Traveling in 2020 is challenging as hell. I had my share of failed travels this year I already told you about in my Travel Cancellation after Cancellation. Safe to say I was super anxious for my next trip, me and my friends were planing for some time- Vacation in Greece. Seven girls in Greece sound like one hell of a ride but oh boy I had no idea what kind of journey it would turn out to be.
COVID cases in Europe increases whilst peoples fear of COVID decreases.
Restrictions change so fast I can’t keep up. In times like this, it’s almost impossible to plan in advance as I learned the hard way. Back in April when we were booking our vacation we were optimistic. For sure corona would be over by the summer. Yeah, sure.
It started back in the first European corona peak times when the flight tickets dropped astronomically. My “let’s travel somewhere” friends group chat started sharing amazing plane tickets with the sole goal of traveling somewhere this year. Wherever.
One thing lead to another and we were buying an august ticket to Thessaloniki for 18 euros each.
We were deciding between 7 or 5 days vacation but as I already had plans that would interfere with my vacation we set for 5 days in Greece. Shortly after that, we booked a hipstery looking apartment in Thessaloniki through Airbnb and everything was set.
There were four of us.
As the time went by and we shared the cheap deal with our friends and our group grew.
A friend brought a friend she brought her sister and another friend brought another friend and then another but she couldn’t get the ticket so in the end there were 7 of us.
We simply wouldn’t fit our first apartment in Thessaloniki so we looked for another one. After a short research, we realized Thessaloniki doesn’t have a beach and we would need to travel for that every day so we looked for different places. Surely, the parties would be better in the city but as the time progressed and corona progressed too, it was easy to predict the clubs won’t be open anyway. We decided to look for a place closer to the beach and get into the digging.
Can you imagine seven 24 years old women agreeing on something?
Yes exactly. But to be fair I was expecting big fights, broken friendships, and at least one of us to back out of it and none of that happened.
But it wasn’t easy. There were so many options and we tried to be democratic and vote on our favorite but even after score 5 to 2 on an apartment, the losing site refused to adapt. So we said fuck it and started again from scratch.
A couple of weeks till our due date and a few late-night talks and calls, we found an amazing apartment for 7 people in Nea Kallikratia. We found nicely looking ONLY ONE APARTMENT on booking, but trust me it looked much better in real life. New apartments, close to the beach, and for 10 euros a night. I still can’t believe that incredible deal.
So the flight and accommodation in Greece for a total of 60 euros.
If you choose to travel in 2020 you got to count on some restrictions.
I’m not talking about just a face mask. That’s a new standard we got to get used to.
You got to follow up with the restrictions of your own country upon your arrival back, the restrictions of the countries you’re possibly passing through and the restrictions of the country of your final destination.
It’s quite a challenge but oh my god how I love a good challenge.
Every time I travel, and that’s quite a lot. I do a throughout research on my planned destination. Tripadvisor and travel blogs are an incredible help. This time I added the ministry of health Greece, Slovakia, Czech, and Austria to the list of my most visited sites.
I’m a Slovak but I live in Czech and I fly from Austria to Greece.
Let me tell you there was a lot of digging the internet on how to actually manage this trip.
But the bigger the challenge the better the reward.
4 of us traveled from Slovakia and 3 of us from Prague and it was quite funny to see the restrictions change upon crossing the borders.
Me and my friends took the train from Prague to Vienna. At that time the face masks were mandatory only in a subway and health care so for our whole train ride we didn’t need to have a face mask.
We accidentally bought the tickets to the silent compartment and we got sushed several times for talking too loudly. It felt like being back in school. The train ride took forever.
Once we crossed the Austrian borders and got off in Vienna we needed to put the mask on and kept it on until we got to our apartment in Greece.
The most important fact was that Greece was still open for tourists and there were no mandatory quarantine or negative tests required on our arrival back. At the time we were traveling at least.
Greece was open but each visitor had to register their travel at a website and the Greece government assigned each visitor a QR code. Each visitor then had to show this code at the airport upon arrival to Greece. Each code had a specific set of numbers that would determine whether you’re assigned to have a random COVID test or you’re free to continue with your trip.
It was super important to fill out the form just right because even the slightest mistake in your form could end your journey at the airport before you even began.
I checked out a lot of bloggers and we even had several friends already in Greece who provide us with first-hand information about new Greece.
Flight attendants check your code and your form before boarding the plane. If something is incorrect you’re not allowed to board. No kidding but when our friend flew to Greece 2 weeks before us the flight company refused boarding to like half of the passengers.
I swear to god I was never as nervous as I was while filling out that form.
Our group filled it out together so we would help each other out while doing it but still, we were a group of young people, we speak English and can work the computer well and we still struggled with some parts of the form. I can’t imagine a non-English speaker or someone who’s not so much of an IT kind of guy to work this form. There is no way my grandmum could fill it out or even know what a QR code is.
The form was in English and it required simple things like your name, address, passport, or flight number. Flight number was the most common mistake people made cuz they put reservation numbers instead of the flight number. Then you put regular emergency contact and the address of your hotel or apartment. This one was quite challenging as we had the address in greek only and the form won’t accept any other language but English, but in the end, we figured it out. Another thing you put in is a family member or a non-family member you’re traveling with. And lastly the country you visited in the last 14 days and you send it to the Greece government.
You need to fill it our at least 48 hours before your flight and you get your own QR code at midnight of your travel. From what we heard and now I can confirm it, the only important thing from the code is the first number. For example, each person whose code starts with a number 2 goes to the test and the number changes regularly.
The worst thing is the anticipation.
You don’t get the code until the day of your travel and you don’t know if you’re the chosen one until you get off the plane and a guy tells you you’re the chosen one.
The incredible thing is that all of the tests are paid by Greece government.
You get tested by a throat swab and you know the results within 24 hours. If you’re negative you’re free to continue with your trip. But if you’re positive you get contacted by the authorities, transferred to a different hotel, required to stay in Greece in quarantine for 14 days with all of the expenses paid by the Greece government. It sounds so awesome except for the part when you have COVID.
The set of nervous chain only began when I send my form.
What if I get randomly tested? I heard the testing is horrible. What if I’m positive? I’m feeling good but what if I’m the only one tested from our group? What would the rest of the group do? I can take only a backpack to the plane but what if I need to stay there for 14 days? What would I wear or eat for 2 weeks? What do I pack with me? Do I pack for a possible quarantine or a regular 5 days chill on the beach? What if my QR code is wrong? Hell, what if I won’t get a code at all? What if I get infected there? Is it really worth it?
To answer the last question- yes, yes it is.
It was stressful and so much work but I would do it again and again for one simple reason.
To get away from the dull monochromatic pattern of the recent days, to get away from the constant bad news of this hell of a year and simply just to feel something else.
To feel the rush.
Plus traveling is the best and Greece is beautiful and even though I visited it before I would do it again and again.
Important is to travel safely.
I had a full bag of face masks, nano masks, respirators, gloves, disinfection gels, and more. It also matters what’s your normal standard.
Our group consider of mostly pharmacists and even one bioanalytic actually testing COVID. For me, it is normal to wear a face mask 12 hours a day, clean my hand regularly, and just generally keeping myself safe cuz I work with sick people every day.
I never felt threatened throughout my whole travel because everyone at the airport was accepting and obeying the rules without a fuss. Everyone there was aware of how important it is to keep yourself and each other safe in order to continue traveling the world again.
I’m in way bigger danger by every Karen that simply won’t put her mask on because it’s hard to breathe and she has her rights, or every Kevin who studied the school of life and corona is a scam created to chip us.
At midnight of your trip, we all got our QR code and luckily all of our 7 codes started off with the same number- 7. I’m not gonna lie, I was relieved cuz I was sure we won’t get tested. I thought they simply wouldn’t test 7 girls at once. We were too big of a group for that.
So we arrived at the Vienna airport.
Even though I flew just as the corona hit Europe in February it felt like I haven’t been at the airport for years. Maybe because I believed it would take so long till I’ll be able to enjoy simple things like flying, but I was excited like I never flew before.
Let’s move to the restrictions at the Vienna airport.
Masks are mandatory. Nothing new. From what I saw everyone was wearing a face mask and actually wearing it correctly and not under the nose like most of the people.
I thought we would get our temperature checked at least but that didn’t happen. Also, we had to fill out a form stating we’re not stopping anywhere in Vienna but the airport but no one collected that form from us.
Disinfection everywhere but the social distancing was non-existing. How could you when all of the flights take off from the same gate so all of the passengers are squished in one part of the airport.
We flew with RyanAir company and it was great. The plane was like a half-full. Each of us sat alone or by two in a row and I didn’t see one row full, usually occupied by one passenger.
Flight attendant reminded us that we need to keep the mask on for the whole duration of the flight except for eating or drinking.
I don’t know why but I found it quite funny that the flight attendants had to adapt to the situation and remind people, that in case of a crash or in case you need to use an oxygen mask, please take off your face mask off first.
One of us sat in the first row and chatted with the flight attendants and found our what numbers are being picked for the test today.
You guessed it correctly it was number 7.
The stress of OK it’s happening rushed over me, but you know, spending 14 days in Greece is not the worst that could happen. At least I’m gonna know for sure if I have COVID or not. And for free.
When we stepped out of the bus that took us from our plane to the hall we were met with several soldiers or policemen, I’m not sure what their status was. Each passenger had its code in hand on either paper or a phone like we did.
Once the policemen checked mine he just pointed out to the testing line.
The testing area was just a part of a hall divided by a sheet and a long line of people waiting to be tested.
The only positive thing was that we were all in it together.
All seven of us were waiting in line to get out throats wiped.
There were 3 dudes in protective gear sitting in chairs swabbing the throats all day.
When it was my turn I went to the one that was currently free and sat next to him. I showed him my QR code and he scanned it and checked it on his device. He said my name, which I confirmed. Then he scanned the testing tubes QR code to pair it up with my form. He opened up the tube and picked up a long stick, looked me in the eye, and told me to open up.
I took down my mask and opened up my mouth.
He started shimmering the stick around my tonsils. Not nice but manageable.
Suddenly he told me to open up more and say “A”. I obeyed and he showed the stick deep down my throat I gagged. The guy chuckled and continue with the very unpleasant swipe of my throat.
It lasted only a couple of seconds but I could feel it in my throat for at least 10 minutes afterward.
When you’re going on an all-girls vacation you’re expecting some sort of licentious action. But getting deepthroated at the airport with an audience by a stranger surprised even me. (I’m joking mum.)
At least 80% of our plane went through the COVID test.
Even kids! We witnessed like a 5 years old kid screaming bloody murder while his father held his mouth open so the dude can swabe his throat.
It was terrible but at least it was not a nose swipe.
We were not given any information on how to proceed next. What to do or how we would get the results. They just let us go.
There were 7 of us.
Beforehand we ordered a taxi that would take us from Thessaloniki airport to the Nea Kallikratia and our apartment what was supposed to be like a 30 min car ride.
We ordered a minivan to fit us all but because of the corona, Greece doesn’t allow more than 4 passengers per car. So we had to adapt to the new situation and order another cab to take all of us to our final destination where we would wait for the result.
I already mentioned that our friends were in Greece 2 weeks before us and they even stayed at the same destination as we did. So upon our arrival, we met up with them and they showed us the best beaches and best bars Nea Kallikratia has to offer.
Our friends didn’t get tested but their parents did and never get that actual result.
It’s either a positive result or nothing.
So if you won’t get contacted by Greece government by the next 24 hours that means you’re negative.
If you do get a call then good luck.
I have never been as anxious while looking on my phone as I was the next day.
Each time I picked it up I was dreading I would see a missed call or a text message. Once the long 24 hours were over we realized we were all negative.
No COVID for me.
Getting to Greece was a long and interesting journey just as the stay in Greece itself. More on that next time.