Wildfires in Greece: What are your rights if you have a holiday there?

A wildfire in an area in Metochi Sidirountas, Chios island (EPA)
A wildfire in an area in Metochi Sidirountas, Chios island (EPA)

Kos is in chaos,” reports a British holidaymaker on the Greek island, as wildfires triggered large-scale evacuations.

Stephen Cryer told The Independent he was among thousands who were moved to a school on the island after wildfires encroached on the Kardamena area of Kos.

He was in a group of four visitors from the Wirral who were staying at the Argiri apartments in Kardemena.

“We were told get a bag and leave the hotel last night about 7.15pm. We walked to the square in the village to get a bus. It was a free for all.”

At about 2am on Tuesday they were taken to the Hotel Egeo.

“Given something to eat and drink. People sleeping on sunbeds. Breakfast was provided at about 7am,” he reports.

“We have just had a bus turn up. It was half-full already. We have jumped the bus to Kos town and will face the journey back to Kardemena later.”

The island authorities later posted on X: “We are pleased to inform you that the precautionary evacuation of Kardamena has now ended. We are happy to report that nobody has been hurt, and residents and visitors are now returning to their homes and hotels.”

Kos is just off the Bodrum peninsula of southwestern Turkey. Wildfires have also struck the island of Chios, about 100 miles northeast.

The latest evacuations come less than a year after 20,000 holidaymakers were flown out of Rhodes because of wildfires there. In 2023, 20 people were killed in wildfires during the summer.

What are your rights if you are in one of the wildfire areas, or booked to travel? These are the key questions and answers.

What is the situation in Greece right now?

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country, but hotter, drier and windier weather that scientists link to the effects of climate change has increased their frequency and intensity.

“We have had an exceptionally difficult June regarding weather conditions, with high levels of drought and unusually strong winds for this season,” said the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“We are entering the tough core of the anti-fire period, and this will certainly not be won without the help of the public as well, particularly in the field of prevention.”

Firefighters have been battling blazes on the eastern Aegean islands of Chios and Kos. On Monday five people, not believed to be visitors, were hurt.

Water-dropping aircraft and helicopters are assisting hundreds of firefighters in tackling the blazes.

What do the holiday companies say?

A spokesperson for Tui said: “Our teams have been working to support customers impacted by a wildfire in the Kardamena area of Kos, Greece.

“Coaches are now transporting guests back to their hotels following a precautionary evacuation order which was issued last night by the Greek Civil Guard.

“We have our Tui reps on the ground working to support customers as they return to hotels.” Flights to Kos continue to operate as normal, but holidays were cancelled for Tui customers due to travel to the impacted area of Kardamena on Tuesday.

An easyJet holidays spokesperson said:“We are continuing to monitor the wildfire situation in the Kardamena area of Kos, working closely with our teams in destination and the local authorities, who advise that the wildfire is now under control.

“Flights to and from Kos continue to operate normally. EasyJet holidays is in direct contact with customers currently on a package holiday in the area as well as those due to travel, and our dedicated partners are providing support in Kos to any customers should they require it.”

The Independent has also asked Jet2 Holidays for a response.

Do holidaymakers who were evacuated have any right to compensation?

Under the Package Travel Regulations, holiday companies are required to deliver the trip as booked or provide some recompense. It may be that tour operators will proactively offer cash or vouchers because of the experience. If not, holidaymakers can seek reasonable compensation for the lost portion of their holiday.

But this might not be as much as travellers expect. For a one-week holiday costing £500 per person, thethe holiday company is entitled to subtract the value of the flights, which might be £250 – meaning only one-seventh of the remainder will be refunded, ie £36.

I am worried about further fires. Can I come home early?

Holiday companies may allow customers to opt for an earlier return at no extra charge, but are unlikely to refund any of the cost of the abandoned part of the holiday.

I am booked to travel imminently to Greece. Can I cancel for a refund?

If the travel firm cancels your trip you can expect a full refund within two weeks. Otherwise, under the Package Travel Regulations, holidaymakers can cancel for a refund “if unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances occur at the place of destination or its immediate vicinity which significantly affect the performance of the package or the carriage of passengers to the destination”.

In the case of Kos or Chios, with holidaymakers returning to the affected areas, it does not look as though the current situation looks like reasonable grounds to cancel.

What does the Foreign Office say?

The advice for Greece warns: “There is a high risk of wildfires during the summer season from April to October.

“Wildfires are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The situation can change quickly.

“Causing a wildfire or a forest fire is a criminal offence in Greece – even if unintentional. If you see a fire, call the emergency services on 112.”

Will travel insurance help?

Only with costs directly incurred as a result of wildfires that cannot be recovered elsewhere, ie from the holiday company.