TLDR: Don’t bother getting a test before you arrive in Greece, because they will test you anyway.
This is not an opinion piece about masks, covid or testing. It’s about information on https://travel.gov.gr not being accurate.
Maybe I can save someone time and money so they don’t scramble around to get a test before they fly to Greece.
I’m going to give my background experience with QR codes and all of that jazz to set the stage.
Traveling from Chicago – Heathrow – Athens in early Sept
In Chicago I could not check in online nor at the kiosk because a human had to verify that I registered for my Greek QR code. All good, but they wouldn’t give me tickets for my connecting flight because I would again have to check in at a desk to make sure I had all of my documents. I did this in London and it was all good.
Both airports were very on top of their QR code going to Greece game. In Greece I got tested as I figured I would considering I was coming from a place that was on their no-no list. They swabbed me and I walked away. I received a sms from ‘Greece’ an hour later telling me to maybe social distance for a day. I never heard back if I was positive or negative so I assumed negative.
I have a US passport and a Greek resident card, so this is the only reason I could make this trip.
Traveling from Athens to Barcelona in late Sept
In Athens airport as I was boarding, the red alarm went off and they asked me to show my QR code for Spain although I was connecting in Paris. I was impressed. In Paris they obviously checked since the whole plane was going to Spain.
FULL DISCLOSURE – I ef’ed up and misread this about entry into Greece and my brain thought, this does not apply
If I had read this correctly on https://travel.gov.gr I would have made arrangements in Spain to make sure I had this test with me for my 6am flight on Monday morning.
Sunday night I was filling in my QR code form and saw something that struck panic inside of me. There was red text and a check box to confirm that I agreed I would be holding a negative test result in order to enter the country.
“Negative COVID -19 PCR test at least 72 hours prior to the travel is necessary for those passengers arriving by air from Bulgaria, Romania, UAE, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Albania, North Macedonia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland.”
We call AirFrance, we call the Athens Airport, but it is Sunday night so there are no answers. All we had to go on was what it said online and our previous experience of them checking before you get on the flight that you have everything you are supposed to.
- Go to the airport at 4am and be turned away in Barcelona (if they were checking to the same extent that they were on our trip over). Get a test in Spain and re-book flights home.
- Go to the airport and be allowed to board and be turned away in Paris (if they were checking to the same extent that they were on our trip over). Get a test in France and re-book flights home.
- Ignore the box I just ticked and all of the red text and go to the airport at 4am and hope we can make it to Greece and deal with it there.
- Not go to airport for Monday morning flight, get test in Barcelona and re-book flights home once we have the negative test results in hand.
Things to take into consideration:
- We were staying with a friend in Barcelona, so accommodation was not an issue
- We have many helpful friends in Barcelona to assist with finding where to get the test, etc
- We’ve never been to Paris and don’t know anybody there
- My personality type of always having my ducks in a row when dealing with things like rules
We spent a good 2 hours deciding what to do and going through everything. If I didn’t have the previous experiences of them checking BEFORE I was allowed to board, I would have went for it and known they wouldn’t turn us away at the border. But I was thinking back to Chicago and London when desk clerks were scrutinizing the fact that my QR code hadn’t come through yet because it comes at midnight on the day of your arrival. An Air France employee in Barcelona is just following the rules and if you don’t have it, you ain’t getting on. Not to mention all of the stories of people – even Greek citizens not being able to board because the airport staff in the origin was simply following the rules.
This does also apply to Greek citizens, permanent residents of Greece and travelers for essential professional reasons. Travelers should be laboratory tested with RT-PCR of oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal swab.
Only travelers who carry a certificate of a negative RT-PCR test result will be allowed by the border authorities to enter the country. The certificates should be written in English and bear the name and passport/national ID number of the traveler.
The Laboratories that perform the RT-PCR testing should be:
- National Reference laboratories
- National Public Health Laboratories or
- Private laboratories which are accredited from the respective national accreditation authorities (not necessarily specifically for COVID-19).
Certificates that do not fulfill the above criteria will not be accepted. Certificate forgery is punished by Greek Law.
Children under 10 years old are not subject to the obligation to a PCR test.
Travelers will still have to complete and submit their PLF form and may be subject to random testing upon arrival to the Greek border.
Not going to lie, the details of where the test should be from probably was the tipping point for me. They ain’t messing around! Seems like they are for real about this.
So we opted to stay in Barcelona and get the test. We had a place to stay, the weather was beautiful, one more day of good food – it’s ok to take the hit financially 🙂
I’m all for personal responsibility. I mis-read the rules, so it’s my fault that I am losing my original flight and need to re-book.
Monday morning comes and we get recommendations of where to get the test done, and did just that. Nasal and oral – fun times! We opted for a place that seemed super legit and that would pass the standards we had read about the specifications of the lab. Our friend suggested a place that gave you results in 10 min for 60 euros and we opted for the 120 euro one that took 24 hours and seemed more legit. If we were doing this, we were doing it “right”.
Tuesday morning rolls around and we get our negative tests and book a flight out at 6pm. A weight was lifted off of my shoulders, we had everything we were supposed to and were good to go.
In Barcelona, they didn’t even ask for our Greek QR code. A very different experience than the red light flashing when I was boarding in Athens.
In Paris they asked for the QR code as the plane was going to Greece, so everyone needed it.
In Athens we had our forms out and were eager to get home as it was 1am. We got to the front of the line and she looked at our super official negative test results and asked for our QR code. We showed her and she said, “You have a 9, you must be tested” (they don’t scan them, they just look at the first digit to see if you’ve been to a bad place). I said, “We were just tested yesterday and have these to prove that.”
I asked, “What if we didn’t have these forms?” She said, “the same- you need to take a test”. Mind you that every person coming from a bad place had to click and verify that they would have a test taken up to 72 hours in advance.
I mean the whole 72 hour thing is BS anyway because we could take the test and run around with our masks off kissing everyone in sight and licking door knobs before getting on that flight.
My whole anger doesn’t stem from tests, masks or covid – it’s the misleading info that the Greek Authorities are putting out there. Don’t tell me to do a test beforehand if that paper means nothing to you.
The woman asked if I wanted my test results back after she told me they meant nothing and I said, “Nope” and walked away. (That’s a dramatic move for me jsyk).
I don’t give a damn if you test me before the flight and after the flight, just tell me what will happen and what to expect.
Now for the Pe Pro’s out there who will say it was stupid to wait and do the test because it is Greece and they don’t care… it wasn’t Greece that concerned me. It was the airline employee at the desk in Barcelona or Paris who probably should’ve asked for all of the “appropriate” documents ahead of time.
EDIT: I was right 😀
Maybe part of my frustration with this is that I didn’t walk on the wild side and wing it without the documents I was told to have, but that ain’t me babe.
If I was going to fly to one of the bad countries, would I risk it and click the button saying I have a negative test when I don’t? Probably not 😛
I hope they change what is written on their site and are simply honest about what happens when you land in Greece.