How to get around Greece

Think about traveling to Greece and your mind will likely wander to images of ferries sailing the turquoise Aegean Sea. Taking on water is essential for jumping between the country’s islands, but there are plenty of other ways to get through Greece’s amazing landscapes, including trains, buses, and, if you have the strength, cycling.

Here is our guide to getting around Greece.

The Diakopto-Kalavrita railway line, which crosses the Vouraikos Gorge, is one of the most scenic train journeys in Greece © Lemonan / Getty Images

Form

The rail network in Greece, operated by OSE, is quite limited and lines have closed in recent years in areas such as the Peloponnese. That said, trains are still a fun and relaxed way to explore a good part of mainland Greece.

There are two types of service: regular (slow) trains that stop at all stations and faster, modern intercity (IC) trains that connect most major cities. Train fares have increased considerably since the Greek economic crisis, but are comparable to those in the rest of Europe. The intercity train cars are modern and comfortable, with a cafe-bar on board.

Prices and times vary widely – be sure to check the OSE website (a little confusing) before you travel.

Bus

While not the most glamorous way to get around, buses are cheap and convenient, and the network in Greece is extensive.

All long distance buses on the mainland and islands are operated by regional collectives known as KTEL. Each KTEL independently operates local services within it and manages buses to the main towns in other prefectures.

All major cities generally offer daily services to neighboring cities and, on the mainland, service to Athens. Most villages have a daily bus service, although remote areas may only have one or two buses per week. They operate for the benefit of the people who go shopping in town rather than for tourists, and therefore leave the villages very early in the morning and return early in the afternoon.

It is important to note that large cities like Athens, Iraklio, Patras, and Thessaloniki may have more than one bus station, each serving different regions. Make sure you find the right station for your destination. In small towns and villages, the “bus station” may be just a bus stop outside a kafeneio (cafe) or tavern which also serves as a reservation office.

KTEL buses are safe, modern and air conditioned. In more remote rural areas, they may be older and less comfortable. You can board a bus without a ticket and pay on board, but on a popular route or in high season you may have to stand. As a rule of thumb, try to arrive for your bus about 20 minutes before departure.

Crowds of people relax on the back deck of a large ferry sailing on the Aegean Sea, Greece.
Relaxing on the deck of a ferry while cruising the sea is an essential Greek experience © Jon Davison / Lonely Planet

Boat

Nothing really says to travel to Greece than standing on the deck of a ferry with the sun on your face. Ferries are the classic way to cross the country, with connections between the islands and the mainland during the summer months.

Boats range from the zippy catamaran variety to the slower, larger overnight ferry with cabins on board. Schedules are often subject to delays due to bad weather (note: this is a safety measure) as well as occasional union action, and prices tend to fluctuate. In summer, ferries provide regular connections between all but the most distant destinations; however, services slow down seriously in the winter (and in some cases shut down altogether).

Times are only announced just before the season, as companies compete for routes every year, which means different boats offer different services every year. Some large companies include Aegean Flying Dolphins, Aegean Speed ​​Lines, Blue Star Ferries, and Fast Ferries. Most outfits have local offices on many islands, and it’s usually worth booking in advance in high season when possible.

Plane

The country’s national airline Aegean Airlines and its subsidiary Olympic Air handle the vast majority of domestic flights on the continent. You will find offices wherever there are flights, as well as in other major cities. There are also several small Greek carriers, including Sky Express. A number of the larger Greek islands have airports.

There are reductions for round-trip tickets for travel between Monday and Thursday and larger reductions for travel that includes a Saturday evening. Find full details and timetables on airline websites.

Car and motorbike

Having your own car or motorbike offers the freedom to think outside the box and explore Greece at your own pace. The road network has improved tremendously in recent years, as has the country’s road safety record. There are also regular (although expensive) car ferry services to almost all of the islands.

However, road fatality statistics in Greece are still significantly higher than in the rest of Europe, and drivers should be very careful while driving. A growth in rental spaces has also seen parts of the country, especially some popular islands, be overrun with rental vehicles, leading to parking problems and congestion in island towns. Going to less visited places or visiting outside of peak season are two good ways to avoid making this problem worse.

When it comes to car rental, all major multinational companies, including Avis, Budget and Europcar, are represented in Athens; most have branches in major cities and popular tourist destinations. The majority of the islands have at least one point of sale. High season weekly rates with unlimited mileage start at around € 280 for smaller models, and drop to around € 150 per week in winter. You can rent a car on the islands for the day for around € 35 to € 60, all insurance and taxes included. Local businesses often have better deals than large multinationals, especially if business is slow.

As for motorcycles and scooters, these – often along with quads – tend to be available for hire wherever there are tourists to hire them. Most of the machines are new and in good condition. However, check the brakes at the first opportunity.

Prices start from around € 20 per day for a 50cc moped or motorcycle, going up to € 35 per day for a 250cc motorcycle. Out of season these prices drop dramatically, so use your negotiating skills. You must produce a license attesting to your aptitude to drive the category of bicycle you wish to rent; this applies to everything from 50cc. Helmets are compulsory. Expect gravel roads, especially on the islands; scooters are particularly prone to slipping through gritty turns.

Two mountain bikers cycling on a rocky coast on the island of Crete, Greece.  The sunset behind them means that only the silhouettes of the two cyclists are visible.
Two mountain bikers cycling on the rocky coast of Crete © Norbert Eisele-Hein / Getty Images

Bicycle

Cycling is not a particularly common mode of transport in Greece, but it is growing in popularity. You’ll need strong leg muscles to tackle the mountains, or you can stick to some of the flattest coastal roads. The island of Kos is the most cycling place in the country.

That said, cycling infrastructure nationwide is generally not the best. Bike lanes are scarce or nonexistent, and there is a real danger to cars – locals and tourists alike. Be careful on busy roads, which should be avoided as much as possible.

One advantage of crossing Greece on two wheels is that the bikes are carried free on ferries, although they cannot be taken on faster catamarans and the like, as there is simply no room for them. tidy.

You can rent bikes at most tourist spots, but they’re not as widely available as cars and motorcycles. Prices vary from € 10 to € 15 per day, depending on the type and age of the bike. Alternatively, you can buy decent mountain or touring bikes in major cities in Greece, although you may have a hard time finding a ready buyer if you want to resell them.

Accessible transport in Greece

Access for travelers with disabilities has improved somewhat in recent years, but mainly in Athens, where there are more accessible sites, hotels and restaurants. Much of the rest of Greece, with its abundance of stones, marble, slippery cobblestones and stepped lanes, remains inaccessible or difficult for wheelchair users. People with visual or hearing impairments are also rarely taken care of. Careful planning before you go can make all the difference.

Some good resources for accessible travel in Greece include Travel Guide to Greece, which has links to local articles, resorts, and tour groups for physically disabled tourists, DR Yachting, which offers sailing trips. from two days to two weeks around the Greek islands. in fully accessible yachts, and Sirens Resort, a family resort with accessible apartments, tours and boat ramps into the sea.

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