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Getting Around in Greece
 
 
 

By Air

Olympic Airways (www.olympicairlines.com) has a number of offices in Athens, though most travel agents sell tickets as well. It offers mainland service to Aktaion Preveza, Alexandroupolis, Ioannina, Kalamata, Kavala, Kastoria, Kozani and Thessaloniki. As for islands, Olympic services Astipalea; Corfu (aka Kerkira); Iraklion, Chania, and Sitia, Crete; Hios (aka Chios); Ikaria; Karpathos; Kassos; Kastellorizo; Kefalonia; Kos; Kithira; Leros; Limnos; Milos; Mykonos; Mitilini (aka Lesvos); Naxos; Paros; Rhodes; Samos; Santorini (aka Thira); Skiathos; Skyros; Siros; and Zakinthos. All of Olympic's domestic flights leave from the new international airport at Spata. Most flights are to or from Athens, although during the summer there may be some inter-island service. The baggage allowance is 15 kilos (33 lb.) per passenger, except with a connecting international flight; even the domestic flights generally ignore the weight limit unless you are way over. Smoking is prohibited on all domestic flights.

Over the years, several small private airlines have tried to compete with Olympic, but only one has survived to provide a real alternative: Aegean Airlines (www.aegeanair.com). They offer service at somewhat reduced prices between Athens and the major destinations in Greece, including Alexandroupolis, Chania, Chios, Corfu, Ioannina, Iraklion, Kavala, Kos Mitilini, Mykonos, Patras, Rhodes, Santorini and Thessaloniki. Foreign travel agents may not be aware of Aegean Airlines, so do check out their website. People who have been flying Aegean report being extremely satisfied with the airline's service, which they found reliable, safe and hospitable.

By Rail

Greek trains are generally slow but are inexpensive and fairly pleasant. The Hellenic State Railway (OSE) also offers bus service from stations adjacent to major train terminals. (Bus service is faster, but second-class train fare is nearly 50% cheaper and trains offer more comfortable and scenic rides.) If you are interested in special arrangements involving rail passes for Greece (sometimes in combination with Olympic Airlines flights within Greece), go to www.raileurope.com for further information. For information and tickets in Athens, visit the OSE office at 1-3 Karolou (Tel: 210-522-4563), or at 6 Sina (Tel: 210-362-4402), both near Omonia Square.

Purchase your ticket and reserve a seat ahead of time, as a 50% surcharge is added to tickets purchased on the train, and some lines are packed, especially in summer. A first-class ticket may be worth the extra cost, as seats are more comfortable and less crowded. There is sleeper service on the Athens-Thessaloniki route. Though the costly sleepers are a good value, you must be prepared to share a compartment with three to five others. Express service (6 hours) runs twice a day, at 7 am and 1 pm.

Trains to northern Greece (Alexandropolis, Florina, Kalambaka, Lamia, Larissa, Thessaloniki, Volos and other towns) leave from the Larissa Station (Stathmos Larissis). Trains to the Peloponnese, which is south, (Argos, Corinth, Patras) leave from the Peloponnese Station (Stathmos Peloponnisou).

The Peloponnese circuit from Corinth to Patras, Pirgos (near Olympia), Tripolis and Argos is one way to experience this scenic region, though the Athens-Patras stretch is often crowded. The spectacular spur between Diakofto and Kalavrita is particularly recommended for train enthusiasts.

By Sea

It is both cheap and easy to travel around the islands. There are ferry services on many routes, with sailings most frequent during the summer. The main ports in Attica are Piraeus and Rafina, although there are regular sailings to the islands from the smaller ports of Alexandroupolis, Igoumenitsa, Kavala, Kyllini, Patras, Thessaloniki and Volos. Tickets can be bought from the shipping lines’ offices located around the quaysides. In major ports the larger lines have offices in the city centre. There are two classes of ticket (First Class and Economy Class) which offer varying degrees of comfort; couchette cabins can be booked for the longer voyages or those wishing to avoid the sun. Most ships have restaurant facilities. During high season it is wise to buy tickets in advance, as inter-island travel is very popular.

Piraeus offers frequent services to most islands in the following groups: Argo-Saronic, Cyclades, Dodacanese and the Northeast Aegean, plus Crete and several other mainland ports. There are ferries to nearby Evvia from Rafina, plus to some islands in the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, and the northeast Aegean. Several other routes between the mainland ports and the islands are also covered.

A hydrofoil service (also called the Flying Dolphins) offers a fast and efficient service from Piraeus, travelling to many of the nearby islands. Although this is somewhat more expensive than travelling by ferry, journey times are cut drastically. Also, numerous types of yachts and sailing vessels can be chartered or hired with or without crews.


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