lockdown fatigue here that is having long-lasting consequences as well.

  • I live in Greece ( I am not Greek ) and want to tell you that you did a very good job explaining when to come what to expect etc.

    Last year I was in Corfu,Chania and Mykonos and the beaches were empty, service was great plus upgraded at hotels –all with points — as expected water, food great –

      • I live in Athens for about 20 years – lived in NYC all my life – from what and how you write about Greece – sounds like you truly love it – many things I LOVE TOO
        You give excellent and honest advice on Greek travel

        You have my e/m feel free to contact me

  • I booked mid June back in December betting exactly this! Itin has us visiting Santorini, Mykonos, Thessaloniki and Athens. My flights to Athens is with AA (purchased) but my return is on BA using points. Does the UK allow transit? Or am I screwed? ATH-LHR-USA

    • Good planning! Not only does the UK allow for transits (as of now!) but they also are welcome to fly to Greece. The only real question would be if BA would cancel that flight but my guess is they will keep it.
      Also, I am based in Thessaloniki! Let me know when you will be here, if you want, and where you plan staying. The Hyatt here is great but the Excelsior (available through Hyatt) is also pretty special but smaller. But, it is right in the center of everything.

      • Yeah I had the Excelsior first but realized that the rooms are very small so chose the other Hyatt instead. We also going to try the Eagles Nest (Hyatt property) further east for 3 nights. Will definitely reach out to ask you for restaurant recommendations in Thessaloniki. We will be there June 20-24.

        • Good choices! It is very near to the airport and is a great place, especially if you get a suite! They have (in the past) upgraded even Explorists to the suites. If you don’t have status, you could use points to upgrade to a suite as well.
          Hopefully they start up their old breakfast service again – it was simply fantastic and so authentic! The pool is nice as well!
          Definitely hit me up! Maybe we may even run into each other. Enjoy!

  • Agree with everything you shared, Charlie

    As I mentioned in another post, we pushed out direct flight out of the US to ATH until mid-September thinking that will give both countries the amount of time they need to approach her immunity while still being relatively warm in Greece

    I am a bit concerned about the vaccination progress being made in Greece and many other EU countries. Looking at % across the EU v the US and most state in the US the numbers are lagging.

    We need Greece to make strong vaccination progress, especially for those hoping to travel earlier in the season

    Also, still no official word from the US government about international/European travel. Once approved, what will the protocols be to enter the US as a US citizen?

    • Hi, Sam, and thanks. Good thinking off moving the flights. Still excellent here then!
      The concentration now on vaccination is to finish the high-risk and elderly (above 60) and then move to the 800,000 people that work in the travel industry. The goal is to have everyone that would come into contact with tourists on Greek flights and hotels to be vaccinated but they are lagging a bit in spite of the fact that they were not on the several EU countries that had suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
      Mid-May is the target date right now to see what the Biden administration will do about lifting the ban. My guess is that the testing process will still be in place for at least a couple of months but Greece will soon have at-home tests available for purchase and the tests here are much cheaper than in the US (PCR tests can be had for around $50 while rapid can be had for like $25). So, if it stays as now, it would be a test but my guess is by September the US will drop the testing requirement, especially since they say there will be enough vaccines for every American by early May.

      • Agree. The only concern is if governments begin to worry more about the variant/mutation virus. The thought of testing positive prior to going back to the US and having to quarantine in a hotel in Athens for 10 or 14 days gives me pause. I could not take off that much time from work and be out of the country that additional time. So, I wait.

        Those direct flights on Delta, American, United and Emirates are going to be packed plus the fares are going to skyrocket soon if the have not already.

        • Understand on the quarantine. Unless you are in non-tourist areas, you should be just fine as far as being exposed. Strangely enough, we did not get the virus here in Greece but in California of all places!
          As to flights, definitely agree with that. Best for people to grab award tickets while they can. In normal years, this is a very hard route to get on awards, even in economy. But, something funny I noticed is that the airlines are charging much less for one way than they normally do on European flights. Definitely nice for anyone that wants to mix and match with awards or other fare deals from before.

  • I have been hearing the same thing about lockdown fatigue, nice way of putting it, and complaints about the vaccination process as well from family and friends in Athens.
    What is your sense of how much damage has been done to the small business and how many will/are left.
    We are hoping we will be able to go back this summer but what will it be like.
    Once again thanks for the updates, truly appreciated.

    • Thanks, Adam – a lot of damage has been done, for sure. There are reports that a large amount of small hospitality and restaurant businesses will not reopen. Those are mostly family-owned places. There will be many that may try to get what business they can this summer but if it doesn’t go well, they will likely close for good.
      I think this summer will find more deals than ever before as places try to attract what will likely be fewer tourists that the government is talking up. Also, there are about 2 million tourists that had vacations paid for last year and credit for stays and such this year. This means that smaller hotels may be a place to look at, both for deals and an overall more genuine Greek experience. Hope the trip comes together for you! I will certainly be doing more updates as things develop.

      • Thanks Charlie. We have a couple of vouchers with Emirates that we have to use at some point, hopefully we will be able to go this year.
        We are wondering what the situation will be like with smaller mom and pop neighborhood stores that aren’t dependent on the tourist business.
        Hopefully things are starting to improve and Orthodox Easter doesn’t result in another surge.
        We have been putting off trying to obtain residence permits as we don’t want to be in Athens and stuck inside.
        If the US is going to require negative test to return to US how easy is it to get quick test results in Athens? I can’t recall if you wrote about that.
        Thanks for the updates!

  • Thank you for your article. My fiancé and I are both health care providers, so our travel schedule is very limited. We had planned on traveling to Greece May 29th-June 12th, but I think that will not be possible. We may not be able to travel next until April 2022. Is this an okay time to go? We primarily want to go to the Peloponnese (where I have spent a lot of time, but I have only been there in the summer and late October). Thank you so much!! Hoping it is an okay time since it may be our only option :/

    • First, thank you for your work in the healthcare system! I appreciate it and wish you had the opportunity to travel whenever you felt like it!
      I wouldn’t say that your dates for this year are a no-go, not yet. It may be close but they still may open when they plan. They just started letting Israelis visit as of yesterday, ahead of schedule!
      For next April, the weather could be a toss-up. It would likely be warm on many days but not swimming warm. The only other thing to consider is that the Orthodox Easter is on April 24 next year. Many places are closed down in the week following that and starting from about the Friday before. Keep that in mind for your planning!

  • Thanks for the article. So informative. My wife and I are wanting to plan a trip for the last week of May through the first week of June this year…it seems a bit risky but it’s the only time I have. The next few years will be limited for me as far as international travel goes because I am beginning my medical residency. I saw in your previous response that you think those dates could still be possible but in the event quarantine continues, have you heard if some hotels and ferry services are giving refunds if quarantine continues for US travelers?

    • Wes, we are in the same boat. My fiancé is starting medical residency this year as well and I am an NP. Hoping we both get to travel to Greece end of May to early June!

  • my husband and I were suppose to get married last Sept in Santorini but of course that got canceled because of COVID. We went ahead and got married at home in Kentucky and moved the Santorini trip to this June 4-12. However our flight has a layover in Germany, which from everything i have read on here won’t be possible. Do you think if the flight gets changed to a direct flight to Greece we will be able to go? Our reservation is at the Astra in Santorini

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