Air

The vast majority of domestic mainland flights are handled by the country's national carrier Aegean Airlines and its subsidiary, Olympic Air. You'll find offices wherever there are flights, as well as in other major towns. There are also a number of smaller Greek carriers, including Crete-based airlines Astra Airlines and Sky Express.

There are discounts for return tickets for travel between Monday and Thursday, and bigger discounts for trips that include a Saturday night away. Find full details and timetables on airline websites.

The baggage allowance on domestic flights is 15kg, or 20kg if the domestic flight is part of an international journey.

Bicycle

Cycling is not popular among Greeks – but it's gaining kudos with tourists. You'll need strong leg muscles to tackle the mountains; or just stick to some of the flatter coastal routes. Bike lanes are rare to nonexistent; helmets are not compulsory. The island of Kos is about the most bicycle-friendly place in Greece, as is anywhere flat, such as the plains of Thessaly or Thrace.

  • You can hire bicycles in most tourist places, but they are not as widely available as cars and motorcycles. Prices range from €10 to €15 per day, depending on the type and age of the bike.
  • Bicycles are carried free on ferries. You can buy decent mountain or touring bikes in Greece's major towns, though you may have a problem finding a ready buyer if you wish to onsell it. Bike prices are much the same as across the rest of Europe: anywhere from €300 to €2000.

Boat

Greece has an extensive network of ferries – the only means of reaching many of the islands. Schedules are often subject to delays due to poor weather and industrial action, and prices fluctuate regularly. In summer, ferries run regular service between all but the most out-of-the-way destinations; however, services seriously slow down in winter (and in some cases stop completely).

Domestic Ferry Operators

Ferry companies have local offices on many of the islands.

Aegean Flying Dolphins (www.aegeanflyingdolphins.gr) Hydrofoils between Athens, Aegina and the Sporades.

Aegean Speed Lines (www.aegeanspeedlines.gr) Superspeedy boats between Athens and the Cyclades.

Aegeon Pelagos (www.anek.gr) A subsidiary of ANEK Lines.

ANEK Lines (www.anek.gr) Crete-based long-haul ferries. Its Igoumenitsa–Patra route is now jointly operated by Superfast Ferries.

ANES (www.anes.gr) Old-style ferries servicing Evia and the Sporades.

Anna Express (www.annaexpress.eu) Small, fast ferry connecting the northern Dodecanese.

Blue Star Ferries (www.bluestarferries.com) Long-haul, high-speed ferries and Seajets catamarans between the mainland, the Cyclades, the northeastern Aegean Islands, Crete and the Dodecanese.

Dodekanisos Seaways (www.12ne.gr) Runs large, high-speed catamarans in the Dodecanese.

Fast Ferries (www.fastferries.com.gr) Comfortable ferries from Rafina to the Cyclades islands of Andros, Tinos, Naxos and Mykonos.

Glyfa Ferries (www.ferriesglyfa.gr) Comfortable short-haul ferry services between Glyfa on the mainland and Agiokambos in northern Evia.

Hellenic Seaways (www.hellenicseaways.gr) Conventional long-haul ferries and catamarans from the mainland to the Cyclades and between the Sporades and Saronic islands.

Ionian Ferries (www.ionianferries.gr) Large ferries serving the Ionian Islands.

LANE Lines (www.ferries.gr/lane) Long-haul ferries serving the Ionians, Dodecanese and Crete.

Minoan Lines (www.minoan.gr) High-speed luxury ferries between Piraeus and Iraklio, and Patra, Igoumenitsa and Corfu.

Patmos Star (www.patmos-star.com) Small, local ferry linking Patmos, Leros and Lipsi in the Dodecanese.

SAOS Lines (www.saos.gr) Big, slow boats calling in at many of the islands.

Seajets (www.seajets.gr) Catamarans calling at Athens, Crete, Santorini (Thira), Paros and many islands in between.

Skyros Shipping Company (www.sne.gr) Slow boat between Skyros and Kymi on Evia.

Superfast Ferries (www.superfast.com) As the name implies, speedy ferries from the mainland to Crete, Corfu and Patra. Its Igoumenitsa–Patra route is jointly operated with ANEK Lines.

Ventouris Ferries (www.ventourissealines.gr) Big boats from the mainland to the Cyclades.

Zante Ferries (www.zanteferries.gr) Older ferries connecting the mainland with the western Cyclades.

Bus

The bus network is comprehensive. All long-distance buses, on the mainland and the islands, are operated by regional collectives known as KTEL (www.ktelbus.com). Details of interurban buses throughout Greece are available by dialling 14505. Bus fares are fixed by the government and bus travel is very reasonably priced. A journey costs approximately €5 per 100km.

Services

Every prefecture on the mainland has a KTEL, which operates local services within it and to the main towns of other prefectures. With the exception of towns in Thrace, which are serviced by Thessaloniki, all major towns on the mainland have frequent connections to Athens. The islands of Corfu, Kefallonia and Zakynthos can also be reached directly from Athens by bus – the fares include the price of the ferry ticket.

Most villages have a daily bus service of some sort, although remote areas may have only one or two buses a week. They operate for the benefit of people going to town to shop, rather than for tourists, and consequently leave the villages very early in the morning and return early in the afternoon.

Practicalities

  • It is important to note that big cities like Athens, Iraklio, Patra and Thessaloniki may have more than one bus station, each serving different regions. Make sure you find the correct station for your destination. In small towns and villages the 'bus station' may be no more than a bus stop outside a kafeneio (coffee house) or taverna that doubles as a booking office.
  • In remote areas, the timetable may be in Greek only, but most booking offices have timetables in both Greek and Roman script and many bus stations are now posting them online.
  • It's best to turn up at least 20 minutes before departure to make sure you get a seat – buses have been known to leave a few minutes before their scheduled departure.
  • When you buy a ticket you may be allotted a seat number, printed on the ticket. The seat number is indicated on the back of each seat of the bus, not on the back of the seat in front; this causes confusion among Greeks and tourists alike. Often, the seat numbers are simply ignored.
  • You can board a bus without a ticket and pay on board, but on a popular route or during high season, you may have to stand.
  • The KTEL buses are safe and modern, and these days most are air conditioned – at least on major routes. In more remote, rural areas they tend to be older and less comfortable. Buses on less-frequented routes do not usually have toilets on board and stop about every three hours on long journeys.
  • Smoking is prohibited on all buses in Greece.

Car & Motorcycle

No one who has travelled on Greece's roads will be surprised to hear that the country's road fatality rate is one of the highest in Europe. More than a thousand people die on the roads every year, with 10 times that number of people injured. Overtaking is listed as the greatest cause of accidents.

Heart-stopping moments aside, your own car is a great way to explore off the beaten track. The road network has improved enormously in recent years; many roads marked as dirt tracks on older maps have now been asphalted and many of the islands have very little traffic. There are regular (if costly) car-ferry services to almost all islands.

Motorcycle Warning

Greece is not the best place to initiate yourself into motorcycling. There are still a lot of gravel roads, particularly on the islands, and dozens of tourists have accidents every year. Scooters are particularly prone to sliding on gravelly bends. Try to hire a motorcycle with thinner-profile tyres. If you plan to use a motorcycle or moped, check that your travel insurance covers you: many insurance companies don't cover motorcycle accidents. Another option gaining popularity on the islands is to rent quad bikes – they're slightly more expensive but don't require a motorcycle licence.

Practicalities

Automobile association Greece's domestic automobile association is ELPA.

Entry EU-registered vehicles enter free for up to six months without road taxes being due. A green card (international third-party insurance) is required, along with proof of date of entry (ferry ticket or your passport stamp). Non-EU-registered vehicles may be logged in your passport.

Driving licences EU driving licences are valid in Greece. Drivers from outside the EU may require International Driving Permits; while rental agencies will rarely ask for one, local authorities may if you're stopped. International Driving Permits can only be obtained in the country where your driving licence was issued.

Fuel Available widely throughout the country, though service stations may be closed on weekends and public holidays. On the islands, there may be only one petrol station; check where it is before you head out. Self-service and credit-card pumps are not the norm in Greece. Petrol is cheaper here than in many European countries, but expensive by American or Australian standards.

Petrol types:

  • Super leaded
  • amolyvdi unleaded
  • petreleo kinisis diesel

Hire

Car

  • All the big multinational companies are represented in Athens; most have branches in major towns and popular tourist destinations. The majority of islands have at least one outlet.
  • By Greek law, rental cars have to be replaced every six years, so most vehicles you hire will be relatively new.
  • The minimum driving age in Greece is 18 years, but most car-hire firms require you to be at least 21 (or 23 for larger vehicles).
  • High-season weekly rates with unlimited mileage start at about €280 for the smallest models (eg a Fiat Seicento), dropping to about €200 per week in winter. These prices don't include local tax (known as VAT).
  • You can often find great deals at local companies. Their advertised rates can be up to 50% cheaper than the multinationals and they are normally open to negotiation, especially if business is slow.
  • On the islands, you can rent a car for the day for around €35 to €60, including all insurance and taxes.
  • Always check what the insurance includes; there are often rough roads or dangerous routes that you can only tackle by renting a 4WD.
  • If you want to take a hire car to another country or on to a ferry, you will need advance written authorisation from the hire company, as the insurance may not cover you.
  • Unless you pay with a credit card, most hire companies will require a minimum deposit of €120 per day.

The major car-hire companies in Greece:

Avis (www.avis.gr)

Budget (www.budget.gr)

Europcar (www.europcar.gr)

Motorcycle

  • Mopeds, motorcycles and scooters are available for hire wherever there are tourists to rent them. Most machines are newish and in good condition. Nonetheless, check the brakes at the earliest opportunity.
  • You must produce a licence that shows proficiency to ride the category of bike you wish to rent; this applies to everything from 50cc up. British citizens must obtain a Category A licence from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (www.dft.gov.uk/dvla) in the UK (in most other EU countries separate licences are automatically issued).
  • Rates start from about €20 per day for a moped or 50cc motorcycle, ranging to €35 per day for a 250cc motorcycle. Out of season these prices drop considerably, so use your bargaining skills.
  • Most motorcycle hirers include third-party insurance in the price, but it's wise to check this. This insurance will not include medical expenses.
  • Helmets are compulsory and rental agencies are obliged to offer one as part of the hire deal.

Road Conditions

  • Main highways in Greece have been improving steadily over the years but many still don't offer smooth sailing.
  • Some main roads retain the two-lane/hard-shoulder format of the 1960s, which can be confusing and even downright dangerous.
  • Roadworks can take years and years in Greece – especially on the islands, where funding often only trickles in. In other cases, excellent new tarmac roads may have appeared that are not on any local maps.

Road Hazards

  • Slow drivers – many of them unsure and hesitant tourists – can cause serious traffic events on Greece's roads.
  • Road surfaces can change rapidly when a section of road has succumbed to subsidence or weathering. Snow and ice can be a serious challenge in winter, and drivers are advised to carry snow chains. In rural areas, keep a close eye out for animals wandering on to roads.
  • Roads passing through mountainous areas are often littered with fallen rocks, which can cause extensive damage to a vehicle's underside or throw a motorbike rider.

Road Rules

  • In Greece, as throughout Continental Europe, you drive on the right and overtake on the left.
  • Outside built-up areas, traffic on a main road has right of way at intersections. In towns, vehicles coming from the right have right of way. This includes roundabouts – even if you're in the roundabout, you must give way to drivers coming on to the roundabout to your right.
  • Seatbelts must be worn in front seats, and in back seats if the car is fitted with them.
  • Children under 12 years of age are not allowed in the front seat.
  • It is compulsory to carry a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and warning triangle, and it is forbidden to carry cans of petrol.
  • Helmets are compulsory for motorcyclists if the motorcycle is 50cc or more. Police will book you if you're caught without a helmet.
  • Outside residential areas the speed limit is 120km/h on highways, 90km/h on other roads and 50km/h in built-up areas. The speed limit for motorcycles up to 100cc is 70km/h; for larger motorcycles, 90km/h. Drivers exceeding the speed limit by 20% are liable to receive a fine of €60; exceeding it by 40% costs €150.
  • A blood-alcohol content of 0.05% can incur a fine of €150, while over 0.08% is a criminal offence.
  • If you are involved in an accident and no one is hurt, the police will not be required to write a report, but it is advisable to go to a nearby police station and explain what happened. You may need a police report for insurance purposes. If an accident involves injury, a driver who does not stop and does not inform the police may face a prison sentence.

Hitching

Hitching is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don't recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who do choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs; they should let someone know where they are planning to go. In particular, it is unwise for women to hitch alone; women are better off hitching with a male companion.

Some parts of Greece are much better for hitching than others. Getting out of major cities tends to be hard work and Athens is notoriously difficult. Hitching is much easier in remote areas and on islands with poor public transport. On country roads it is not unknown for someone to stop and ask if you want a lift, even if you haven't stuck a thumb out.

Local Transport

Bus

Most Greek towns are small enough to get around on foot. All the major towns have local buses, but the only places you're likely to need them are Athens, Patra, Kalamata and Thessaloniki.

Metro

Athens is the only city in Greece large enough to warrant the building of an underground system. Note that only Greek student cards are valid for a student ticket on the metro.

Taxi

Taxis are widely available in Greece, except on very small or remote islands. They are reasonably priced by European standards, especially if three or four people share costs. Many taxi drivers now have sat-nav systems in their cars, so finding a destination is a breeze as long as you have the exact address.

Yellow city cabs are metered, with rates doubling between midnight and 5am. Additional costs are charged for trips from an airport or a bus, port or train station, as well as for each piece of luggage over 10kg. Grey rural taxis do not have meters, so you should always settle on a price before you get in.

Some taxi drivers in Athens have been known to overcharge unwary travellers. If you have a complaint about a taxi driver, take the cab number and report your complaint to the tourist police. Taxi drivers in other towns in Greece are, on the whole, friendly, helpful and honest.

Train

Trains are operated by the Greek railways organisation OSE. The Greek railway network is limited; its northern line is the most substantial. Standard-gauge service runs from Athens to Dikea in the northeast via Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli. There are also connections to Florina and the Pelion Peninsula. The Peloponnese network runs only as far as Klato, with bus services to Plata for ferry connections.

Due to financial instability, prices and schedules are very changeable. When you can, double-check on the OSE website. Information on departures from Athens or Thessaloniki are also available by calling 1440.

Classes

There are two types of service: regular (slow) trains that stop at all stations, and faster, modern intercity (IC) trains that link most major cities. The slow trains represent the country's cheapest form of public transport: 2nd-class fares are absurdly cheap, and even 1st class is cheaper than bus travel.

The IC trains that link the major Greek cities are an excellent way to travel. The services are not necessarily fast – Greece is far too mountainous for that – but the trains are modern and comfortable. There is a cafe-bar on board. On some services, meals can be ordered and delivered to your seat. The night service between Athens and Thessaloniki also offers a choice of couchettes, two-bed compartments and single compartments.

Train Passes

  • Eurail, Inter-Rail and Rail Plus Balkan Flexipass cards are valid in Greece, but they're generally not worth buying if Greece is the only place where you plan to use them. For IC and sleeper cars, a costly supplement is required.
  • On presentation of ID or passports, passengers more than 60 years old are entitled to a 25% discount on all lines, except in July and August and over the Easter week.
  • Whatever pass you have, you must have a reservation to board the train.