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Travel within Greece

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Greece in April/May of 2019. We went to Italy in 2018 and found that getting around the country was extremely easy and pleasant due to their train system. It appears that this may not be the case in Greece. Can anyone give us any suggestions on the best way, other than renting a car, to get around within Greece? Are the trains really bad?

Thanks!

Posted by
17005 posts

As I recall, it's more that there just aren't many trains, though it's probably still true that the trains are rather slow Buses are used for many trips.

To see what your options are for each leg of your planned trip, you can start with Rome2Rio.com. You cannot trust its travel times, frequencies or fares, but it's usually reliable about whether train service or bus service exists at all. You need to drill down until you find the nams of the company operating each bit of transportation, which will usually be accompanied by a link to the company's website. A bit of patience will often turn up an online schedule. Googling is also often effectve: Bus Athens to Nafplio.

Posted by
5847 posts

Honestly, we never considered trains nor were they recommended to us by our Greek Athens based travel agent. I have never heard of anyone using trains. You will use ferries and flights to get to the islands and Crete, and a car of buses for getting around the Pelponnesean Peninsula and Crete. If you use trains, please report on it here as I don't think it is common knowledge or perhaps, there aren't many options for trains.

Posted by
754 posts

You need to provide a lot more info. Where do you want to go: mainland or the islands?

If the mainland there are buses that will take you to major and sometime not major parts of Greece. Getting to an island could be either a boat or a plane. Once on an island there are buses but sometimes the service is limited or geared to school and/or work hours. Taxis are available but tend to be very expensive and really not a whole lot of fun other than getting from Point A to Point B.

If you really want to see Greece . . . either the mainland or island then a rental is your best option. You'll find the roads for the most part to be good and in many areas, especially off-season not a whole lot of traffic, depending on where you go.

I've never taken a train so can't speak on them or where they even go. I've used buses on a number of islands and from Athens to Nafplio. The buses are mostly good, clean, safe and very inexpensive but limits you where you can go and schedule could be all over the place.

Your best bet is to rent a car . . . you'll have true freedom to explore anywhere you go, take your time, stop for the innumerable photo ops, take a side road to a more traditional Greece and just have the freedom to go at your own pace.

For the most part all you need is a basic economy car which will be relatively inexpensive. You don't have to rent a car for your entire stay where ever you go but you'll have the opportunity to go to out-of-the-way Greece where tourists don't venture.

Posted by
2416 posts

As others have said, trains are virtually nonexistent. THe intercity Bus network (KTEL) is modern and very efficient and used by all classes of people, tourists and greeks -- some Americans from certain areas have little experience of intercity busses, but should be aware that they are a big part of transit system on Mainland, Peloponnese & large island like Crete (which is almost a country in itself)

You need to look at a couple of good Guidebooks to understand how travel in Greece really works; not enough tiime or space to give you a complete briefing here. And also, you need to tell us how many days you have (NOT counting arrival day or departure day) because advice would be very different if y ou have only 10 days or 21 days. Browse all the guides in your local library, then buy a copy of the one(s) taht you find most useful.

A satisfactory trip of say, 15-17 days, may involve domestic flight(s), several ferry rides, a KTEL bus, AND car rental for a few days. Example: • On arrival, fly domestic to farthest island (Crete?); spend 4-5 days there, using KTEL bus or car rental to explore • Ferry to Island #1, use local bus or a days car rental there. • Ferry to Island #2, use local bus, taxi or walking • Ferry or domestic flight back to Mainland (ATH airport) • Car rental to mainland destinations such as Delphi or Argolid area (OR KTEL bus) • Athens Finale: NO car rentals (impossible traffic & parking, besides, major landmarks are all grouped closely for walking). • Departure = taxi or express bus or Metro to Airport. I have done trips similar to this a number of times.

See what I mean? Transportation is complicated! And Logistics are a priority before Accommodation. FIRST, figure out which are your "must" destinations feasible within your trip length (keep in mind changing locations, no matter how close will eat up half a day each time). NEXT: Learn about bus schedules, flight availability (mainly Aegean/Olympic or Sky Express), ferry schedules... and on a map insure that your wish-list of places can be done in sequence (i.e. -- it makes no sense to want to go to Corfu and Rhodes, in the same trip.... look at a map & see why). STAY FLEXIBLE: Don't Lock yourself in to Lodgings: Always take the room rate that provides for cancellation/date alteration without penalty. Once you've developed a sequence, and know the transport options to get you from place to place, only then do you book lodgings.

When you have a feasible sequence, we can help you with transport suggestions, and (if y ou are specific about dates, and budget ranges), also about hotels/pensions etc. Dive in, get your feet wet (metaphorically), and planning can be fun! Best of Luck! I hope to be there next Spring as well.

PS: You rent a car when you reach a destination, you don't rent a car on arrival in Greece & try to take it on ferries. No can do.

Posted by
16782 posts

Train routes are pretty much limited to the solid lines shown on our map. So Athens-Meteora or Athens-Thessaloniki are the most likely routes you would consider by train. KTEL Public buses run widely but schedules cannot always be confirmed in advance. As Janet described, stay flexible and confirm as you go.

Outside of Athens, driving is not particularly difficult, although parking can be limited in smaller towns.

Posted by
1 posts

You should really consider renting a car as the roadways have greatly improved over the past years in Greece.
I used a company called Imperial Car Rental in Greece and they were pretty good.
https://www.imperial-car-rental.com/en-Car-Rental/Greece/
I also used them in Cyprus https://www.imperial-car-rental.com/en-Car-Rental/Cyprus/
Croatia https://www.imperial-car-rental.com/en-Car-Rental/Croatia/
and Albania https://www.imperial-car-rental.com/en-Car-Rental/Albania/ (I do not recommend driving here)
They were very well priced and the service was great. The cars were in good condition except for Albania, it was quite old and communicating with them was very difficult.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks so everyone for all of the information. I am still putting together our itinerary and determining how long this vacation should last. It appears that transportation in and around Greece is going to be more challenging than it was for our trip to Italy. I was thinking of just giving up and doing a cruise, but am just not happy with that since the cruise companies only take you to selected locations for brief periods of time. Thanks again!

Posted by
394 posts

BTW if you're considering renting a car in one Greek city and returning to another, there seem to be large one-way drop off fees. We also found picking up and returning a car in the city of Athens really stressful; if doing this again we would just go with an airport rental location instead, even though it's a bit farther from most destinations.

Posted by
4506 posts

The Greek bus system works ok if you are making a round trip to popular destinations around Athens, like Delphi, Corinth or Nafplio. But going from town to town gets tricky. Don't expect to be able to make a whole visit based on buses. If your intention is to make a loop of some kind, figure on renting a car. Greek roads are good and well marked and pretty easy driving. Rent at the Athens airport to avoid Athens traffic, though even the beltway can be nerve-wracking.

There are also tour groups that go to the major tourist destinations. If a car is out of the question for you, look into a group as they will handle all of the transportation.

Posted by
2796 posts

You might try contacting Fantasy Travel or Dolphin-Hellas Travel, both in Athens, about organizing a tour for you. They might have options and solutions you aren't aware of.

Posted by
432 posts

The only trains in Greece are one train line between Athens and Thesaloniki, some commuter train lines that go from Athens into the suburbs which are not useful to most tourists, and the one or 2 subway train lines in Athens. One of these subway trains goes from the Athens airport to syntagma square in Athens and the other way and leaves every hour; a bus from the airport to Athens leaves every 20 minutes. Here is how to get around Greece without renting a car: Use rome2rio.com and maps.google.com to find approximate directions within greece; write your directions and print some maps. Look for the public transportation option on the websites. You will end up mainly take buses, and possibly the subway in Athens. Use the map websites to find walking directions from your hotels to the bus stations. Write the directions and/or print maps and mark the location of the bus stations and your hotels, in pencil. Put all your maps and walking directions in a ridgid plastic folder. Put the folder in your airplane carry-on bag.

Posted by
14004 posts

What about taking the RS tour of Athens and the Peloponnese? I did that last year and loved it. There are still spaces available for a few April/May dates.

Posted by
5847 posts

Why won’t you consider driving? Much of Greece is rather rural. We saw so many wonderful places that public transportation would have made difficult to visit.

Posted by
432 posts

Public transportation is significantly cheaper than renting a car. My rough ballpark estimate is, renting a car in Greece would cost us $80 to $160 a day, total - consider the base price of the car, gas, freeway tolls, parking fees, and so on. I do have a Michigan drivers license; I drive near my home, but Greece probably has much better public transportation than anywhere in Michigan; why spend money renting a car if you don't have to?

Posted by
2416 posts

That's a big overestimate, Mike the overthinker. In April-May rents are cheaper, and for 2 people not wanting to have anSUV to scale mountain roads, you can get a small car full y insured for under 50 per day... and they aren't going to be driving 200 miles per day. In May 4 years ago, we estimated €60 pr day including petrol, tolls & insurance. NEVER had to pay parking fees, because did not drive in Athens.

Posted by
1119 posts

if you do rent a car, get one that takes diesel. Will reduce gs costs significantly. We had one gas and one diesel and saw the difference.

Posted by
1565 posts

I have just returned from a two weeks trip in Greece. We had a small Nissan Micra from Enterprise for € 450 all inclusive. Gasoline is expensive (about € 1.65 / liter) and tolls are not to be underestimated (about € 0.10 / km, but the distances are not large.) The bus system is good, but has the big drawback that it is radiating from few centers (Athens, Patras, Thessaloniki), and if you do not have to travel to the center, but from one point of the periphery to the other, it will be very time consuming. BTW, diesel is cheaper than gasoline but rents for diesel cars are higher.