The most popular way to get to the Greek Islands is to take the ferry. Some islands have airports, but most do not so ferries to the Greek Islands are many times the only way to get to the Greek island of your dreams.
Athens Ferry Ports
If you are flying into Athens and then taking the ferry to a Greek island, you can leave from one of three ferry ports. For some islands, you can only leave from one of these three. Piraeus Port is the most popular and is the busiest. The other two are Rafina and Lavrio. Rafina is closer to the airport than the other two.
Depending on the island you are going to, choosing the closest departing port is a good idea. There are fast ferries in Greece but they are usually more expensive than the slow ferries. If you get seasick, then we recommend a slow ferry as they are usually more stable in the water.
Ferries Between Islands
Ferries between the islands are more frequent during the high season. Although if you are going to an island that is further away or in another set of island chains, you may have to make a few stops or change ferries. This is part of the fun of taking the ferry in Greece though. You may see another island you want to check out on your next trip. Be sure to look out the windows at each port or get on deck to see the hustle and bustle of a Greek island port.
Ferry Cost and Booking
The ferry cost varies wildly depending on whether or not you are taking a fast ferry or a slow ferry and the length of the trip. The price is higher if you are driving a vehicle on as well. You can also book business class tickets or a cabin on some ferries, which may be worth it if you need to work or sleep. The prices are pretty fixed and do not fluctuate during the year, so don’t worry about who to book with.
You can book your tickets by going to the ferry office at the port or there are a few third-party online booking agents. If you reserve your ticket online, you will still need to get a physical ticket. You can do this via courier or going to the port office. During high season (July-September), some routes fill up quickly so it’s better to book in advance.
What To Do If Your Ferry is Canceled
Ferries can be canceled for a variety of reasons. The two main reasons are ferry strikes and weather. Strikes are usually announced in advance by about a week. This gives you time to change your tickets and hotel reservations. You will need to evaluate your plans and determine how to alter your trip. For the ferry tickets, you may be able to just change them to the day before or after the original ferry. However, during the high season, this may be more difficult. You can find out about ferry strikes directly from the ferry operator, the booking site, or from the English site of this Greek newspaper.
Our recommendation is that you change your ferry as soon as you know about the ferry cancellation. You will also need to change your hotel reservations. Some hotels will change your reservation with no fee and others will not. This is why we recommend having travel insurance.
If your ferry is canceled due to weather, you will likely have little or no notice at all. We were in Milos once and we sat at the ferry terminal for five hours before they decided to cancel. There were high winds so we were not surprised. However, they never came to update us on the status until they told us it was officially canceled. We walked down to the ferry operator’s office once or twice for updates but it was all up to us. The most important thing they told was not to leave because if they decided to go, they wouldn’t wait.
Our advice is to stay at the ferry terminal until a person that works for the ferry operator or the port police tells you it’s canceled. Never trust another traveler, as they may not have the correct information.
What to Expect Onboard
Getting onboard a Greek ferry can seem like organized chaos. The only time it might be calm is if you are the first pick up or drop off of the day. When boarding, you will be directed to a place to put your luggage. It will usually be based on which island you are going to. Don’t worry, no one will steal your bag and it won’t fall overboard. Just put it where you are told. You can take it up with you but there may not be an elevator or escalator down.
When getting off, you need to head down when they make the announcement for your island. This is because they won’t wait and you could be stuck on board till the next island. You will be allowed to gather your luggage at this time, as the ferry docks. Be ready to go down the ferry ramp quickly but carefully as it can be slippery from being wet. You will feel rushed but it will be okay.
Now, enjoy your time on the island!