A Road Map to Greece: How to easily navigate Greece and her islands
Hello Wanderers! I was recently asked by a fellow blogger about the best ways to get around Greece. After our conversation I thought back on my own adventures and how intimidating it can be to try and navigate through a country when you’ve never been there before. Just the idea of how to get from point A to point B can be overwhelming. So what better way to help others then to share my own knowledge?
For those who are brave enough to rent a car and drive in foreign cities, my hat’s off to you. The best advice I can give is to research local laws to make sure you know what side of the road you should be driving on, basic speed limits for city vs. highway driving (don’t expect posted speed signs anywhere you go. I think in all the time I lived in Italy I saw a speed limit sign once and it was turned the wrong way so as not to be seen by approaching drivers.), as well as any other quirky rules said country may have. It’s always better to spend the time reaching then paying fines.
If like me, the thought of jumping behind the wheel in a foreign country doesn’t leave you warm and tingly, you’re in luck; because Greece offers great public transpiration options. Whether you’re on one of the many islands or on the mainland, a collection of buses, boats and subway systems will get you where you want to go.
When I went to Greece last summer I started my trip by flying into Crete from Rome. My friend and I started the farthest distance out and worked our way to the main land stopping at Santotini and Mykonos before flying to Athens. We arrived via a budget airline; there are a couple that fly from Rome to Crete as well as other locations in Greece. We started in Chania on the west coast and took the local bus to nearby beaches and other attractions. The city itself is easy to manage by foot and every hotel, shop and restaurant will have maps to offer should you leave yours behind. I will admit that the freedom of a rental would be nice if you want to reach some of the farther beaches along the western coast. There are buses but they can have limited time options even in the height of summer tourism season.
From Chania it was easy to take a coach bus to Heraklion, it’s an easy drive and good alternative to renting a car. Local city buses can get you out to the Palace of Knosos and back. There is a dedicated bus that will take you from the main bus depot and end at the palace. Buses go every 15-20 minutes during high season. The one thing you need to be aware of is that to pick up the bus you need to be on the right side of the large round about that acts as the main bus hub. It was a little tricky at first but don’t feel shy to ask the bus drivers. They were more helpful than the guy selling tickets (at the newspaper stand). Once we found the right side of the street it was easy.
You have several options on how to get from island to island depending on what islands you’re trying to get to. Ferries are the most popular options though the big ones like Santorini and Mykonos, have small airports if you are willing to pay a little more. The ferry from Heraklion (the main port in Crete) to Thera in Santorini took about 90 minutes. Book your tickets ahead of time! This is important as they can sell out fast and if you’re not in high season you may be out of luck for the day. Ticket prices change depending on time of year as well but figure around $70 US for a one way. Check out Ferries in Greece for more info.
Once on Santorini, buses again will be your best friend. There is a main station in Thera that will take you everywhere you want to go. Schedules are posted out front on printer paper but these are more guide lines then actual times. It’s always better to be early! Buses will not wait for you and as best you can, know what the name of your destinations is so you can ask for help and/or know when to get off. I went from Oia to Kamari, in the south eastern side of the island, with no problems. Buses on Santorini are fun but not for the faint of heart. Think big coach bus on the smallest narrowest mountain side road you can imagine…with oncoming traffic.
Another ferry took us to Mykonos, again around 90 mins. Mykonos has a system of buses as well as boats that can get you around the island. From the ferry docks you’ll either take a public bus or a taxi to the old harbor. Smaller ferries can take you out to Delos from the old harbor in under an hour, make sure to by a round trip ticket as the island itself is rather on the sleepy side.
From Mykonos to Athens you can take another Ferry or you can fly. I choose to fly as the boat was longer and about the same price. I figured save some time and fly. The underground system in Athens was built for the Olympics and has been maintained very well. They uncovered so many artifacts while building the underground that many stops have been turned into on location museums. The one by my hotel had what looked like a small neighborhood uncovered that you could look down into. Bus tours to outlining attractions can be found all over the city. One of the big ones is at Monastiraki. Get off at Monastiraki metro stop and go above ground to the main square. Across the square are a ton of tourist offices offering every kind of package you can imagine. If you like to be on the prepared side, you can check out Viator. Viator is a sub company of Trip Advisor and can help you pick tours. As always it’s important to give yourself more time then you‘ll think you need. Greece has been known to go on strike but usually they will give notice before striking. We flew out of Athens toward Croatia (Another country I highly recommend). If you’d like to know more on Croatia let me know and I can go over transportation or places to see.
It’s a good idea to talk to your hotel or Airb&b host if you have questions or aren’t sure about how to get somewhere. Everyone I met in Greece was incredibly friendly and helpful. I always make sure to ask locals where ever I go what recommendations they have on where to go and how to get there. They are your best guide to what form of transportation to take and which to avoid.
Quick facts about Greece's public transportation
· Local bus tickets pretty much everywhere in Greece, a one way fair was 1.60 euro. This makes it easy to know ahead of time how much cash to have on hand. If you’re going out of the city then prices will be different. Most prices are posted at the station.
· You can buy your tickets on the bus for inter city travel. A person usually comes by once as many people as possible have been crammed on the bus. It’s actually impressive to see.
· Bus tickets are CASH ONLY (local bus). It’s important to carry small bills due to the low cost of the tickets.
· Arrive early! Buses might not always be on the schedule posted but they will not wait for you. If a station does have posted signs (think train station style) then they will leave EXACTLY at the time posted.
· If flying they will weigh/size your carry on! Small airports and small planes will need to weigh your bags and if it is either too heavy or too big in size they won’t let it on as carryon. You’ll have to check your bag.
· Small airports mean little options. Airports like Mykonos have little to offer so don’t expect shops or restaurants to be open at all times.
· Bring water! Greece can be hot with little shade so bring water everywhere.
Greece has an amazing collection of activities that will appeal to every kind of traveler. It is truly a must see and it’s my hope to take the stress out so you can enjoy your trip! Let me know if you have questions, comments or additional information you’d like to share on Greece.
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