Wildfires on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu have left thousands of travelers stranded.
As of Sunday, about 19,000 people in villages and resorts on Rhodes had been evacuated as wildfires spread across the island. Local news outlet Ellada 24 described the operation as the largest fire evacuation ever carried out in the country. Corfu has seen about 2,400 people evacuated.
It’s estimated that about 10,000 British tourists are currently stranded on Rhodes.
The General Secretariat for Civil Protection in Greece has announced a Category 4 alarm (very high risk) for many areas based on its Daily Fire Risk Map. According to the U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Greece, “high risk of fire is expected to continue in the coming days.”
Several travel companies and airlines — including Tui and Thomas Cook — have reportedly canceled planned trips to Rhodes, according to The Guardian.
So far, two rescue flights operated by EasyJet have repatriated 421 people back to the U.K., with a third flight scheduled for Tuesday. Three repatriation flights operated by Tui are scheduled for Monday evening.
Despite the current situation on the ground, many airlines continue selling flights with immediate departures as of Monday morning.
Here’s what you need to know if you are currently stuck in Rhodes or Corfu, or have plans to visit the Greek islands in the coming days and weeks.
Can I still travel to Rhodes and Corfu?
Airlines are still flying to and from Rhodes and Corfu, and as the situation currently stands, most travel and flights to Greece are going ahead.
The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has not yet advised people to avoid travel to Rhodes or Corfu, though it does warn of “active wildfires in Greece.”
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, Olga Kefalogianni, the tourism minister for Greece, said that tourists can still fly to Rhodes.
“There has been no disruption in the airport and I think it’s particularly important to stress that only a small part of the whole island of Rhodes is affected,” Kefalogianni said.
What is the current government advice for travel?
Stopping short of advising against travel to the affected Greek islands, the U.K. Foreign Office has urged travelers to check with their travel operator or hotel before traveling.
“If you are planning to travel to Rhodes, please check with your travel operator or hotel, prior to travel, that the area you plan to visit is not impacted by the current wildfires,” the FCDO said.
The U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Greece has advised U.S. citizens living in or traveling near the affected area to “exercise extreme caution” and “follow instructions from local authorities and closely monitor the local media and emergency alerts.”
What are airlines and travel companies saying?
So far, several airlines have canceled flights to Rhodes; others are offering passengers the opportunity to change their current flights free of charge.
The U.K’s flag carrier is allowing travelers currently in Rhodes or Corfu to change their flights free of charge if they need to return home early. Any passengers due to fly between now and Sunday can also change their flights to a later date for free.
The popular budget airline has canceled its package holiday bookings in Rhodes until Aug. 1. However, flights to both Rhodes and Corfu are operating as normal. Passengers booked to travel to or from Rhodes between now and Saturday can transfer their flights to a new date or request a flight voucher.
All flights are currently operating as normal.
All flights and holidays to Rhodes have been canceled until July 31. The airline says affected customers have been contacted regarding “refund and rebooking options.”
All flights to Rhodes are canceled through Tuesday. Passengers due to fly Wednesday can rebook or cancel their trip without additional charge. Travelers due to visit affected hotels or areas in Corfu have been told they will not be able to on Monday and Tuesday.
Any travelers set to stay at Tui Blue Atlantica Nissaki Beach, Pantokrator, Golden Mare, La Riviera or Nautilus hotels have been advised not to travel Monday or Tuesday.
The holiday company has canceled trips to affected areas of Rhodes until July 31. It has contacted its customers to arrange partial and full refunds.
How can I get help if I’m stuck in Rhodes or Corfu?
The Greek government has set up a crisis management unit to help if you are stuck and need assistance.
U.S. and U.K. residents can contact the unit at the numbers below:
- +30 210-368-1730
- +30 210-368-1259
- +30 210-368-1350
“If you are a British national affected by wildfires, please follow the guidance from the emergency services. Call the Greek Emergency Services on 112 if you are in immediate danger,” the U.K. Foreign Office also advises.
To contact British consular assistance, call +4420 2008 5000. This line is operated 24/7.
For U.S. consulate or embassy guidance, call +30 210-729-4444.
Does my travel insurance cover wildfires?
In most circumstances, it’s unlikely that your insurance coverage will offer a specific clause for wildfires. Additionally, governments have not yet advised people not to travel, so it’s unlikely that you’d be able to claim on your insurance without a specific clause.
Insurance claims may be valid if your home government changes its advice and instructs people not to travel.
That said, it does depend on the insurance policy you have. In some instances, people with declared medical conditions or those who become ill due to the wildfires may be able to put forward a claim regardless of their government’s travel advice.
As always, with insurance questions, we recommend reading the fine print of your policy to clearly understand the intricacies of what it may cover.
Can I get a refund on my holiday if I return home early?
Possibly, though this will entirely depend on where you are booked to stay, the conditions under which you leave and how you booked your vacation.
If you are traveling as part of a package deal and are forced to return home early due to the wildfires, you might not be entitled to a full reimbursement but could receive a partial refund. This is because the costs of flights will be taken into account and deducted from any refund, as you would still be traveling on the outbound and inbound flights. However, this could vary among package providers, and you should contact the company you booked with for further clarity.
If you booked directly with your accommodation provider and need to end your stay early, any refund policies will be specific to the individual hotel or rental that you booked with.
Can I still get home if I lost my passport during evacuation?
If you were evacuated from Rhodes or Corfu and could not grab your passport beforehand, don’t worry.
In this instance, you should contact the Greek authorities. Or, if you’re a U.K. resident, contact British consular assistance at +4420 2008 5000. This line is operated 24/7, and they should be able to help arrange temporary travel documentation, which will be accepted on your flight home.
Can I cancel an upcoming trip?
This will depend on the terms outlined by the company you booked your trip with. If the accommodation you were set to stay in has been affected by the fires, your trip may have already been canceled.
However, you may struggle if you are not due to visit an area affected by wildfires but want to preemptively cancel your holiday. We’d advise contacting your package provider or hotel in both circumstances.
If you have booked your flights and accommodation separately, you should receive a full refund for your airfare if the flight is canceled. However, you will need to reach out to your hotel to find out your options for reimbursement for your accommodation.
If your trip has been canceled due to governing authorities, either local or your home government, restricting travel to the area, you should be entitled to a refund.
Wildfires in Greece have upended vacations for thousands of travelers in Rhodes and Corfu. The most badly affected area right now appears to be Rhodes.
U.K. and Greek authorities are not currently warning people to avoid traveling to these Greek islands but do recommend exercising caution. Some airlines are allowing travelers to rebook upcoming outbound flights for later dates or change to earlier return flights if needed.
If you are currently in Rhodes or Corfu and require assistance, you can reach out to the crisis management unit set up by the Greek government at:
- +30 210-368-1730
- +30 210-368-1259
- +30 210-368-1350
If you urgently require the Greek emergency services, you can reach them on 112.
To reach British consular assistance, call +4420 2008 5000.
For U.S. consulate or embassy guidance, call +(30)(210) 729-4444.