We just returned from our first international trip (October 2021) since the Corona Virus pandemic, and for the most part, the COVID requirements to travel to Greece, within the country, and to return from Greece were not difficult to comply with. We ran into one hiccup trying to get our COVID test prior to departure from Greece back to the United States, but fortunately our plan B went very smoothly.
Here is the current information on what you need to know if you are planning to travel to Greece.
Requirements for Departing from the United States to Travel to Greece
Proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test taken with 72 hours of traveling, or proof of having recovered from the virus in the past 30 to 90 days required to enter Greece.
When we checked in online through Delta Airlines with our proof of vaccination ready to be uploaded, I panicked for a moment because the first notice in the procedure said we had to have a negative COVID test. I was worried this meant that the proof of vaccination wasn’t enough, however when I proceeded with the process, we were only required to upload our proof of vaccination and did not need to get a COVID test in addition to the vaccination before departing from the US to Greece.
When I uploaded the cards for my husband and myself, it took multiple tries. Both of us have the paper card given to us by the vaccination center, which we took photos of to upload. We also have the scan code provided by CA.gov as a digital Smart Health Card stored on our phones. For my husband, when I uploaded the scan code image, the Delta site said it was not able to read the document. When I uploaded the photos of his paper card, it was able to read the image after the second try.
I had more issues uploading my proof of vaccination as it would not take the photo of my vaccination card despite many attempts and the image of my card being clearer than the image of my husband’s card. Finally, I tried to digital Smart Health Card from CA.gov, which was accepted by the site despite my husband’s scan code not being accepted as readable.
Based on this, I suggest you have images of your card on your phone as well as the physical card in your possession, and also go to your state’s health center website to download the state proof of vaccination if possible. For the state of California, the website to get a digital vaccination card is https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.
NOTE: Delta, and likely other airlines, allow you to upload your proof of vaccination or negative COVID test up to 72 hours prior to your flight (which is also prior to when you can check-in online) so that the documents can be verified. The verification only takes a few minutes online, but I suggest you do not wait until the last day before your flight to do this because if you have any issues with your documents, or if requirements have changed, that doesn’t leave you with much time to resolve the situation, and many COVID test centers require 24 hours to return your results.
Passenger Locator Form (PLF) is Required
The Passenger Locator Form (PLF) is a brief form, available online. You will need your passport number, address where you will be staying in Greece, and emergency contact information. Once you fill it out, you can save the pdf to your phone as a file, or to Notes, or as an attachment in your email so it is ready to be presented digitally. We had to present this form to enter Greece, and also when we got our COVID tests at the testing center before returning to the US. The PDF on my phone was accepted in all cases.
Original Proof of Vaccination Required to Check-in at Airport
For the most current information about entering Greece from the United States, go to Protocol for Entering Greece. Requirements may have changed in the time between when we visited in October 2021 and when you are reading this. I suggest you check the website as soon as you start planning your trip, then again a couple weeks before your departure date, and also the week of your departure date. Requirements can change suddenly as countries adapt to the current COVID conditions.
Facemask is required in the airport in the US, on the airplane, and in the airport in Greece.
Facemasks are required to be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking from the time you get to the airport in the US, for the duration of your flight, and while in the airport in Greece and on the airport property.
What to expect regarding COVID protocols when traveling in Greece (TIP: carry your vaccination card with you always!):
- When outdoors but in populated areas, about half the people wore masks and about half did not. If an area was crowded, then more people wore masks than did not.
- Nearly all businesses require you to wear a mask when going inside the building, and nearly all employees will be wearing masks. This applies to stores, services, hotels, and restaurants.
- You will be required to show proof of vaccination to sit indoors at a restaurant, but not if sitting at an outside table (which are common all over Greece). At museums, some stores and other public places, we were also asked to show proof of vaccination before entering, as well.
- When entering a restaurant, it is polite to wear your mask until you are seated. Some people took off their masks as soon as they were seated while others left theirs on until food or drinks arrived – both seemed to be acceptable.
Requirements for returning to the United States from Greece:
- You will need a negative COVID test regardless of your vaccination status. Both my husband and I are vaccinated, but we were still required to get a negative COVID test with 72 hours of boarding our flight to return to the United States.
- We had to electronically sign an Affirmation of Negative COVID Results in addition to the proof of negative test while checking in for our Delta flight, but we did not need to fill out any other forms.
NOTE: You can check-in for your flight online without having your negative COVID test results to upload, but you will be required to provide the results when you check-in at the airport.
Getting your COVID test in Greece prior to departure:
Ways to find test centers:
- Google for test centers in the city where you are 72 hours prior to departure.
- Ask the local hotel managers or store clerks if they know where the local testing center is located – if it is a tourist area they will be very aware of the center.
- Get to the airport no less than 3 hours prior to your departure to get tested there prior to departure. (Athens airport has a 24 hour test center on site, and likely other airports do as well.)
Plan A – Our experience getting COVID tested locally:
I had Googled test centers in the city we were staying in, but took the advice of a local shop clerk to go to the center just a few blocks from our hotel. We planned to get tested on Thursday morning to be ready for our Saturday midday flight. We didn’t realize Thursday was a national holiday and the center was closed. We then went on Friday morning, arriving before they opened. There was a line started already of about 20 people waiting to be tested, but once the center opened, it was less than 20 minutes before we were tested. This service was very quick and easy, the medical professionals were very courteous, and everything seemed very clean.
We had to show our Passenger Locator Form (PLF) in order to register for the test, which was free, and they took down our email and cellphone number, which they had us review to verify they entered correctly. We had the antigen test (rapid test) at 9:30 in the morning and we were told that our results would be texted to us by 6:00 pm that evening…
But the test results never arrived!
We are not sure what went wrong as we were told by several people that the clinic was reliable. Maybe the cellphone number was entered incorrectly and we reviewed the document too quickly to notice it. By the time we left on Saturday midday, we still hadn’t received either a text or an email with the results from this clinic.
If you are getting tested locally, plan to get tested as close to the beginning of your 72 hour window prior to your departure. This way, if you run into any issues with the testing or getting the test results, you still have a couple more days to try again.
Plan B – Our experience getting COVID tested at the airport:
To register for and prepay for your test at the Athens airport, go to this link: https://payments.iatriko.gr/
We had noticed there was a testing center at the Athens airport when we arrived in Greece and I tucked that information away in the back of my brain in case we needed it. Well…we needed it! We were a couple hours away from the airport, but a little research online assured us that the results were very quick, and that if we arrived at the airport with at least 3 hours before your departure time, there shouldn’t be an issue.
We arrived at the airport 3.5 hours before our departure having registered and prepaid 20 Euros for the rapid antigen COVID test the night before. The website indicated that we would get our results within 15 to 20 minutes of receiving the test at the airport. We were nervous leaving the test to the morning of our departure because so many things could go wrong, but fortunately everything went smoothly and we were cleared to fly.
The best part was it took less than 30 minutes to register on the test site, get tested, and get our results!
We arrived at the airport at 8:30 am on a Saturday and there were only a few people in front of us to check-in for the test. I did read online that others encountered long lines at the airport testing center, especially during mid-day. It seemed that early morning and evening were when the lines were the shortest and quickest according to online forums. Also, it was suggested by many to go online to pre-register and pre-pay for the test since there is a Prepaid Line that is separate from the regular testing check-in line, and typically quicker. (A few people said the prepaid line didn’t go any faster when they were getting tested, but most thought there was an advantage to it. From our experience, we are not able to say which line was quicker since there were so few people getting tested early in the morning when we were there.)
I don’t recommend having the airport testing in the hours before your flight departs as your Plan A for getting the needed COVID test result in order to fly. Though it went very smoothly for us, if you run into any issues with long lines, this could cause you to miss your flight. If airport testing is your only option, as it was for us when we didn’t get our first test results then I suggest you arrive at the airport no less than 3 hours before your departure time. And if your departure time is in the afternoon or early evening when the airports seem to be the busiest, you may want to get there 4 hours early so that you aren’t stressed if there is a long line for the rapid tests.
Overall, fulfilling the documentation requirements is quite easy. And even getting the required test wasn’t too bad of an experience since we had the backup plan at the airport if something went wrong (and it did!). The little bit of effort it took to comply with the requirements was definitely well worth it in exchange for an amazing trip in beautiful Greece with all of the history, dramatic landscapes, fantastic food and welcoming culture.