Greece is opening to US tourists earlier than planned. Here's what you need to know.
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There's a light at the end of the tunnel — and it's a sunset in Mykonos.
Greece, arguably one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in the world, is planning on opening the country to international travelers earlier than expected. Here's what travelers should know before planning a Greek vacation this summer.
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When will Greece reopen?
In a televised address on May 20, Greece's prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the country would open hotels to foreign visitors on June 15, but that travelers would initially only be able to fly to Athens (ATH). However, that policy has been updated recently, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing that all international flights into Athens airport can now resume. Despite this announcement, nonessential travel from "third countries" (including the U.S.) continues to be restricted until June 15.
During this phase, visitors must be tested on arrival and required to stay overnight at a designated hotel while their results are processed. A positive test will result in a 14-day supervised quarantine period while a negative test will require seven days of self-quarantine.
Between June 15 - 30, international flights to Athens and Thessaloniki will be allowed. All passengers flying in from airports in the EASA affected area list will be subject to tests on arrival, while those coming from outside these areas will only be randomly tested. The same quarantine policies will apply regarding positive and negative tests.
As of July 1, international flights will be allowed into all of the country's airports. Visitors will be randomly tested, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that additional restrictions regarding certain countries will be announced at a later time. So, it's impossible to say what restrictions or quarantine policies, if any, will be placed on tourists arriving from the U.S. on or after July 1.
Greece has been on lockdown since March 23 and is trying to save what will be left of the summer tourist season. Last year, Greece drew 34 million visitors who brought in over $19 billion in revenue, Reuters reported.
What to expect this summer in Greece
As part of the plan to tackle potential outbreaks, a designated doctor will be assigned to hotels in popular tourist destinations, and there will be special quarantine areas and testing facilities on islands, reported the AP.
"This season is not going to be like the other years," Theocharis, told Reuters TV. "I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case. However, there is a lot that we can do to reopen the tourist economy ...."
In an interview with BBC News, Theocharis added, "Now this cannot be with every source country, with every destination, but we have to try to open up with some countries ... Europe is the most developed area in the world with regard to tourism [and] if the tourism sector is not restarted there can be no lasting economic restart."
The country's aggressive containment measures have paid off so far. There have only been 2,874 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 169 related deaths, according to data from WorldOMeters.
Flight availability to Greece
While it's unclear what restrictions may be placed on U.S. citizens traveling to Greece, we did find nonstop flight availability starting in July — although prices are anything but cheap.
A search on Google Flights shows nonstop flights on Delta from New York-JFK to Athens (ATH) start at over $1,000 round-trip in economy for a few dates in July. Emirates flights from Newark (EWR) start around $1,100.
For travelers seeking nonstop award availability, there wasn't much saver space with Emirates at the time of publication, according to a search on ExpertFlyer (which is also owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). There was plenty of flexible space, but we'd recommend saving your miles for a better redemption down the line. If you're willing to stop, however, you'll find plenty of saver availability with a host of airlines.
If you decide to book a trip to Greece this summer, be mindful of both hotel and airline cancellation and rebooking policies. Many airlines have shifted to temporarily allow travelers to book new flights now and cancel for a refund or travel credit later, often with the ability to make changes within the next year and even into 2021. You should also consider protecting your trip with a travel insurance policy that allows you to cancel for any reason.
You’ll also want to make any summer plans with a credit card that earns you bonus points on travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x) the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x) and, if you prefer Membership Rewards points, the American Express® Green Card (3x).
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Additional reporting by Katherine Fan, Katie Genter and Emily McNutt.
ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures.