Greece Has Reopened to Travelers—Here’s Everything You Need to Know
On April 19, after 14 months of border closures, the Mediterranean country began to reopen to international travelers—including Americans. Is it time to make our Greek getaway dreams come true?
On April 19, the Greek government announced that a phased reopening had begun, marking the first time international travelers could visit since the borders closed in March 2020. There’s been a rush of interest in trips to Greece since, according to AFAR’s trusted travel advisors, but a question lingers: Should you go now?
Is Greece ready to welcome visitors?
Travelers who can’t wait to visit Athens or go island hopping again should know that Greece is in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus cases, with about 2,017 daily cases on average, and it has reported a total of just over 348,000 COVID-19 cases and 10,587 deaths as of May 4, according to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker.
A nationwide lockdown was in place until May 3, the day after Orthodox Easter (May 2). Cafés, restaurants, and bars, which had been shut to all but takeout and delivery services when lockdown-type measures were imposed in early November, have now reopened for outdoor seated service only with a maximum of six customers allowed per table.
A nightly curfew that was in force from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. has been pushed back to 11 p.m. as of May 3. Many shops have reopened. Masks are required throughout Greece, indoors as well as outside.
There’s also a ban on travel between different regions of the country, set to lift on May 15, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced in a televised address on April 21. Until then, you can only cross between regions for health, business, or family reasons.
The country, which has a population of 11 million, has administered just over 3.1 million doses of COVID vaccines as of May 4, according to a Reuters COVID-19 tracker. The pace is on the lower end of the spectrum for European countries, according to these graphs, but there are also plenty of European countries moving slower than Greece to get their populations vaccinated.
“While American travelers are welcome now, we recommend booking for June or July,” says Marci-Beth Maple, marketing manager at Zicasso, a travel agency that specializes in Greece.
Maple adds that “while Greece is under some restrictions at the moment, we expect the country to have settled into the new standards for travel with safety protocols implemented across hotel properties, restaurants, and museums, and most restrictions lifted within the first few weeks of May.”
She also recommends September and October after the peak summer heat and crowds subside. For those concerned about getting access to museums and other venues that may be limiting capacity, Maple notes that working with a Greece travel specialist to secure reservations and map out an itinerary and trip details will help.
Requirements for traveling to Greece
Effective April 19, travelers from the European Union, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates are allowed to enter Greece without having to quarantine if they meet certain conditions.
Those coming from the above countries who’ve received a full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to arrival do not need to quarantine; they also are not required to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Those who are not vaccinated will need to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within 72 hours of arrival in Greece. Children ages five and under are exempt.
Passengers can enter the country through nine airports: Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, Chania, Mykonos, and Santorini. Land border entries are permitted at the entry gates of Promachonas and Nymphaio.
All travelers must fill out a Passenger Locator Form no more than 24 hours prior to arriving in Greece.
All international arrivals will be subject to random and mandatory health checks in Greece, which can include a rapid COVID-19 antigen test. Those who test positive for SARS-Cov-2 will be transported to a quarantine hotel, paid for by the Greek government, where they will take a COVID-19 PCR test to confirm the results. For travelers who test positive again, they will remain in quarantine for at least 10 days after which they will undergo a new round of testing to determine if they are COVID-free.
Requirements for returning to the United States
Effective January 26, all international arrivals to the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—must provide proof of a laboratory-generated negative COVID-19 test result procured no more than three days prior to departure, according to a CDC order issued in January. The tests must either be a viral antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
The test result must be either a paper or electronic document provided by a laboratory. It must include the passenger’s name, specimen collection date, and the type of test.
There is currently no exception for those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
What airlines have flights to Greece right now?
Starting June 3, United Airlines will resume its daily summer service to Athens from Newark International Airport in New Jersey. On July 1, the carrier will begin flying between Washington Dulles International Airport and Athens.
Other carriers that currently offer direct or connecting flights to Athens from the U.S. include Delta, Air France, Swiss, Lufthansa, Emirates, and Turkish Airlines. Be sure to check on COVID-19-related arrival and transit requirements for international flights with connections to Greece.
Where to stay in Greece
For those who equate Greece with a gorgeous villa escape, onefinestay has you covered. The luxury home and villa rental company recently launched a new collection of more than 30 villas on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, just in time for the country’s reopening. You can probably expect a pool and priceless Mediterranean views. Guests can also book in-villa spa services, private yacht charters, and chef-prepared meals.
Another great option for sleek villas on the Greek islands is Welcome Beyond, a well-curated, design-forward collection of homes with 22 properties located throughout Greece.
For a truly luxurious stay in Santorini, the newly opened Santorini Sky offers full-service villas with plunge pools and coastal views. The family-friendly Cretan Malia Park, which opened in 2020, is a secluded beachside retreat in Crete that embraces wellness with fitness and yoga classes, fine Mediterranean dining, and offers activities such as snorkeling and biking.
You can also browse some of our favorite hotels in Greece. Before you book be sure to contact the property: Some may have closed during the pandemic, and others may have reduced capacity and amenities (pools, dining, and spa services may not be available).
Can you cruise in Greece this summer?
Yes. Celebrity Cruises will mark its return to Europe this summer with the launch of its new 2,910-passenger Celebrity Apex in Greece—and those who are vaccinated, including Americans, are being invited to board.
The seven-night sailings will kick off on June 19 out of Athens and stop at the Greek islands of Mykonos, Rhodes, and Santorini; in Limassol, Cyprus; and Haifa and Jerusalem, Israel. The cruises are currently available for booking.
All crew and guests 18 and over aboard the Celebrity Apex will be required have a COVID-19 vaccine. Those under the age of 18 must provide proof of negative COVID-19 PCR test results to board.
For a more intimate sailing experience, G Adventures—the adventure travel company founded in 1990 by Bruce Poon Tip, an AFAR 2018 Travel Vanguard winner—is offering several small group yacht itineraries throughout the Greek islands this summer.
These sailings max out at eight people per trip, but G Adventures also allows you to “Book Your Bubble” on a private tour for two families or a group of friends traveling together.
If you book from now until June 30, you can save up to 20 percent on select sailing itineraries departing between May 1 and October 31, 2021. That means, for a seven-night sailing from Mykonos to Santorini (with possible stops in Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Ios, Sifnos, and Folegandro in between), you’ll only pay $1,199 per person instead of $1,599 for a June 12 departure.
Associated Press contributed reporting. This article was originally published on April 22, 2021; it was updated on May 4, 2021, with current information.