After more than a year with no travel, the experience of being on vacation in Greece felt like a breath of fresh air and gave us a newfound gratitude for being able to go abroad once again. Binging travel shows while stuck at home is no substitute for the rejuvenation you get from the real thing!
What It’s Like to Fly to Europe Right Now
Our journey from Chicago to Athens was surprisingly normal. The part people are likely to find most confusing is the Passenger Locator Form.
First, complete and submit the PLF online a few days before you depart. You will then receive an email from the Greek government confirming the submission. This email will contain a link to your completed form, but this is just a provisional version of the form for you to print and bring with you to the airport in the US. It proves that you submitted your form and the airline staff at check in will require you to show it along with your CDC vaccination card or negative COVID-19 test results if you have not been vaccinated.
The final version of the form containing a QR code you show the Greek authorities on arrival is sent via email at midnight Greek time on the day you arrive. For everyone flying overnight from the US or Canada to Greece this means it arrives during your flight, so be sure your phone can access the internet when you land in Greece. You will need to access your email to pull up the final version of the PLF showing the QR code and show that when going through immigration.
So that’s the trickiest part of the whole process. Just make sure you have a cell phone plan or a roaming data package that enables you to check your email after landing in Greece to retrieve the PLF.
We found the process very smooth and easy all around.
What It’s Like in Greece Right Now
Once on the ground and out and about in Evia, the anxiety of living with Covid was noticeably relieved. The practicalities of traveling in Greece during Covid were not difficult. Masks are required while indoors at shops, grocery stores, and museums, but not outside which is where we spent most of our time. When visiting local tavernas we would wear our masks while entering and being seated, then remove them once at our table and only put them back on to go to the restroom or when leaving. Waiters and shopkeepers all wore their masks throughout.
The Greeks are taking the pandemic seriously and we found everyone we encountered friendly and responsible all-around. Throughout the pandemic, Greece’s levels of Covid infection and transmission have remained significantly lower than the United States, and that remains the case today. When you take a vacation from the US to Greece (or most European countries) you are going to a place with less Covid and higher rates of vaccination than just about anywhere in the United States currently. Fully vaccinated travelers should take some comfort in that.
Highlights of Traveling to Greece
One of our trip’s highlights was a visit to a local mushroom producer we learned about through Diane Kochilas‘s Evia episode of her tv show My Greek Table. I have never seen so many different kinds of mushrooms in one place! We bought several kilo’s worth to cook a big batch of Diane’s mushroom stew back at our villa, which was delicious!
Another highlight was a stop we made for a delightful tasting at Avantis Winery just outside the city of Chalkida. They make a world-class Syrah to rival anything from France, which we of course tried and brought home with us, but my favorites were two indigenous varietals I’d never had before, Malagousia, a white, and Mavrokudoura, a red. For me, the best part of most wine tastings is the chance to try indiginous grapes that are rarely exported and can only be experienced locally.
Greek cuisine is so much more varied than the menu you’ll find at your average Greek restaurant here at home, but two staples of Greek food that never fail to shock me over how different they are in Greece compared to here at home are two of the most basic: Greek yogurt and feta cheese. Greek yogurt in Greece is a completely different beast. It tastes alive! It’s textured and full-bodied and not perfectly smooth and homogenized like Greek yogurt here. Plus, it typically comes packed in little glazed terra cotta pots, not plastic. How fun is that? The Feta cheese in Greece is also just a completely different product than Feta here. There is just no comparison. You have to see it to believe it.
Is It Hard to Fly Back to the US Right Now?
When it came time to leave and head home, the practicalities of travel during Covid had to be addressed once more, but like the journey over they proved in the end to not be much trouble. Before leaving the US we had identified a local testing lab in Greece for the CDC-required Covid test that all travelers to the US must take 3 calendar days or fewer before your flight. However, I opted to go with a self-testing system made by Abbott Labs and administered live online through eMed. This is a very easy to use, rapid antigen test that gives your results in 15 minutes and sends a certified result directly to an app on your smartphone. All you need is a reliable internet connection and you can take the test from the comfort of your villa or hotel room. It worked perfectly. When you arrive at the airport in Athens the gate agent will verify your negative test result during check-in, and away you go!
Contact us if you have more questions about what it’s like to travel to Europe right now, or if you’re ready to start planning your next trip!
By Adrian Hall
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