LivingTravelHow to take the ferry from Athens to Santorini

How to take the ferry from Athens to Santorini

Getting to Santorini by ferry, docking at the bottom of the cliffs that form its famous volcanic caldera, is impressive, especially in the late afternoon. But if you’ve never taken a ferry from the ports of Athens, it can be intimidating. Here’s everything you need to know to jump from island to island like an old hand.

The first thing to know about taking a ferry to any Greek island is that if you are a nervous traveler who likes to have everything fixed, paid for and ordered in advance, you should probably fly to Santorini. Schedules posted in advance online are not always accurate; They change at least annually and often seasonally. Canceled departures caused by last minute changes in the weather can also ruin your busy schedule.

Travelers Tip: If you book a hotel independently and then don’t make a ferry connection for the day you’re supposed to arrive, you’ll still have to pay for your room. To avoid that eventuality, use a Greek travel agent to book both your hotel and your ferry tickets. The agent will be legally obligated to take you on vacation. Agents selling only ferry tickets have no such obligation and are not online, booking agents for ferry tickets only.

For independent travelers

There is a long tradition of travelers searching the docks, everyone from backpacking students to families loaded with luggage with children in tow, and boarding a ferry. If you can be a bit flexible and are willing to book your ferry a day in advance, in person, or even buy your ticket at the docks just before boarding, you should be fine. Except around the Easter holidays (Greek Orthodox Easter) and August, when Greek families take vacations on the island, foot passengers can almost always jump on a boat.

Traveler Advice: Always travel as a foot passenger. The ferry fare will be much cheaper and you can rent a car, moped or scooter for a very cheap price when you arrive. Also, if you take a car by ferry to Santorini, you will have to negotiate a terrifying road down the side of the caldera with seven hairpin bends.

What kind of ferry?

Santorini, or Thira, as the Greeks know it well, is a long way from Athens and whether you choose a fast or slow boat, you must allow most of the day for travel. There are several types of ferries:

Traditional Ferries: Sea ferries travel between Athens and Santorini. These are modern cruise ferries that carry up to 2,500 people, as well as hundreds of cars and trucks. They feature airline-style seating, private cabanas, restaurants, and bars, as well as some outdoor deck areas. It takes seven to almost 14 hours to reach a puddle bridge that visits eight other islands before reaching Santorini.

The professionals

  • You have the feeling of a real sea cruise. You can have a drink or a meal and do some shopping.
  • Most of the ships stop at several different islands before reaching Santorini so you can take a quick look at how different they are and see what life is like on port side, although there is not enough time to disembark to take a look.
  • You don’t have to book in advance and you can usually buy your ticket on the day of travel or the day before.
  • Traditional ferries are much cheaper than speedboats.

The cons

  • Take a long time
  • There are only one or two daily departures from any company, so if you have bought a ticket and later lose your boat, you will lose an entire day of your vacation.

Speedboats : hydrofoil or jet ferries travel at speeds of between 35 and 40 knots. Most are catamarans, although there are some older jets that are monohulls. They can carry between 350 and 1,000 passengers and some also carry vehicles. Depending on how many island stops they make, they take between four and a half and five and a half hours. There are lounges where you can have drinks and snacks.

The professionals

  • They shave about three hours off their trip.
  • They are easier to book well in advance.

The cons

  • They cost about twice as much as a conventional ferry. (See below).
  • There is no outdoor space. You spend most of your time tied to an airplane seat.
  • Because there is no deck space, you will miss the dramatic arrival at the bottom of the cliffs, one of the highlights of any trip to Santorini.
  • Some people find speedboat motion uncomfortable and motion sickness can be a problem.
  • They are more likely to be canceled due to bad weather than conventional ferries.

Which port?

Piraeus , on the south coast of Athens, is the port that most people choose. It is the closest to Athens and has the largest selection of boats throughout the year. The green line of the Athens metro runs from the city center (at Monastiraki) to Piraeus, with the station directly opposite the main ferry terminal. The trip takes only 15 minutes and the fare is € 1.40 (in 2019, for 90 minutes anywhere on the public transport system). Since the Athens metro starts running at 5:30 am, that leaves you plenty of time to get to the port, buy a ticket (if you haven’t bought one in Athens or at the airport yet), have a coffee and board as soon as possible. ferries (some leave at 7 am and others at 7:30 am).

Rafina, north of the city, is only 16 km from Athens International Airport and there is a bus service from the airport to the port. Rafina only serves boats to Santorini during the summer months, and then only two speedboat services a day.

Ferry companies

These are the main ferry companies serving from the port of Athens to Athinios, Santorini, in 2019. The rates quoted are based on a mid-week sailing in June. Please note that ferry times and rates change frequently:

  • Blue Star is the largest operator on this route, operating very large but modern conventional ferries from Piraeus to Santorini. The round trip fare for a foot passenger is 108 euros for economy with limited availability, special economy and super economy class fares from 98 euros and up to 170 euros for the ferries that take you to Santorini first thing in the morning. late. Their trips last between eight and nine hours.
  • Zante Ferries operate two island-to-island ferries a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Trips last 12 hours and 20 minutes and visit 8 other islands before finally arriving in Santorini. Fares start at € 39.50 per deck seat, one way. That means there are no reserved seats, but you can sit in any public area. This is quite a long journey, so it is probably worth investing for a reserved seat in a more spacious salon. Economy round-trip seats cost € 169.60.
  • SeaJets runs four high-speed jetboats per day from Piraeus, with round-trip fares in 2019 between € 189 and € 211 depending on the ship and the number of stops. The trip lasts between four and a half and five and a half each way. Some return trips take up to an hour longer.
  • Golden Star Ferries operate several high-speed ferries a day between Piraeus or Rafina and Santorini. The trip takes their «Super Ferry» takes between five hours and 15 minutes and almost seven hours and round trips cost between € 129.60 and € 144. They also run a very slow Rafina puddle jumper that lasts for nine hours and 25 minutes but it only costs around € 116.60

Reservation and purchase of tickets

Unless you’re determined to spend more than expected to save a few hours on a jet boat or high-speed ferry, reserving your ferry far in advance is unnecessary and often not even possible. Ferry booking websites and ferry websites often contradict each other, are incomplete (or the information available in English is incomplete), and are notoriously unreliable.

Instead, check the schedules online to get a rough idea of when you want to travel, then wait until you arrive to purchase your tickets from a local ticket agency. They’re available:

  • At the airport There is a ticketing agent in the arrivals hall of the Athens International Airport. Aktinia Travel Services is open 24/7, can give you information about the latest scheduled departures and sell you tickets.
  • Throughout Athens you will find branches of travel agencies and ticketing agencies in tourist areas, near Syntagma Square and probably near your hotel. Look for the Amphitrion Agency, they have offices in the center of Athens and in Santorini. Or just ask at your hotel for the closest reliable ferry ticket seller – they really are everywhere.
  • In the ports Ferry companies maintain ticketing offices near the docks and there are literally dozens of ticketing agents on the ground near the ships. In Piraeus, there is even a ferry ticket seller at the metro station and one just outside.

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