I just returned from a week long adventure with some babes to Greece! Namely we stayed in Athens and visited a few islands, and this will be brief, but there were some major convenience highlights for me that I think anyone traveling to Athens should know about. I’d like to post again about this trip, so this post will mostly focus on transportation and navigating Athens itself.
When planning this trip I noticed there were several of the same packaged trip being advertised, a ferry deal to get to three islands in a day. I was originally excited about this, but if you have the time, I recommend taking on an island a day. This way you get the relaxed and laid back feeling the islands are supposed to convey to you; most are quiet with stretches of beaches dotted with cafes, and rushing through to sightsee or maximize your exploration might rob you of the idyllic satisfaction I think Greece has for everyone. A cheaper alternative to the deals offered to you through travel agencies is to book your own ferry ticket directly from one of the companies. We used Hellenic Seaways for both our trip to Hydra and to Agistri and simply booked our tickets online for both. When you get to the port there is an office to pick up your passes, which I’ll cover more below.
Remember, this would be the easier way to visit islands close to Athens, like Poros, Aegina, Hydra, Agistri, etc. For trips to islands like Mykonos or Santorini I highly recommend going longer than a day and considering flying, so as to give yourself enough time there to enjoy it. These islands are a bit further from Athens and a one day trip would be mostly eaten up by your travel time.
So you’ve booked your ticket and you are not staying in Piraeus or in walking distance to the port? Metro it is! We stayed in Monastiraki Square, which proved to be an amazing hub of night life and convenience. Piraeus is the end of the metro line, so it’s fairly easy to navigate your way there; your signs will say Piraeus and so will the train itself. From the Monastiraki stop, about halfway up the line, it took us about 20 minutes to reach Piraeus. I recommend that you leave your room or apartment or hotel about 90 minutes before your ferry is scheduled to leave, this gives you plenty of time to orient yourself on the Metro, get your ticket, and line up in the recommended 30 minutes before departure. (The port is big so take into account walking to your gate.)
So when you reach the Piraeus metro station (one way tickets are 1.20 euro), exit to the left and turn right, towards the water. There’s a small alley to cross before you can see the street crossing to the port, but once outside the station you can easily see the cruise ships and ferries marking the port.
Even from here you can see a giant white building across the street; this is the Hellenic Seaways office and where you can print your tickets if purchased online. They will direct you to your gate and ship, but the Hellenic Seaways ferries usually leave from Gate E8.
If you’ve only bought one way, most of the islands also have offices to buy your way back. In Hydra this office is right down the alley by Alpha Bank, in the main port street.
Once you reach your island of choice, you can roam the drop off point as it usually has restaurants and shops, or you can ask the water taxi operators about nearby beaches and rates. In Hydra there were several options for beaches including within walking distance, and the sea taxi fare ranged from 6 euro to 75, depending of course on distance and access to the requested beach. We went somewhere nearby and spent the afternoon in our own private cove for just 6 euro, and as it’s an established, albeit remote beach, there were taxis coming and going until we left after sunset, so transportation was a cinch.
Safe and exalted travels, friends!