(Post last edited on May 25, 2020)
With so much news out there about Covid-19 (the new Coronavirus), it is hard to get a balanced view of the situation. Most countries on our planet have now put restrictions in place, and as they are ongoing, they affect many, probably most, of Peter Sommer Travels' tours and cruises in 2020. Beyond the spring/early summer season, it is too soon to tell which of our trips are viable.
Where outright travel bans do not apply, the decision whether to travel or not obviously lies with you. Since there is quite a lot of misinformation and alarming (some might say sensationalist) news coverage, we want to share information from reliable sources with you.
At Peter Sommer Travels, we are keeping up-to-date with official information regarding all the countries we visit, and the countries most of our guests come from, on a daily basis. As members of AITO, we are also briefed with the latest official information as soon as it is released. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.
As is to be expected of a global pandemic, the situation has affected all the countries we travel, as well as all the origin countries of our guests. Massive and unprecedented measures have been and are being taken in a collective effort to slow, limit and eventually control and halt its spread, an effort that is still very much under way.
By late April 2020, the measures were showing visible signs of success in most countries concerned. These advances differ considerably, as some countries are further along the curve of infection, and some further back, and as among our destination countries Croatia and Greece have been notably successful in limiting the spread of the virus.
Relaxations of the measures began to be prepared in some of our destination countries in the end of April. Schedules for that process have been announced (but all are subject to changes, depending on the situation on the ground in each country or region) in most countries and are now under way in some. In Croatia, the first such relaxations were implemented in late April; in Greece and Italy they began in early May.
As the travel season would be well under way by now in normal circumstances, many European countries, including the ones we travel, are now working on various schemes aiming to facilitate tourism. Croatia and Greece have announced fairly detailed plans on how they intend to open for visitors (always with certain restrictions), by June/July, and other countries are following. We're monitoring the situation and will update here as and when appropriate (see the section on local restrictions below for more detail on the opening of tourism in each of the countries we travel). Of course, you should expect the information available on the various official websites for each country (not necessarily in English) to be the most up-to-date, but we are following closely.
Currently, most governments advise against any non-essential travel outside their borders until further notice, including those of the United Kingdom (advising "against all but essential international travel" on March 17), Canada (advising to "avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada" on March 13), Ireland (advising against "all non-essential travel overseas", thus not applying to Northern Ireland, on March 16), New Zealand (advising to "not travel overseas at this time" on March 19), Australia (imposing a "ban on overseas travel" on March 26), and most recently the United States (advising "to avoid all international travel" on March 31). In each case, this advice is "until further notice".
Since March 13, the United States have been imposing a travel ban on incoming visitors from the EU's Schengen Area, covering 22 EU members and 4 additional countries, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. The ban, initially scheduled to last 30 days, has been extended by the same number twice (into June) and is subject to modifications. It exempts US citizens/residents travelling to the United States, who are, however, like most arriving travellers, limited to 13 entry airports in 12 states (see list), where they undergo screening procedures.
Likewise, on March 17 the European Union has introduced a 30-day entry ban, now extended until June 15, for visitors from outside the EU's Schengen Zone (for non-essential travel), with exceptions for Ireland (which is in the EU but not part of the Schengen Agreement), the United Kingdom and the non-EU members of the Schengen Area, as well as for citizens of the individual member states and residents returning to their homes. Of course, individual member states of the EU or the Schengen Area have (and always had) the sovereign right to impose additional restrictions at any time and most of them are currently using that right in various ways. In the same context, since May 13, the EU is engaged in facilitating and coordinating the opening of borders/flights etc between members states where the Coronovirus situation is easing to a comparable extent.
Outright travel bans or border closures usually apply only for non-essential travel and normally don't apply to nationals or residents of the respective country, whereas quarantine/isolation rules generally do (but please check the details for each country if you need to travel). Additionally, several of our destination countries have applied various local or nationwide restrictions or lock-downs (all of these are potentially subject to modifications, including extensions, and some of them may be regional). By now (mid-May 2020), an incremental easing of these restrictions has begun in most of our destination countries and is being prepared in others. As such changes come into effect, we will continue to update this page accordingly.
- Measures: a stringent nationwide lock-down was in place and social distancing remains obligatory (since March 17, following other restrictions since March 8). Travel within the country was severely restricted and most vehicular traffic, public or private, was suspended, as were some ferry connections, while those operating were restricted to permitting residents of the islands or peninsulas on their itineraries. People were required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. Museums, cultural venues, places of worship, etc were closed, as were restaurants, bars, cafés, non-essential shops, schools and so on. Some airports were closed, visits by cruise-liners are blocked, and the borders are generally shut for foreign nationals, with limited exceptions, in which case 14 days of self-isolation (or in case of having visited specific areas, including all of Italy, the same duration of full quarantine) were obligatory for some, supervised by the authorities. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
- Relaxation: On April 27, museums, libraries (etc) and some shops (but not malls) reopened and ferry connections with some islands were re-established. On May 4, businesses with closer client contact (e.g. hairdressers) reopened. On May 11, air and land travel within Croatia was reactivated and freedom of movement within the country re-established (except specific restrictions for areas of major outbreaks). National Parks and nature parks were also reopened to visitors on that date, as were cafés and restaurants, under restrictions. Various obligatory safety measures (masks, gloves) apply in many specific contexts and social distancing remains recommended.
- Tourism: Croatia is now planning for a controlled opening to international tourism. So far, the border with Slovenia has opened, but by May 29th, visitors from a number of other (European) countries will have access and flights from those countries will resume, probably gradually. A looser 14-day-quarantine recommendation for non-nationals is still in place. We will update here whenever we more information becomes available.
- Measures: A stringent nationwide lock-down was in place (since March 23, following other restrictions since March 8) and social distancing remains obligatory. Travel within Greece was severely restricted and ferries/flights to the islands only permitted residents of the islands on their itineraries to embark. People were required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. All museums and archaeological sites were closed, as were cultural venues, schools, places of worship etc. Restaurants (except delivery and take-out), bars, cafés, hotels etc were closed, as were most shops. Flight connections with countries including the UK, Turkey and Italy are closed, as are the land borders with Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey. Cruises originating in other countries are also not allowed into Greek ports until further notice. For the moment, Greece requires any arrivals to undergo a 14-day domestic isolation. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
- Relaxation: A gradual easing of the measures was announced on April 28, leading to a staggered - and restricted - reopening of most activities over the following two months, with social distancing still partly in place. Many shops (but not malls) reopened on May 4, and travel within the individual regions was permitted. All remaining shops were permitted to open on May 11, except those in malls or department stores, which followed on May 18. Also on May 18, (most) archaeological sites were reopened (with restrictions on visitor numbers), as were schools for certain grades. Internal travel restrictions were further eased and travel to the island of Crete was permitted on that date, too. Travel within Greece, including the islands, fully opened on May 25, as did restaurants, cafés etc (with spatial restrictions). Museums are expected to open on June 15 (pending further notice). Various obligatory safety measures (masks, gloves) apply in many specific contexts and social distancing remains recommended.
- Tourism: Hotels will reopen on June 15 and international flights to Athens will resume on the same date, but only from selected countries. From July 1, flights from a larger selection of countries will also be permitted to other airports in Greece. Visitors from some countries (detail to be verified) will be exempt from quarantine requirements. We will update here whenever we more information becomes available.
- Measures: A stringent nationwide lock-down is in place (since March 27 following other restrictions beginning on March 12) and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within the country is severely limited. All state-owned cultural institutions, including museums, parks and so on, remain closed, as do other public venues, pubs, restaurants (except delivery and take-out) and most non-essential shops. As far as possible, employees, especially of non-essential businesses, are required to work from home. Schools and universities are likewise closed and places of worship must restrict numbers. Arrivals from overseas are obliged to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies. Easing of the restrictions is being prepared, depending on the overall situation.
- Relaxation: A plan for relaxation has been announced, to take place in five phases, starting on May 18 and continuing into August. An initial easing of restrictions regarding how far people can move from their residence applies since May 4. Social distancing will remain obligatory. On May 18, Phase 1 of the plan was implemented, permitting the reopening of certain shops (especially outdoors), and of outdoor athletic or sports venues including golf courses. Phase 2 sets in on June 8.
- Measures: A stringent nationwide lock-down was in place (in most of the country since March 9/10 but in some northern regions since February 22) and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within Italy is severely restricted and people were required to stay in their homes, except for necessary activities. All museums and archaeological sites were closed, as were cultural venues, schools, places of worship etc. Restaurants (except delivery services), bars, cafés and most shops were closed and most non-essential businesses were on hold, except for employees working from home. Most flights between the UK and Italy have been suspended and this is also the case for connections with most other European countries and the US (see above). The EU entry ban for non-essential travel (see above) applies.
- Relaxation: Restrictions are to be lifted gradually, with social distancing still obligatory. Since May 4, some shops can reopen, as can restaurants and bars for take-out service, and some travel within regions (but not beyond them) is permitted. On May 18, more retail venues have opened, as have museums, libraries, restaurants, cafés etc (outdoors only) and hairdressers. Further relaxations are to follow. Various safety obligations (masks, gloves) do apply in specific locations. Unrestricted travel within Italy will be re-established by June 3.
- Tourism: International borders and airports are slated to open on June 3 and visitors from most European countries will be permitted. We will update here whenever we more information becomes available.
- Measures: There is a ban on international flights. Arriving residents of various countries, including the UK, are not permitted to enter the country (for a full list, see under 'reliable sources' below). All visitors undergo temperature screening on arrival. Travel within Turkey is severely restricted, as was public transport within cities. There are restrictions on public gatherings and over 65-year-olds were required to fully stay at home (since March 21), as were those under 20 (since April 3). Archaeological sites, picnic areas and forest parks are closed for groups during the week and for all during weekends. Further, many public monuments and museums are closed, as are most non-essential shops and restaurants, bars, cafés, places of worship etc. Since April 11, Turkey has applied full curfews in urban areas during weekends. Many of the measures in Turkey have been very specific. They began regionally for some businesses in some areas on March 13, and only some were applied nationwide in early April. We will update this information when we can.
- Relaxation: As of May 11, certain measures have been relaxed as part of a plan for normalisation that stretches from then to July, with social distancing still obligatory. Some shops and malls are permitted to reopen (under specific restrictions, including obligatory face-masks and temperature-screenings as well as time limits). Those over 65 are now allowed to walk outside their homes for specific and limited hours per week, as are those under 20 (in a staggered regime, depending on age, all requiring masks).
- Tourism: Turkey plans to reactivate internal tourism on May 28. Various major sights, including the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, are slated to reopen on June 1. International tourism is planned to resume in the second half of June. We will update here whenever we more information becomes available.
- Measures: A lock-down is in place and the government requires social distancing (since March 23, following business closures from March 20), including working from home if possible. Restaurants (except delivery services), bars/pubs, cafés (etc) and all shops not providing food are closed (as far as we know until July), as are museums, cultural venues, archaeological sites, parks, schools, places of worship and so on. There were restrictions on public transport services in London and elsewhere and movement within the country was restricted for most. A two-week quarantine period for those (including British subjects and residents) arriving in the UK from abroad (except from Ireland) will be required from June 8 onwards.
- Relaxation: An easing of the restrictions is in preparation and will be activated, most likely in June, once the indicative factors permit such changes. Limited relaxations for UK residents were announced by the Prime Minister on May 10, with social distancing very much in place. Some schools will reopen in June, gastronomy may or may not open in July. The full three-stage plan, not using fixed dates but triggered by set parameters, can be seen here (dated to May 12). It is a three-stage process. In England, some shops will be permitted to reopen on June 1, and most others two weeks later. Please take note of the fact that the pace at which such relaxation measures will take place may differ between the UK's constituent nations, namely England, Wales, Scotland (opting for a four-stage process, May 21), and Northern Ireland.
We will continue to monitor the situation in each country, so as to update this page and to inform the circumstances for our scheduled and chartered tours.
Sensible precautions for travellers
This section of this post was first written when Covid-19 was new to all of us, and it has been updated multiple times since. It does not aim to supersede what advice or instructions your local authorities provide: find and follow them. What we say below was valid when the New Coronavirus was a growing threat, and even though the virus has been tackled to various extents in various countries, it is still valid now, as we all have to make an effort to prevent or limit further waves of infection.
It is important to be careful, irrespective of whether you are at home or travelling. The simplest and best way to protect yourself from the virus is to ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water several times every day, especially whenever you have been in physical contact with potential carriers of the virus (objects or people), and to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel in situations when you cannot wash your hands with soap and water. It is also recommended that you keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. These are common-sense precautions that people should follow generally, and especially during the annual flu season. Better safe than sorry is an adage that certainly is pertinent now.
Likewise, you should keep in mind that the virus can be transmitted by those who have experienced no symptoms yet (even by those who will never experience any). This is important. In your dealings with others, you should behave as carefully and considerately as possible, and you should assume that you could be spreading Covid 19 if not careful. Thus, you should avoid touching others, and keep a safe distance even when conversing. Most countries advise keeping a distance of either 1.5 metres (5ft) or two metres (6.5ft) from those you are not in constant contact with.
If you can cover your mouth and nose with a mask while in contact with others (outside your home), that's good (and now required in various countries and various contexts, see the next paragraph), but you should not acquire professional equipment of this sort unless you are are sure that the doctors and nurses in your area have sufficient access to it. Medical-grade masks are vital to those whose work in providing health care. For those who are not in that kind of job, masks - even of lower grades - are advisable, because we may carry the virus without symptoms and none of us want to be inadvertent spreaders of it. A mask will provide others limited protection from your own sneezes and coughs. If you are crafty, you can make your own mask: there are countless websites with instructions, patterns and so on.
In many countries, it is now obligatory to wear such masks (usually not of medical grade), either outright or in specified contexts or locations, so you should follow advice or requirements by your local authorities, and once you can travel, by the authorities where you are, and by any airlines or other transport providers you use. If you wear a mask, it is important to do so properly (it has to cover mouth and nose at all times), and to sanitise your hands before and after every time you put it on or remove it. Reusable masks should only be worn once before replacement. They should then be washed and ironed (or at least be left hanging unused for several days) before reuse.
Generally, Covid 19 consistently appears to cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. If you fit into one of these categories, you may want to seek medical advice before you travel.
Regarding travel insurance, we have been informed that as long as your government does not advise against travel to the area where a tour is running, your insurance will cover you, but we always recommend checking particulars with your insurance provider.
As this is a dynamic situation, we prefer to give you direct links to websites where you can read more about the situation to help you inform yourselves from reliable primary sources that will be updated regularly. We do not recommend social media as reliable sources. If your country's authorities provide an official and regularly updated advisory to protect your health and that of those around you, please follow it.
You can access the latest travel advice for Greece at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Turkey at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Italy at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Croatia at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for the United Kingdom at the following locations:
You can access the latest travel advice for Ireland at the following locations:
If you are in any way concerned about joining one of our trips, please contact us so we can discuss your options. We always aim to be as understanding and fair as possible.
A personal note from Peter Sommer Travels
Whether you have travelled with us before, or whether you have found our page recently, we would like to see you on one of our our future trips and share the unique Peter Sommer Travels experience with you. If that is not currently an option, why not browse this blog and our website to see what we might have in store for you in the future?
Meanwhile, we advise you to do what is needed wherever you are. Do follow the guidance you are given by proper and informed sources in your country and area, avoid content that is not properly sourced, do what you can to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbours, and stay calm. Most importantly, stay well and safe. If you are suffering from physical symptoms potentially connected to COVID-19, especially difficulties with breathing (but please check the regularly updated lists of symptoms provided by most governments and by many regional authorities, as well as by accredited medical institutions), contact the medical services in your area immediately.
We at Peter Sommer Travels, including the tour experts you may have met if you have travelled with us before, and also the office staff that look after your needs throughout, wish you the best. We can't wait to see you and to talk to you after all this.