Report: Greece Reopening To Tourists Next Week

Filed Under: Travel

Greece is one of my favorite places in the world to visit in summer. What’s not to love about the food, the breeze, and the landscape? While most European Union (particularly Schengen) countries have been closed to most foreigners for around a year now with no plans to reopen, Greece is different.

For a couple of months the country has been planning to open to tourists as of May, and it now looks like that timeline could be accelerated even further. First let’s recap what has been officially revealed, and then we’ll talk about what’s rumored to be happening.

Greece’s May 14 tourism reopening date

In Greek Parliament last week, Tourist Minister Harry Theocharis stated that Greece will open to visitors from around the world as of May 14, 2021. According to him, the country has five lines of defense with its plan:

  • Passengers will have to either provide proof of full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result upon arrival to be admitted
  • At random, some passengers will be tested
  • There will be quarantine hotels, so that sick travelers can be isolated
  • Workers will be vaccinated as much as possible; Greece hopes to vaccinate about half of the country’s population by summer, but that doesn’t exactly help with a May reopening
  • Health protocols will be strictly enforced (I look forward to seeing this in practice at Jackie O’ in Mykonos)

As Theocharis describes this plan:

“We will open on May 14, and we will open safely, despite the danger. Our country’s plan for the opening of tourism is comprehensive. It is an extremely detailed, balanced plan and allows safe tourism throughout the country.”

Santa Marina (Marriott Luxury Collection) in Mykonos, Greece

Greece could now reopen as of next week

Reuters is reporting that Greece now plans to welcome visitors from select countries as of next week with no quarantine requirement. This allegedly includes people from other European Union countries, as well as visitors from five other countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Serbia.

The requirements for people entering from these countries would be the same as they will be for everyone as of May 14. In other words, you’d need to either be fully vaccinated, or get a test prior to travel.

All of this is according to an unnamed “senior government official,” so interpret that as you will.

Mystique (Marriott Luxury Collection) in Santorini, Greece

Can Greece’s tourism timeline be trusted?

Greece’s plan to reopen to tourists is interesting for a few reasons:

  • Greece is not only part of the European Union, but also part of the Schengen zone; Schengen borders have been closed to a vast majority of foreigners for around a year, with no plans to reopen (for example, Croatia is another European Union country that’s opening to tourists, but it’s not part of the Schengen zone)
  • Most American adults will have access to a vaccine within the next few weeks, so summer travel is very much a possibility for many Americans
  • Greece made similar claims about opening to everyone in the summer of 2020, but that didn’t end up happening, and Greece followed the Schengen border recommendations
  • All of this comes as coronavirus cases in Greece are surging, despite a national lockdown

Greece is going through a second wave of coronavirus

I’ve been skeptical of Greece’s timeline for reopening to tourists. The country made similar claims last summer, and never ended up happening. Personally I’d only take this as fact once borders actually open.

That being said, this is encouraging news, and perhaps it will actually happen this time around.

This will pose some logistical challenges for Greece when it comes to borders between Schengen countries. The country would be countering the trend among Schengen countries when it comes to the border policy, so presumably we’d need to see some additional border restrictions between Greece and other Schengen countries. Ultimately that’s not a huge hurdle, though.

Personally I don’t see border restrictions in the Schengen zone at large changing anytime soon, especially with the situation that Germany is currently in, as the country has now been in lockdown for nearly six months.

Amanzoe in Porto Heli, Greece

Bottom line

Greece claims it’s opening to tourists from around the world as of May 14, and now there are reports that the country could open up to select visitors (including Americans) as early as next week.

While I wouldn’t take anything as fact until the country does in fact reopen, this is encouraging for anyone hoping to travel to Greece in the coming months.

It’ll also be interesting to see what border measures have to be put in place between Greece and other Schengen countries to facilitate this, so that this doesn’t become a “loophole” for getting into other Schengen countries.

What do you make of Greece’s reopening plan, and do you think it will actually happen?

  1. Piggybacking on this thread. I have a hotel booked for Create June 10 and then a couple of nights in Athens. We plan to enter Greece from Istanbul after flying UA: ORD-FRA-IST and then the plan is to fly back via ATH-MUC-ORD, Aegean Airlines then UA. I am really confused if one can transit and yes we are vaccinated.

  2. Would it be “legal” to make flights arriving from Greece to go through customs in other Schengen zones? Or would it be considered a violation of open borders

  3. @ Alec — That would be my expectation, that flights from Greece to other Schengen countries would be considered non-Schengen.

  4. Iceland is also in the Schengen zone, and like Greece, the only way to go to another Schengen country is through a ferry or a plane. I think the easiest way for them to stop any non EU resident going into other countries would be for carriers to require proof of citizenship/residence before boarding or check in. Greece doesnt have land borders with other Schengen countries, so I don’t see problem with that if something like that is enforced

  5. But Schengen countries already restrict entry from other Schengen countries due to Covid! And I think that in itself makes it easier for Greece to open up. Due to Covid the usual free movement between Schengen countries is pretty much suspended – entry has been policed since the more recent lockdowns based on the rules that each individual country has put in place for arrivals.

  6. It’s a trial run in Greece, and Iceland. I think if they have a month or two of no spikes the rest of EU will start to follow suit, hopefully most of EU opens up by fall.

    As for me personally, until Uncle Joe removes the PCR test requirement BACK to the US then I will not risk being stuck in another continent if for some reason testing becomes an issue.

  7. @John Germany is very strict on transit at the moment negative covid test within 48 hours of arrival in Germany and police waiting off plane to check it… just did a transit in FRA 2 days ago. Make sure you have at least an hour and a half to connect.

    Currently it is through May 12, but I expect them to extend. Lufthansa allowed last minute rapid testing for transit passengers, unsure what UA will say.

  8. I feel for the Greeks – their economy is very dependent on tourism so this lockdown hurts Greece significantly.

    However, with the 4th wave slamming Europe hard, more variants spreading, and problems with AstraZeneca and Johnson vaccines, it is too early to reopen.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid hundreds of people will die as a result of this decision.

  9. @adam3438 I feel for them too, and I’m afraid many may be imperiling their health, but I ask you: how many untold thousands have died, and will continue to die, as a result of the economic devastation wrought upon them? How many myriads will suffer lifelong consequences due to poor health as a result of said poverty. Unfortunately this is a situation where one is damned if one does, and equally damned if one doesn’t

  10. Adam is right, what an irresponsible decision. Harry Theocharis will quite literally have blood on his hands. I hope he can sleep at night.

  11. “current unified Schengen border policy”

    There is no such thing.

    Internal and external restrictions are still up to each country, and vary among the member states. For example Malta allows travelers who have spent 14 days in a green or amber corridor country to enter. Slovenia imposes quarantine from travelers from a red country, but not other countries – and their “red list” differs from Malta’s. France only lets in third-country (except for the small subset of Australia, etc) nationals unless a narrow exception exists.
    Sweden bars external entry from third-countries (besides than a small subset), other than some excepted reasons, though third-country nationals can enter Sweden through an internal border. On and on. And the rules in each Schengen state have often changed many times throughout the pandemic.

  12. Lucky, this would be quite a project, but it would be interesting to see a post detailing exactly how a US citizen could get to Greece if the reopening proceeds as planned. Obviously nonstop flights from the US to Athens do not pose an issue, but there are very few of these. Can I transit FRA or MUC? I think so. But I believe Switzerland would not allow it under current rules. According to the US embassy in Switzerland: “Is it possible to transit Switzerland from the United States or a third country considered by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) to be high-risk to a Schengen country? NO, it is not possible to transit Switzerland from a high-risk country like the United States in order to travel on to another Schengen country. There maybe some exceptions.”

  13. I would assume that one would not be able to leave the airport terminal in that case. I am looking at flights from Miami to Athens, with a brief stop in LHR. I assume you cannot leave the airport but best to check with your airline.

  14. AirFrance has a JFK-CDG-JMK and vv connection this summer which is a quick way to get to Mykonos. I am vaccinated and have Schengen passport so I can go – booked a hotel (refundable rate) late July-August. Just spent 2 weeks skiing in Switzerland and no encountered no problem traveling other than the 1 Antigen Test and 2 PCR Tests required. If one is vaccinated why not travel if 1) you are permitted and 2) you want to travel?

  15. I’m hoping this report is accurate. We hedged our bets and rescheduled our cancelled Greece trip from Spring 2020 to the end of June/early July 2021. We are fully vaccinated. And, we have direct flights (booked with miles) from the US to Athens on AA and refundable stays booked in Athens and Crete. There is a Covid testing lab at the Athens Int’l Airport (outside between Arrivals 2 and 3, I believe) where you can get a Covid test for the return flight — you do need to give them the 3 full days and pre-register and pay, though. We plan to get tested done when we return from Crete (via Aegean Air) to Athens and before we return home to the US. This may be selfish on my part, but I agree with @Arthur Gimbal — if Greece doesn’t get their tourism sector up and running, the damage could be devastating.

  16. How ignorant for some people on these comments to call Greece’s decision “irresponsible” or “premature.” Their country depends on this revenue, and they lost 80%+ of their tourism revenue in 2020. There are 4000 total cases in Greece (with a population > 10million)…this isn’t a big deal. NY had 5000+ new cases YESTERDAY. How long will it take for countries to realize that strict lockdowns do not work? How much data do they need?

  17. For those travelling to Greece and want to get tested for their return journeys, I recommend the Central Clinic of Athens. They provide PCR testing for covid-19 every day (including weekends) 08.00-12.00 or ‪13.30-15.00. You do not need to schedule an appointment. There is a mobile unit outside the main entrance so you don’t even enter the clinic. It costs €90, you pay on arrival and you get the results back by the end of the day.

    Just to add – Greece has already had a year of allowing tourists to visit under Covid restrictions and has managed to do so successfully. They just need to get the current spike under control as they open up.

  18. Greece is ready to open on a trial basis. BBC and some other news reports tell of a Netherlands group tour to Rhodes.
    “A Dutch travel firm will take nearly 200 people for an eight-day holiday in Greece aimed at seeing if tourism is feasible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Those picked will have an all-inclusive getaway on the island of Rhodes at a cost of €399 (£344; $472) per person, but there are some catches.

    They will not be allowed to leave the resort and will have to quarantine for up to 10 days when they return home.

    At least 25,000 people have signed up for the government-backed experiment.

    Travellers will be tested before and after their trip. If anyone develops Covid during the trip they will have to quarantine at a Greek Covid hotel but their costs will be covered by the tour company.

    The visitors will be given exclusive use of a hotel on Rhodes, with staff the only other people there. They will have the use of the hotel’s swimming pools and restaurants but will not be allowed to go out on to the beach.

    Corina Gouderjaan, 51, told Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws why she had applied for a ticket: “First I got corona and got very sick. Then I lost my job. So now what? I’m looking forward to doing absolutely nothing at a resort and recovering from this turbulent year.”

  19. Right, to expand on two points others have made: many often conflate Schengen and the EU with some sort of United States of America. There is nothing that stops a member state from imposing or removing whatever entry restrictions it wishes once an emergency has been declared. We’ve seen this with the migration crisis, and we are seeing this with COVID. France and Germany do not currently allow free movement across their land borders! If they can figure this out, then surely geographically isolated Schengen nations like Iceland and Greece can do their own thing without much trouble. Greece has already allowed in hundreds of “test” tourists to see how the entry process might work; this is not a pie-in-the-sky declaration by a politician hoping to restart the economy, but the result of a genuine effort at figuring out how to balance tourism and safety. Believe me, I’m Greek and have a healthy suspicion of the capacity of government officials to deliver on their promises without disaster, but I do think they will work it out this time.

  20. I truly think that Greece should reopen this summer in us we have more cases and yet we are open it’s not fair for this country to suffer

  21. To respond to some comments – see the example of the government funded scheme in Greece (Crete specifically) which backfired with German tourists who had to adhere to strict rules and did not once they landed in Greece and spread COVID like wildfire. These schemes work if rules are adhered to most idiots coming on holiday for free aren’t the type who will adhere to rules.

    Sadly people are already looking to enter other European capitals via this new entry point in Europe (travel to Italy etc…)

    I despair at the thought of irresponsible tourism coming to countries that live off tourism. When the ICUs in Italy and Greece are on their knees.

  22. I’m trying to find out if Ukrainian citizens that present a negative PCR test will be allowed to enter Greece this summer? Any information would be greatly appreciated on this!


  23. I too am completely confused by the transit rules. Currently have a flight through AMS but as I keep reading the rules, it seems to me completely believable that I will be denied entry/transit because of the EU travel ban. I won’t have an “official document” allowing me into Greece, just the documents Greece requires to enter.

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