Greece's railway system covers some 2,500km, but many of the lines were originally laid down around the turn of the century and were paid for by the km, which means that train can be slow and a bit meandering. Though it's wise to ask how many hours your train trip will last (ticketmasters will not volunteer this info), keep in mind that there is a charm to overnight trains and first-class sleeping compartments.
Some lines, especially the Athens-Thessaloniki run, have been revamped for express trains and travel time between Greece's two major cities can be as little as six hours. It's a good idea to buy tickets for express trains a few days in advance, however, as these trains are new, comfortable and very popular
The main ticket and info office for the Greek Railroad Organization (OSE) in downtown Athens is at 6 Sina St. Both the Larissa train station (for trains heading north or abroad) and the Peloponnese station (for trains heading south) are located on Theodorou Deliyani St. For info by phone, try : OSE (6 Sina St.) 362-4402; Recorded Timetables 145 [if calling outside the Athens area add the area code 01].
The only way to get to many islands is by ferry or, far quicker (weather permitting), hydrofoil or catamaran. Ferries for nearly every habitated Aegean island leave from either Piraeus or Rafina; the Ionian islands are served primarily from the western port of Patras.
If you like to fend for yourself, ferry schedules are published in several Greek dailies and the English-language weekly "Greek News". The Greek National Tourist Organization provides a ferry scedule updated weekly. If you encounter difficulties, most travel agents can provide assistance. If you consider taking your car to the islands - or if you need a cabin - be forewarned: ferries fill quickly in July and August, especially around the Assumption on August 15.
Hydrofoils and catamarans are run by two companies in Piraeus and Rafina: Ceres and Ilios Lines. Ceres boasts the best maintained, most efficient (there are rarely delays) and smoke-free fleet; it services over 20 destinations in the Saronic Gulf, the Peloponnese and the Sporades, primarily from Marina Zea in Piraeus, but also from Volos, Aghios Konstatntinos and Thessaloniki. Ilios Lines' fleet is based in Rafina and serves the Cycladic islands. Some phone numbers that can be of use:
Athens and its outkirts are linked by a web of bus and trolley lines, and you can get maps of these lines at the Greek National Tourist Organization as well as specific verbal info on major routes as to which "number" bus or trolley to take for your destination. Bus and trolley tickets are GDR100 (US$0.40) each and can be purchased at special booths and kiosks near the bus stops.
Once you are on the bus or trolley, validate your ticket by asserting it into one of the meters for that purpose; the ticket will be punched and dated. Then keep the ticket until you leave the bus, since it's not uncommon to have a ticket-checker to check their validity (if you are found that you haven't punched your tickets, you're required to pay a GDR1,500 (US$6.60) fine.
There are serveral major bus terminals for destinations outside central Athens; at the Zappeion, for instance, buses go south to Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza. Many buses leave from the huge bus stop at Academias and Sina Strs to the northern suburbs of Halandri, Psyhiko, Maroussi and Kifissia. All buses have their route number and destination on the front.
Athens' metro system is now being expanded. Limited in terms of destinations as the metro is currently, it does manage to connect Piraeus with downtown Athens and the northern suburb of Kifissia with some major stops -(such as the one at the Olympic Stadium) on the way.
Trains run every four minutes during rush hours and no less frequently than every ten minutes at all other times (expect between midnight and 5:30am, when the metro is closed). Metro tickets are purchased at the stations and will cost either GDR100 or GDR150 (US $0.40-0.50), depending on how far you are going. For a map, go to the GNTO office (see appropriate section).
Taxi fares begin at GDR200 ($0.80) and all cabs have meters (if the driver does not turn the meter on, remind him/her to do so). All taxis also have charts in Greek and English on their dashboard, explaining the changes you can expect to incur for baggage, the airport surcharge (only coming from the airport and not going at), rates between midnight and 5am (charged at a faster meter rate), holiday surcharges, etc. Tipping is neigher expected nor practiced, though it's customary to round off the fare. Taxi drivers, by the way, tend to smoke like fiends; feel free to put their cigarettes out, but don't expect a courteous reply.
Although you will occassionally see signs for taxi stands in central Athens, you'll seldom find taxis there. Getting a cab in Athens on the street is usually a matter of flagging it down and calling out the areat or street where you are going as they approach you (make sure you "mouth" your destination clearly, because the driver won't slow down very much). It is rare to get a cab to yourself during rush hours, so expect other people to be in the cab or to pick up others heading in the same direction after you're already in. When you piggy-back like this, you'll still pay the normal rate, with the meter (conceptually) beginning at GDR200.
If you have to be somewhere and want to reach your destination on time with a taxi, it's advisable to call one. Your hotel can certainly do that for you, but if you want to do it yourself or if you are not in your hotel, there is a number of reliable and efficient radio taxi fleets operating in Athens. All radio taxis are metered, and their meters also begin at GDR200, however, radio taxis tack on an extra GDR300.
Some of the following radio-cab fleets require as little as a 15-minute waiting period between the time of your call and their arrival, but all will require that you speak a bit of Greek. A list of them is:
A short list for fares:
Back to HERCMA main page