2011-03-23

Transportation directions for getting into Athens, Greece

Getting to Athens – Traveling to Athens (Last update: 2012-August-19)
Athens has a transportation network that is miles ahead of where it was just 10 years ago. However, traveling in a foreign country can be a bit of a hassle no matter what the circumstances. I have tried to take away all the needless anxiety for you by writing this mega-post on transportation options and details for getting into Athens (can be used for the opposite direction as well!). It may not be as dry as a practical guide should, but believe me I did my best... I shall update this accordingly when major changes take place. Save it and use it as a guide for planning your trip and while you’re here. Last but not least, remember that most Greeks will be more than willing to help you find your way or explain things to you. Younger people especially, usually speak at least some basic English and often an extra language as well. For transportation options inside the Athens metropolitan area see this concise, practical guide: Transportation Guide for Athens, Greece.

1. Coming into Athens
1.1 From Italy (via the port of Patra)
1.2 From the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos
1.3 From Thessaloniki (Northern Greece)
1.4 From an island (via Piraeus port)
1.5 From an island (via Rafina port)
1.6 From an island (via Lavrio port)

2. Transportation in Athens (See here - separate post) 


1. Going to Athens (or getting out)
There are mainly 6 ways to get into Athens and I describe each one of them below, with all the sub-options available. The goal is not to give you a headache but to let you use the one most suitable for your situation. If you're a planning freak like I am, I'm sure it'll come in handy at some point.
1.1 Getting to Athens from Italy (via the port of Patra)
Most ferries coming from Italy reach the port of Patra as their final destination, 214kms (130miles) west of Athens. Ninety nine percent of tourists just get out of town and head to Athens or whatever other destination they have in mind even though you could spend a fairly interesting and relaxing day in this busy, coastal town and acclimate yourselves with the country. Contact me for advice on what you could do in and around Patra.
To go from Patra to Athens you basically have three options:
a) Board an inter-city bus. The inter-city bus station for Athens (there are different ones for other destinations) is located at Othonos–Amalias Avenue & Zaimi St. Buses leave about every half hour and you  may either just buy a ticket before boarding the bus or pre-purchase it for a later time (up to 3 months from moment of purchase). Current one-way price: 18.90€ (March 2011).
Two-and-a-half to three hours later you will reach the Kifissos Inter-City Bus Station right outside Athens. From there you
(i)           ...either wait in line to get a taxi cab (cab drivers often try to “fill-in” their vehicle with more passengers going to destinations near you. You have a right to protest this, which won’t make you friends with the taxi-driver, and you also have the right to… remain silent and try to see this as a cultural experience of your journeyJ. At least make sure that your other “co-passengers” are truly going in the same direction as you.)
(ii)                 …or take urban bus No. 051 which operates from  to  (buy a ticket from the kiosk next to the bus, before boarding and make sure you validate it). The bus takes you to the center of Athens in a rather seedy area so make sure any valuables are well protected and within your view. You get off Bus 051 at either Socratous bus stop (one before last) or Zenonos bus stop (last one). Both stops are close (2-4 blocks) to Omonia Square and Omonia Metro Station to where you will have to walk.
There is also an Express bus line (X-93) which rides around the clock, from Kifissos Bus Station to the Athens International Airport (timetable here).

b) Rent a car from one of several companies located in the streets near the port of Patra. The roadway from Patra to Korinthos (Corinth) is currently (and up until 2015 more or less) under re-construction, so you should expect to see lots of road work and one-lane-only segments. From Corinth (about midway) to Athens things get much better though you will encounter traffic as you enter Athens. I suggest you do not drive much inside Athens (Greek drivers are kind of aggressive and unpredictable ...and so are the roads), but if you do, make sure there’s a parking lot close to your hotel. The trip from Patra to Athens takes about 3-3.5 hours under normal conditions but can be longer, e.g. on Sunday afternoons when people return to Athens from the weekend.

If you have time you may want to make a detour for the Corinth Canal / Isthmus and check this 19th century engineering marvel and the bridges built over it.
Directions for Corinth Canal detour: As you are driving from Patra to Athens via the main highway ("New National Road"), 78kms before Athens, exit the highway to the right, following the sign towards Epidavros & Loutraki. 
Drive down the ramp staying on the left lane. Turn left and go straight for 400 meters / yards and then
turn right again at the traffic light to enter the Old National Road.
You will see some old, tired restaurants and snack places. Drive another 200yards/metres and park your car. 
The Canal is 100m / yards further and you can walk over it and take pictures. After you check it out you may drive over it and re-join the New National Road to Athens (with or without toll). There is also a parking lot and a fast-food place right after you cross the bridge, so you may drive over the bridge first and park there).
The cost (gas + toll), for driving from Patra to Athens is about 32€ (March 2011).


c) Now, there’s a third option for getting from Patra to Athens and that is the railroad, but I cannot recommend it in good conscience. The Greek Railroads (OSE) are in a state of financial and operational disarray, plagued by bad management, strikes, etc. A restructuring plan is being implemented, as in the past 20 years or so (hint: sarcasm) and that naturally causes friction while some routes are being eliminated to make savings. On top, there are works along the network and some segments are being serviced by buses belonging to OSE. To make a long story short, the train station in Patra is located at Othonos-Amalias Ave., opposite  Trion Symmachon Square.
You have 2 sub-options: (i) get a… railroad company bus (!) from Patra straight to Athens. The bus (3 routes per day) arrives at Stathmos Larissis Station in Athens, which also has a Metro Station (Line 2), or (ii) go by OSE bus from Patra till Kiato (4 routes per day) where you change to an Athens Suburban Railway train that will take you up to Neratziotissa Metro Station and Plakentias Metro Station in the greater Athens area. The price of the combined ticket (from Patra to Athens) is 18€, almost as much as the regular bus ticket. The first bus from Patra leaves at  in the morning.
-If you want to go to the port of Piraeus instead of Athens city center there’s a train leaving Kiato station every hour, from  till . This journey lasts 1hr 46min. Students, minors (<18) and seniors (>65) pay a reduced tariff (50%) in train tickets.


1.2 Getting to Athens from Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”
Several options available to get into town:
a) Board one of the express urban buses taking you into town:
Bus X-93 takes you to Kifissos Inter-City Bus Station if you want to bypass Athens and go elsewhere in most of mainland Greece(timetable here - click on "Backward Direction")
Bus X-95 takes you to Syntagma Square and Metro Station (Athens center) in about an hour, (timetable here - click on "Backward Direction") 
Bus X-96 takes you to the port of Piraeus from where you can catch ships to most islands (timetable here - click on "Backward Direction") 
Bus X-97 takes you to the southern suburb and Metro Station of Dafne (timetable here - click on "Backward Direction").
Ticket price for airport lines is 5 Euros (reduced half tariff for seniors >65, college students w/ Student Card and ID/Passport, children under 12)

b) Metro & Suburban Rail: As you get out of the airport's arrivals hall, walk across the street and go up the rolling stairs towards the Parking lots and the Metro / Train (there are signs, easy to follow). Walk inside the long corridor, above the highway, to reach the ticket counters for both the Metro and the Suburban Railway. Both options will then take you to Plakentias Station but after that they split. The Metro (Line 3) takes you to center town (Syntagma Square) while the suburban railway takes you west to Neratziotissa Station and then further out to the towns of Corinth and Kiato in the Peloponissos. If you want to go to Piraeus port do not take Metro Line 1 from Neratziotissa Station as there are works and excavations in progress and Line 1 is closed at some points. Instead, take Metro Line 3 from Plakentias Metro Station and get off at Monastiraki Metro Station, changing to Line 1 towards Piraeus at that point. 
Small note for back in the airport: Make sure you inquire in both ticket counters (Metro and suburban rail), as the communication between them is not always optimal, from what I’ve heard. Also, in both cases, make sure you validate your ticket before entering the train / metro platform. Detailed schedule of trips to and from the Airport can be found here


c) Get a taxi cab, right outside the arrivals hall. Current, all-inclusive, flat fare to get to Athens city center is 35 Euros during the day and 50 Euros at night. Check airport site here, for details and indicative charges to other destinations in the greater Athens area. 
Starting July 2011, Olympic Air will be offering an online taxi-booking service at competitive prices, for getting to or from the airport. Details here.

d) Rent a car from one of the companies operating at the airport, inside the arrivals hall:  Check airport site here.

e) There is also a limo service which can be pre-booked or booked in place. Again, check airport site here


1.3 Getting to Athens from Thessaloniki (Northern Greece)
a) By Airplane: If you just want to get to Athens without visiting any other areas between the two cities, air travel is probably your best option. There are 2 main domestic airlines: Olympic Air (formerly Olympic Airways & Olympic Airlines) (http://www.olympicair.com/) and Aegean Airlines (http://www.aegeanair.gr/) Some foreign airlines occasionally cover the Thessaloniki-Athens route on their way to and from Greece and may have empty seats.

b) By bus: The KTEL (intercity) bus station at Thessaloniki is located at 69, Monastiriou St., opposite the train station and the bus arrives at the Kifissos intercity bus station outside Athens. You may pre-book a ticket by calling +30-2310-500.111 and be there half an hour before departure to pay for and pick up your ticket otherwise you may loose your booking (one-way ticket: 42€ since Jan. 2011). Duration: 6-6.5 hours. To go from Kifissos Bus Station to Athens city center or to the Athens airport see section 1.1 a) above.

c) By car: Expect to stop at many toll posts and pay a good sum of money in both toll fare and gas. (100€ would be a conservative estimate, in March 2011). The trip should last 5-6.5 hours with one stop and depending on where in Athens you want to go.

d) By train: Despite the troubles of the Greek Railroads (OSE) I mentioned above, the Athens-Thessaloniki route will be the last one to be affected as it forms the backbone of the country’s railroad network. There are currently (March 2011) nine direct routes per day connecting Thessaloniki to Athens, incl. the option of taking an InterCity Express train (ICE), as this is the only half-modernized segment of the Greek Railroad network. Duration: 4.5 – 7 hours (depending on train). The InterCity (IC) ticket costs 36.30€ (March 2011). You will arrive at Stathmos Larissis Train Station in Athens, which also hosts a Metro Station. From there you get a taxi or the Metro to reach your exact destination and you have the option of getting on a suburban train  (Proastiakos), once an hour, to reach the port of Piraeus for an additional 1.50€OSE information number is 1110 but currently only in Greek.

1.4 Getting to Athens from an island (via Piraeus port)
Pireas aka Piraeus is the largest port of Greece and one of the largest in the Mediterranean. Most of you will be using this port to get to and back from the islands.
a) The Metro Station (Line 1) at the port of Piraeus is located right across the port, along the coast. The whole port area does not win points for beauty but getting to the Metro Station is easy. Depending on where your boat docks you may either walk to the Metro Station or get the free, in-port, mini-bus that will drive you there. A pedestrian bridge over the coastal road is the landmark to look for. It is located across port Gate E6 and is right next to the Metro Station). The Metro ticket costs 1.40€ (as of March 2011).
b) The Suburban Rail Station is one block next to the Metro Station. You can catch a train to Athens (Stathmos Larissis) every hour, at hh:44 (cost 1.50€).
c) Getting a taxi is an option for people who are loaded with suitcases, have mobility problems or are just plain tired, but that will set you back quite a bit, especially when compared to the Metro (10-20€ for Athens). There will be plenty of taxis waiting just as you exit the boat.

1.5 Getting to Athens from an island (via Rafina port)
There is a local, Attiki KTEL bus running from Rafina port (bus-stop inside port) to Athens center from 06:00 till 22:30. Price: 2.40€, Duration: 1hr, Terminal stop: Pedion Areos, Mavromataion St., Athens.
There is also a direct line from Rafina port to the Athens International Airport from 05:15 till 21:15. Check timetable here (.pdf file, in Greek! - last section)

1.6 Getting to Athens from an island (via Lavrio port)
The port of Lavrio services a number of islands as well as several cruise-ships. 
a) There is a taxi-cab station at Lavrio (Tel: 22920-25871) and the taxis may take you to either downtown Athens or to the nearby Sounio archeological site.
b) -A KTEL bus goes from Lavrio to downtown Athens every 30min. Mon-Fri: From 05:30 and every half hour till 21:00 , Sat-Sun:  and every hour till .
-A KTEL bus also goes to Sounio archeological site ( and every hour till , daily), but you may need a taxi to get back to Lavrio if that’s where you want to return. Otherwise, there are also KTEL buses from Sounio to downtown Athens from  till , every half hour.
-Finally, there’s a KTEL bus from the port of Lavrio to the Markopoulo suburban railway station and from there to the Athens International Airport (or elsewhere in the greater Athens area). Mon-Fri:  and every hour till . Sat-Sun:  and every hour till  with two additional weekend-only buses straight to the airport at  and .



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