Greece is opening to tourists earlier than planned — but there’s a big catch
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
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. While it was previously going to open to tourists from abroad in July, that plan’s been scrapped.
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 will open hotels to foreign visitors on June 15, but travelers will initially only be able to fly to Athens (ATH).
That said, only citizens of nearby countries with small numbers of coronavirus cases will be approved at first, the Associated Press reported. It’s unclear when the rest of the world will be able to freely travel to Greece, though the country’s tourism minister, Harry Theocharis, said a list of approved countries will be announced later this month.
As of July 1, the country’s other airports — such as Santorini (JTR) and Thessaloniki (SKG) — will open to international arrivals traveling from the aforementioned list. The list will be amended as needed.
Given the United States has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country, it’s highly unlikely it will be on this initial list. Balkan and Baltic countries, Germany and surrounding nations are expected to be granted entry for the June 15 reopening, the AP added.
Mitsotakis said Greece will not blanket test all arrivals for COVID-19, however, Greek authorities will have the right to carry out sample testing. There will also be no mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals, according to the AP.
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 when U.S. citizens might be allowed to travel 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.
Again, keep in mind that Greece has not announced when U.S. travelers will be able to travel there. This means there’s a chance these flights might get canceled altogether depending on when the restrictions lift.
Additionally, a Global Level 4 Health Advisory is still in effect for the U.S., advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic. If things change and you do 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).
Additional reporting by Katherine Fan and Emily McNutt.
ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures.
Featured image courtesy of Allard Schager/Getty Images.
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