LivingTravelThe Greek ferry system

The Greek ferry system

Traveling by ferry or hydrofoil in Greece can be a great way to cut your travel budget and make the most of your trip to Greece. And while in the past it was difficult to book ferry and hydrofoil tickets in advance, thankfully the Greek ferry industry has made it much easier to find routes and times and make reservations.

Important things to know

Although the Greek ferry industry has made improvements, it is still not perfect. Prepare by keeping a few points in mind. One is to get to the port early because the ferry can leave early. Also, know that the ferry can be canceled: the risk is higher for the last boat of the day, particularly with hydrofoils.

You will make a better trip if you are fully prepared, so buy your ticket in advance; In general, you must buy your ticket before boarding, and sometimes the ticket office may not be that close to the ship. Also, the food options on board are usually adequate but limited, so you may consider bringing something to eat. A canteen will generally offer sandwiches and other basic items; larger hydrofoils have better facilities, while smaller ones offer even less.

Ferry companies tend to operate within island groups, but cannot travel between them. This can result in the need to use some strange routes to get to the islands that the map shows as close neighbors.

Tips on the ferry website

The “search boxes” on some websites are very demanding in terms of spelling and the underlying rules of Greek grammar. For example, on one website, the search for ferries leaving from Heraklion did not return anything. But upon entering ‘Crete’ a timetable appeared for a ferry departing from Heraklio (an alternate spelling). The port of the city could also have been included in Iraklio or Iraklion (also alternative spellings). Your chances are often better if you are only using the name of the island rather than the name of a city on the island.

And remember that the name “Chora” applies to dozens of major cities on different islands; make sure the result is for the island you want. Still nothing appears? Try alternative spellings.

The right website for you

Even if a website seems inclusive, they usually only include a few Greek ferry lines. Try another site if you don’t get results.

The GTP website is one of the best for routes within Greece. Greek Ferries focuses more on ferries to and from Greece. Paleologus Shipping also provides online reservations, although you must allow time for your tickets to be delivered. (For the more adventurous, this site even offers help finding a place on a vagrant ship.) Their site is a bit more complicated to use, but it includes information and routes not found elsewhere. Ferries in Greece offers a good selection and lists hundreds of comments from satisfied customers, including those to whom they sent their tickets by international mail.

Ferries in Greece also send text messages when they know of a ferry delay.


Dear guide:
My boyfriend and I are going to Greece in early September, and since neither of us have been to Greece, we are using a travel agent. Our agent has us flying from Athens to Crete, and then back to Athens so we can depart for Santorini (our next destination on the island).

My question is, do you think we could take a ferry that would leave Crete (ideally) late in the day or at night to Santorini instead of flying back to Athens so that we could fly to Santorini?

My second question is that we could take a ferry, could you recommend a website where we can find information on departure times and prices?

We would like to reduce additional expenses such as airfare, without sacrificing large amounts of time, as we are in Greece for only ten days.


Dear NSC

Thanks for your letter.
With only ten days in Greece, many travelers won’t want to sacrifice time on ferries instead of using airplanes. But in your situation, it will save you time and money. This page should get you started – Hydrooils and Ferries times in Greek change in September, so check your dates, but I did a random search for the 15th using the Greek Ferries website and found one in Minoan that would take you from Heraklion around 5pm and drop off in Santorini around 9pm.

This is an ideal example of a cheap, short hop that replaces a possible airport experience. In this case, it will take you less time by ferry than getting to the airport, flying back to Athens, catching another plane, and then flying to Santorini.

Note: The reader’s letter has been edited for length and clarity.

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