International Travel Is Partially Back, but It's Worse Than Before

Border restrictions and testing requirements make vacation a bit less relaxing and a lot more expensive.


"Police are stupid," Kostas the taxi driver explained to me and my two buddies last week, informing us that we would all have to remain in the back seat of his cab for the duration of our hourlong trip. We'd recently arrived in Athens from New York (me and my husband) and Leipzig (my brother) and were unaware that Greek police now hassle taxi drivers for allowing people in the front seat, due to COVID-related restrictions. 

Though Kostas spoke the truth, restrictions like these were the least cumbersome part of the trip. In the 16 months since I'd last traveled out of the country, pandemic regulations have exacerbated the inconveniences and indignities that already accompanied travel—while also jacking the cost up. 

Greece is one of the few European Union countries that currently allow vaccinated Americans or those with a negative COVID test result from the last 72 hours to skip quarantines completely. Still, the day before entry into the country, you must fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) detailing information about your country of residence and where you've been recently, which then provides you with a unique QR code on the day of travel, which you present to the authorities. To the Greek government's credit, it destroys this personal information 23 days after using it; it uses the screening data to decide which travelers ought to be directed to additional COVID screening upon landing. All of this, like many other COVID measures, relies on travelers answering questions truthfully; as I filled out my form, I wondered how many people lie for convenience, to evade onerous additional requirements.

At Newark, United struggled to handle the task of checking for every passenger's PLFs, vaccination cards, or recent test results, delaying boarding and takeoff significantly as passengers attempted to make sense of the chaos at the gate. No person was clearly directing people to queue up to present their documents, so some spontaneous order emerged as people slowly caught on to the procedure.

Meanwhile in the E.U., my brother failed to grasp that the PLF needed to be filled out prior to midnight, realized the morning of his flight from Leipzig to Athens that this would present a problem—his own fault, but a fault that required him booking a new flight that had a five-hour layover in Belgrade, Serbia, just so he would land in Athens technically past midnight at 3 a.m., satisfying the government's requirements. His risk of contracting or spreading COVID could arguably be increased by the five hours he spent hanging out at a random bar in Serbia, but bureaucratic logic doesn't often grapple with the warped incentives it creates.

Once we got into Greece, the situation on the ground was blessedly normal. No indoor dining, but plentiful outdoor seating. Masking was still required outdoors at tourist sites like the Acropolis and was expected at religious sites. Before boarding some ferries, we had to fill out additional health screening forms, though they didn't ask for additional proof of vaccination (and they would have been easy to lie on). Police are apparently somewhat strict about enforcing mask wearing in cars with multiple passengers in them, so after dining and smoking and drinking with a new friend and his wife, in close proximity for many hours, we donned our masks in his car as he drove us back to the train station. 

Despite being fully vaccinated, my husband and I belatedly realized we needed to get PCR test results in Greece to present before getting boarding passes to be allowed back into the U.S. So, we booked it to the Metropolitan Hospital of Athens toward the end of our trip, forked over 120 euros (plus cab fare both ways), and were presided over by a woman in a face shield. Gesturing at the face shield, I asked: "Does it work?" You'd think nurses of all people would know the answer—that aerosolized viruses are not really stopped by plexiglass or plastic shields with openings around them, just as door handles and subway cars obviously don't need to be scrubbed down—but I quickly dropped the questioning, deciding this was not the time or the place to wage my fruitless war against bad COVID science.

Governments have long monitored who arrives and departs their countries, where they're from, how long they stay, what they bring and take with them. I wasn't surprised that they have continued to do so during a global pandemic, especially as new variants spread, but I was struck by how poorly targeted these measures were. When getting boarding passes to return to the U.S., I was questioned about whether I've been in India or the U.K. within the last few weeks—ostensibly a question about travelers who have been in places where high numbers of variants have been detected, but not necessarily one that makes sense, given what we know about how quickly they're spreading or how easy it would have been to mislead authorities. A rapid test at the airport would have probably been more effective if they were actually attempting to do a thorough screening.

Negotiating this patchwork of restrictions and intrusions was a small price to pay for me to reenter the E.U., where my brother has lived for the last six years. For families split up by borders, pandemic restrictions have presented major financial and logistical burdens, especially for people—like my brother—who do not work desk jobs and have to sacrifice shifts at work to quarantine upon return to their country of residence. 

The costs to travel have gotten a good deal higher, but they're costs I'm personally happy to pay. I have no confidence, though, that governments will roll back these restrictions once the threat of the virus is appropriately suppressed; parts of all this hygiene theater and health monitoring may outlast their welcome. From my vantage point, they already have.

NEXT: NYC Mayoral Frontrunner Eric Adams Talks Conspiratorial Nonsense About 'Voter Suppression'

Coronavirus European Union Border Crossings Borders Greece Pandemic Public Health

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39 responses to “International Travel Is Partially Back, but It's Worse Than Before

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  1. Wha-WOOOO!!!! WOOOooooOOOOooooOOOoOoOO!

    Wolves like to range widely and wildly, in their wild and woolly domains, ranging far and wide for fresh red meat!

    Whenever I hear tales of wide globe-spanning travels, it brings out the Inner Wolf in me! Just like it does (apparently) in Liz Wolfe! WOOOooooOOOOooooOOOoOoOO! Double and maybe even triple WOOOooooOOOOooooOOOoOoOO, even!

    1. Some sheeple think that I am merely a fellow sheep, but inwardly, I am as a RAVENING sheep in wolves’ clothing!

      As Surely Inane will tell you, in my past life, I was a Mud-Puppy-Guppy Warrior named Slip-and-Slide! (That job opening didn’t materialize in this space and time, so I settled for “Mucous Vampire” instead, this time around).

      1. Spaz flag

  2. Poor Liz’s Sweet Ass Badasssss song. Guess that’s what happens when the law rolls into town.

    1. Also Athens, yuck.

      1. Yeah, but good eats.

  3. This doesn’t even make me mad. It makes me lol.

    Organizers for a Seattle gay pride event say they’re charging white people a “reparations fee” to attend. They have the support of Seattle City Council president and mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

    TAKING B(L)ACK PRIDE organizers say all are welcome to attend. However, “white allies and accomplices” must pay the reparations fee. It will be charged on a sliding scale of $10 to $50 depending on one’s ability to pay. The event location is Jimi Hendrix Park, owned by the city of Seattle. This raises questions about the legality of a reparations fee.

    1. Couldn’t I just walk into the park if I wanted? (ignore the mob mentality part) Is this how you get around the cake issue just charge more to a group?

      1. They could fence off the specific event, presuming they got a valid permit. I’ve seen some crazy parties up there, where fences are built in intersections with bands and bars etc.

    2. I’m truly baffled by the end game of the “anti-racists”. What type of world do they believe is the result of all of this “raising of awareness” via tactics of segregation?

      1. Hint: It looks like something out of a Solzhenitsyn novel.

      2. I’m truly baffled by the end game of the “anti-racists”


      3. Seems to me they want the former Yugoslavia, where the plebs are all at each other’s throats and the Oligarchs sit back and stir the pot. Is it just a coincidence all this started after the occupy Wall Street crap? Better they concentrate their anger on each other than the rich bankers.

      4. It’s very simple, you give all your money and energy to them.

        Oh, you thought there was more to it?

    3. Hard to both sides that one

    4. Feature.

  4. I find it odd Liz is making fun of plexiglass.

  5. I am visiting Puerto Vallarta this week enjoying good service and weather at a reasonable price without massive crowds. I did forgo a trip to Spain last fall, but maybe next year.

  6. Oh wait, maybe… if crt is a suicide pact, maybe we should just leave it alone. Let nature take its course.

    A New Zealand chapter of Greta Thunberg-linked climate movement disbands itself for being ‘racist’

    In September 2019, the streets of Auckland, New Zealand, were a sea of protesters. Across the globe, several million people were marching as part of the “School Strike 4 Climate” youth movement sparked by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. But few demonstrations were more sweeping than the one in New Zealand’s largest city, where up to 80,000 marchers filled the streets.

    Less than two years later, however, one of the groups that organized the Auckland event is disbanding because of what it says is its own racism.

    In a Facebook post, School Strike 4 Climate’s Auckland chapter said it was shutting down because it “has been a racist, white-dominated space.” It directed people concerned about climate change to Indigenous-led groups and said it would not be organizing any more climate strikes.

  7. We’d recently arrived in Athens from New York (myself and my husband)

    Give my regards to your brother Leipzig, maybe he knows a good grammarian.

    1. Apparently, she tried to fix it. It now reads, “We’d recently arrived in Athens from New York (me and my husband).”

      Sorry Liz, that’s still wrong.

  8. Governments have long monitored who arrives and departs their countries, where they’re from, how long they stay, what they bring and take with them.

    Except our southern border, amirite?

    1. You kidding? It’s very tightly controlled down there. Asylum seekers not even allowed to enter legally so they cross illegally but then immediately declare themselves to law enforcement. That’s why the hullabaloo is all about asylum seekers; there is no unmonitored entry where people just come in without being tracked in some way.

  9. This article is actually a great example of “white privilege”, where a blonde white woman complains her vacations are slightly more troublesome than they used to be and expects the whole world to listen to her complaints

    1. The doors right over there. Don’t come back.

  10. Oh you poor cunt! Being inconvenienced on your European vacation!

    A lot of restrictions and rules are stupid, but fuck this bitch.

    1. asshole flag

      1. Capture the flag?

        1. Asshole flag

  11. Will not board any conveyance requiring medical records or masks.

    1. I got your flag! Now you have to chase me before I get home!

      1. Asshole flag

  12. “At Newark…[n]o person was clearly directing people to queue up to present their documents, so some spontaneous order emerged as people slowly caught on to the procedure.”

    This would not have happened in Greece.

    1. Nor in China; times it takes a bit of elbow action.

  13. I’m happy to finally be able to travel. I’ve dreamed about it for a long time. This year my vacation will be in Cyprus. I found stunning beaches here
    The best beaches in Cyprus are ready to present pleasant minutes, hours and endless days of great relaxation. Almost all the best beaches in Cyprus are marked with the Blue Flag – a quality certificate that guarantees that the beach meets the standards of service and the availability of infrastructure necessary for recreation.
    I wish everyone a good rest

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