Flying to Greece – PLFs and COVID tests…

Flying to Greece – PLFs and COVID tests…

Boeing 737-800. Photo credit: Ryanair
By now just about every country that is likely to be approved for direct flights to Greece this summer has resumed services, except Sweden which should be imminent. There are also countries on the approved list that never have direct flights, so people travelling from there need to connect along the way. It is important to understand that Greece isn’t too bothered about your nationality when it comes to COVID-19, it is where you are travelling from – in particular where you have been for the previous 14 days before starting your journey.

Everyone arriving in Greece by air (or by sea from Italy) has to fill out a PLF (Passenger Locator Form) on line at least 24 hours before departure. This is an official Greek Government form, accessible here. The weblink includes the official protocol for arriving passengers. Computers assess the risk level, and at midnight Greek time (so slightly earlier in countries to the west of Greece) you will be sent an email with a QR code (one of those barcode like items with squares instead of vertical lines) and a number. You must bring this with you, so you either need a smartphone or access to a printer before you leave. Airlines have been instructed to offload anyone who turns up at the airport without a PLF QR code.

On the plane, you will be expected to wear a facemask throughout (unless actually eating or drinking), and many countries will require you to wear one in the airport terminal (and on public transport heading to the terminal) before you leave. Keep the facemask on when you arrive at the Greek airport (unless Immigration need to compare your face to your passport photo). After immigration (if you need to go through it) staff will check your PLF QR code. A proportion of passengers will be routed straight to baggage reclaim, others will have to take a swab COVID test first. The rules about who gets tested are deeply obscure, the computer which produces the code calculates the risk of you being infectious based on where you live, where you are flying from, whether you’re in a group or on your own, and probably other factors too. If you are in a family or other group, they usually only test one of you. Test results are notified by phone or text only if you are positive, so no news is good news. You will hear within 24 hours if you are positive and will be moved to a quarantine hotel along with the rest of any group you are in. The hotel is paid for by the government. If you don’t need treatment, you’ll be allowed out after 14 days.

Travellers, whether tested or not, reclaim any checked baggage, and emerge into the open air. Don’t take your mask off yet, you’ll need to wear it on buses, transfer coaches, taxis etc, not to mention on board the ferry to Symi.
You also need to wear a mask in supermarkets, but not other shops (yet).

Ferry passengers should allow extra time before departure so they can fill in a paper form stating where they will be staying and how they can be contacted. This, like the PLF, is part of the Greek Track and Trace system so anyone who has come close to an active COVID-19 sufferer can be found and isolated.

As mentioned, the identical system applies to people using ferries from Italy to Greek ports. There are no ferries from Turkish ports at the moment, nor do I think there are likely to be this summer. Only one land crossing into Greece is open, that at Promachonas on the border with Bulgaria. All other land crossings are restricted to essential travellers only – no tourists allowed. People using this must have had a negative COVID-19 test not more than 3 days before crossing, and be able to prove it. For some reason, this has confused people, who think it applies to all arrivals in Greece, it doesn’t, only those who have come overland through Bulgaria.

So enjoy your time on Symi, but don’t forget, Greece isn’t the only country that uses PLFs, the UK does too, for example, so you must fill out any forms you need for your return journey, again on line. No form, no fly, to slightly twist the words of Captain Yiannis of the Poseidon day trip boat.

4 thoughts on “Flying to Greece – PLFs and COVID tests…

  1. Andy have you any idea when the sept ferry timetable is out? I arrive in Rhodes wednesday evening and so far the only ferry I can find is late afternoon on friday 4th.two nights in Rhodes out of two weeks is less than ideal so I am hoping for a thursday ferry before I book somewhere to stay for two nights.

    1. Well, Dodekanisos Seaways and Blue Star have already published their timetables for September, though neither of them offer much help. There is currently a sailing on Thursdays at 11:30, reaching Symi at 13:00. This is operated by SAOS ferries. It is a subsidised route and therefore is likely to continue in September, but at the moment the published timetable only goes up to 31 August. As they don’t do online booking, I expect they see no great advantage in getting the September timetable out quickly. Keep watching this blog and as soon as the SAOS September timetable appears a post will appear here.

  2. hi
    how does one actually book an SAOS ferry between Symi and Rhodes ? Can’t for the life of me work it out using their website!

    many thanks!

    1. You can’t, and don’t need to, book SAOS ferries services using their website. The ships aren’t full, they run mostly for vehicles, though passengers are welcome. Instead you follow the traditional method of buying tickets over the counter from their agents. On Symi, this means Symi Tours, but being that Symi Tours know their customers, you can in fact book spaces on the Stavros on the Symi Tours website, then collect the tickets before travel.

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