Tips for Travel to Greece during Covid-19

Belinda Robinson, Coco Bay Founder, gives her insights and tips on travelling to Greece during the Covid-19 Pandemic. All travel right now is a risky minefield with constantly changing rules and regulations. I was very anxious about going away during the pandemic and had written off all ideas of going abroad this summer. It wasn’t so much the fear of getting Covid (I’ve already had it) but more that everything would feel different when you got there due to restrictions and would it feel inappropriate to be on holiday during this global emergency? However, as the summer progressed and life felt a little bit more normal (all relative), I started really pining for foreign smells, blue seas and the sound of cicadas. I adore Greece and it had just opened up to tourists so I teased myself by looking at flights and accommodation there without any intention of going. Then suddenly before I knew it I completely surprised myself and booked flights and a villa leaving 2 days after! I am not normally spontaneous but my thinking was booking at such short notice would mean that nothing would dramatically change before we went so we were really going! I then started to panic. What have I just done? All the questions and anxieties resurfaced. I think these were mainly based on not knowing what to expect when I got there so I have tried to put together some notes for those of you who are going or thinking of travelling to Greece this summer. Booking With the travel landscape changing by the minute, I would definitely recommend leaving any booking to the last minute. This will avoid the uncertainty of ‘am I going or not?’ and the risk of being suddenly caught in the ‘quarantine’ zone. Keep an ear to the ground re. which countries are going to be the next to go. Greece is rumoured to be potentially at risk but at the time of writing, Greece’s infection rate is 14.1 which is the same as Portugal which has just been added to the safe list, so hopefully Greece will be ok for a bit. One really useful source of travel news is the Facebook page Corona Virus Travel Updates by Bushbaby Travel which I follow avidly in hope and fear. Admin The first thing to be aware of when travelling to Greece at the moment is that you need to complete an on-line Passenger Locator Form at least 24 hours before leaving. Each adult needs to fill in their own form. You are then sent a barcode at midnight on the day you are travelling which you need to show to your airline in the UK and on arrival in Greece. Without this form, you may be refused access to your flight. The Airport Experience We had an early flight out of Bristol Airport which is a nice cosy airport and I was amazed how normal it all felt. Apart from everyone wearing masks and a temperature testing tent at the entrance (not in use), it felt very similar to a familiar travel experience i.e. queues, very little social distancing and lots of excited people. Please be aware though that, apart from the main Duty Free, all the other shops were closed. This may have been because it was early or potentially due to Covid so I would check before you travel if, like me, you leave your shopping to the airport. The Flight Our Easyjet flight was fully booked and it was strange to be in such close proximity with so many people in a world where we are being asked to keep away. I did think about the irony of my child not being able to go to school but we could sit cheek to jowl with 180 people for over 3 hours for ‘non essential’ travel. However, once I got over this, I suddenly felt completely liberated. It was so lovely to hear the buzz and excitement all around me of total strangers and I realised how much we have been starved of this during lockdown and in our social distanced, bubbled life. Arriving in Greece The welcoming atmosphere on arrival was instant. Greece had only recently started welcoming UK tourists back in and it really felt like they were pleased to see us. Although they didn’t seem to be testing many people from our flight, everyone needs to be prepared for the fact that they are randomly screening people on arrival. If you are tested, you will need to practise social distancing for 24 hours. The Greek authorities will then contact you if you test positive. If that is the case, you are likely to be asked to self-isolate for 14 days and, if you are in a hotel, you might need to move into government provided accommodation. Life In Greece Well this is where I realised that the spontaneous decision to go was absolutely the right one. As we jumped into the hire car and I stuck my head out of the window and breathed in the smell of pine, wild herbs and heard the defining sound of Cicadas, my heart leapt. We were staying in a villa in the North East corner of Corfu which is quite a quiet part of the island anyway but it felt like we had escaped from the suffocating effects that the world of Covid-19 has had on us and I felt like I could breath again. Corfu was definitely quiet for August and the tavernas were a little bit keener than normal to lure you in. Their livelihoods have been so affected by the lockdown and potential very short season but you would never know as all the Greeks were so friendly and cheerful. We actually didn’t go out much but we did a couple of lovely early suppers in the beach Tavernas. All the staff were wearing masks and all social distancing and hygiene measures were in place. One thing we did find though is that some restaurants were not so keen on the cashless world that we have got used to presumably for ‘accounting’ reasons so take some cash with you if eating out. We have a young son so weren’t out partying so I can’t comment on the party scene. It is however worth noting that they have introduced temporary curfews meaning that bars have to close at midnight. They have also introduced local measures on some islands – for example on Mykonos and in the Halkidiki Peninsula they have banned gatherings of more than 9 people (indoors and outdoors) and have a limit of 4 people per table in restaurants except where the party consists of family members where the limit is 6. You can find out more about local island measures here. To Go or Not To Go? That is purely a personal decision. Anyone travelling anywhere now must accept that there is a chance they may have to quarantine on return or travel plans could potentially be cancelled. I would also certainly not recommend anyone who is in the ‘vulnerable’ category to risk air travel at the moment due to the lack of any type of social distancing on the flight. It is also a question of weighing up whether you would feel safe if you were to get the virus at the destination country (I was extremely ill with Covid and I was very glad I was at home at that time). Having said all that, travelling again was so liberating. Overcoming the fear that has gripped us all and realising that the big wide world was still there and breathing has brought me a new energy and I feel ready to plan for Coco Bay’s new season and overcome the challenges that potentially lie ahead. One thing is certain, I will never take travel for granted again.

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