Getting Around in Greece: A Transportation Guide

My Greek island honeymoon was nothing short of luxury. We had first-class meals and superb wine with views of the Santorini sunsets, swam in overflowing infinity pools overlooking the Aegean Sea, and even got upgraded to our own private villa compete with private pool in Mykonos. We rented ATVs, explored the charming town of Oia, hiked up a volcano, swam in hot springs, went scuba diving for the first time, sampled olive oils, and hung out at black, red, and white sandy beaches.

Our 2-week trip among some of the most beautiful islands in the world was way more than I could have imagined (it was our honeymoon, after all)!

However, getting to and from the mainland, around the islands, and between the islands themselves were a bigger headache than I could have imagined! And I’m not even talking about our crazy first day and how we missed out on exploring Athens altogether. That is an unfortunate story for a whole other day.

Before even confirming our flights, I researched transportation options for a while. While there is a lot of information on the internet, I found it to be downright confusing and particularly misleading. If you don’t have a good knowledge base of Greece already, following these online instructions are rather difficult in my opinion.

But luckily, you’ve found a great post! Below ill condense all the information I found, as well as provide first hand tips I learned along my way getting around in Greece.

ATVs/Mopeds

Having a rental vehicle of some sort at your disposal makes for the best use of your time so you aren’t dependent on anyone but yourselves. If you are comfortable maneuvering around the islands yourself, then an ATV may be the way to go. There are lots of ATV rental shops around the islands, so finding an available bike will be easy. You may be able to rent one at your hotel as well (check in advance).

A cheaper option then renting a car, at ~15-60€, ATVs and Mopeds can be a much more exhilarating experience. Especially if the sun is shining (put sunscreen on!) Plus, you can easily get off the ATV for photo opportunities.

Make sure you wear your helmet, as there are many twisty turns and one-lane stretches of roads on numerous places within the islands. An ATV/moped can be quite dangerous for those who have never driven one before, and it best to use caution at all times.

Just remember, ATVs are relatively slow as compared to other forms of transportation, with max speeds of around 40km/h. Mopeds are able to go a little faster. Getting up slopes and deep inclines may be a struggle, and will take some practice. We had a particularly difficult time getting up one hill, and the only way to make it all the way up was for one of us to get off.

With all that said, my personal preference is still an ATV. :-)

Inter island: FERRIES vs FLIGHTS

Traveling from island to island can be kind of a big pain – I won’t lie. Unfortunately, there are only two ways, one being even more annoying then the next.

First up- the less annoying option >> ferries.

Although remarkably cheaper, ferries require a whole lotta time and can be rather stressful. It is best to book ferries beforehand, despite all the info found on the web that says to wait until the day of.

The official 2014 Greek island ferry schedule is a really useful tool when deciding to book these between islands. 

Ferries come in all different sizes and bring with each different “amenities”. Some companies have boats with food options, some with wifi, some with assigned seats, and some with

Basically, don’t expect a glamorous experience. It can be really confusing as to where to put your bags, and it seemed on some of our ferries the staff were less than helpful. Just follow everyone else and you’ll be fine. Just make sure to know which stop is yours- as the communication between the staff and passengers aren’t super fabulous. You’re kind of on your own, so just be prepared to ask others hanging around if you aren’t sure of the ferries location.

Second up- the even more annoying option >> flights from Athens. This option works perfectly for the first island you are traveling to (which will run you about €80 depending on flight time). However, don’t expect flights to be available from island to island, they are essentially non existent. If ferries are REALLY not your thing, you do have the option of flying back to the mainland each and every time you wish to visit a different island. But imagine this- Athens > Santorini > Athens > Mykonos > Athens > Crete > etc. Kind of ridiculous if you ask me.

FLIGHTS FROM USA – GREECE

Thankfully, many airlines have direct flights to Athens, Greece. Total time in the air is approximately 12 hours, 20 minutes traveling from New York (JFK–>ATH) and costs vary between $800 – $1200. We flew with Delta, and despite the original flight being completely cancelled (after sitting on the plane for hours… yea, don’t get me started), the experience was a positive one. Thankfully most of the major airlines provide an endless number of recent movies to watch, and edible food throughout.

TAXIS

Taxis are abundant in Athens and other major Greek cities. However, taxis on the islands are much more rare, and usually appear and disappear with ferries and planes. If you absolutely need a taxi, ask a nearby shop keeper- they will most likely know the magic number to get them back.

WALKING

You have 2 feet- use them! After all the gyro, pita, and kebabs you’ll be eating, a little exercise can’t hurt! There are quite a few charming towns on the islands, from Oia in Santorini to Little Venice in Mykonos. Go out and explore. Just be sure to wear good sneakers as many towns are hilly, and some have a tremendous amount of stairs.

RENTING A CAR

Renting a car is a great option on the larger islands (including Crete, which is 160 miles long) if you plan on exploring the entire thing.

Having a car on each island makes for easy exploration, since the buses are infrequent and sometimes confusing and even late on occasion. There is a lot of conflicting information regarding International Drivers Permit requirements in Greece. If you are from North America, you will need to obtain an IDP, as Greek law requires it. As seen on the US Embassy in Greece website:

“International Driver Permits: Tourists and temporary residents who plan to stay in Greece up to six months, must carry a valid U.S. license as well as an International Driving Permit.”

Getting the permit requires a valid U.S. driver’s license, two passport photos and a small fee.

Although some rental companies will rent you a car without it, if you’re asked for it by the police at a routine traffic stop or if you’ve had an accident, you’ll be in serious trouble and your insurance will be invalidated. Don’t take the risk: go to your local AAA or CAA office for an IDP for $15.

Remember that Greece’s driving rules may be different than those in your home country. Speed limits are 50 kph in a city, 80 kph on the open road and 100 kph on highways. On a three-lane highway, the middle lane is for passing only.

Cars can be arranged at either your hotel (just make sure they offer this service beforehand), or at the airport if you have decided to take an inter island flight.

Open the windows and the cool breeze will feel delightful on hot summer days. Learning a few terms will be helpful while driving. “Venzinadiko” means gas station; “diodia” means toll; “choros stathmefis” means parking; and “astinomia” means police.

So before you plan your next trip to the Greek Islands, be sure to have all your transportation figured out. I would rather be lounging on the beach or snorkeling among the fish and coral instead of wasting time in a transportation mess.

 

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One Comment

  • ablondearoundtheworldwp says:

    I was in Santorini last summer, my favorite part of it (believe it or not) was driving around in a quad!! Those things rock!!! :)
    My recent post RANDOM L.A.

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