the Ferry Boats to the Greek Islands
Greek Ferries are the primary means of transport
to and from the islands, and the trip is an
experience to be savored, like a cruise
(sometimes). Islands like
are best reached by ferry because the trip is
overnight and it's like being in a big moving
hotel. A really nice cabin for two should cost
about 120 euros or so.
Santorini should be approached by ferry for the
view which is breathtaking and worth the 8-10 hour
trip, especially if you can get there in the late afternoon. Unless of course you don't like being on boats in which case no view is worth 8-10 hours of boredom punctuated by the arrivals and departures from the other islands on the Santorini route. In this case the
giant high-speed catamarans and modern super
ferries are like being on
a modern spaceship on the sea. There are rows of
comfortable seats, tables, TVs, game rooms, and
snack bars with pretty decent food. Not as good as
the restaurants on the overnight ferries but
spanakopitas (spinach pies), sandwiches and if you are on a good
one terrific coffee and espresso. They are also
more expensive but you can be in
Mykonos harbor in about 3 hours and
in about 2 and a half hours. You can be in Santorini in
about 5 hours on the high-speeds
catamarans. There are also ferries that are not quite high-speeds but are faster than the normal slow ferries. Most of the Blue Star ships are in this category as are some of the Hellenic Seaways boats like the Nissos Chios.
Flying Dolphins are more like planes than ferries and serve pretty much only the Saronic Gulf Islands of Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses, but there are a few doing local routes from various islands like the ones that go from Rhodes or between
Patmos and Pythagorion, Samos. They are not really made for open seas, in fact they were built to be used on Russian rivers and lakes and at this point they are pretty old and out-dated. But the Saronic Gulf islands are very much sheltered from the north wind so the Flying Dolphins can serve those routes. You sit in airplane seats and
unless you stand by the door and watch the islands
go by it's like being on a turbulent jet flight.
There are windows but they are always covered with
salt and spray and you can't see anything. There is an outdoor section in the back but all the smokers go there, and one in the middle but it is right where the engines are. Thankfully the journeys are short and in the case of Hydra and Spetses you have larger high-speed options.
way to go is to go what we used to call deck but what is now called economy. There are air-conditioned
lounges to hang out in and airplane seats so you
don't have to literally be on the deck being
lashed by wind and high seas (rare). But if you
have a sleeping bag and it's a night ferry, there
is no better place to be then under the stars with
a bottle of wine and some fellow travelers. For those
young people traveling deck who are musicians take
note of this simple equation: Guitar+ferry+wine
friends or even true love (for a week or two anyway). On the high-speeds economy means airplane seats and watching the dozens of televisions in the main cabin and there are signs that say you can't go outdoors unless the boat is in the harbor but that does not keep people from going out for a cigarette even when the boat is at sea. There is supposedly no smoking indoors on the ferryboats. The first class lounges on the large ferries are really nice but there is actually not that much difference between them and
the economy lounges.
If you are a
budget traveler, backpacker or student, then going deck (economy),
even on the overnight trips, is the way to do it.
(Even on the Greece-Italy ferries). Plus you won't
need to buy ferry tickets in advance except for
Those certain days are:
1) The Thursday and Friday before
2) the Friday of Agios Pnevmatos (Holy Spirit)
which is like our memorial day weekend, a moveable
feast that happens sometime in the beginning of
June, a good time to just stay in Athens. Its 40 days after orthodox Easter.
3) The last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of
July and the beginning of August which is the
month when every Athenians and Thessalonikian who
can afford it leaves the cities for the islands.
Getting out of Athens can be a miserable
experience if you don't have a ferry ticket and
sometimes even if you do. The boats are packed.
Again this is a good time to be in Athens.
4) The Thursday and Friday of the weekend of
August 15th when anyone who did not leave Athens
by August 1st will be going to the island for
the big holiday weekend.
things to think about. Coming back to Athens after
these weekends is a tough ticket too, as is
returning the last week of August. And a
warning to Mykonos travelers. You will notice that
these are religious holidays for the most part and
this will affect you more than those going
to other islands. That's because the island
of Tinos is the Lourdes of Greece and it is on the
same ferry route as Mykonos. For those going to
Lesvos I have bad news for you. The second holiest
place is Agiassos and the ferries are filled with
pilgrims preceding those holidays. You can get
tickets if you book in advance but if you meander
down to Pireaus and expect to get on a boat you
may find yourself back on the metro looking for a
hotel for your weekend in Athens. (But Athens is
GREAT during those weekends when everyone
Economy on the high-speeds costs about 30% more than on a normal ferry. There is also an option for Business Class and Deluxe on these boats and that means you are in a lounge with a handful of people who are either anti-social or have money to waste. I have gone business class on the High Speed Catamaran a couple times
and the main difference I could see was that there were waitresses that dressed like airline hostesses taking orders even though the snack bar as
only about 5 feet away from our seats, and there was free bowls of candy scattered around. There were also people wearing ties who were smoking cigarettes. I guess they were businessmen. But if you are taking an overnight ferry getting a Lux cabin is not that much more than a normal first class and they are larger and much nicer. I usually go for Lux traveling to or from Lesvos.
The cabins on the new ferries are really nice. They have doubles and four bed cabins and some boats may have a few three bed cabins and they have private baths with a shower. But here is something you should know about. Let us say you are three women traveling to Crete and you book your tickets in a four bed (actually they call
them berths) cabin. The ferry company can put another woman with you in that fourth bed. They do it with men too. The point is that they can put someone of the same sex in your cabin with you if there is an extra berth. So what people do in this situation is buy the three tickets and then buy a half price child ticket for the 4th berth. I am not sure what sex they put in your cabin if you are a family but I don't think it is worth finding out to save a few euros. But you want First Class or Lux. Some boats
have Second Class cabins and I booked one once and it was below the garage and smelled like carbon monoxide.
Tickets for Greek Island Travelers Using Greek
Whether you are
booking a package or just using the agency to book
your hotels for you they will handle your ferry
tickets for you. You probably won't have to ask
but if they don't mention it then you should
because if you have booked your hotels through
them there will be no sir-charge and when you
arrive at Athens Airport or at your Athens hotel there will be an
envelope waiting for you with a nice little note
about when the boat leaves and instructions on
getting there and your ferry tickets and vouchers
for your hotel on the island. Those getting
packages will probably have transportation to and
from the airport, hotel and port provided and
the agency representative will give you everything
and explain what it is.
on the internet have no incentive to book just ferry
tickets alone because they don't make any money on
them. In fact if you factor in the time it takes
to call the ferry companies and make sure there is
a boat, issue the ticket, mail the ticket and
subtract the charge the bank makes them pay for
credit card sales, they lose money. It is a
service they provide to their customers who book
hotels and tours. So if you are trying to book
ferry tickets on the web the travel agency will say they don't sell ferry tickets or
there will be a sir-charge. (Most likely they will
say they don't sell tickets).
ticket agencies in Pireaus when you get to the
boats in the big old buildings at Platia
Kariaskaki by the bus station (sort of across from
the metro). There are also ticket booths by many
of the boats and there is even one right in the
metro station and on the street outside. In Athens
there are a couple agencies on Nikis street that
sell ferry tickets but beware that there are
agencies that send hustlers out to track down
confused looking tourists and bring them in to
sell them packages. If you walk into an agency for
ferry tickets and you leave with a cruise you have
not been ripped off. It's like if you went to buy
a used Chevy and left the used car lot with a
Porsche. The reason you wanted a Chevy is because
that is what you could afford but the salesman
used all his tricks to get you to buy the Porsche.
They may say there are no more ferry tickets, or
the island is full, or whatever it takes to get
you to do what they want you to do. If I may say
this without being too self-serving: if you have
spent hours or days on my website and choose to do
it on your own rather then work with one
of the agencies I recommend and then you go to
Athens and get sold a cruise or an expensive hotel
package when all you wanted was ferry tickets,
then you probably screwed up somewhere.
point is that if you want a cabin or want to be
sure of a seat on a high-speed then buy your
tickets in advance and the best way to do that is
by booking your hotels with a RELIABLE
Greek Travel Agency. You
won't pay more than by booking directly with the
hotels and you won't have to worry about the
tickets or the schedules. Don't bother trying to
get ferry tickets through your local travel agents
because they will just e-mail me and ask me how
they can get ferry tickets and I will tell them
what I just told you. You can also use my Create-an-itinerary Form to book hotels and ferry tickets.
Online Ferry Booking Services
The other option is to use on-line ferry booking companies. Be sure you understand the terms and try several before settling on one. You want to use a company that allows you to pick up your ticket in a convenient location (like at the ticket booth by the boat for example) or gives you a printable e-ticket or a code that enables
you to get the actual ticket at any ticket office. Make sure there is not a surcharge. If you want them sent to you there will be a charge and they will probably be sent priority mail to make sure you receive it, but sometimes that's
of feeling secure. Try using the Dolphin Hellas Ferry Booking Page which is easy to use and if you have any problems at least you can contact the agency who are reputable. I have also found the website Ferryhopper.com to be the best of the bunch, th easiest to use, and if you have a problem they are prompt to fix it where other ferry booking sites
you send them
an e-mail and maybe you get a reply 6 months after your trip.
Tourist Information and Greek Ferry
You can get
maps of Athens at most hotels and some will have
the very helpful map of Greece that EOT so
generously provides for free. There are websites that have the ferry
schedules but they sometimes don't have the schedules until weeks or months after you have tried to book your hotels, unless you are doing it at the last minute. So in other words if you are trying to book your Greek island hotels in January you may have to wait until March or April to know if there is a ferry going on the day you need there to be one. The
good news is that if you are working with a travel
agency in Athens it won't matter because they can
book your hotels and ferries and make the changes
if they have to by making endless phone calls. The
bad news is that if you are one of those proud
people who do their own bookings directly with the
hotels or with on-line hotel sites you can find
yourself on one island, booked in a hotel on the
next, and no ferry to get between them. But
for you hard-nosed troopers I can give
you some idea whether your plan is possible or
whether you have booked yourself an impossible
holiday. You can also use Ferryhopper.com to find the schedules and you are not required to book. You can
If you decide to book ferries on your own then you can book hotels through Matt's Booking.com Page which gives you hotel descriptions, rates and photos. You can also visit HotelsofGreece.com where I have done the hard part and chosen
the best hotels all over Greece and all you have to do is believe me and book them. For those backpackers who plan to wing it you should at the very least book your Athens Hotel before arriving.
Prices to the Greek Islands
This is the
kind of section I don't like because if I forget
about it and don't update it then things may have
changed. Ferry tickets are cheap if you are going
deck. Once you go by high-speed or get a cabin then
the price starts going up dramatically. You can
figure that if a deck or 3rd class ticket to
Mykonos costs 27 euro then the high-speed will cost
almost double that. Overnight ferries like those going to
Crete, Rhodes and Lesvos will cost around 35 euro
for deck(economy) and double that for a cabin. That's per
person for the cheapest cabin. Ferries that go to
Aegina are like buses that come and go all day and
cost about 4 euro and 8 or 10 for the Flying
Dolphins. There are ferry passes but I don't know
anyone who has used them. They may seem like a
good idea if you are 'island-hopping' but the
problem is that if you love the first island
you hop to and want to stay there you may feel
compelled to leave just to use your ferry pass.
(Yes people think like that). Ferries are cheap
enough so that when you make up your budget you
can off-set the cost of a ferry by skipping a meal
or getting a tiropita(cheese pie). Once again if you need to
know what the cost is of a particlar ferry you
I can give you a decent estimate if I don't know
the exact price.
You can also check Ferryhopper.com and they have the prices for all the ferries.
This word is over-used and the process is
over-rated. Back in the old days when Greece was
dirt cheap and people had a month or more to
wander around the islands and little old ladies
would meet the ferry to offer the handful of
travelers who got off a room in their homes,
island hopping was fun and sort of charming. But
let us face the fact that Greece has been
discovered and when that happens the little old
ladies are shoved aside by guys with signs for
their fancy hotels, or the little old ladies
themselves have built fancy hotels and hired guys to bring them customers. More critical
though to the difficulty in island hopping is the
monopoly of the ferry boat companies who fight
over the popular routes and leave the smaller
islands with connections to Pireaus and maybe a
few islands surrounding them. No longer can you
make a list of islands you want to visit and hop
on the boat to the first one and make connections
to the rest. In some cases an island that you can
see from your hotel window in Sifnos (like Paros
for example) won't have a connection, except by
going back to Pireaus. You can still island-hop
but it now requires some planning. That is why I
made up the
you to decide which islands you want to visit and
then send in the form and the agency will tell you
if it is possible and send you an itinerary with
hotels and ferries. You tell them what your budget
is and they find the best places to suit it and
all you have to do is show up on time for the
boats. For me
the best way to visit the Greek Islands is to pick
one or two that are convenient to each other,
experience those and come back next year.
I also recommend visiting Fantasy Travel's Island Hopping Page.
Getting to the Ferry
Any taxi should
know exactly where your boat is and should take
you right up to the gang-plank and even help you with your luggage if you booked him on-line or through your travel agent. The port of Pireaus is now organized by gate and there are signs that tell you which gate to go to for whatever island you are going to. If you are taking
the proastiakos (suburban) train from Athens get off at the last stop which
is Pireaus though make sure you are on the correct line so you don't end up in Corinth. There
is also the E96 bus from the
airport that will take
you right to the boats. From Athens the 040 goes from the bottom of Syntagma square to Pireaus and the new X80 is an express version of the same route. There is also a stop near the Acropolis museum on Vas Amalias Street near Hadrian's Arch on the Plaka side of the street.
I use George the Famous Taxi Driver to go to and from Pireaus but you can also ask your hotel concierge to call a radio taxi.
If you take the metro to the final stop cross the pedestrian bridge and boats to
Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Sifnos and the Western
Cyclades should be directly in front of you. Mykonos, Syros and Tinos boats are on your left.
The high-speed catamaran is there too. You can also find the Western Cyclades (Serifos, Sifnos, Milos) here too. Beyond are the boats to the Saronic Gulf islands
of Aegina, Hydra, Poros and Spetsi. To the right of the Cyclades ferries are the
boats to Crete, followed by the boats to Lesvos,
Chios, and Lemnos on the very end. The last boats on your right are to the Dodekanese
islands of Patmos, Rhodes, Kalymnos, Kos.The
Flying Dolphins leave from Pireaus too (not from
Zea anymore) and can be found between the
cruise ships and the Saronic islands
ferries. You can find a very good ferry map that tells you which gates are for which ferries on Ferryhopper.com's Pireaus Page
There is a shuttle bus that you can ride to the more
distant boats. For supplies there are shops in the
area and a few working class restaurants and fast food
places. There is also a big cafeteria to hang out at on the
dock near the Cyclades boats behind where all the city
buses park and the ticket agencies are. The cafe has
been improved in the last couple years and is
open 24 hours, has internet access and even a place to
leave your luggage so you don't have to stay in one
place or wander around Pireaus like a lost turtle.
This is great for people who arrive in the morning
from one island to connect to an afternoon or evening
boat. You can dump your stuff and take the
and walk up to
Acropolis. There is luggage storage too. You can leave your bags and go back into Athens on the metro and visit the Acropolis if you have a few hours to kill (get off at Thission and walk). There are two more of these cafes, one by the Dodecanese (and
Sifnos) ferries that has luggage storage and another by the Crete and Lesvos ferries which may also have luggage storage. (I know that I am supposed to know this but maybe someone can check it out and let me know before I go back next summer).
The port gates are numbered and have the names of the islands those boats go to. See the map on Ferryhopper.com's Pireaus Page
The whole port is wireless by the way so if you have your laptop you can plop down in one of the cafe chairs and research your next island or send e-mails home.
Almost every island has a daily ferry, even in the
winter. The exceptions are places like Astypalia,
Kassos, Karpathos, Symi, Folegandros, Amorgos and
I think you get the idea. Islands that you have
heard of like Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos and
even Sifnos have several ferries a day in the summer and at least one a day in the winter.
Usually there is a regular ferry and a high-speed
or two leaving at 7:30. Then sometimes there is a
high-speed in the early afternoon and another at
5:30 and a ferry at about 10pm. Overnight boats
leave late in the afternoon with the Rhodes and
Dodecanesos boats leaving earliest because the
trip is longest (17 hours to Rhodes). The Lesvos
boats leave between 7 and 9pm and the Crete boats around
9pm. The Aegina ferries and Flying
Dolphins run continuously from about 6am to
8pm and to a lesser degree so do the boats to
Poros, Hydra and Spetses though the last boat
probably leaves around 6pm or maybe 8pm at the
latest. You have a better chance of there being a
late afternoon or night boat to the Cyclades on a Friday for weekenders.
As for returning, any boat
that goes to an island will come back. Finding
when is easier on the islands. There is an
exception to these and this is called the
Agoni Grammi route. The word means fruitless or
unprofitable. This is the boat that hits all the
islands including the ones that the only people
who go there are those who live there. In some
cases you will have to take this boat to get from
one island to another. When you look at the ferry
schedule pay attention to the
islands that your boat is going to. If your island
is the last of fifteen or so then this is the
Agoni Grammi and you may be in a little agony
yourself by the time you reach your island. But
for those who love ferries and can afford a cabin
the Agonia can be like a multi-island cruise.
There is an Agoni Grammi boat that leaves from Syros
almost every day that in the course of the week
visits all the Cyclades. You can usually catch it
once or twice a week in Lavrion too.
But if you have bought a round trip ticket which many people do then you know when you are leaving.
on the Ferry Boats in Greece
Many of the ferries that go to the islands are
very modern with carpets, air-conditioned cabins,
lounges, bars, restaurants, video-game parlors and
so on. The boats to Crete are usually the best and the fastest. The Superfast gets there in about 6 hours or so. The others take around 10 hours and are like being in a big modern luxury hotel with very small (but comfortable) rooms. The Elyros which goes to Chania is probably the nicest boat I have been on along with the Superferry to Heraklion which even has a swimming pool. The Speedrunner is a high-speed that goes to Sifnos. The Nissos Chios and the Nissos Mykonos are
both modern, built in Greece, fast ferries that take about three-quarters the time a normal ferry takes to islands like Lesvos, Chios, Samos with stops in Mykonos, Syros and maybe other Cyclades. The Blue Star ferries are big and modern. Not exactly high-speeds but somewhere in between and they go to the Cyclades and the Dodecanese islands and Lesvos and Chios too.
The best restaurants on a ferry is probably the Blue Star Patmos and the Blue Star I which have a wine bar/bistro with amazing
food, more like a cruise ship than a ferry boat. I have not been on the other long distance Blue Stars so I don't know if their restaurants are as good. There are a few older boats that are being phased
out. There is a 35 year limit on how old a ship
can be. Some of them despite their age are more
comfortable than the newer ones. Others are
pretty bad but usually they are on shorter routes
so you won't have to suffer long though it is not uncommon to find yourself on one going to Rhodes or connecting a bunch of islands on a weekly route. For long trips you
can be on the worst boat and if you get the most
expensive cabin (which can be as cheap as 10 euros
more per-person than a normal first class
cabin) you won't care. Plus some of the older
boats have the best food, sort of like eating in a
working class restaurant near Omonia Square in Athens. So if you
are on an old boat don't freak out. There are
positives and negatives about all ferries.
those who get seasick and are dreading the trip
these ferries are big and it takes pretty rough
seas to bounce you around and when it gets that
rough they don't let the boats leave the port
until it calms down. This does not happen very
often in the summer. You can buy dramamine over
the counter and even just taking half of one helps
if you are prone to sea-sickness. As for the ferry
sinking, another common fear, keep in mind that
the Greeks are the most renown sea-men in the
world with the biggest fleet of ships and it is
more likely that you will choke to death on a
piece of bread, and you are probably not afraid of
bread. The large ferries have elevators and escalators to get you from the garage to the cabins and lounges. If you have a ticket for a cabin you go to the concierge desk and they give you your key. Usually you can get more than one if you ask. Then a porter takes your bags and shows you where your cabin is. You should tip him a euro. Even if you are not a tipper, you should because he may end up being your waiter in the restaurant or lounge.
Baggage on the Ferry
If you are traveling on an overnight ferry and have a cabin you may want to bring your luggage with you and keep it locked in the cabin. If you just have a seat keep your valuables with you and put the big stuff downstairs in the luggage racks which are usually on either side of the garage door the cars, trucks and people enter through. When you reach your destination try to get to the garage as soon as they announce the port or tell drivers to go to the garage, so you have plenty of time to find your bags, and get to the group of passengers waiting to get off. Keep in mind that sometime your stuff can be shoved aside, or to the back, or covered by someone who boarded after you. If you are on a big ferry with lots of cars no need to panic because you have plenty of time. But if you are on a Seajet or any of the smaller boats, particularly the high-speeds, these boats spend less time in port. If you are worried just bring your bags up to your seat. It will be safe there and you can walk around knowing that your neighbors are not going to sit by and do nothing while someone rummages through your bags looking for valuables.
Hotels in Pireaus
If you are staying in a hotel in central Athens anywhere near the metro then you really don't need to stay in a hotel in Pireaus since you can be in the port in about 15 minutes on the metro and a taxi will only cost you about 12 euros or so. Economical hotels like the Hotel
Attalos for example are a few minutes walk from the Monastiraki Metro
Station, as is the Hotel Cecil, Hotel Plaka and the Hotel Adrian. As for hotels like the Grande Bretagne and
Electra Palace they are close to Syntagma so you would have to switch trains in Monastiraki, but I assume that if you are staying in these hotels can afford a taxi. But there are circumstances where you may want a hotel in Pireaus within walking distance of the ferries, for example if you arrive late at night and are leaving early the next morning. So with these
people in mind I have listed several Pireaus hotels that are an easy walk to the ferries. There are a number of good hotels of all category in Pireaus and if you use the Booking.com Pireaus Hotel Search you can find the ones within walking distance to the ferries. The economical Hotel
Delfini is the closest to the metro,
the airport bus and the ferries. The Hotel Acropole is close and inexpensive as well. The best of the hotels close to the port is the 5-Star Pireaus Theoxenia which has decent prices for a hotel of its category. See also Pireaus
Hotels which I have listed by their proximity to the boats.
Arriving on the Islands by Ferry
You get off the ferry the way you got on, which is through the garage door unless it has stairs. Be aware that some boats don't stop long on the islands and if you are standing on the deck admiring it when you sail into the bay you might end up on the next island. If you have booked through a Greek travel agency a package that includes
hotels and transfers then someone will be there to meet you at the boat. They may be holding a sign with your name on it or a sign for the hotel or they may be standing in front of a mini-bus with the hotel name emblazoned on the outside. If you have booked on your own then you may have asked the hotel to pick you up and they may have agreed. Some hotels have free transfers from the port, though this is usually hotels that are in or close to the port. Other hotels offer a transfer one way but you have to pay
when you go back to the port. And some hotels just tell you to take a taxi or take the bus, and in almost every port there are taxis and buses waiting at the ferry.
But often there are more people than taxis so it is a good idea to book your taxi in advance through the hotel or on-line. If you have arrived without booking a hotel there are people who meet the boats and will bring you to their hotel. But if you don't like the hotel they won't bring you back. You have to either
take the hotel that you don't like or wander around the neighborhood and hope you find a hotel you do like. Some islands have information offices and they can recommend a hotel and the hotel owner may even come and get you if he is not full. But in reality it is better to book your hotel before you get to the island, even if you have done it the night before from the previous hotel you stayed at in Athens or on another island. Also some islands are full in July and August and Easter and you may not
find a hotel, or at least not one you would want to stay in. So taking these things into consideration I recommend you use my Hotel Search Page or book your ferries and hotels through a Greek Travel agent.
from the Greek Islands by Ferry Boat
If you know when you have to leave then buy your
ticket in the first day or so that you are on the
island. There are ticket offices in the ports.
Keep in mind that some of these are competing
agencies and may represent different companies so
get the schedules from them all before you decide
when you are leaving. Some agents will say
there is no boat rather than tell you there is a
boat but not
boat. For those
who have to fly back home immediately after their
island trip, plan to spend the last night in
hotel in Athens
even if you
have an afternoon or evening flight. You don't
want to miss your plane if the ferry is delayed or
go through the stress of a close-call. Most people
who spend their last night in Athens end up loving
it. Getting a taxi from the ferry in Pireaus to
your hotel or the airport used to be difficult but with the economic crisis and the desperation of taxis you can usually find dozens waiting at the port for passengers. But for those who want to know there is a friendly English-speaking driver waiting for them who knows where their hotel is and won't waste time and money driving around in circles to get to it I recommend George the Famous Taxi Driver.
There is a new bus that leaves from Akti Xaveriou which is the main road that is in front of the cruise terminal. The X80 connects Pireaus with the Acropolis and Syntagma Square and it is an express route which means it should get you there and back pretty quickly.
Where is my
Not all boats come and go from Pireaus. If you are going to Kea you have to go to Lavrion to catch the ferry which runs at least twice a day. There are also boats from Lavrion running less frequently to Limnos, Kavala, Kythnos, Syros, and
several other Cyclades islands. The best way to get to Lavrion is by taxi and I recommend booking George the Famous Taxi Driver in advance for a pre-agreed price rather than haggling with a taxi driver on the street. You can also catch the KTEL bus from the bottom of Pedion Areos Park by the intersection of Patission Street and Alexandras Avenue
or from the airport. The bus will leave you right at the ferry or pick you up there when it is time to go back. If you have a car or are with a taxi there are some very nice seafood restaurants in the town of Lavrion, several in the fish market. If you have hours to wait for your ferry then you should hang out in the town which is about a kilometer away from the ferry port. If you miss your ferry and have to spend the night the closest nice hotels are in Sounion, in particular the Hotel Aegion Beach which is affordable and right on the beach, and the Grecotel Exclusive Resort which will cost a little more. There are also the NJ Apartments which are right in Lavrion.
There are also sailboats you can stay on in the port which can be found on Booking.com's Lavrion Page.
boats leave from
the ferry trip is two hours shorter (though it
takes at least an hour to get to
These boats go to most of the Cyclades and Andros,
which you can't get to from Pireaus.
Avra Rafina is a 4-star
hotel convenient to the ferries to the
islands for those want to avoid Athens and go
straight to the islands and spend the first
night in Greece in a Greek-island-setting. Rafina has a beach and some nice little fish restaurants in the port and is a popular place for Athenians to go even when they are not taking the ferry to an island. There are other hotels and villas available on Booking.com's Rafina Page but if you are just staying the night and catching a ferry the next day you want to be close to the port. You can get to Rafina by KTEL bus at Pedion Areos or
catch it right by the Ethniki Amyna metro station or from the airport. But it is much easier to take a taxi from the airport or Athens and I recommend George the Famous Taxi Driver if you don't want to leave anything to chance, espcially if you are coming back from the islands and have a flight to catch.
Bringing a Car on the Ferry
This used to terrify me but now I look forward to it. If the ferries are big, like those going to Crete and Rhodes and Lesvos and even to the Cyclades you pretty much just drive on and there are guys inside who direct you. The pack the cars in as tightly as possible but this usually does not require much work on your part since all you have to do
is line up the front of your car to the back of the car in front of you. But occasionally on a smaller ferry you have
to back in or even if you drive in forward you have to back into some tiny space and here is where it gets stressful if you don't know your left from your right in Greek.
The boat workers will be giving you instructions in Greek while you will be fighting the impulse to look behind you and park the car yourself. But they want you to fit in a space that you would never park in if you had a choice. So the best thing is to not even look behind you but to look at them, trust them, and follow their instructions
even though remembering your left from your right, in Greek, while going backwards is difficult for anyone. (Dex-ee-ah
is right and ah-ree-steh-rah is left.) When you have accomplished the task they will say OK, the one word they know in English, and you can lock up the car and go get a drink which you may need. Leave the car in first with the handbrake on. I have occasionally spent a sleepless night worrying that I had forgotten this critical thing and that the car would roll back and forth smashing all the other cars and eventually crashing through the wall of the ship causing it to sink and of course
they would know right away it
was my fault. If all of this is beginning to scare you, then do what my friend Vicki does. When you pull up to the entrance of the garage, just hand the guy the key and ask him to do it. Driving off is easy.
If you want to
know more about the islands see my
Greek Island Synopsis and my Greek Island Guide
and if you want
step by step instructions on hot to go to a Greek
How to Visit a Greek Island which will enable you to go on your own. But if you have not figured it out by now let me tell you once more that the best way to go to the Greek islands is by using a reliable Greek Travel Agency. Take a look at the Greek Island combinations offered by Fantasy Travel on their Greek Island Programs Page.
If you have a good idea of what you would like to do see my Create-an-itinerary Form which enables you to put together an island-hopping program, submit it, and get a price back or even a response telling you whether what you would like to do is even possible. You can also find hotels on all the islands by going to my Greek
Hotel Search Page and at HotelsofGreece.com
A very good tool for traveling in Greece is the Marine Traffic app which shows you all the ships, including ferries, in real time so you can see if your ferry is going to be late and also identify other ships. It is pretty much fun and I use it all the time.
Luggage Storage in Athens
For those arriving in Athens who want wander around and explore between ferries and flights there are several luggage storage services in convenient locations. BOUNCE is a new app you can use to find places to leave luggage in Athens and on the islands, (and all over the world actually). You simply type in the city, a map appears with the locations, you find the easiest one to get to, and book it, drop your stuff off and go about your business. If you are a regular traveler it is a good service to know about. They claim to be half the price of normal luggage storage places but you will have to check that out for yourself. Try BOUNCE
Athens Lockers is located in Syntagma and Monastiraki close to the metro and features lockers, a laundry service and even small cabins where you can shower and change clothes. No, you can't use it as a hotel. Athens Left Luggage has similar services and is located in Makrianni near the Acropolis Metro Station and is affiliated with Athens Studios Hotel/Youth Hostel. Many hotels will allow their guests to store luggage after checking out, some for as long as you are in Greece if