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Greece travel: Am I allowed to visit, are hotels and restaurants open and what rules are in place?

Greece travel: Am I allowed to visit, are hotels and restaurants open and what rules are in place?

As tentative signs start to emerge of a revival for the travel industry, our minds are turning to potential holiday destinations for this summer.

With sun, sea and dolmades, Greece has long been a popular travel destination for Britons in need of some vitamin D.

But can British holidaymakers get there? And will we even be welcome?

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Here’s everything you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Greece from the UK?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel in March, but this has now been lifted for more than 80 destinations.

Greece was on this list, meaning Britons can now visit there without invalidating their travel insurance.

How could I get there?

Air links with the UK were suspended in March, but got the go-ahead to to resume from 15 July.

EasyJet has been flying to Thessaloniki and Corfu since 16 and 19 July respectively. It started flights from London to Athens on 23 July and to Mykonos on 24 July.

Flights have been available with Ryanair from London to Athens starting 26 July; to Corfu from 19 July; and to Thessaloniki from 16 July.

Wizz, Aegean and British Airways are also offering flights to various Greek destinations.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Yes. Finally, as of 15 July, Brits are allowed back into the country again, though with some stipulations.

Travellers must complete an online Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before their arrival in Greece. The form is online, in English. All travellers over 18 must complete a separate form. Children under 18 may be added (at the top of the form, before pressing “submit”) to a parent’s form.

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.

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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 recently 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).

Failure to fill in the form may result in a €500 fine or the Greek authorities barring you from entering the country.

If you are 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.

From 17 August, passengers flying to Greece from Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden will all need to provide a negative Covid test result, obtained up to 72 hours prior, to authorities upon arrival. The same goes for all passengers entering across land from bordering countries.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

Possibly.

According to the Foreign Office, 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.

New Zealand health expert criticises UK quarantine measures.

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.

Can I travel within Greece including between Greek islands?

Yes. Flights are operating within the country, and travelling throughout Greece, including the islands, has been permitted since 25 May.

If you’re travelling via ferry, you will need to complete a health questionnaire and hand it to the ferry operator before boarding, according to the FCO. “The necessary forms will be provided by the operator: you should contact them directly if you need further information. Temperature checks may also be carried out before boarding; and it is obligatory to wear masks on all ferries, whose capacity is limited to allow for social distancing.”

Those travelling on internal domestic flights will also be required to wear a mask. Specific measures relating to check-in, baggage allowances and other details are in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Be aware that Greece’s borders with most neighbouring countries (Turkey, Albania and North Macedonia) are subject to restrictions; the border with Bulgaria is open, but those entering Greece here will need to show a negative result from a coronavirus test conducted no more than 72 hours before arrival.

Are hotels open?

Yes. Previously only year-round hotels could open but, as of 15 June, seasonal hotels in tourist destinations have also been allowed to admit guests.

Airbnb accommodation also remains available.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Restaurants, fast-food joints, bars, internet cafes, shops and open-air nightclubs have been open since 6 June.

From 15 June, museums, historic buildings and areas, theme parks, gyms, saunas, spas and thermal springs have also been able to open to visitors, albeit with new rules in place, such as limiting the number of customers per square metre.

Archaeological sites are now operating on extended summer hours (8am-8pm) and visitor numbers per hour are capped to avoid overcrowding.

However, Greece's culture ministry has closed the Museum of the Ancient Agora, a major archaeological site in central Athens, for two weeks after a cleaner there was diagnosed with coronavirus.

What rules are in place?

You must wear a face mask at all times when on an aeroplane or ferry travelling to or from Greece and whilst at airports. It’s mandatory to wear face masks on public transport (including ferries), in taxis, in all medical facilities and in lifts, plus in supermarkets, cafes, banks, government offices, retail shops, barbershops, hairdressers and related establishments.

Travel in a private car or a taxi is limited to a maximum of three adult passengers per vehicle, in addition to the driver. Any children in the vehicle do not count towards this limit.

The Greek authorities are likely to impose local coronavirus-related restrictions in certain areas if they perceive a heightened case-rate or other valid reason.

From 6am on 7 August 2020 until 6pm on 17 August 2020, local restrictions are in place on the island of Poros. These include:

  • Prohibition of operation of all food/catering sector-related shops, services and facilities from 11pm-7am the next day.
  • Suspension of any kind of live events and celebrations such as parties, trade fairs, religious ceremonies, open markets etc.
  • No more than nine people can gather for any reason in public or private spaces.
  • The maximum number of people allowed per table in dining facilities (including cafes, tavernas, restaurants) is four, unless your group consists only of close family members you regularly engage with, in which case, a group of up to six people is allowed.
  • Mandatory use of masks indoors (except in private spaces such as hotel rooms) and outdoors throughout the island.

Additional checks and patrols will be carried out to enforce the above measures. You should comply with all the Greek authorities’ requirements; failure to do so could result in heavy fines.

Bars and restaurants in tourist hotspots of Greece are also being ordered to close earlier than usual after the Greek government implemented a late-night curfew in response to a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

The curfew will force establishments to close from midnight to 7am in popular destinations including Corfu, Rhodes, Crete, Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Larissa, Mykonos, Santorini, Zakynthos and Kos, and will remain in place until 23 August.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

Not anymore.

Although the government implemented a blanket two-week quarantine for all inbound arrivals on 8 June, from 10 July this was lifted for certain countries.

Places regarded as “low-risk” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – are now exempt from mandatory self-isolation.

Greece is one of the destinations that is exempt for travellers entering any country in the UK.

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