Island hopping around Greece sounds like pure bliss – and it is! But the process of booking multiple ferries to get you between each one can be daunting. If visiting some of the Greek islands is on your solo travel bucket list, then here’s my 5 tips to book Greek ferries for your first island hopping solo trip!
1. Get your islands sorted!
The hardest part is trying to decide which of the Greek islands to visit.
So, you ask, “Which are the best Greek islands to visit?” There are so many, and each one with its own qualities that I couldn’t possibly answer that.
You may just pick based on which you’ve heard about or want to visit, but you should take the ferry routes into consideration. You may not be able to hop from one to another as easily as you thought. It may require a change or even going back on yourself.
If you’re thinking of an island-hopping then it’s a good idea to group the islands. For example, you could focus on some of the Cyclades islands and visit the likes of Santorini, Naxos, Milos or Paros.
You could choose the Sporades islands and spend time on Skaithos, Skopelos or Sykros. For my islands trip, I chose the Cyclades including Santorini.
2. Where to book your ferry tickets
Once you’ve decided on which Greek islands to visit, you should start familiarising yourself with platforms and companies where you can book your Greek ferry tickets. Some are easier to use than others.
You can also choose to book directly with the ferry companies themselves.
If you want to hop around a few islands, the sooner you start looking to work out your routes and timings, the better.
• Is it worth booking direct?
In some cases it may be worth booking your tickets directly with ferry companies. They may have special offers that are not available on third-party sites. It can also be easier to change or amend tickets without having to incur further admin fees through an agency or other website.
Also, if there’s any delays or cancellations, you may be better off with a direct ticket as you could be accommodated first onto a replacement ferry.
• Is it worth booking in advance?
If you have to stick to a schedule during your island-hopping trip, it’s best to purchase tickets in advance. If you’re going in the peak summer months, you’ll find it busier so it’s best to have your tickets to minimise issues with buying them as you go.
On the other had, if you have more time and want the flexibility to leave an island when you feel like it, then book as you go.
For booking your ferry direct
For booking your ferry with third-party websites
3. Ports and routes
If you’re starting your island-hopping trip from Athens, you have three ports to choose from depending depending on where you’re going – Piraeus, Rafina and Lavino. Piraeus is the largest of the ports followed by Rafina and Lavino:
• Piraeus is the busiest port in Athens. It has a busy timetable of ferries going to the Cyclades, Dodecanese, Saronic, Ionian, and Aegean islands. You can also reach Crete.
The port serves a large number of the Greek islands including Milos, Schinoussa, Syros, Donoussa, Ios, Iraklia, Koufonissi, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Kimolos, Sikinos, Folegandros, Kalymnos, Kastelorizo and Kos.
• Rafina is a lot quieter and has routes going to a smaller number of islands. Some are here’s Tinos, Andros, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Syros, Ios, Thira and Heraklion.
• Lavino is closer to Athens airport than the other two ports but it’s one of the quietest. From there you can get to islands such as Kea, Kythnos, Syros, Folegandros, Ios, Kimolos, Milos, Paros, Kavala, and Limnos.
4. Timing – departures and arrivals
If you’re catching a ferry straight after a flight or you have to catch a connecting ferry, make sure you allow enough time for the change over and any delays.
For example if you’re arriving into Athens and need to get to Piraeus Port it can take between 45 minutes to an hour by car and more if you travel by train and bus.
It may mean hanging around for a while or staying for one night but means you can get the first ferry out the next day.
5. Check the ferry type
When you’re booking your ferry double check what type it is. There are high speed and slower ferries to choose from. Depending on what you’re looking for, choose one that suits your schedule and also budget.
Slower ferries can work out a little cheaper so if you don’t mind having a longer journey it may be worth it.
These are the main things to think about initially if you’re planning a Greek island-hopping trip, but here are some more useful tips:
Ferry booking tips
• Book in advance if you’re island hopping and travelling in the peak summer months. Usually there’s always spaces especially on larger vessels, however cheaper economy seats will sell out!
• Book a slower speed ferry if you’re on a budget. The trip may take you longer, but you’ll save a few pounds.
• If you travel late night so you can catch an early morning ferry, stay near the port. I stayed near Piraeus even though I was staying in Athens for two days. It’s not very far from the centre by metro but meant I was close by for my 7am departure.
• In my opinion the best time to visit Greece is May to late June or Late September to November. I’ve visited during both timeframes and it was great. I’m actually going again in June. It’s still just as hot but you’ll find it a little less busy. It’s also cheaper to travel compared to visiting between July and early September.
• When you’re planning your routes get familiar with the abbreviations of the port names. Here are a few to get you started:
Let me know if that was helpful and when you’re planning your Greek island-hopping break!