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.
Summer holidays are firmly on the horizon, and talking travel destinations is one of our very favourite topics! In search of inspiration we caught up with our friends over at Simpson Travel and found out where their top Mediterranean holiday bookings have been this year. Simpson Travel have very kindly hosted us for some of our recent photoshoots. Therefore we can 100% vouch for the fact that they offer luxury accommodation in idyllic destinations with an award-winning, personalised service. They will also really go the extra mile to ensure you have a truly wonderful holiday. According to Mat Simpson, bookings in the Med are still very popular this year, Corsica, Greece and Turkey remain some of the favourites for holiday makers from the UK. Simpson Travel revealed that Meganisi (Greece), Porto Vecchio (Corsica) and Kalkan (Turkey) as their hot tips for 2019. We take a look at these popular holiday destinations and give you a few ideas for what to pack:
Where will your travel adventures take you in 2019? At Coco Bay we are always on the look out for the next destination that will entice us to book a trip and we love to hear about the latest travel trends. While catching up with our friends at BushBaby Travel (specialists in worldwide, family friendly travel) we were keen to hear where people are booking their holidays for this year and we can now officially confirm these top trending, long haul travel destinations for 2019:
You may remember Simpson Travel stepped in earlier this year to assist our Co-Founder, Belinda Robinson, with her holiday challenge. The result was a 2 week holiday booked to Alto Di Pinarello, one of Simpson Travel’s properties in Corsica. Having returned, Belinda gives us the low down.
Our Co-Founder, Belinda Robinson, faces new holiday dilemmas and enlists the help of the experts from Simpson Travel to help
Plus a review of Simpson Travel’s Villa Hanedan. June 2018 saw team Coco Bay flying out to Turkey for their Summer photoshoot. After some help from the experts over at Simpson Travel we were keen to book Villa Hanedan in Kalkan, south western Turkey. The stunning cliff top location of the Villa with it’s incredible views over Kalkan Bay promised to provide the most wonderful photoshoot setting. Most of the Coco Bay team were new to Turkey and were all particularly excited about this trip. We’d all heard good things about Kalkan, the beautiful beaches in the area and the cosmopolitan vibe of the town.
I love my job at Coco Bay, but with a business to run, 2 teenage daughters and a needy Labrador my husband often takes the back seat!! We therefore decided that to celebrate 20 years of marriage it was time to escape for a few days and Morocco was calling. A few glasses of wine later on a dark November night we decided to be ‘spontaneous’ and booked 2 flights to Marrakesh (with our Avios!). There was no time for our sensible heads to take charge and February was the other side of Christmas after all. There would be plenty of time to justify our spontaneity!
One of the very best, but equally the most challenging parts of our jobs at Coco Bay has to be the photoshoot. Twice a year we set ourselves the challenge of transporting the entire new collections of swimwear and beachwear to a beautiful location in the name of getting some dreamy lifestyle photography and bringing the products to life. Moving the Coco Bay office out to the sunshine for a week is always pretty exciting but not without it’s challenges, of course there’s a lot at stake and time never seems to be on our side!
The week leading up to a photoshoot is always quite a strange time, our 2 directors are lost to a mad dash of collating 100’s of different samples from around the world at the same time as having to negotiate logistics of baggage allowances (it’s hard to travel light when you are transporting the majority of next years beachwear collections!) We’re also busy finalising travel plans and putting the finishing touches to the busy shoot schedule. Amongst this slight feeling of panic, you have to stop and remind yourself… soon we’ll be jetting off to a dream location and spending the week in paradise!
Coco Bay Co-Founder Belinda Robinson writes about her recent trip with Simpson Travel to Mousses Villas, Lefkada, Greece I have always loved Greece and have visited many of its islands. It’s picturesque beauty has also made a spectacular setting for a couple of our photoshoots and I was desperate to return but wasn’t quite sure where to go and what to do. The holiday tick list has significantly changed with the arrival of our son and I was a little apprehensive that it might not quite have the same appeal with a demanding 2 year old in tow!