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Rhodes 2020--Pandemic Travel

We just got back to Sheffield after a 3-night trip to Rhodes during a global pandemic. Being locked down for the past few months has undoubtedly taken its toll on everyone’s mental health. For us, a change of scenery was needed and Greece recently opened its borders to allow tourists free passage without quarantine upon arrival and thankfully, the UK government reciprocated to allow us an easy return.

I’ve always recognised that traveling is a privilege and this last trip certainly came with exceptional guilt knowing that few people are able to travel right now. In times like this, we have to rely on government to advice on what is safe and what isn’t.

Masks are required upon entry to the airport and must remain on at all times; unless of course you’re shoving your gut locker full of nutritious airport cuisine. The restaurant operative told us, “mask on to order, mask off to eat,” which was particularly helpful considering the logistical nightmare of trying to eat with a mask on. The same rules applied whilst on the airplane as well.

Once we arrived to our hotel, we had a temperature check before we were allowed entry. Throughout our stay, random checks were also administered. Thankfully, all of our checks put us in the clear. The majority of the guests at our hotel were younger. I don’t think we saw any guests over the age of 60.

The locals were genuinely excited to have us but everyone we chatted with shared their grave concern for what’s ahead. One taxi driver said “we rely on 7 months of tourism but this year we’ll only get 2. I don’t know how many will survive the coming winter—it will be very difficult.” The overflow of tourists each summer must be hard, but conversely, it’s their economic lifeblood. At one point, I heard a metaphor that stuck: “farmers like the rain because it grows the crops.”

In all of the restaurants, servers wore face masks and many opted for a plastic face shield that rests on the chin.

Face Mask

One waiter said that he was terrified about the decision to open tourism back up as three Greek citizens recently died in a single day. From what I can tell, Greece has done extremely well in respect of Covid, as their highest ever single-day death count is registered at nine Covid deaths, on April 5th. Greece’s population is 10.72 million. Their anomalous resilience during this pandemic is intriguing. Could it have anything to do with diet and sunlight exposure? Neighbouring countries like Albania and Turkey seem to also be doing well relative to other countries.

The only other major change to our travel experience was the additional paperwork we had to fill out. Before landing in Greece, we had to fill out a “Protocol for Arrivals in Greece” form for the Greek government. This form must be completed 24 hours before arrival in Greece, and it was mandatory to show a completed form at the airport in the UK before you’re allowed to get on the plane. On return, the UK Visas and Immigration office makes you fill out a “Public Health Passenger Locator Form” where you state whether or not you’re exempt from self-isolation upon return, which airline you flew with, what seat you were in, etc. According to Maggie, both take about 10 minutes to fill out.

This was our third trip to Greece and it never disappoints. Our first trip was to Santorini with our good friends Kara and Doug, and the second brought us to Zakynthos. Each island has its own characteristics but the commonality of great food, crystal-clear water and warm weather create an enviable recipe for the perfect European getaway.

Rhodes was full of bohemian beach vibes. The trendiest spots boasted neutral Scandinavian colour pallets with splashes of gold, macramé chandeliers and rattan furniture throughout. The Acropolis of Lindos was a great surprise, as its bold stone exterior hid its beauty like an oyster to a pearl. Only once you’re inside can you appreciate this architectural jewel. Old Town Rhodes is a UNESCO world heritage site and was another highlight of the trip. Exploring this medieval town during a pandemic was sweeter than Baklava– streets that are normally busting at the seams with throngs of tourists were largely empty for us.

Rhodes was a pleasant surprise and we can’t wait to explore more Greek islands. Next on our Greek bucket list are Mykonos, Kos, Crete and Corfu. Long may the bucket go un-kicked.

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