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Getting to Greece

FLIGHTS TO ATHENS FROM USA

The easiest way to get to Athens is to fly. If you are coming from the USA there are non-stop flights from New York by Delta Airlines and Olympic and then a dozen other airlines that you have to connect somewhere in Europe. Starting in the summer of 2007 Continental will fly non-stop from Newark and US-Air non-stop from Philadelphia to Athens. Read my Guide to Flying to Greece which will answer many of your questions and make you realise that any anxiety you have is normal.

Flying to Athens, Greece David Econopouly at GREECEFLIGHTS specializes in finding the best rates to Greece and knows all the secrets for finding cheap flights. Did you know that there are a certain number of cheap tickets on almost every flight? The thing is that once these tickets are sold that's it and you move up to the more expensive fares. The trick is knowing which flights have the cheap tickets and how many there are. That is why it is so difficult to find cheap tickets when you use a discount on-line booking system. Because if you are looking for cheap seats for a June 20th flight and there are none, the system won't tell you that there are 20 cheap seats the very next day. One of the things David does is find out which days there are cheap tickets. Yes, there is actually a human being at the other end of GreeceFlights responding to each and every e-mail and by David's count he answered 13,000 e-mails last year. So before you log on to one of those name-brand computerized systems that probably put a few thousand travel agents out of work visit David at www.greeceflights.com

FLIGHTS TO ATHENS FROM EUROPE AND ELSEWHERE

Flights to Greece, airlines to Greece, inexpensive flights to Greece If you are flying from the UK, Europe or Australia you can book through your local agency or else try looking for deals in the travel section of your local paper. Generally a travel agent won't spend a lot of time looking for a cheap flight for a customer because the airlines pay such low comissions, if at all so what is the point of finding a flight unless you can also sell the customer a package? But it can't hurt to ask. Dolphin Hellas Travel say they can get flights from anywhere to Greece at competitive rates so try them by going to www.greecetravel.com/tickets. Also check with Easy-Jet, Ryan-Air and the other European discount airlines. Some charter companies sell their remaining seats for low prices rather than fly with them empty. I flew from London to Santorini once for about 180 euros round-trip. I have seen ads in the back of London's Time-Out magazine.

AIRLINES: WHAT WENT WRONG?

While many of us were playing with our computers the airlines did their best to destroy the travel industry that had served it well for the last half a century. They first limited comissions travel agents could make selling airline tickets and then eliminated comissions altogether forcing agents to add fees or sir-charges to the ticket price just to break even. Meanwhile the airlines offered discounts to people who booked electronically on their system or through the large on-line booking companies whose names we are now all familiar with. People booked on-line not realizing that by saving a few dollars they were putting a large number of travel agents out of business. Just like shopping at Walmarts and then wondering what happened to the little guy who ran the local drugstore.

(I have a friend who works for an American airline who was hired just before the 9/11 attacks. When people stopped flying I felt sure that she would lose her job and felt bad for her because it was something she had always wanted to do and of course they would let go of the new people first. She is still working. Who did they lay off? The people with seniority over her because they earned more and the company could save more by dumping them. How is that for loyalty? People who had been with the company for years got the axe while they kept my friend who was just learning her job. Speaking of loyalty why do airlines have frequent flyer programs? Because that is how they keep their customers. Consider it a bribe to keep you flying with the same airline. They can't win your loyalty with their service so they give you miles instead. How about when someone in your family dies or is about to and you need to fly to see them? The airlines have a 'bereavement fare'. This is a good example of their sympathy and understanding. The fare is half price. But it is half the price of their most expensive ticket and can be double the price of a 7 day advance. If the airline really cared why couldn't they just give you the same price as the 7 or 14 day advance even though you are booking on short notice? Because they know you have no choice and you will buy the tickets because after all someone you love is dead or dying. To add to the woes of travel agents the airlines now offer hotels on their websites and Delta actually offered me a taxi from the airport.... for a fee of course. It is bad enough that the airlines are getting comissions from hotels but from taxi drivers? Give me a break. If they spent more time thinking about the comfort of the passengers and less time thinking about how to make even more money off them they might be successful one day and not need government subsidies).

Anyway if you live in the USA there is an ocean between you and Greece and until they bring back the trans-Atlantic liners, flying is the only way to go so we must make the best of the situation.

CHEAP FLIGHTS TO GREECE

Remember The All Important Law of Flying: Book Early! The airplane tickets are broken up into groups. Each flight has for example a dozen low cost seats, twenty a bit more expensive, thirty even more expensive, and fifty a lot more expensive. The cheaper tickets are sold first and then the next. So you can find yourself sitting next to someone who paid $500 for his ticket while you paid $1000! But he booked early and you didn't. So if you know you are going to Greece book now and rather then give an extra five-hundred dollars to the airlines you can spend it in Greece!

There are great fares to Greece in the off-season and unless you are just going to lay in the sun and bake the weather can be pretty nice in November and even through the winter if you are lucky. Here's another secret. When the airlines are strapped for cash they have sales.

So try to find the best deal you can and if at all possible book with a human being. You can spend all day entering dates into an on-line booking site or you can just ask someone who knows.

Travel Agents versus On-line Booking sites

Many on-line booking sites like Travelocity, Orbitz and even some of the airlines will offer you flights and also deals on hotels. I recommend not booking the hotels no matter how seductive the deal looks. I get more e-mail from people who booked hotels when they booked their flights and were frantic because they could not line up the ferries with the islands they were booked at. You may save a couple euros but then you are on your own. No ferry that day... You don't like the hotel or the location... Who are you going to call? With a reliable Greek Travel agency you not only get discounted rates on the hotels, they know the ferry schedules, can get your tickets, can make changes when necessary, and can give you advice and coaching. Plus they are familiar with the hotels and can let you know if the one that looks so great in the ad is suitable for you. For reliable travel agents in Greece see www.athensguide.com/agency.html

TO GREECE BY CAR, TRAIN AND FERRY

Many people coming from Europe and Scandinavia drive or take a train to one of the coast cities of Italy where they can catch a ferry to Greece. The shortest ferry trip is from Brindisi and that is where most of the boats leave from, sometimes six a day. A slow ferry will take about 15 hours to Patras and 8 hours to Corfu. There are several boats a day. There are also ferries from Bari which take a little longer. The Ancona ferries take about 22 hours to Patras. There are ferries from Venice and Trieste too and these take about 36 hours. I have taken the ferries from Brindisi and Ancona. You can usually get tickets pretty easily if you are going deck but if you have a car or want a cabin you should book in advance. For ticket info try www.greecetravel.com/tickets 

From Patras there is a bus and a train that leave from where the boats dock. The train is slower than the bus. There should be bus info on the ferry but if you book in advance ask for the info from the travel agency. If you get off the ferry in Corfu you can fly to Athens or take the bus by way of Igoumounitsa.

There was a ferry from Haifa, Israel but that ferry that used to come from Alexandria, Egypt has been discontinued. There is no ferry from Istanbul. If you want to come from Turkey you can fly, take a train or bus to Athens or go from Avalik to the island of Lesvos, Cesme to Chios, Kusadasi to Samos, Bodrun to Kos or Marmares to Rhodes. From any of these islands there is a daily boat to Pireaus, the port of Athens.

TRAVEL INSURANCE AND OTHER HELPFUL GREECE INFORMATION

Travel Insurance
People have been asking me about Travel Insurance Protection due to what appears to an airline industry lingering on the brink.
With all the schedule changes and surcharges being added, things are evidently not going well with the airlines. Therefore, travel insurance just might not be a bad idea. It is pretty inexpensive and will take away some of the anxiety of travel. If you go to the page
Should You Buy Travel Insurance there is a link to help you decide.

Read True Stories of Cheap International Flights and The Christmas in Athens That Wasn't about a couple of my experiences while flying to Greece.

Here's a helpful tip. Make photo-copies of all your travel documents like passports, tickets, visas etc. That way if you lose them it will be a lot easier to prove you had them in the first place.

Read my Guide to Flying to Greece which will answer many of your questions and make you realise that any anxiety you have is normal.

Return to Athens Survival Guide