Three months into the pandemic, and the faintest first glimmers of hope are shining through for the global travel industry.
While the vast majority of individuals may not prepared to travel across international borders just yet, some travellers are at least beginning to entertain the idea; meanwhile, countries who have gotten their local caseloads under control are also looking to welcome tourists back in a safe and responsible manner as soon as possible.
I myself have been closely following the reopening plans of certain countries around the world, and I’ve realized lately that there hasn’t been too much online information geared towards Canadian travellers as to how and when countries around the world plan to reopen to visitors.
Reliable information can be hard to come by during this time of regulatory uncertainty, so I’ve decided to maintain a country-by-country series of informational guides for countries that are reopening to Canadian tourists. The goal is to compile as much up-to-date information as possible in a central resource to help Canadian travellers plan any travel in the short- to medium-term future.
We’ll begin with Greece, a country that has been vocal about reopening to tourists this summer, and we’ll look at other countries in future articles as well.
Disclaimer: Information may change on a day-by-day basis. While we make every effort to keep these guide up-to-date, the decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. It would be best to contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry requirements before travelling.
In This Post
- Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?
- Is Greece Opening Its Borders to Canadian Travellers?
- Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 Upon Arrival in Greece?
- Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Greece?
- What Measures Is Greece Offering to Encourage Tourism?
- What Can You Expect if You Travel to Greece?
- Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Greece?
Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?
Canadians may travel internationally, but there are several factors to consider that may strongly discourage you from doing so.
The Government of Canada continues to advise that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada. This means that consular assistance may be limited and that you may face difficulty returning home in the event of sudden flight cancellations or local movement restrictions.
As a result of the government advisory, travel insurance policies will not cover medical treatment abroad related to COVID-19. If you contract COVID-19 while abroad and incur medical expenses that are not covered by the local government, it will be at your own expense.
Furthermore, all Canadian residents are currently subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country from abroad, and will need to make the necessary arrangements for doing so (ensuring a suitable place of quarantine, arranging for food deliveries, requesting additional time off work, etc.)
The decision to travel in spite of all these considerations remains your prerogative.
Source: Government of Canada
Is Greece Opening Its Borders to Canadian Travellers?
Thanks to an early lockdown, Greece has done a relatively good job of containing the spread of COVID-19. As a country heavily reliant on tourism, it is now among the first European countries to take steps towards reopening for tourists and making the most of what’s left of the summer travel season.
In late May, it was reported that Greece would open its borders to citizens of only 29 select countries by mid-June. The policy has since been updated to allow all foreign travellers into the country starting July 1.
As per the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs: between June 15 and June 30, Greece is aligned with the European Commission with regards to the ban of non-essential travel from non-EU+ countries. This means that Canadians won’t be allowed to enter Greece during this time.
From July 1 onwards, however, international flights will be allowed into all airports in Greece and international travellers will be allowed to enter the country.
The Ministry has left the door open to additional restrictions on non-essential travel from non-EU+ countries, pending guidance from the European Union. As long as no further guidance is issued with regards to Canadian travellers, then Canadians will be able to enter Greece starting July 1, subject to the testing and quarantine restrictions outlined below.
Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 Upon Arrival in Greece?
From July 1 onwards, arrivals into Greece will be subject to random spot testing for COVID-19.
The spot tests do not appear to be subject to payment. Upon being tested, the passenger is free to move to their final destination, with no obligation to enter into any type of quarantine.
Visitors may also provide the results of a molecular COVID-19 test conducted up to 72 hours prior to arrival, which may be accepted (subject to evaluation) in place of a random spot test.
Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Greece?
Quarantine is only necessary if you are subjected to a random spot test and the result comes back positive.
In this case, you will be contacted and placed on 14-day quarantine at a dedicated quarantine location, with the quarantine expenses will be covered by the Greek state.
Visitors should download the Visit Greece app (expected to be launched at the end of June) in order to complete an information form with their contact details in Greece and to facilitate contact tracing.
What Measures Is Greece Offering to Encourage Tourism?
Greece appears to be focusing less on strict testing measures upon arrival, and more on providing a safe environment for visitors while they’re in Greece.
To that end, the government has provided several health-oriented assurances, including a designated doctor for each hotel, dedicated testing facilities on the Greek islands, and a focused plan of audits for all tourist-oriented enterprises within the country.
The Visit Greece app will also provide visitors with live information on the local transmission situation, as well as any nearby hospitals that are equipped to deal with COVID-19 cases.
In addition, the Greek state has pledged to cover a significant number of expenses that tourists might incur in the event of contracting COVID-19, which should assuage some fears among travellers whose insurance coverage may otherwise be lacking. This includes:
14-day quarantine for the traveller in the event of a positive result on the random spot check upon arrival
14-day quarantine for any close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case
Access to all required health services, medical costs, hospital transfer costs, and stay in a quarantine hotel, in the event of hospitalization for COVID-19 to visitors with no insurance coverage
What Can You Expect if You Travel to Greece?
Movement restrictions in Greece have been lifted, so visitors will be able to travel freely among Greek cities and islands.
City hotels have resumed operations on June 1, while seasonal hotels on the Greek islands will begin operations on July 1. Mystique Santorini is one of the most famous, while a more affordable option might be the Domes Miramare on Corfu, a Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy hotel that can be booked for only 35,000 Bonvoy points per night.
Meanwhile, cafes, bars, and restaurants have been open since late May, although subject to hygiene and social-distancing regulations, such as maintaining one customer per two square metres of indoor area. The same is true for other attractions, like the Acropolis in Athens and over 500 beaches all around the country. Masks are obligatory on public transportation and in indoor public spaces.
As Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis puts it: “You can come to Greece, you will have a fantastic experience, you can sit on a veranda with this wonderful view, have your nice Assyrtiko wine, enjoy the beach. But we don’t want you crowded in a beach bar… There are a few things that we won’t allow this summer.”
Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Greece?
Canadian travellers will likely prefer to take a direct flight to Greece if possible, as transiting through a third country would open up a further set of considerations (for example, the EU’s further guidance on non-essential travel from non-EU+ countries may affect the United States given their high caseload, in which case transiting through the US might prove problematic).
As of now, Air Canada will be resuming services from Toronto and Montreal to Athens, starting with few services per week in July followed by daily flights in August. Air Transat’s schedule also shows a resumption in their once-weekly Montreal–Athens service as of July 27.
Economy class fares are priced competitively in the range of $800–900 round-trip, which is relatively low compared to the historical airfare on a direct flight to Athens. Given the convenience of a direct flight, this may be the simplest option for most travellers headed to Greece this summer.
(Remember, however, that it may be tricky to get a refund on your airfare if the flight happens to be cancelled by the airline due to COVID-19 or you choose to cancel out of your own volition, and the airline may only offer you alternative rebooking options.)
If you’re interested in redeeming Aeroplan miles for business class, take note that the Air Canada direct flights will come with $1,200 in fuel surcharges unless you hold Air Canada Super Elite status.
Given that business class is currently an extremely bare-bones offering and that many airport lounges are closed until further notice, it’s hard to see how this could be worthwhile.
Meanwhile, piecing together your trip on surcharge-free Star Alliance airlines necessarily involves transiting through third countries, the feasibility of which must be examined on a case-by-case basis for every transiting country.
If you’re planning to transit through a fellow Schengen Area country like Germany or Switzerland on your way to Greece, you’ll be subject to the European Commission’s restrictions on non-essential travel from non-EU+ countries, which currently lasts until June 30 with the view of gradually lifting restrictions after that date.
As long as these restrictions are not extended further to Canadians after July 1, then you’d be able to book a trip on low-surcharge airlines like Swiss, TAP Air Portugal, or Aegean Airlines via their respective hubs.
Source: European Commission
Having kept the local transmission of COVID-19 under relatively tight control, Greece is preparing to open its doors to all foreign travellers as of July 1, and may represent one of the first destinations that Canadians can travel to this summer.
As a destination, Greece is known in large part for its scenic views and spectacular sunsets on the islands, as well as its excellent food and drink, all which can still lend themselves to a memorable vacation even in a socially-distanced environment. The Greek government’s commitment to cover COVID-19-related expenses for medical treatment and quarantine can also go a long way towards putting travellers’ worries at ease.
Of course, as the pandemic is still very much among us, Canadians must still reckon with the many considerations at play before making the decision to travel.
If you have any other questions that you feel should be addressed in this guide, please leave them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to seek out some answers. And if you’re curious about any other country’s reopening plans, feel free to chip in with suggestions for our future articles as well.