We can understand if you’re a bit confused about what you can and can’t do in Greece right now! Guidelines have recently been updated and are changing frequently.
So, in our news update we’ve included travel requirements, current social distancing rules and what is happening in the Greek property market.
Can I travel to Greece?
Greece is on the UK’s ‘exempt’ list, which means you can travel to and from the country without any need to quarantine on return. You’ll just need to fill in an online Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before travel. This has been introduced to manage and trace COVID cases. There’s only a need for one form per household.
However, a few more restrictions have now been introduced. If you are travelling to Greece from Scotland, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days on your return from the 3rd of September onwards. Travellers returning to Wales from Zakynthos (Zante) are also being asked to quarantine for 14 days on return, even if they fly into an airport that’s outside of Wales. All passengers will be offered a COVID-19 antigen test within 48 hours of their return and will be offered a repeat test 8 days after returning home.
Travel company, Tui, has recently cancelled all its holidays to Zante due to rising infection rates. This comes after 16 passengers on a flight from Zante to Cardiff tested positive for the virus.
Flights are currently still running from UK airports to mainland Greece and the Greek islands. However, the UK government are coming under increasing pressure to introduce quarantine restrictions like Scotland and Wales.
Is it safe to travel there?
Like in a lot of other European countries, infection rates have been slowly increasing as life returns to normal and tourism starts up again. However, compared to other places, Greece is still doing well and infections tend to be very localised. The islands are relatively unscathed, with most infections coming from land borders and groups of locals who don’t stick to social distancing due to festivals, big weddings and so on.
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Health-wise, Greece has been far, far safer than the UK and continues to be so. The country has recorded a total of 9,500 cases and just over 250 deaths at the time of writing, compared to over 330,000 and 41,000 respectively in the UK.
It is worth noting that flights to the islands begin to tail off from October. It is still possible to travel via Athens and Thessaloniki, but it could be worth booking early.
What safety measures are in place?
At the moment, all visitors are subject to random tests upon arrival. In the event of a positive result, you will be placed in a mandatory 14-day quarantine, with expenses covered by the Greek state.
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Like many European countries, it is mandatory to wear facemasks on public transport in Greece (including flights and ferries), at airports and in taxis. Travel in a private car or a taxi is limited to a maximum of three adult passengers per vehicle, in addition to the driver. However, children do not count towards this total.
Beaches are open with social distancing measures in place. Sunbeds are spread out and disinfected after use. Only two people can be seated under a single umbrella, with the exception of families with young children.
The Ministry of Tourism in Greece has drawn up a series of protocols for hotels, also. Social distancing of two metres is required, staff should wear facemasks and most hotels are running at a reduced capacity. Later check-in and earlier check-out times have also been introduced to allow for enhanced cleaning.
Is the UK likely to introduce quarantine restrictions for Greece?
Britain imposes quarantine measures for returning travellers when a country records more than 20 cases per 100,000 people over seven days. The number in Greece at the time of writing is 14.6. This number could rise quickly, but there are currently no plans to take Greece off the UK’s ‘exempt’ list.
If the UK does place restrictions on travellers returning from Greece, it’s thought that Greece may reciprocate. However, the Greek economy relies heavily on tourism, so they want to encourage tourists to visit whilst managing the pandemic in other ways. And if the UK’s rate is lower, Greece may find that hard to justify.
If they do, current restrictions on tourists arriving in Greece from Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Albania, North Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Malta and U.A.E are that they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. This must have been carried out no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.
What happens about travel insurance?
Travel insurance policies taken out before March 2020 would usually cover coronavirus (or don’t exclude it). Policies taken out in the early days of coronavirus usually exclude it. However, many companies are now including COVID insurance in their packages.
Do bear in mind that your EHIC still covers you for medical treatment anyway, and the Greek government will cover your expenses if you have to quarantine there.
Estate agents have been carrying out viewings with social distancing measures in place.
Can I buy property in Greece at the moment?
The demand for Greek property has been booming over the past few months! Estate agents have been carrying out viewings with social distancing measures in place. Interest from British buyers, in particular, has increased. As an estate agent with Corfuhomefinders told Property Guides: “believe it or not we are the busiest we have ever been.”
This is possibly due to a desire for a lockdown bolthole and the appeal of Greece’s effective handling of the pandemic.
You can book property viewings, make a viewing trip and buy property as normal. Although, you may want to get in quick – demand is growing!
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The Greek government is definitely keen to attract retirees from overseas. Earlier this year, it introduced a beneficial tax rate for foreign pensioners. This is a flat rate of income tax at 7%, which would be in place for ten years.
Getting residency before Brexit
The big change for the British buyers will come at the end of this year when the Brexit transition period comes to a close. If you are resident in Greece before the end of the transition period on the 31 December 2020, you will be able to stay without any requirement for a visa.
After 1 January you may need to change your registration document for a new resident card. If you are already registered as a resident in Greece, or you register before 31 December 2020, your residence documents will be considered as temporary national residence permits.
If you aren’t a resident before the end of this year, applying for residency could become more complicated. It’s worth looking at your options surrounding acquiring residency before the end of this year, including the possibility of renting there to claim residency.
For further information on getting residency before the end of this year, please visit the gov.uk website.
Your next steps
All in all, it’s still possible to visit Greece, book viewing trips and buy property there. You also still have time to apply for residency before the end of the year. So, what are you waiting for? Now is still a great time to buy in Greece!