The most popular way to travel by sea in Greece is to take ferries between Greek islands. Some islands have airports, but many are only accessible by boat.
Keep reading to learn how to navigate the ferry system in Greece and what to expect once you’re on board.
All aboard, let’s dive in!
What Are Greek Island Ferries?
Ferries are the main source of transportation between Greek islands and mainland Greece. Many of them are mini cruise ships with comfortable seating and food courts on board. Depending on which boat you’re on, you may have the option of sitting outside, in airplane-like reclining seats indoors, or a luxury first-class lounge with couches and tables.
Some of the ferries also carry vehicles. So, if you’re island hopping with a car or a campervan, you can take it along.
How Do You Navigate the Ferry System Between Greek Islands?
The ferry system between Greek islands is easier than it may appear. Let’s take a look at the ports, how to book tickets and the cost.
Athens Ferry Ports
You can travel to the Greek islands from one of three ferry ports in Athens: Piraeus, Rafina, or Lavrio. Piraeus Port is the most popular and the busiest. It services most islands. The other two, Rafina and Lavrio, have fewer departures and arrivals. Rafina is the port closest to the airport, and Piraeus is the easiest port to get to from the center of Athens.
When you search for ferry timetables, you’ll notice differences in the lengths of trips for the same route. That’s because there are fast ferries between Greek islands and larger ships that go slower. If you get seasick, we recommend a slow ferry as they are usually more stable in the water. And seats on the slow ferries are typically cheaper.
Ferries between Greek islands are more frequent during the high season, July through September. 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.
Part of the fun of traveling on a ferry in Greece is that you may see another island you want to check out on your next trip. If the ferry stops at an island before your destination, be sure to go out on the deck to watch the hustle and bustle at the port.
Greek Island Ferries Booking
You can book your tickets online or by going to the ferry office at the port. We like to use FerryHopper, as it’s user-friendly. If you reserve your ticket online, you will still need to present a physical ticket when boarding. You can get a paper ticket via courier or by going to the port office, or some routes allow an e-ticket.
During high season (July to September), routes fill up quickly, so it’s better to book in advance.
Cost of Ferries in Greece
The ferry cost varies depending on the route and whether you’re taking a fast or slow ferry. And if you’re driving a vehicle on the ferry, there will be an additional charge. 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 for each ferry company are pretty fixed and do not fluctuate during the year, so don’t worry about where you book. But you’ll want to book in advance for travel during the peak season, July to September.
What Happens If My Greece Ferry Is Canceled?
Ferries between Greek islands can be canceled for a variety of reasons. The two main reasons are the weather and strikes.
Weather in the Greek Islands
Weather can be unpredictable anywhere. And while Greece is known for its sunshine and amazing weather, the sea can have a mind of its own. It can get extremely windy, causing boats to dock until it passes due to massive waves.
If your ferry is canceled due to weather, you’ll likely have little or no notice at all. For example, I was in Milos once and sat at the ferry terminal for five hours before they decided to cancel. There were high winds, so we weren’t surprised. However, the port staff didn’t update us on the status until they told us it was officially canceled. We walked to the ferry operator’s office several times for updates, but they were watching the weather and waiting and didn’t want to call it until it was absolutely necessary. The most important thing they told us was not to leave because if they decided to go, they wouldn’t wait for passengers.
Pro Tip: Stay at the ferry terminal until a person that works for the ferry operator or the port police tells you it’s canceled. Don’t rely on other travelers in these situations because they likely have incorrect information. Only the port staff will know what’s going on.
Greece Ferry Strikes
Ferry worker strikes are common in Greece, so it’s best to have a plan in place in case one occurs during your visit. Strikes are usually announced in advance by about one week. This gives you time to change your tickets and any hotel reservations that may be affected. You can find out about ferry strikes directly from the ferry operator, the booking site, or the English website of the Greek newspaper, Ekathimerini.
Don’t let the potential of ferry strikes worry you. While you’ll need to evaluate your plans and determine how to alter your trip, it’s typically easy to change them to the day before or after the original ferry. However, during the high season, adjusting your accommodations may prove more difficult.
Be Flexible and Keep Calm
The key is to be flexible and ask questions when unsure of what to do due to a ferry cancelation. Travel agencies in Greece can be a resource if needed. If you’re staying in Athens, there are many travel agencies throughout the city. And if you’re on an island, there are typically travel agents near the port.
Pro Tip: Change your ferry as soon as you know about the ferry cancellation. You’ll also need to change your hotel reservations. Some hotels will change your reservation with no fee, and others will not. This is why travel insurance is highly recommended.
What Is It Like Onboard Ferries Between Greek Islands?
Getting onboard a Greece ferry can seem like organized chaos. It might only be calm if you are the first port of the day. But overall, it’s a fun experience with amazing views.
When boarding, you’ll be directed to a place to put your luggage. It will usually be based on which island you are going to. You don’t need to worry about your bag being stolen, and it won’t fall overboard. If you’re traveling with a carry-on only, you can proceed to the seating area.
On board, find your seat if you booked an assigned seat. Some boats have the option of booking a ticket for the outside deck, which is open seating. The bigger the ship, the more types of seating will be available.
Most ferries between Greek islands have a coffee bar and bakery. And the larger ships have restaurants and gift shops. Each ferry has toilet rooms.
Once the ferry arrives at your departure port, you’ll hear an announcement that it’s time to disembark. You’ll be allowed to gather your luggage as the ferry docks. Be ready to go down the ferry ramp when the doors open but be careful as it can be slippery from being wet.
Now, it’s time to enjoy the island!
Are you ready to book a ferry for Greek island hopping?