Is it worth going on vacation in Greece during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The answer to the question of whether it is worth traveling for a vacation in Greece during the Covid-19 pandemic, with increased requirements for crossing the border, you will see at the end of this reading, as well as in each of the subsequent posts on the blog placescases.com.
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Travelling to Greece is no longer as easy as it was before. In order to be able to cross the border at the Kulata-Promachonas point, it is required to fill-in electronic form, the so-called PLF form, at least 24 hours before the travel, to obtain a QR code that allows a Bulgarian citizen to enter Greece. There’s a tip for all travelers:
It is not necessary for each member of the family to have individual QR cods as commonly advised here and there in the internet. One QR code for the whole family is enough, as long as all the names are enlisted in it. Just in the form itself you have to add all the names of the members by clicking the button for adding family members.
Moreover, before filling out the declaration itself, there is a check mark as a guarantee that only one form is submitted for the whole family, household.
The code comes out at midnight before the travel date on the form, so there is no reason to worry that the codes will not arrive immediately by email.
One financial and time inconvenience is the requirement to have negative PCR test for each family member, not be older than 72 hours at the time of crossing the Bulgarian-Greek border. For BGN 100 per person in almost all Ramus branches, you can do it without waiting in long queues. They inform you that the results come out in 36 hours, but the truth is that after 24 hours they are ready and one can get the certificate in English from the same branch the next day, as long as it is within their working hours. We went to the one behind the 20th polyclinics. The queue was 5-6 people and we passed in about 30 minutes, because the laboratory assistant is only one.
Most laboratories do not work on Sundays, but in the central one in the Druzhba neighborhood, you can also go on the weekends. There may be a long line though.
The full list of licensed laboratories whose tests are recognized by the Greek authorities is here.
To be issued the certificate, you present the passports or ID cards with which you will travel. Then at the border you show the test result certificates, along with the QR code and passports. Just in case, you’d better bring your receipts, and the laboratory can issue also an invoice if you prefer. The border authorities didn’t want such things from us, but others say they were looking for them. Let’s not forget the fact that it finally becomes clear to you whether you have the virus or you are still clean. Some are surprised to realize, just before the trip, that they are infected without any symptoms. So, if the tests come out negative, drive fast to Greece.
After gathering all the documents, we set off.
On the highway to Dupnitsa we got a punched tire. We returned to Pernik and some very kind folks, from an inconspicuous but very useful round-the-clock service for trucks, on the outskirts of the city, without being specialists in the field and not having tools for runflat tires, showed helpfulness and ingenuity, and filled the hole in our tire with modern polymer two-component materials against the outrageously low amount of EUR 2.5. I wish all the best and wellbeing to these guys – they made our day with their good mood and gave us the courage to go and fight the 3 hour Sunday queue at the border.
The convoy of cars is stopped by the police at the gas stations before the border. There is a line of at least 1.5 hours waiting. They release 20-30 cars in portions to the checkpoint.
While you are waiting, you can go to the gas stations on foot, relieve yourself, refresh, feed, but also keep in mind not to skip the queue from there, because the police will stop you and bring you back to line. So, no bullshit!
There are no inspections on the Bulgarian side. We waited another 1.5 hours for the Greek checkpoint. The customs officers asked us only for the QR code of the family, saw that we were all registered with it and checked the passports. They looked at the tests quickly.
Some travelers are tested randomly on spot at the border for Covid-19. The QR code helps to find them where they are in Greece, in case of a positive result and to quarantine them. Separately, when you switch to roaming, you receive an SMS from the local operator that the authorities can visit you at the hotel and give you a surprise test.
After passing without additional PCR tests, we headed to the coveted final point of our trip – Kappa Resort. Read more about them in the post dedicated to it.
In general, hotels and restaurants in Greece are operating at lower prices this year. Our hotel Kappa Resort announced a 30% discount on all bookings for July.
Some of the 5-star hotels like Sani and Miraggio have not even opened.
Everywhere in the restaurants the staff is wearing helmets. Masks are worn in stores. On the beach, the staff makes sure that there is a distance of at least 1.5 m between the individual sunbeds. There are disinfectants, but you’d better have one in your pocket too just in case, as well as a mask.
People are careful. The serving staff is kind and quick. There are not many tourists, for obvious reasons – mostly Greeks, a few Bulgarians and a few Romanians. The beaches are comfortably empty until noon, then filled mostly by Greeks. There are vacant tables in the restaurants. For weekends, however, you may need to make a reservation if you want to visit one of the famous beaches with beach bars. Which of them is worth a visit, read in a separate post.
If you are still worried about going to restaurants and have a reservation for a house or a villa, with cooking conditions, in their local supermarket chain Masoutis, www.masoutis.gr, you can buy great things – from wonderful ham, cheese, juice , milk, snacks – to meat ready for BBQ, fresh fish, mattresses, belts, snorkels, masks, etc. Hanioti (Chaniotis) branch is very well stocked and has 2 floors. An employee at the door kindly invites you to disinfect yourself and take a pass, because the number of people in the store is limited. There are no queues in the store.
While we were on Chalkidiki, the oil detector of the car turned on. We bought some from the local gas station Kaoil of Paliuri. It turned out that the synthetic oil for turbo engines is 4 times cheaper than what they supply in the official service station in Sofia.
On the way back, again on Sunday, we passed the border without waiting, there was no queue, and on the other side, to enter Greece, there was only about 20 cars. In any case, it is advisable to choose a weekday for the outbound trip, and for even greater comfort and security that you will not have to wait for the inbound.
All the time on the highway in Greece you travel very calmly, both forth and back.
So to the question of whether it is worth traveling to Greece for a vacation during the Covid-19 pandemic, yes, definitely. Every effort is worth it! We spent one of our best vacations, despite the flat tire, despite the worry about whether we put in everything properly in the PLF form, despite the EUR 200 spent on tests and the 3-hour queue at the border.
Why I think so, you can read in subsequent posts.
How to book your stay in Halkidiki?
If you are already planning a vacation in Greece, I recommend that you book your stay right here. For your convenience, I have added a booking.com box, which refers directly to their site. I guarantee you’re going to use all your genius discounts and privileges they would offer to you. Just enter the dates of your trip, then hit the Search button and voila. In addition, booking.com are doing their best to make sure that your expectations as a customer are fulfilled. I’ve described an example about the latter in my story about our stay in Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
If you need a rent-a-car, you can book it here in the box of the largest booking platform.
Where to follow the reviews and ratings blog placescases.com?
Are you looking for info about good restaurants, hotels, any nice places in Bulgaria and around the world? Then dig into the categories of placescases.com to find something just for you.
Do you ever wonder how some places differ so much from others in service, environment, as an overall experience? This means you are also interested like me in the topic of The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore. I constantly add to my collection reviews about those of them, which practice its principles, regardless of intentionally or accidentally. If you are curious to understand which are they, explore category The Experience Economy.