“It is like winter, only with better weather,” a recently-arrived friend observed to me a few days ago. The days are long and hot and there isn’t much happening. Anyone visiting Symi for the first time probably won’t notice much difference as Symi has reverted to the sleepy charm of the 1970s and 80s. The gulets and yachts that normally fill the harbour in the summer months are conspicuous by their absence and apart from a few Greek flagged sailing boats visiting from Rhodes and Kos, the anchorages are empty. Until the sea borders can safely open up with testing procedures in place at a greater number of ports, this is unlikely to change. The sea border between Greece and Turkey is still firmly closed so there are no ferry connections between the two countries either.
Most of the cafes and bars in the harbour are now open, as are the two pizzerias, the gyros and grill houses and several restaurants and tavernas. We were invited to dinner at Tholos in Harani on Saturday night. The number of tables has been reduced by about a third so that they are more widely spaced. The staff all wear masks. Sanitiser is brought to the table so you can clean your hands, particularly after handling the menu. As this was the only restaurant open in the Harani area they were full, mainly with Greek tourists. The food was excellent, as always, and they have not succumbed to the temptation to make up the shortfall in income by hiking prices.
Water taxis have resumed operation on a limited scale along the lines of one trip out in the morning and another back in the afternoon. The Poseidon goes out 4 times a week. The Maria is also advertising day trips. The ferry schedules are still a bit skimpy. Dodecanese Seaways is not operating the Panagia Skiadeni and their official on line schedule shows no service to Symi on Sundays. Sunday is actually marketed as a Facebook ‘event’ for a day excursion from Rhodes to Panormitis and once they know they have a good expression of interest, then it goes live. The Sea Dreams website is advertising the King Saron for a daily route to Symi, starting from tomorrow, 15 July, and they are selling one way tickets. Although this shows as running every day, this will be subject to demand but they have made their booking conditions very flexible. As only 80 of the 450 hotels on Rhodes are actually open at the moment, and they are by no means full, it will be a while before there are enough tourists to fill day boats on a regular basis. The Blue Star comes through 3 times a week. There is still no evening boat from Rhodes to Symi apart from the Blue Star on Wednesdays at 18.30 (Mondays and Fridays, the Blue Star currently leaves Rhodes at 16.00). The Stavros seems to be more reliable than initially anticipated.
Direct flights from the UK commence from tomorrow, 15 July. Direct flights from Sweden from 22 July and there is the possibility of direct flights being allowed from certain parts of the USA at the end of the month, depending on infection rates and so on. Everyone has to fill in a PLF on line 24 hours before travelling and they are then issued with a QR code on their smart phones which they must show in order to travel. This code determines whether one will have a mandatory Covid-19 check or a random one and the contact details provided are so that you can be notified of your test results and also, should anyone you have travelled with and been in close contact with, test positive, you can be informed. Stricter controls are now being implemented at the land borders due to a recent increase in the number of people arrived from the Balkans who have tested positive. You can find all the information you need about travelling to Greece on a new government website.
This is all as up-to-date as it can be, but it could all be totally different tomorrow!