Greece Officially Ends National Lockdown And Opens Tourist Season

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Greece has finally ended their national lockdown measures and at the same time opened for the 2021 tourist season, hoping to welcome a load of visitors to rejuvenate the decimated hospitality industry.

Santorini, Greece. Image by Russell_Yan from Pixabay

Greece still has several restrictions in place and an average of 2,000 daily Covid cases are still being reported, vaccinations are being rolled out.

The first tourists from several European countries have already begun to flock to Greece where especially the Islands such as Crete, Mykonos and distant Cyprus (separate entry requirements) are among the most popular tourism destinations. Spain is also extremely popular already especially with tourists from Germany so there is definitely a competition there.

Greece was the first country of the EU bloc that announced it would welcome tourists this summer, posing a problem for the hard line that Brussels took so far. Spain as well as Portugal followed suit and soon after the EU announced that they would “likely welcome vaccinated tourists from the U.S. for vacationing this summer”.

As the BBC reports today now there are still measures in place for those who live in Greece and obviously tourists who are visiting there.

Greece has launched its tourist season, lifting most remaining restrictions on movement and declaring “we are putting the lockdown behind us”.

Although an average of 2,000 daily Covid cases are still being reported, vaccinations are being rolled out.

German tourists have begun flying in. From 17 May it will not be illegal for Britons to travel to “amber list” Greece, but they are advised not to. …

Greece still has several restrictions. However, the big changes are that residents no longer have to send text messages to a hotline whenever they leave their homes or go shopping, movement is allowed between regions, and a night-time curfew has now been limited to between 00:30 and 05:00.

A fifth of Greece’s economy is seen as dependent on the tourism sector and 20% of workers are employed by it.

“We are opening our tourist industry to the world,” Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis announced on Thursday evening in front of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion outside Athens.

Visitors from a list of 53 approved countries have to fill in a passenger locator form (PLF) the day before they travel, listing where they are staying and supplying a vaccine certificate, a negative PCR test or a documentation of recent recovery from Covid.

The rules are a precursor to the EU-wide digital certificate that is scheduled to help free up travel by the end of June. …

Greece had hoped that British tourists would be able to start flying in freely from 17 May, but Greece has been placed on the UK’s “amber list”. …

The port of Piraeus near Athens was described as busy, as people headed away from the mainland with the required green pass to travel. Museums were also opening across Greece for the first time in six months, although numbers were being limited. In shops one customer is allowed per 25 sq m (269 sq ft).

Many if not most of these southern European countries that largely depend on tourism revenue during the summer season really had no choice other forcefully pursue opening up.

Travelers planning to go to Greece should consult the Travel Greece government website in order to be up to date with their information and also complete the advance traveler information form (PLF) of which one should be submitted per family.

Here is some information summarized by the Greek government on the website referenced above:

Dear Traveler,

We welcome you to Greece and hope you enjoy a wonderful and unforgettable holiday experience.

On behalf of the Greek Government and the Greek Ministry of Tourism, we would like to inform you that we have done everything in our power to make sure you stay safe during your stay in Greece. Your health is our absolute priority.

On May 14, Greece opened its borders in a safe and attainable manner.

In the paragraphs follow, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to prepare before travelling to Greece as of May 14th.

These guidelines are in place to ensure the protection of your health, as well as the health of your loved ones and all those involved in offering you a safe hospitality experience:

As of May 14th, travelers arriving in Greece are required to have a negative PCR certificate from a testing laboratory, for a Covid-19 test taken no later than 72 hours before arrival.
This test is mandatory for all tourists (including children over the age of 5), regardless of the epidemiological situation in the country of departure.

Proof of a negative test is not required however for all travelers that have completed their vaccination (i.e., 14 days have elapsed since the last vaccination, depending on the doses required) and hold a vaccination certificate.

Acceptable vaccines are: Pfizer BioNtech, Moderna, Astra Zeneca/Oxford, Novavax, Johnson + Johnson/Janssen, Sinovac Biotech, Gamaleya (Sputnik), Cansino Biologics, Sinopharm.

Proof of a negative test is not required if the traveler has recovered from COVID in the past 9 months. This can be proved through a certificate of recovery issued by a public authority or a certified laboratory. Another option is a certificate of a positive PCR molecular test result, confirming that the holder recovered from the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, performed at least 2 months before arrival, and no later than 9 months before arrival.

Every traveler who arrives in Greece, regardless of the certificate in their possession, may undergo a random health screening. If you are selected, please keep in mind that the screening is mandatory. In case of refusal, authorities reserve the right to refuse entry into the country. The selection is made through a targeted sampling system ”EVA” used also in the summer of 2020.

Important clarification: Entry of tourists in Greece is not subject to vaccination. Presenting a vaccination certificate greatly facilitates the procedures upon arrival. However, in no case is a vaccination or antibodies certificate considered a “passport”.

The countries from which entry is allowed, under the aforementioned conditions, without the requirement for subsequent self-isolation are: EU & Schengen Area countries, USA, UK, Israel, Serbia, UAE, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, the Russian Federation, North Macedonia, Canada, Belarus, Bahrein, Qatar, China, Kuwait, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia.

Non EU citizens are strongly advised to choose direct flights to Greece. In any other case, travelers should abide by the stop-over country requirements.

Passengers are allowed to enter the country through all international airports and the ports of Patras, Igoumenitsa and Corfu.
Travellers are allowed to enter from the land borders through the entry gates of Promachonas and Ormenio in a 24h basis and Evzonoi from 07:00 to 23:00.
Cruising and yachting is allowed. Maritime connections with Albania and Turkey are temporarily restricted.

I’d like to emphasize strongly on these last points, especially the remark about trying to fly to Greece directly from your country of origin if possible.

While Greece allows you entry the transit regulations of whatever country vary greatly and there is no guarantee that one would be allowed transit there under the same requirements or in general. These transit regulations are also subject to change at short notice.

Celebrity Cruises is also going to start cruising again in the Mediterranean and will deploy one of their most modern cruise liner, the Apex to Greece. This should be really a treat this summer. Keep in mind though that Celebrity only accepts passengers who have received a vaccination already.

Conclusion

Greece is finally welcoming tourists again and the country has simultaneously eased restrictions for local residents after months of agony. People in Greece had it really tough these past 6+ months.

Other countries in Europe are pursuing the same or have already reopened although the guidelines for entry there vary of course. It’s important to be very diligent when researching these details and I’d highlight that travelers better do their homework right because if you book a flight/hotel and end up not being able to travel for whatever regulatory reason the airline or hotel isn’t required to provide you a refund.

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