Greece: NHS paper card is all that’s needed for proof of vaccination

Greece: NHS paper card is all that’s needed for proof of vaccination

Greece is willing to accept the NHS card as evidence of innoculation but Portugal deems the card to at risk of forgery.

Greece, a favourite hot spot for holidaymakers, has announced that Britons who have had two doses of the vaccination are welcome to enter. All they need to show is an NHS card stating as much.

The Greek tourism minister, Harry Theoharis said that the business-card size document would suffice. He said:

“Until the UK has a digital passport, we have seen the paper cards that are provided with the two vaccine appointment dates and we are recognising them. They can be used on the ground and at the borders.”

This is an temporary measure pending the creation of digital health certificate beging deivsed by the UK and EU. However, there will be random spot testing on arrivals to keep an eye on positive cases. Any rise in numbers could result in new measures being implemented.

This is great news for holidaymakers who have already been vaccinated as there is no longer any need to take a PCR test before travelling thereby avoiding a hefty fee of £120 per test.

Those are are not vaccinated will still need evidence of a negative PCR test. The Greek government is considering the use of the rapid antigen test.

At the same time, UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston revealed that Britain is in cohoots with the EU regarding vaccine passports for travel. There has been no word from the European Commission on this though.

Conversely Portugal are doubtful bout the NHS card stating fears over the riskof forgery. Spokesman Rita Marques said

“As you can imagine, a piece of paper with some handwriting is not considered to be as secure as we would like”.

“It is very important that we avoid fraud and an integrated digital pass is the way forward, with a QR code. We are working with the European Commission to have in place a system that will allow us to welcome holidaymakers safely.”

Greece and Portugal hold high hopes for placement on the UK green list of safe destinations. Indeed their hopes are so high that Greece has stipulated a border opening for Brits as early as May 3, which Portugal remains vague offering sometime in mid-May.

The Trafffic Light System
According to Boris Johnson’s roadmap Brits will be able to travel abroad from May 17. However only those returning from a green list destintion will be able to return without quarantine, but will be required to show a negative PCR test.

Travellers retuning from amber destinations will have to self-isolate for 10 days and show a PCR test on days two and eight. If a test is taken on day five which prooves negative, then self-isolaion can end under “test to release” scheme.

Travellers from “red list countries” will be escorted to a quarantine hotel to quarantine for ten days and a cost of £1,750.

It’s not at all clear who will be on the green list, and even when it is published, this could be reviewed and changed quickly.

With EU countries so far behind the UK with their vaccination rollout it’s likely that the green list will be short for a while and populated as time reveals new destinations that have Covid under control.

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Greece, Syros Island – Hiking in the Princess of the Aegean

Greece, Syros Island – Hiking in the Princess of the Aegean

Whilst Syros is not as well known as its more famous neighbours (Mykonos, Paros, Naxos or Santorini), it is the capital and administrative centre of this group of Greek islands, the Cyclades (aka in Greek as Kyklades). It is not a popular tourist destination – but that is in itself a particularly compelling reason to visit.

The island’s history, particularly the main town of Ermoupoli (aka Hermoupoli) is the capital of the Cyclades. With its cobbled streets and glorious neoclassical and Venetian architecture is much more interesting and culturally diverse than most of the other Cycladic islands combined. (The group comprises 56 islands, 24 of which are inhabited).

Beyond the town, there’s an astonishing landscaped that begs to be explored.

Drive to Fish Hook
From my home on the midwest side of the island, I look north up the coast and can see the “Fish Hook” top end, approx 10 kms away. I had thus always wonderlusted about this very remote uninhabited, rugged and rocky top-end – Syros/Syra means rock. I had rounded this mysterious and alluring point many times on the ferry but never ventured so far by foot.

So when my adventurous, intrepid English mate (I am an Aussie) and experienced hiker (Gordon) said he knew the way, I jumped at the chance. We set out on a warm and sunny May spring day.

From our village of Kini we needed to drive to the northernmost accessible road’s end of the island, being the rural area of Kambos. The half-hour drive up, up, up, is fascinating in itself, taking you past the famous archaeological site of Chalandriani.

It is from here that Cycladic artefacts (carbon-dated at around 2,500 BC) were discovered and are now on display at the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, and other museums.

This northern half is the most elevated part of the island, which, together with its rugged remoteness, offers a truly otherworldly experience. Think lunar landscapes and the like especially around Grammata Bay. The sense of isolation here is all-pervading.

2-hour trek from Kambos to the top
At Kambos, we abandoned the car and commenced the 2-hour hike towards the islands top end, along a narrow track frequented more by wild feral goats than curious humans.

The path is in most parts undulating and rocky, so care is needed in how to go and where to place your feet. All the way along the central ridge that the path follows, the views are amazing, looking out on the nearby islands of Andros, Tinos and Mykonos to the east, and Yaros, Kea and Kythnos in the west.

Being springtime, we were conscious of not disturbing snakes and goannas coming out of their winter hibernation, with our shuffling feet on the narrow track.

The venomous Vipers in these parts are very poisonous and can lead to death if a bite is not treated quickly. This would not be possible in such a remote location. Being an Australian, one is always wary of such possibilities.

The harsh and barren topography and flora are capable of surviving the sweltering dry, windy summers. The area was still in bloom, with some low height resilient ground cover and shrubs being springtime. Sage and Thyme are a natural native here, and their wonderful scent adds to the stark beauty.

We could see herds of half a dozen or more wild goats roaming the mountainside, enjoying the warm sunshine and abundance of ground cover. After the cold and windy winters, this must be their most enjoyable time of the year.

They are a unique species apparently, larger and furrier than the goats seen in most other parts. This very remote location offers them safety from natural predators, so this is their domain.

We reached our destination of the fish hook land’s end the late afternoon, with the sun heading for a western sunset. It was an unusually windless day, and with the sea below us so calm and tranquil, it was a surreal setting. A passing ferry about one kilometre away was the only reminder of civilisation and our intrusion on this sublime place.

From this spot, I could look back in a southerly direction down the coast and make out the faint outline of my home, from whence, we came several hours earlier.

The long trek back
With “mission accomplished” (and having another box ticked on exploring this wonderful island), we commenced the long and tricky trek back. It was dusk when we arrived back at the welcome sight of our waiting car.

Physically fatigued but in high spirits from the adventure, we drove to a local Taverna at the nearby village of Sa Michalis. There we joined our other less adventurous friends, for a well earnt authentic traditional Greek supper, of mountain cuisine.

A wonderful and exhilarating day on sunny Syros. They sometimes say it is not the destination that counts, but the journey. On this occasion, it was both.

Greece is open: Jet2holidays offering £100 off pp on every holiday

Greece is open: Jet2holidays offering £100 off pp on every holiday

As Greece offers a warm welcome mat, Jet2holidays make it easy to book your holiday with £100 off holidays, a refund guarantee and easy payments.

May 17 is likely to be the most exciting date on the calendar this year. Why? Because this is the date with the travel go-ahead button attached to it.

And as Brits start mentally packing their bags for sun and sea with a huge dollop of culture, Greece has already put out the welcome mat and has been the most vocal about inviting Britons who have had both doses of the vaccination onto its shores.

The tourism minister Haris Theoharis has expressed eagerness:

“We’ll try to dovetail with the plan that has been announced in the UK,”  “A date of 17 May has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then.”

Travel companies are eagerly looking to capture some of that magic and making it easy and even reassuring to book now for later.

Jet2holidays, a giant in easy holidaying experiences, have expanded their holiday itinerary to Greece and are also offering a range of 2 to 5 star hotels so that everyone can have the holiday they deserve.

Right now, Jet2holidays are offering £100 per person off all their holidays with the added reassurance that if they have to cancel, their refund is guaranteed. Also, paying for your holiday can be made easier by opting to pay in full or, depending on departure dates, with just a £60pp deposit* you can then spread the rest as and when you like or in monthly chunks. Offer ends March 31st, 2021.

Greece has a myriad of appealing destinations; here’s a small selection.

Santorini

 

This gorgeous hilly island in the southern Aegean sea is as romantic as can be. It is best known for its cube-shaped buildings topped with those blue domes, sensational cliffs and blessed with land so lush that as the honey-hued sunsets blanket the landscape with is dimming light, it takes your breath away

Oia and the capital, Fira, are two of the island’s most popular resorts and make for the perfect hillside hideaways.

Halkidiki

Halkidiki has three peninsulas that look like crooked fingers protruding into the warm waters of the Aegean sea. The Kassandra finger is home to several gorgeous villages, such as Kriopigi, which spreads itself on a hill where pine trees rise up over Toroneos Gulf. Nearby is the village of Afitos, amazing vistas over Sithonia and the eastern coast of Kassandra with quaint stone-built houses, cobbled streets and Orthodox Christian structures. Sani is a little busier, especially in the summer when pop concerts take place at the foot of a hill. The village also has lovely bars and a marina replete with restaurants.

Corfu

 

The island of Corfu, rises out of the Ionian and has a vast coastline, a rugged beauty of unkempt yet lush mountains and sandy coves lapped by calm, cobalt-blue waters. Everywhere are hints of its Venetian, French and British heritage – in its architecture, such as twisty medieval lanes, Venetian fortresses and the French-styled arcade in its atmospheric Old Town.

The eastern shores of the queen of the Ionion, such as Ipsos, Dassia, Moraitika and Benitses, are most liked by young families. Whereas the northeast offers pastel-hued architecture on a hillside dotted amid olive-trees overlooking the sea.

Mykonos

A long time favourite with party goers, Mykonos is simply beautiful, slow-paced yet at nightfall, a frisson can be felt in the air as locals and holidaymakers come out to dine or sip cocktails. The main town, Chora, is adorned with white cube-shaped homes with bright blue doors and shutters, and often framed by colourful flowers and makes for a most delightful day-time stroll.