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    F1S SELECTS

    Traveling Post-Pandemic:

    A First-Hand Look at Greece

    F1RST Selects

    Traveling Post-Pandemic: A First-Hand Look at Greece

    After spending two weeks in Greece recently, F1S client Tammy An shares everything you need to know—from safety precautions to must-do activities. 

    A number of countries in the European Union have started welcoming back tourists, including Greece, which did so in mid-May. Shortly after that, F1S clients Tammy and Asad spent two weeks in the country, visiting Athens and the islands. Here, Tammy gives us an inside look at their trip—from the safety precautions to hotel stays to the new activity she may quit her day job for.

    Getting There

    Like many people, we had to reschedule our wedding and honeymoon plans from 2020. We were scheduled to be in Greece last September for our honeymoon and instead rescheduled it to May 2021. We left for Greece on May 14—meaning we would arrive in Athens on May 15—the official opening of Greek borders to tourism. 

    While travel is definitely different these days, it’s safe to say that some things never change: like the brutal traffic to New York’s JFK airport. Once we got to the airport, though, it was smooth sailing. We flew business class on Delta, and with TSA pre-check, we cleared security and got to the gate in under 30 minutes. That’s where Delta staff checked for vaccination cards or negative PCR test results and we were on our way. 

    In the air, service was more Covid-sensitive. There were no longer paper menus or an extensive choice of wines, and meals were no longer served in courses. Flight attendants were diligent in ensuring all travelers kept their masks on throughout the flight. 

    Because nonstop flights to Greece weren’t resuming from New York until the end of May, we connected in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, which, like JFK, was bustling with departures and connections. With 75 minutes to clear customs and connect to our next flight, we had plenty of time to transit as well as stop for a quick refreshment at the business lounge, which was also incredibly busy.

    In addition to a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination, Greece also required an entry form to be completed online, at least 24 hours before entry. At the gate in Athens, flight staff re-verified our documentation in addition to the entry form. It’s important to have all your paperwork in order, as some people didn’t and the airline had to pull luggage off the plane, causing the only delay in our trip up until that point. 

    Visiting Athens and the Islands

    Our itinerary changed from our original plans in 2020. Post-pandemic we were less interested in seeing as much as possible and more interested in spending more time on specific islands and finding resorts that were either wellness-focused or boutique properties with less than 50 rooms. 

    Based on the recommendation of our advisor, we made the decision to spend our first two days in Athens outside the city center, at the Four Seasons Astir Palace on the Athens Riviera. After a long travel day, we were happy with our decision to have a quieter and more relaxing start to the trip, as well as see a different side of Athens. 

    We spent most of our tie by the pool (there are 3!) and ventured out to the nearby hot springs and Temple of Poseidon. Astir Palace boasts two wings—Nafsika and Arion, as well as ground-level bungalows. At the time we stayed, the Arion wing was not yet open for the season, making the resort feel even more intimate and secluded. 

    From there, it was off to the islands. We flew from Athens to Paros, which is part of the Cyclades island chain and known for its beaches and charming port town. Here we stayed at Parilio, a Design Hotel, which was about a five-minute drive outside the port town of Naousa and comprises 33 suites. We arrived on opening day at Parilio, and the staff and team on the property were enthusiastic and welcoming. 

    The island of Paros is easy to navigate, and with a car rental for our three nights there, we did some shopping in town, explored the beaches (our favorite was Kolymbithres, a unique beach surrounded by granite rock formations), and enjoyed the pool and Elios Spa in Parilio. 

    From Paros, we took a short ferry ride to the neighboring island of Naxos. Not only known for its historic Venetian Castle and Temple of Apollo, Naxos is also the most self-sufficient island in the Cyclades in terms of agriculture. Another highlight is Naxian marble, which is still quarried today. We even tried a new activity: marble carving. It’s a lot harder than it looks, but was so much fun. (Maybe a new day job?)

    Next, we made our way to Santorini, arriving via a two-hour ferry ride from Naxos. It’s a really unique time to be in Santorini: There were no crowds, whether you are walking around the shops in Oia or waiting at a sunset hotspot. We split up our time between the villages of Oia and Imerovigli in order to see different parts of the island.

    In addition to enjoying the resort facilities, like the pools and spa, we also did a sunset cruise as well as a private tour to some of the historical sites and traditional villages. Even if you don’t do a private tour, most groups are smaller by nature. The sunset cruise, for instance, allowed 20 guests, and on our trip, there were only 12. On our last day in Santorini, through our advisor, we arranged for in-room COVID testing, and our results were emailed to us later that evening. 

    We ended our Greek adventure back in Athens, with two days in the city center, as a way to transition back to city living. While the historic sites were less crowded than usual, the streets and, in particular, the restaurants were alive in the evening. That’s in part because Greece only allowed restaurants and bars to reopen at the beginning of May—and you could feel the residents enjoying being out and about after six months of lockdown. As with Santorini, small group tours were even smaller, and we enjoyed a guided walk up the Acropolis, a food tour of hidden taverns in Psyri, and an electric scooter ride around the city. 

    Our journey ended where it started—on a plane ride with Delta—and by the time of our return, the nonstop from Athens to JFK was available. Our negative COVID tests were verified and we boarded and returned home smoothly. Upon landing, we also took the opportunity to renew our Global Entry, taking advantage of their Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) program. 

    Overall Impression

    Greece is ready for travelers—and not just hotel staff, but local businesses as well. They were genuinely glad to see us, with businesses repainting storefronts, and trendy restaurants still requiring reservations. In May, some hotels were still not open, but overall hotels will be in full swing by June. Be prepared with the right documents, but be excited to be part of the reopening.

    Insider Tips:

    • As people begin to travel again, consider properties that offer a more spacious and private experience. From the Four Seasons Astir Palace, guests can book a taxi or tour to spend a day in Athens city center. Another option would be a private yacht charter.
    • Hire a travel photographer to capture your travel memories. Whether you are celebrating something special or just taking the first trip in a long time, you’ll find that the lack of crowds is especially conducive to this!
    • Be flexible. We had a couple of flight changes/cancellations as airlines were figuring out routing/ schedules.
    • Hiring an advisor is key: They can manage any flight and hotel changes, offer guidance on hotels (and put new hotels on your radar), and arrange special services, like in-room Covid tests for U.S. re-entry requirements.

    Ready to head out on your own Greek adventure? Let us know and our advisors can plan your perfect getaway.

    Talk to an advisor now!
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