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Questions about Greek island travel and using an agency

Hi everyone,
I posted once before about an Greece/Italy trip this summer. We have decided since then to make it a Greece trip. So we have 10 days in Athens and the islands. I have a few questions that I would LOVE help with if anyone has advice. There will be myself, my two teen daughters and possibly my mom. Here are my questions:

  1. Do we need to use a Greek Tavel agency to plan the trip? Someone had recommended that but not sure it it's necessary? I am slightly confused on the whole ferry thing and don't want to make housing reservations before I know what days ferrys run, etc.... so I am wondering if anyone can make suggestions as to whether I should have an agency help or try to figure it out myself? I feel like I am spending a ton of time researching and not getting anywhere:)
  2. We have 7-8 days on the islands, with a couple on Santorini, which are the other best ones to visit? And if we fly to santorini at the beginning of the trip, and go to some islands, what is the best way to get back to Athens after a few days?
  3. Should I book bed and breakfast or air bnbs on the islands ahead of time? Not sure where to even find places to stay there.

Thank you!
Abby

Posted by
21041 posts

One option for your lodgings is to use a website like booking.com. It lists some apartments and small B&B-style places as well as hotels. You can set up filters for certain key characteristics, including price range. There are many other perfectly acceptable options, but I always start with booking.com. When I find a place that looks workable, I try to locate its own website. Occasionally you'll find different room options there that might fit your travel party better, be cheaper, or perhaps include a free breakfast.

But as you decide on what towns you want to stay in, people here will probably be able to offer advice based on recent experience. You'll need to tell us your price range to get really useful advice, though.

Can't help with ferry info, but I'm sure the folks who have such knowledge will spot this thread and respond.

Posted by
6 posts

We went to Athens and Mykonos just last September. My time on the island was my favorite! The beaches and the ocean are clean and beautiful. We went to a friend's wedding so we didn't have to do much in the way of researching places to stay. We flew back to Athens on Aegean airlines. My understanding is that ferries can get delayed easily due to rough seas. The flight is fairly inexpensive. We used Air Bnb for our lodging in Athens and it was amazing. We found a lovely 2 bedroom apartment for about $140 per night in the Neos Kosmos neighborhood.

Get the Rick Steves guidebook for Greece! If I get to go back, I'd love to go to Hydra. There are no cars.

Julie

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you for your kind responses!
I am looking at spending no more than about 100-125 a night of possible. There are so many options of where to stay and go I am just feeing kind of overwhelmed and need someone to tell me what to do:) ha ha.
Is there a website to book ferry tickets on in advance? I am not sure if I should book ferry tickets and then make housing reservations after I know which days the ferries run?

Posted by
21041 posts

You definitely need to be sure which days the ferries run (or flights operate if you choose to fly) before finalizing hotel plans. I don't think you need to book ferries far in advance; they are large ships. Perhaps if you're looking at a hydrofoil or something like that to cover a very short distance?

I believe I've seen the GreekFerries.gr website suggested here, but there are a lot of websites with similar names, so that may not be the one. No harm in doing some preliminary checking, though.

Posted by
2856 posts

Abby, if you want best advice, share more. VERY important - what are exact dates of your trip??? This will make a BIG difference in your ability to book lodgings -also, does your 10 days include arrival/departure? You cannot count Arrival day unless you arrive by 9 or 10 am, and departure day not at all. What kind of lodging specifically -- are you looking for a "Quad" room? Or a "studio unit" that holds 4? (This would be a BR, and a main room w. 2 daybeds + kitchenette). If few places have availability -- which WILL happen in high season -- are u ok with 1 room for you and sep. room for Teens. None of us wants to work up scenarios and suggestions that prove to be unhelpful, due to facts not known. If u can tell us more, we can be more useful.

Posted by
21 posts

Here you go Janet with my specifics: thanks for asking me to clarify.

Arrive in Santorini morning of the 12th of JUNE (coming from Rome)
Stay there 2 or 3 nights.
Head to Naxos or Sifnos for 2-3 nights and then back to Athens on the 19th.
Spend 2 days exploring Athens and head home on the 22nd of June.
Do people prefer Naxos or Sifnos?
We aren't into the big party scene and would like to experience Greek culture.
Is it better to fly or take the ferries in between islands?
As far as housing, we love air bnbs that are quaint and clean. We don't need a luxury hotel. Would probably prefer a 2 room place but totally fine sharing a room with 2 queen beds. Breakfast included is good too.
I mainly want to know if I need to book ferry tix and then book lodging? I don't want to book lodging and find out that ferry doesn't run that day.

Thank you
Abby

Posted by
1722 posts

There are multiple ferries between Santorini and Naxos every day. I don't know about Sifnos.

You cannot easily fly between the islands as the flights only go between Athens and certain islands.

We are taking ferry to Naxos from Santorini and then flying from Naxos back to Athens to save time but there is a ferry that runs every day back to Athens as well.

Beth

Posted by
21 posts

Does anyone know if I need to book the Naxos/Santorini ferry ahead of time or can I just buy tickets for it a couple days in advance once I am on the island? Thank you

Posted by
2856 posts

Abby, thanx so much for details that enable us to help you - Now, if ONLY the RS site would tweak software so we could reply while also seeing past messages!!! Currently when one hits "reply" everything vanishes but original post. Thus, I must have 2 screens open. Grrr. Anyway, since what you want "quaint & clean" & economical rooms. For 4, you hope no more than 125 per night -- assuming that's $$; it means €102. BTW, it's thoughtful to quote in Euros, too; use this quick site- http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/ Thats $60+ per room in June; doable in Naxos, u may have to go UP in Santo/Athens. But I can help if you act TODAY; do not dither! Here are the AREAS I advise for your bunch (u + mom + teen girls), AND my best bargain Gems -- I have checked them on booking.com for availability --- However, if you contact them DIRECT, (and DON'T fill out a form, write a very courteous E-MAIL, compliments help, and tell what you want. They save the agency % fee, and they'll love you all the more. Normally if you book direct, u get best rate with no deposit & cancellation w.o. penalty if you give sufficient advance notice.

SANTORINI - FIROSTEPHANI - http://mapsof.net/santorini/thira-island-santorini-map - This is the "goldilocks spot" Avoids cruise crowds & tour busses, but easy walk to FIRA highlights, quickie bus to OIA. My bargain is just feet off the caldera view, lovely family-run place, breakfast, free transp to ferry AND use of next-door Pool!! VILLA FOTINI - https://santorinivilla.com This AM it shows several "doubles" available for June 12-14 (some w. double bed, but the girls could share). It only has about 10 rooms, so feel OK with daughters next room. Rates about $70-80 - but the pool use is GOLD. Contact NOW & say janet from Philadelphia sent you! IF you miss out, a Fallback is the pool hotel, https://www.hotelmargarita.gr a bit farther from rimside View, but also a bit lower rates.

NAXOS - ST GEORGE/Ag. Giorgios Beach - Beach directly adjacent to Port town -- check it on "skymap" http://www.skymap.gr/apps/site/viewmap/?mapid=29&cid=305 -- best of both worlds, not overcrowded, quiet at night, but a few minutes walk to town attractions. Beloved by teens -- they can safely wander into town, plus frequent bus to other beaches. NOTE: Many r Small family-run places 8-12 rms, perfectly safe to have teens in adjacent rms. Most have kitchenettes & balconies w views. Use booking.com with search terms "Agio Giorgios Beach Naxos" for Dates of June 14-19, and 2 adults/1 room (you see more choices than if you say 4 adults 2 rooms). 40+ choices: filter "lowest price first." To see location, click on a random hotel and then click "show on map" -- & do ++ to make big. U'll see ALL available hotels, WITH prices for 5 nites. for €50 per room or less (€250/5 nites) in good locations my Faves are LEFKES STUDIOS, SIGMA STUDIOS, GALAZIA STUDIOS ... Also check AEGEON, 100 yards further off beach but has pool plus a unit for 4 (twin beds & 2 sofabeds). My own gem, NOT on Booking.com, is STUDIOS NAXOS - https://www.studiosnaxos.com (on booking.com map it's next to Panormos Hotel). June rates may be going up, were about €40/double. If u email, say Janet/Philly sent you.

ATHENS -- On booking.com Put in Dates 6/19 - 6/21, Destination as "Acropolis" filter by Lowest price first. Click a hotel, then click "Show on Map" to see ALL available places AND prices. My own GEM, PHAEDRA Hotel has rooms. direct site = http://www.hotelphaedra.com Do NOT use form, send polite e-mail - say Janet sends you, explain needs. If PHAEDRA can't help, use that booking.com GoogleMap for well-located hotels or some apartments now renting thru book.com. Remember, click + repeatedly, to show all available places.

GOOD LUCK -- Book NOW - don't hold off until Mom is for sure. once u have a booking, if things change & u must "tweak" (i.e. Mom doesn't come), then hoteliers likelier to work out a change.

Posted by
21 posts

Hi Janet
Thank you SO much for all the great information on Greece. This saved me hours of research.
I booked rooms for us at the villa Fotini on Santorini, rooms at the Sigma studios on Naxos and the Pension Eleni in Nafplio. I also emailed the hotel you mentioned in Athens ( the name is slipping my mind). We are really looking forward to our trip and now I am much less stressed as we have somewhat of a plan in place:)
If we want to take the ferry from Santorini to Naxos, can we just book that once we are in the island?

Thank you again

Abby

Posted by
2856 posts

I'm so glad you got Villa Fotini! Give my LOVE to Maria (and tell her I hope to get back there in 2019 ... her Parents own the place, she manages it, she's a lovely young woman, fluent in English, College grad & licensed teacher -- she'd be off teaching school, except parents depend on her; there's also a son. You will LOVE the place -- Mama hangs sheets to dry, crisp, white, just like your grandma did. There's a rooftop terrace. A further thoughtful touch I have found nowhere else, including deluxe places ... they have a water cooler in the lobby with icy chilled water to refill your daybag bottle. What could be nicer!

NAXOS - Sigma is a great location -- I stay 30 feet from there, at Studios Naxos. The 2 tavernas on the beach (Kavouri, Nikos) are great places to have 1st dinner... tables right on the sand, watch the sundown there. Aaah. NAFPLIO - Mme Eleni will win your heart with her 10 words of English. Bravo! ATHENS - It's Hotel PHAEDRA, and I wish you good fortune in finding the rooms you need. If you do book, please give my fondest regards to Mgr., Marianna Manolatou, and tell her I hope to see her next May. She's a gem. The guys at the front desk there don't speak much English but they'll do anything for you! And the rooftop terrace there is THE Best place, with canopied tables, to bring your breakfast, a lunch sandwich, a sundown beverage ... and the View!

FERRY/ SANTORINI Yes you can buy tix on arrival and Of course you want to take the ferry Santorini- Naxos -- There are 2 choices: AM (about 10:30) is a "fast-ferry" arrives about 12 -- Champion(?); all 500 seats inside but it has back outside deck to stand for photos on departure. It's 2x as expensive as "regular" ferries. PM (3:30) BLUE STAR, a big (1500-1800 pass, 250 vehicles) -- buy "economy" (deck) tix for your 2-hr "mini-cruise". Here's the strategy for best experience: Get to dock at least 45 mins before departure... you'll walk into a long "Shed"; go to FAR end next to exit and grab seats!! (many times there are big Japanese tour-groups and believe me! They push/shove). Ferry staff guards door -- when they open, have the girls scamper ahead with their bags (they'll stash them on steel racks on the vehicle level). When u catch up, send girls ahead to run up escalator/steps to back deck to snag seats for all 4 of you.

TRAVEL to ATHENS? Flight takes 45 minutes, ferry to Piraeus takes 5.5 hours .. you decide; but if you want to fly, book NOW -- because only 2 flights per day, 40 passenger max in small modern turboprop planes. BLUE STAR daytime sail is 9:45-3 pm, eats up middle of a day! Another alternative is their "sunset sailing" 6 PM - 11:30 or so. FOr this long sail, you'd get a "reserved economy" seat for €5 more. You can of course sit on deck anywhere you find a chair, but after sunset, you can go indoors to your reserved seat -- upholstered/leanback/footrest- tray table ... everything an airplane seat SHOULD be but isn't. Then u can rest, snack, nap until arrival. If u choose this, ask at agency for seats in SIDE compartments ... much quieter.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you so much for the responses and advice.
Janet, I appreciate your advice again, so helpful as well as everyone else's advice on here. It has made planning SO much easier.
One more question, does anyone have recommendations for the tickets to must see museums and places in Athens? We have 2 days there so want to make the most use of our time.
Thank you!!

Posted by
106 posts

Hello Abby,

I think it is not necessary to have a travel agency make your bookings. It might be confusing when you don't know the destination you are heading but by reading some reviews you'll get eventually the best value for money accommodation for you. You could find some places you'd like to stay online and make the booking yourself. Have faith and positive energy... Everything will work out fine :) Technology has made things so much easier today. Santorini can easily be combined with Paros, Naxos, Ios, Mykonos, Amorgos or even Crete (that is a bit more distant). You might want to check out this e-pass with the Hellenic Seaways ferries. Naxos is really interesting if you are seeking ancient ruins and general sightseeing. Ios and Mykonos has a vivid nightlife. Ios has younger travelers, there are also plenty of beautiful chruches! Mykonos has a great variety of visitors and gets too crowded during the summer. Some say that it is better to visit Santorini and Mykonos in June or September but I don't mind cause I always try to find some off-the-beaten path things to do. Paros is my favourite island. Great beaches, quality bars and restaurants, elegant, relaxing. It has everything you'll need. It is just opposite Naxos. Another favourite is the hidden gem called Koufonisia <3