Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene & more!
Many visitors hop between islands during their visit in Greece. Traveling by Ferry is the best option to visit the islands in the summer because of the frequent itineraries. Note that the more popular the island, the more the itineraries and the connections.
1. ATHENS PORTS
Athens has 3 ports. “Piraeus”, “Rafina” and “Lavrion”
- PIRAEUS PORT, Location: Southwest of downtown Athens. It is the busiest port near Athens and the largest port in Greece. Most ferries, all cruise ships, nearly all ships for Crete and all ferries and dolphins to the Argosaronic islands use this port. You can reach it by the green metro line working from early morning till midnight, the suburban railway and many bus lines, along with direct bus and suburban rail link, (from the old Peloponnese station), even from the Athens airport.
When to choose this port: It’s the only one you can reach easily through public transportation. If you’re traveling to Crete, the Cycladic islands, Northern Aegean islands, Argosaronic islands. Trip duration to Athens downtown: 30 mins by metro. Trip duration to Athens airport: around 70 mins by metro / subway, 55 minutes by suburban rail.
- RAFINA PORT, Location: It is located on the coast Northeast of Athens. It’s the second busiest port of Athens. An excellent choice if travelling to the northern Cycladic islands. Choose this one: If you are going to Andros and maybe Tinos, Mykonos, it’s a better option providing shorter ferry times and is closer to the Athens airport, so it’s great if you are landing in Athens and leaving for the islands on the same day. Trip duration to Athens downtown: 45 mins by car / bus (depending. on traffic) Trip duration to Athens airport: 15 – 20 mins by taxi / bus.
- LAVRION PORT, Location: Southeast of Athens. Most remote, serving routes to Kea and Kythnos, as well as a once a week itinerary to Limnos and Ai-Stratis. It’s a one hour drive from downtown Athens.
2. PREBOOKING FERRIES, TO BOOK OR NOT TO BOOK, THAT IS THE QUESTION!
Prebooking ferry tickets is not ALWAYS a "must". Most ships have free tickets even on the last minute. So, many people just buy ferry tickets upon their arrival. NEVERTHELESS, this definitely doesn't apply for:
- Itineraries between mid-July and the end of August, since it is peak season with the majority of locals leaving for vacation in the same time as well. If you are visiting the islands during that period it is recommended that you book earlier.
- Local short trips from Athens to Aegina, Hydra or other Saronic islands, especially on holidays, Friday evenings (outbound from Athens) and Sunday evenings (inbound to Athens). Best thing to do if getting a side trip like this and buying your departure ticket is buying your return ticket too in the same time since some companies offer a small discount.
- Itineraries linking Santorini and/or Mykonos to Crete. These take place in the summer and are preferred by numerous foreign visitors.
- In general all routes between December 20th to December 26th since it's Christmas.
Most ferry or cat companies in Greece, announce their itinerary on a 2 month basis, while quite few do it even earlier. You should be able to have a comprehensive view of summer itineraries by the end of April, however, in case you visit an official site to book a trip, for August and bump on a message of "no seats availability" or "no itineraries on the specific date", don’t worry. Keep in mind that ferry travelling is something really common here, you can book tickets a a few weeks earlier, so wait a little more.
You can always book tickets on these time windows and collect them at local affiliate agencies. This is the best way to do it, ESPECIALLY when travelling with a family or on honeymoon, or travelling on a high preference route or during high season. On the other hand, you can always book and buy tickets in Greece. Not last minute but I'd say upon your arrival, but do keep in mind that popular itineraries in the summer tend to sell out.
Contact local travel agencies or get referrals from the hotel you booked, you can save on "booking fees" that some websites offer if you just book your tickets from the local travel agencies (Naxos Tours, Zas Travel, Grotta Tours....)
3. OK, NEED TO BOOK! WHAT NOW?
Booking your ferry
tickets online is possible through the websites of shipping companies and
expert local travel agencies, such as www.greekferries.gr - www.ferriesingreece.com - www.ferries.gr - www.letsferry.gr - www.greeceferries.com - www.ferryconnection.com and www.greeka.com.
Booking through shipping companies has the following advantages: Booking directly by the source, having all on time definite routes, possibility of buying your ticket by any of the numerous affiliate agencies in Greece. When you book from an official site, you can collect your ticket by your order ID, in numerous affiliate agencies in Greece.
The main disadvantage in booking via an official company site is that, in case the shipping company cancels the itinerary you booked for, you could only rebook for an itinerary operated by a ferry of the same shipping company, whenever the date or time of departure of this ferry is.
A local travel agency is able of booking you tickets for ferries of various shipping companies and, as a result, transferring your booking to the ferry which operates the itinerary that is considered more convenient for you, whichever shipping company operates this itinerary, as long as your original online booking was made via the specific local travel agency.
Moreover, updated ferry schedules and the option of picking up your tickets from various spots all over Greece or via courier are also provided by local travel agencies.
So, select a date and route and you 'll have available seats!
4. FERRY, HIGH SPEED FERRY, CAT, DOLPHIN??, WHAT ARE THEY? WHICH TO PICK??
If you cannot choose the type of vessel, here some help info, however, you should bear in mind that not all vessel types are available on all routes:
These are the slowest vessels. Provide the longest trip time but definitely the most "purist" one. Simple conventional ferries are the cheapest option. They have deck space in open air or semi enclosed decks. Indoor bars and airplane seats indoors, many of them have 2 - 4 bed cabins for night trips.
Especially on day trips ferries are a relaxing way to travel between the islands, with all the fantastic sea views and the sea breeze someone can get from the decks. Of course all these apply mainly for summer day trips. There is nothing worse than a slow ferry on a cold winter night :)
When to choose it: If you are on a budget, don't want to spare any valuable time on trips, want unobstructed sea views and relaxing trip, go for it.
*** If you got your ticket a long time in advance, double check the departure date / time a couple of days before the actual departure. Sometimes ferries booked ahead are subject to schedule change and of course, being Greece, no one informs you, so by the time you have to travel you might find a horrible surprise like " that ferry was cancelled..."
- HIGH SPEED FERRIES
High speed ferries are big vessels which resemble more to a cruise ship rather than a slow ferry. Quick, comfortable, newly built are the best overall option of sea travel in Greece. Most often a little more expensive than a slow ferry, do the job quickly and efficiently.
When to choose it: If you like a comfortable, smooth, efficient service on a big vessel, along with sea views, go for it or if you travel in the winter.
There is also a new breed of High Speed Ferry. These are smaller than the conventional HSF and have internal only, aircraft type seating. Examples of these are the new HELLENIC SEAWAYS and SEA JETS vessels which operate in the Cyclades.
- HI-SPEED CATAMARANS
They do what the name says and are significantly more expensive because of it. They are the best choice for long trips however.
- FLYING DOLPHINS ( HYDROFOILS )
Imagine a small arrow like vessel, which when reaching a certain velocity, lifts up from the sea and gets inclined, going quickly to its destination. These are "flying dolphins" or HighSpeed Catamarans . This is a small vessel, carrying about 150 - 1000 passengers, doing short interisland trips, lasting about 20 mins - 90 mins. They have airplane seats. They are bumpy, sometimes a little noisy but do take you in near island destinations really quickly. Flying Dolphins are the first to suffer a weather delay or cancellation. They are used on popular busy routes like Piraeus - Saronic islands, North Sporades and the Dodecanese islands.
When to choose it: When you do want a short and quick inter island trip and of course when it's the only available means.
* Renting a private yacht
If you don't want to depend on ferry schedule and want more privacy and flexibility and can afford the cost of it, you might rent a boat (with or without crew) for a couple of days or a week. One of the companies that offers boats from verified charter companies in Greece is Zizoo - www.zizoo.com. The info about moorings you can find at The Moorings and about sailing licences that might be required at IYT Worldwide.