(Post last edited on September 09, 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 put restrictions in place, and as they are ongoing, they affect many, probably most, of Peter Sommer Travels' tours and cruises in 2020. We are currently working on the basis that few of our trips starting from August 29 onwards might run as planned. We are, however, mindful of the fact that all manner of travel restrictions are still in place and that the situation is not entirely predictable. We are in the process of contacting all guests booked on our 2020 late summer / autumn tours, but please get in touch directly if you have any questions.
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 continue to monitor the situation closely and update this post frequently - but the information officially provided by individual countries is likely to be more up-to-date and more detailed than what we can offer on this page.
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 underway. Each country aims to prevent the spread of infection affecting its own population, but also to enable the resumption of normal activity, including tourism, as soon as possible.
By late April 2020, the measures were showing visible signs of success in most countries concerned. These advances differed considerably, as some countries were further along the curve of infection and some further back, and as among our destination countries, Croatia and Greece were notably successful in limiting the 'first wave' of the virus spreading within their territory.
Relaxations of the measures began to be prepared in some of our destination countries by the end of April. Schedules for that process were announced in all countries by May (but all such easings are subject to changes, depending on the situation on the ground in each country or region). In Croatia, the first such relaxations were implemented in late April; in Greece and Italy they began in early May, in Turkey by the beginning of June. The prevention or control of a 'second wave' of infection was always a concern and has become an issue in all countries we travel by August.
Tourism: As the travel season would have reached its high season by July in normal circumstances, many European countries, including the ones we travel, designed and implemented various schemes aiming to facilitate tourism in safe circumstances. Croatia, Greece, Italy and Turkey announced fairly detailed plans on how they intended to open for visitors (always with certain restrictions), by June/July.
Ongoing: The issue is still serious and all countries we travel have seen a real rise in infections, but also an increase in testing, which has become more widely available in the late summer and early autumn. Different countries have reacted in their own ways to this, usually leading to more defined and more local restrictions. The situation is now changeable and diverse.
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 provided by each country (not necessarily in English) to be the most up-to-date, but we are following closely. All airlines and airports now require staff and travellers to wear face-masks at all times.
An effective vaccine, or a range of several, is what will reopen international travel and normal activity in all the countries we are concerned with. We cannot wait for it to become available, but as the process is slow, we must be patient. We are looking forward to a time when our guests and staff can be reliably protected from the New Coronavirus.
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, eased in July -see below), 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, and eased in July - see below), 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, lifted in August and replaced with a worldwide caution, as well as individual per-country travel advisories, in which all Peter Sommer Travels destinations are currently at "Level 3: reconsider travel"). In each case, this advice was "until further notice".
As of August 2020, the United Kingdom maintains the same advice, but exempts a number of countries since early July, including most of our destination countries (Greece, Ireland, Italy, Turkey - but not Croatia. Note that stricter measures for travellers coming from Greece apply in Wales and Scotland). Similarly, Ireland has exempted Greece and Italy. The US government has lifted its ban in early August and advises travellers to Europe to check the websites of relevant embassies or consulates.
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 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 introduced a 30-day entry ban, now extended until further notice, 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, mostly bu requiring arrivals to quarantine. On July 1, the EU travel ban was lifted for visitors from a number of countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but not including the United States. Going forward, the restrictions will be determined by a country's number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100.000 inhabitants being close to or below the EU average, with a stable or downward trend.
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 Coronqvirus situation is easing to a comparable extent. As a result, the Reopen EU website has become a first-rate source of information for all our destination countries except Turkey and the United Kingdom. As the situation is changing constantly, travel between EU countries may require negative Covid19 tests or quarantine.
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 did (or still do) apply various local or nationwide restrictions or lock-downs (all of these were potentially subject to modifications, and additional restrictions may still apply for individual regions). By now (mid-August 2020), an incremental easing of these restrictions has taken place in all of our destination countries, and in some of them such restrictions were lifted nearly entirely for some time. As the limited renewal of many activities, including tourism itself, has led to an increase in new infections, new measures, usually localised, are currently being applied. As such changes come into effect, we will continue to update this page accordingly.
- Previous measures: a stringent nationwide lock-down was in place and full social distancing was 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 were 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 from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries.
- 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. All shops can open since May 18. Various obligatory safety measures (masks) apply in many specific contexts and social distancing remains recommended.
- Tourism: Croatia is now undergoing a carefully-planned controlled opening to international tourism. Since May 29, visitors from ten (European) countries could enter with minimal restrictions, including epidemiological checks and filling out a form about their whereabouts prior to travel, since June 30th, this applies to all European travellers and those from a list of other countries. All visitors must fill in an (online) form before arrival. Visitors from outside the EU, UK (etc) are required to show an accommodation booking on arrival, as well as a negative Covid-19 test not older than 48 hours - if they cannot, they must self isolate for 14 days or until they can obtain a negative test result in Croatia. Since August 14, restrictions apply to the opening hours of bars, clubs etc throughout the country. Since August 22, travellers arriving in or returning to the UK from Croatia are required to spend two weeks in self-isolation. We will update here whenever more information becomes available.
- Previous measures: A stringent nationwide lock-down was in place (since March 23, following other restrictions since March 8) and social distancing was 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 were closed, as were the land borders with Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey. Cruises originating in other countries are also not allowed into Greek ports until further notice. Until June 15, Greece required any arrivals to undergo a 14-day domestic isolation, this still applies to most. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries.
- 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 (with capacity restrictions on ferries) on May 25, as did restaurants, cafés etc (with spatial restrictions). Museums opened on June 15, again with restrictions. Various obligatory safety measures apply in many specific contexts, social distancing remains obligatory as do masks in all indoor public spaces and on all public transport.
- Tourism: Yachting has "reopened" on May 25. Hotels reopened on June 15, as did the land borders. International flights to Athens and Thessaloniki resumed on the same date, but initially only from selected countries. Since July 1, all international flights (as long as permitted by the Schengen Zone entry ban) are generally permitted to all Greek airports. All visitors have to fill in an online Passenger Location Form prior to arrival, and all may be subject to epidemiological spot checks. Visitors from a number of specific countries must provide a negative Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours at arrival (see the Reopen EU website). From July 10 onwards, British visitors returning from Greece will not be subject to quarantine obligations. Within the country, various local restrictions apply since August 15 (some earlier), including strict facemask requirements and reduced opening times for bars, clubs, restaurants etc. The areas covered include Athens, Crete some islands and parts of Northern Greece. Visitors tested positive for Covid-19 during their stay in Greece have to undergo quarantine for two weeks, taking place in selected hotels, at the expense of the Greek state. Since September 2, travellers arriving in or returning to Wales specifically from the island of Zakynthos/Zante have to self-isolate for two weeks, and as of September 3, the same applies to the islands of Mykonos, Mytilini/Lesbos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete, as of September 9, this applies also for Santorini, Serifos and Tinos. Also since September 3, the same applies to all travellers arriving or returning from anywhere in Greece to Scotland. As of September 9, quarantine is required for visitors travelling or returning to England from the following islands: Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos. We will update here whenever more information becomes available.
- Previous measures: A stringent nationwide lock-down was in place (since March 27, following other restrictions beginning on March 12) and social distancing is obligatory. Travel within the country was severely limited. All state-owned cultural institutions, including museums, parks and so on, were closed, as were other public venues. Pubs, restaurants (except delivery and take-out) remain so. 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. All arrivals from overseas are obliged to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine, with the exception of those coming from Estonia, Finland, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Slovakia (this means that travellers originating in Ireland can travel to two of our destination countries, Greece and Italy, with no restrictions).
- 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 applied 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 set in on June 8, including the opening of all retail and the permission to travel freely within a given county, or up to 20km crossing county borders. Phase 3 was implemented on June 29, including a full resumption of travel within Ireland (but residents of some counties have been under new restrictions since August 14) and the opening of restaurants, pubs that can serve "a substantial meal", as well as all other businesses, including hotels. Museums and other cultural sites have opened at various dates in June and July. Implementation of Phase 4 has been deferred, so that by mid-August, Phase 3 is still in place.
- Previous 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 was 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, hotels 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 were suspended and this was/is also the case for connections with most other European countries and the US (see above). The EU entry ban for non-essential travel from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries.
- 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), hotels and hairdressers. Further relaxations are to follow. Various safety obligations apply in specific locations, masks are obligatory for all in public indoor spaces. Unrestricted travel within Italy was re-established on June 3.
- Tourism: International borders and airports have reopened on June 3 and visitors from member States of the European Union, states in the Schengen Agreement, the United Kingdom, etc, can once again enter Italy. As of August, 16, arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania are not permitted. Additionally, arrivals from (or through) Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain are required to present a negative Covid-19 test no older than 72 hours, or otherwise to self-isolate until undergoing such a test in Italy. Since July 10, British visitors returning from Italy will not be subject to quarantine obligations. Clubs have been closed on August 16, and facemasks are obligatory in all public spaces. We will update here whenever more information becomes available.
- Previous measures: There was a ban on international flights. Arriving residents of various countries, including the UK, were not permitted to enter the country. All visitors undergo temperature screening on arrival. Travel within Turkey was severely restricted, as was public transport within cities. There were 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 were closed for groups during the week and for all during weekends. Further, many public monuments and museums were closed, as were most non-essential shops and restaurants, bars, cafés, places of worship etc. Since April 11, Turkey 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.
- Relaxation: Beginning in May, certain measures were relaxed as part of a plan for normalisation that stretched from then to July, with social distancing still obligatory. Some shops and malls were permitted to reopen in May (under specific restrictions, including obligatory face-masks and temperature-screenings as well as time limits). Those over 65 were now allowed to walk outside their homes for specific and limited hours per week, as were those under 20 (in a staggered regime, depending on age, all requiring masks). On June 1, domestic flights resumed and restaurants etc were allowed to reopen. Most restrictions have been lifted since then, with the exception of occasional local curfews, and all businesses have reopened. Currently, Turkish residents over 65 are still under a stay-at-home curfew between 20:00 (8 pm) and 10:00 (10 am) and are only permitted to travel within Turkey on a special permit.
- Tourism: Turkey reactivated internal tourism on May 28. Various major sights, including the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, reopened on June 1. International tourism began to reopen by mid-June. Flights to and from an initially limited number of European (and other) countries, including the UK, were resumed on June 11; connections with the US and several other countries followed on June 19. Local curfews on those over 65 do not apply to foreign tourists. Face masks are obligatory in all public spaces. We will update here whenever more information becomes available.
- Previous measures: A lockdown was in place and the government still 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 were closed, as were 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 self-isolation period for those (including British subjects and residents) arriving in the UK from abroad (except from Ireland) has been required since June 8 onwards, but it allows for various exemptions, e.g. the use of public transport and changing accommodation, and it was lifted for numerous countries of origin from July 10 (and has been reinstated for some since then).
- Relaxation: An easing of the restrictions was prepared and activated in stages once the indicative factors permitted such changes. Limited relaxations for UK residents were announced by the Prime Minister on May 10, with social distancing still very much in place. The full three-stage plan, not using fixed dates but triggered by set parameters, can be seen here (dated to May 12). In England, some shops were permitted to reopen on June 1, and most others followed on June 15. Please take note of the fact that the pace at which such relaxation measures are taking place differs between the UK's constituent nations, namely England, Wales, Scotland (opting for a four-stage process, May 21, entering Stage 3 on July 22), and Northern Ireland. On June 19, the Covid19 alert level was reduced from level 4 to level 3. Gastronomy and pubs opened on July 4. Currently, a 1-metre distancing rule applies for those not living together. In England, stringent local restrictions have been placed on individual regions intermittently.
- Tourism: As of July 10, the UK has lifted the obligatory quarantine for visitors or returning travellers from over 50 countries, including most of Europe, such as Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Turkey (returning visitors to Ireland were never subject to quarantine in the first place), also Australia, Canada and New Zealand (please note that the list undergoes frequent changes). Restrictions still apply to travellers from the United States. We will update here whenever more information becomes available.
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 most countries and most contexts, see the next paragraph), but you should not acquire professional equipment of this sort unless you are sure that the doctors and nurses in your area have sufficient access to it. Medical-grade masks are vital to those who 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 or the droplets you emit when speaking, and studies show that it will also protect the wearer to a considerable extent if worn properly. If you are crafty, you can make your own mask: there are countless websites with instructions, patterns and so on, and by now, masks of various types are generally available.
In most 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 fully 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 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 websites:
You can access the latest travel advice for Turkey at the following websites:
You can access the latest travel advice for Italy at the following websites:
You can access the latest travel advice for Croatia at the following websites:
You can access the latest travel advice for the United Kingdom at the following websites:
You can access the latest travel advice for Ireland at the following websites:
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 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 (and especially avoid alarmist or denialist posts you may see on social media), do what you can to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbours, and stay calm. When in doubt, wear a mask. 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, to talk to you and to share the wonders of our itineraries with you after all this.