But a spike in cases, as well as a number of tourists testing positive for coronavirus on their return, led the UK government to kick a handful of Greek islands off the “safe” list. Since then, with careful management, the islands struck off were reinstated.
For weeks, Greece remained one of the last spots in the Mediterranean that UK travellers could visit without having to self-isolate on return.
Then a sustained rise in cases on the Greek mainland meant that the entire country was placed on lockdown. The lockdown has since been extended several times, and is currently in place until 6am on 7 January 2021.
The lockdown meant the mainland and many islands were removed from the UK government’s travel corridors as well as the Foreign Office (FCDO) safe lists.
And yet, a handful of the most popular tourist islands still remain on both lists, which means UK travellers can still visit them without having to quarantine on return or risk invalidating their travel insurance.
So, what does all this mean for British travellers keen for a fix of Grecian sun?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Am I allowed to travel to Greece from the UK?
The FCDO is currently advising against all non-essential travel to Greece, with the exception of the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos (Zante), Corfu and Crete.
While the FCDO advice is not legally binding, it does invalidate most travel insurance if you do decide to travel.
In addition, you should check the travel restrictions in the area you live in.
For example, international leisure travel from England is now permitted.
But non-essential international travel from Wales is banned.
Scotland has its own rules around travel, with different restrictions depending on what “tier” your region is in. Find out more here.
Northern Ireland advice states, “You should avoid all unnecessary travel”, but international travel is not formally prohibited.
How could I get there?
Air links with the UK resumed from 15 July, but some airlines will undoubtedly have cancelled flights in light of existing travel restrictions.
However, easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Wizz Air and Aegean Airlines all offer direct flights to various Greek destinations.
What are Greece’s new lockdown rules?
Under the new countrywide restrictions, which came into effect at 6am on 7 November and will last until 6am on 7 January 2021, all retail businesses are shut with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies.
There are just six reasons for being outdoors, apart from going to work. These are:
- Going to a pharmacy or visiting a doctor, if this is recommended after contact with them.
- Going to an essentials supply store (supermarket, grocery shop), where they cannot be shipped/delivered to your home.
- Going to the bank, only if the transaction is not possible online.
- Going to help people in need (including e.g. driving a family member to work, driving or accompanying a child on their way to or from nursery or school).
- Going to a ceremony (e.g. funeral, marriage, baptism) under the conditions provided by law; or moving to a divorced parent or parent who is necessary to ensure the communication of parents and children, in accordance with the regulations.
- Physical exercise outdoors or moving with a pet, individually or as a group of up to three people, in the latter case keeping the necessary distance of 1.5 metres. (Physical exercise should be conducted only in the local area around your home or accommodation (i.e. you should not travel any further). Activities including fishing and hunting are explicitly prohibited).
If you’re going outside for any of these six reasons, you will have to have a certificate for your reason for travelling.
You can “self-certify” by writing a note explaining your reason for being outside, and show it to the authorities when requested. Your handwritten note will need to include your full name, home address, the reason you’re going out, and the address of your destination. You will also need to date, time and sign it.
Between 10pm and 5am, there’s an even stricter curfew. The only reasons you should be outside of your accommodation during this time is for travel to or from work; to walk a dog (in which case, movement must be limited to an area close to your home or accommodation); or for medical emergencies.
You should also carry your passport or other ID with you at all times.
Do I need a PCR test and will they let me in when I arrive?
Currently yes, although with some stipulations.
You will need to take a PCR swab test for Covid, which must be taken within 72 hours before your arrival into Greece. You will be expected to provide evidence that it has come back negative.
Even on arrival, you maybe be expected to take additional tests and quarantine until tests come back negative.
In addition, from 6am on 18 December, you will need to take a rapid Covid-19 test on arrival and quarantine for three days even if it comes back negative. If it comes back positive, you will be required to quarantine until further notice. There is currently no end date specified for this directive.
Travellers must also complete an online Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before their arrival in Greece. The form is online, and in English.
The Foreign Office has warned that if you don’t fill in the form before you travel, it “may result in your carrier not allowing you to travel, a €500 fine on arrival or the Greek authorities not allowing you to enter the country”.
If you’re travelling as a household, you only need to fill in one form with details of all the adults and children included. Additional family members can be added to the top of the form before you hit submit. Otherwise each adult over 18 will have to fill in their own form, for example if you’re travelling with a group of friends.
Some airlines will ask for separate forms for every adult, and you should check with your carrier before you travel to see if that’s the case.
Once you have completed the form, you will receive an email acknowledgement and, in a separate email, a QR code. This code is likely to be sent up to 24 hours before travel, regardless of how early the form is filled in.
When you receive your code, either print it or ensure you can display it on your mobile phone.
You will need to show your code to Greek authorities on your arrival into the country, and some airlines may also ask to see it before they let you board.
There have been multiple cases of passengers being denied boarding because they did not fill in the PLF or didn’t fill it in “correctly”. A British mother of two was denied boarding by easyJet on a flight to Greece because the airline claimed she had not filled in the forms properly, while travellers were turned away by Wizz Air for failing to fill in their middle names on the form – even though the form said this was “optional”.
When you arrive in Greece, the authorities will scan the QR code and may direct you for health screening (including testing for coronavirus).
If you’re not a Greek citizen or a permanent resident in Greece, you will also need to fill out the form at least 24 hours before you leave Greece.
For those travelling by ferry to Greece, the ferry operator will ask you to complete an additional form ("Pre Boarding Information"), alongside your PLF. This additional form will be provided by the ferry operator, either via their website, or at booking offices: you should contact them directly if you need further information. Temperature checks may also be carried out before boarding.
Additional rules may apply if you’re not travelling from the UK or if you’re not a British passport holder.
Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?
According to the FCDO, the Greek authorities may require you to undergo testing for coronavirus as part of a health screening when you arrive in Greece. Any passenger may be asked to undergo a test, but you are more likely to be asked if you’ve arrived from a country outside of the EU (including the UK), either directly or via indirect flights.
After testing, you’ll need to self-isolate at the address given on your PLF form until you receive the results, which should be available within 24 hours. You should also self-monitor to check whether you’re showing any symptoms of coronavirus.
If your test is negative, you will no longer need to self-isolate. If your test result is positive, the Greek authorities are likely to ask you to quarantine for 14 days. Depending on the nature of your accommodation, you may be instructed to move to government-provided accommodation, the costs of which will be paid by the Greek authorities.
Be aware that even if you don’t have coronavirus, you may be asked to self-isolate if someone else from your flight tests positive.
Will I have to quarantine when I come home?
It all depends on where you want to travel to in Greece.
Most of Greece is no longer on the government’s travel corridors list, which means if you visit any of those places, even in transit, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days on return. You can shorten this to five days through the government’s test-to-release scheme.
The only exceptions are several Greek islands, which remain on the “low-risk” list: Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos (Zante) and Kos.
Can I travel within Greece including between Greek islands?
Not right now. There is currently a ban on travel between different parts of the country, except for essential reasons.
The permitted reasons include returning to your residence or accommodation address; for family reunification reasons; for health emergencies; for essential business reasons- in which case your employer must provide you with certification that your travel is essential.
Are hotels open?
Hotels are permitted to open, but many may shut during lockdown - if you’re booked to stay somewhere, check before you travel.
Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?
All attractions and non-essential shops will be closed during the lockdown.
Restaurants, fast-food joints and cafes will be shut barring takeaway and delivery services.
What rules and restrictions are in place?
At present, it is mandatory to wear a mask in all public places (both indoors and outdoors), in all areas of Greece.
During lockdown, residents and visitors will be required to stay indoors as much as possible, and must only venture outside for “essential” reasons; they will need a permit to go outdoors as mentioned above.
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