I would appreciate advice on traveling from the Athens Airport to Monastiraki. I am wondering if it would be prudent to change our plans from the Metro to a taxi. We will be arriving at the airport around 5 pm, from Seattle after a long-ish layover at CDG. We have always used public transportation on our travels, and will have one carry-on each. I have directions to our hotel (Hotel Plaka) by Metro. I've been reading in the forum about pickpockets and the Metro being very crowded. I'm assuming we'll be tired when we leave the airport. This is our first trip to Greece, and our first trip without language skills in the country we are visiting. What do the Greece veterans think? Metro or taxi? Thanks, as always, for your thoughts.
Very simple ... do what I always do, arriving tired. Take the X95 to Syntagma Square -- €6 each, or half-price for Senior Citz. IMHO, much easier, more relaxing than Metro. The train starts at Airport empty, but by time it gets to Syntagma, it's PACKED, and you have to be on the alert to struggle with your rolling carry-on thru the crowd & out the door before it closes & moves on. Not to mention the pickpocket thing.
By contrast, X95 bus is right at the Airport Building Curb between exit doors 4 &5. It goes every 20 minutes or so that time of day (at night, every 40 minutes). There is a little kiosk? desk? where you buy your ticket. When u get in the Bus, there's a pole-mounted BOX -- stick the ticket end inside to get it stamped (Validated). There's a big central "pen" in the bus where everyone piles their big bags. Once the bus takes off, there is I believe only ONE stop, at The Holiday Inn Attiki Avenue about half-way to Syntagma (and only if there's someone to drop off). Thus, no pickpocket hazard.
If bus is packed when u arrive at curb, wait a few minutes, there will be another. That way you can get a seat (more comfortable than NY or Philly busses). YOu can drowse or even snooze almost all the way to Central Athens (about 1 hour). Bus route ends on RH side of Syntagma, at uphill corner., right at curb. Since it is last stop, no rush to collect things and get off. You are quite close to your hotel -- look at this good online map http://www.orangesmile.com/destinations/img/athens-map-big.jpg (click & it gets huuuge -- to orient yourself, use side &bottom "sliders" to locate Acropolis). Find Syntagma (Sindagma) Square N.E. of Acropolis. Walk WEST on Mitropoleos (its level or downhill), just past THE Mitropoleos (that means the Big Cathedral), I believe Hotel Plaka is just 2 corners beyond LARGE sign on hotel on LH side of street, entry is just aroun the corner. It is NOT in MOnastiraki, considered to be in Plaka district.
LUckily for you, in Greece, English-speakers do not need language skills -- today, Greek Schoolchildren start English lessons at age 6, and most people under 40 are reasonably fluent... CERTAINLY in Athens! IF you even use a few guide-book phrases like Good morning, good night, thank you, it is very well received , with smiles(unlike Paris where they frown & correct your pronunciation).
The only part of your entire journey that is at all problematic is -- ugh, Charles De Gaulle. After severl bad experiences, I vowed never to change in CDG again. However, fortunately, you have an extended layover, so you will not be sabotaged the way most Air-france users are, when the airline assures them that 90 minutes is adequate layover. Never again.
Thank you Janet! You are right, I misspoke (mis-wrote?) in my question. The hotel directions say to take the Metro from the airport to the Monastiraki Metro Station. While this station is closer to the hotel, when I looked at the distance from Syntagma Square to the Hotel it is just a 6 minute walk. The bus looks like an excellent solution. Your advice is really appreciated.
As for CDG, we actually enjoy the airport but only because we always give ourselves extra long layovers (3-4 hours). We never chance the 90 minute window they recommend - we've met too many people at the airport who missed their connecting flight due to this.
Since you will be getting on the Metro at the airport you will be the first to board. Because of this you can easily find safe seats and protect yourselves from pocket pickers because they won't be able to get next to you. Pick seats where you can keep your bags with you. The Plaka Hotel is so close to the Monastiraki Station it would be a shame not to take advantage of that.
ALWAYS be hyper-vigilant on public transportation in Athens and don't sling anything over your shoulder behind you. Keep it in front of you.
We did the metro, but we'd spent a couple of days in London first, so some of our jet lag was behind us. We got in about the same time you're arriving and what threw us a little was the fact that the same destination can be spelled different ways. I wasn't ready for that, as we had to switch lines. And then when we climbed out of the metro it was dark. But that's when we discovered the best part of Greece; everyone is so kind and wants to make sure you're on the right track. In your situation, I think I'd go with Janet's suggestion because you've got the visual as you travel. I am also a big fan of Google Street view ahead of time if you can.
Glad I could be helpful ... and I'm happy to see that others think the bus is OK too. It's especially good for brand new arrivals. The first 30-40 minutes you can snooze because its the usual boring entry into a big city (car dealerships, auto bodyshops etc), but as you get close, the game begins, how soon can you see the Acropolis? There it is! Then more buildings, there it is again!
And as for Monastiraki Station ... you would have to change trains to get there, and that's a little disconcerting for your first encounter with the subway. BTW, at Monastiraki the pickpocket hazard is not just on the train. A good friend of mine, also a regular on these 3-4 Greece forum, found that out the hard way. He lost his wallet on the escalator coming UP from the platform ... and he was a vet of 10+ Greece trips!!
We've always used the Metro and never had any problems with it as far as pick pockets or any type of violence. It does happen, however, pick pocketing more so than violence which is very rare, so use common sense like you would anywhere you are traveling. The cost is 8 euros each or if 65 or older 4 euros. Since it's the beginning of the run to Central Athens you get the best choice of seats. Yes, the Metro does get filled up at each stop and as you get closer to Central Athens. The Metro is clean, modern and for the most part always on time. There are maps of stops throughout each train and there will be an announcement with the name of the stop. In addition there will be name signs at each stop.
One thing you may or may not like is getting up close and personal with locals on the Metro. It may be a good opportunity to meet Greek people. You can also do that on the bus but the Metro does get filled and everyone is right there next to you. Whether you like that or not it does give you a feel for the Greeks!
I've never taken the bus from the airport but have used buses throughout Greece and they are for the most part modern and safe.
A big factor is how close your accommodations are to the bus/Metro stops.
Janet is a pro on Greece so I would take her advice but if you want to use the Metro I feel it's a very good option.
By the way we are scheduled to connect at Charles DeGaulle on the way back. It's a 1 hour and 45 minute layover. We've done it before with an even shorter lay over and did not miss the next plane.
Tommy I have taken BOTH, many times, and judging from what they say, I think for a first time, the bus is right for them. Later in the trip, maybe, Metro.