ATHENS FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

The Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos is 17 miles northeast of Athens at Spata. The best way to get to downtown Athens is by Metro line 3. The trip takes roughly 40 minutes and trains run every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 11:30pm. From the city to the airport (leaving from Syntagma and Monastiraki), trains run from 5:50am to 10:50pm. Single tickets cost €8 and include transfers within 90 minutes of the ticket's initial validation to bus, trolley or tram. Combined tickets for two (€14) and three (€20) passengers are also available. If you're making a stopover in Athens, opt for a round-trip ticket (€20), valid for trips to and from the airport made during a single 48-hour period.

The suburban railroad runs to and from the Larissa station, Doukissis Plakentias, with a connection to Metro line 1 at Nerantziotissa and from the airport to the port of Piraeus. Trains to the airport run from 4:30am to midnight, and trains from the airport to the city run from 5:00am to 1:20am. The suburban railroad has the same pricing as the Metro; the only difference is that the return ticket is valid for a month. This is the best option to get from the airport to the port of Piraeus with a total travel time of 65 minutes.

Buses are much slower than the Metro but they run 24 hours and can reach areas the Metro does not, such as the coast. If you want to take a bus from the airport into central Athens, be prepared for the possibility of a long wait and a slow journey. In Athens, express buses connect the airport with the metro (Nomismatokopeio, Ethniki Amyna and Dafni stations), Syntagma Square, Kifissos Bus Station and Piraeus. All buses depart from the designated area outside the Arrivals Hall of the main terminal building (doors 4 and 5). Bus service from the airport to Syntagma Square (X95) or to Piraeus (X96) costs 5€. The X95 runs every 10 minutes from 7am-10pm and every 30 minutes from 10pm-7am. The X96 runs every 20 minutes from 7am-10pm and every 40 minutes from 10pm-7am. You can buy the ticket and get bus schedules from a kiosk beside the bus stop or on the bus, and you must validate your ticket by punching it in the machine within the bus.

Taxis are readily available at the arrivals level of the Athens airport with a flat rate of 35 € (5am-midnight) and 50€ (midnight-5am) for travel to downtown Athens (Omonia Square and the Plaka/Makrigianni districts). Once you are in the taxi, make sure the meter is set on the correct tariff (see the section below on taxi travel). Depending on traffic, the cab ride can take under 30 minutes or well over an hour.

How do I get from the airport to the port?

The best option is the suburban railroad, which takes 50 minutes to reach the port of Piraeus. Taking the Metro from the airport to Piraeus takes approximately 1 hour and requires a change at Monastiraki, so this is not recommended if you have a lot of luggage. The flat rate for a taxi from the airport to Piraeus is 35€ (5am-midnight) and 50€ (midnight-5am). It's important to know that boats to the islands leave from several different Piraeus harbors. Most ferryboats and hydrofoils (Flying Dolphins) for Aegina leave from the Main Harbor. Hydrofoils for other islands leave from Marina Zea, a brisk 30 minute walk from the Main Harbor. If you don't know which harbor your boat is departing from, tell your taxi driver your final destination and he can probably find out which harbor and even which pier you are leaving from.

Theoretically, buses leave the airport for Piraeus every hour (5€). The bus usually leaves passengers in Karaiskaki Square, several blocks from the harbor. The official daily schedule is: Spata-Piraeus (E96): Every 20 minutes from 5am to 7pm; every 30 minutes from 7pm to 8:30pm; every 40 minutes from 8:30pm to 5am.

Note: Regarding boat-to-plane connections, it is unwise (and even foolish) to allow anything less than 24 hours between your return to Piraeus by island boat and your departure by air, as rough seas can significantly delay the trip. We recommend you allow an overnight stay in Athens prior to your departure from the airport.

How do I get from my hotel to the port?

Athens's main port, Piraeus, is located about 7 miles southwest of Athens. To get to Piraeus harbor, take the Green Line metro (Line 1) from central Athens (Monastiraki, Omonia, and Thissio Metro stations) directly to the station at the main port (about 15 minutes). Don't miss the spectacular view of the Acropolis as the subway goes aboveground by the Agora. The subway runs from 5:00am to midnight and costs 1.40€. The harbor in Piraeus is a 5 minute walk across the footbridge from the Metro station.

Alternately, the radio taxi company, Piraeus (tel. 210/418-2333), is well worth the 2.80€ surcharge. Your hotel can call for you and make sure that the driver knows where you want to go.

How do I get from the port to my hotel?

To get from Piraeus harbor, take the Green Line metro (Line 1) to central Athens (Monastiraki, Omonia, and Thissio Metro stations). The journey takes approximately 15 minutes and the metro runs from 5:00am to midnight with a cost of 1.40€.The Metro station is a 5 minute walk across the footbridge from the harbor in Piraeus. The far slower bus (no. 040) runs from Piraeus to central Athens (with a stop at Filellinon, off Syntagma Square) every 15 minutes between 5am and 1am and hourly from 1am to 5am for 1.20€. The trip takes 25–30 minutes.

You may prefer to take a taxi in order to avoid what can be a long walk from your boat to the bus stop or subway terminal. The normal fare on the meter from Piraeus to Syntagma should be about 15€ to 20€, but many drivers offer a flat fare, which can be as much as 30€. Pay it if you're desperate or be prepared for serious bargaining.

If you arrive at Piraeus by hydrofoil (Flying Dolphin), you'll probably arrive at Zea Marina harbor, south across the peninsula from the main harbor. Getting a taxi from Zea Marina into Athens can involve a long wait and taxi drivers usually charge exorbitant fares. Instead, you can walk up the hill from the hydrofoil station and catch bus no. 905 for 1.20€, which connects Zea to the Piraeus Metro station, where you can complete your journey into Athens (see above). You must buy a ticket at the small stand near the bus stop or at a newsstand before boarding the bus. Note: If you arrive late at night, you may not be able to do this as both the newsstand and the ticket stand may be closed.

If you disembark at the port of Rafina, you'll see a bus stop up the hill from the pier. The bus to Athens runs often and will take you to the Areos Park bus terminal, 29 Mavromateon in about an hour. The Areos Park terminal is one block from the Victoria Square Metro stop and about 25 minutes by trolley from Syntagma Square. From the bus terminal, there are buses to Rafina every 30 minutes.

The port of Lavrion (tel. 22920/25-249), 32 miles southeast of Athens, has taken over some of the itineraries from the port of Piraeus. A taxi to/from Lavrio port from downtown Athens has a flat rate of 38€ (5am-midnight) and 55€ (midnight-5am). You can also get to/from the port by taking the express lines of the interurban buses (KTEL) 'Koropi station-Porto Rafti/Avlaki.' The price of the ticket is 5€.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Trains from the south and west, including Eurail connections via Patras, arrive at the Stathmos Peloponnisou station about a mile northwest of Omonia Square on Sidirodromeon. Trains from the north and international trains arrive at Stathmos Larissis, just across the tracks from the Peloponnisou station on Deligianni. The Larissa station offers a currency exchange office and luggage storage. To get to your hotel, you can take the Metro (line 2) from Larissa metro station to Omonia, Syntagma, and Koukaki. The most central place to catch the Metro back to the train station is the stop in front of the Parliament building on Syntagma Square. You can purchase train tickets at the train station, but it's easier to visit a downtown railway office at either the Omonia Square ticket office (1 Karolou) or at 17 Filellinon, off Syntagma Square.

Alternately, a taxi from the railway station to the city center should cost about 10€.

How do I get around the city using public transportation?

The Metro is fast, cheap, and convenient and runs from 5:30am to midnight Sunday through Thursday; trains run until 2am on Friday and Saturday. All stations are wheelchair accessible. Stop at the Syntagma station for a map. A single ticket costs 1.40€; a day pass costs 4€. Make sure you validate your ticket as you enter the waiting platform and hang onto it until you get off or you may risk a fine. Metro and bus tickets are interchangeable, except for bus E22, that heads to the coast and costs 1.60€ more.

Note: Allow extra time when you catch the Metro in central Athens. The stations located at Syntagma Square, Monastiraki and Acropolis brilliantly display relics from the subway excavations in what are Athens's newest small museums.

You can get almost everywhere you want in central Athens and its suburbs by bus, but it can be confusing to figure out which one to take as many bus routes are changing as new metro stations are opening. During the day, buses tend to run every 15 to 30 minutes with reduced service at night and on weekends. Buses run from about 5 am to midnight. Main bus stations are at Akadimias and Sina and at Kaningos Square. Check out the Athens Urban Transport Organisation (tel. 185) for directions, timetables, route details and maps.

Bus tickets cost 1.20€ each (or 1.40€ to be combined with the Metro, trolley and/or tram for up to 90 minutes) and can be bought from periptera (kiosks) located throughout the city. Be certain to validate your ticket when you board and hold on to it. Inspectors periodically check tickets and can levy fines from 5€ to 60€ on the spot!

Additionally, in central Athens, minibus nos. 60 and 150 serve the commercial area free of charge. And orange and white KTEL buses provide efficient service throughout the Attica basin. Most buses to the east Attica coast, including those for Sounion (€5.70 for inland route and €6.30 on coastal road) and Marathon (€3.70), leave from the KTEL terminal in Pedion Areos.

Athens's tram service connects downtown to the city's coast. Although it's not the fastest means of transport, it takes a scenic route along the coast and is perfect for those wishing to visit the city's beaches and nightlife. The tram runs 24 hours a day Friday and Saturday, and 5am to midnight Sunday through Thursday; tickets are 1.20€ (1.40€ if you wish to continue your journey with the Metro, bus or trolley bus for up to 90 minutes) and must be validated at the platform or inside the tram. Trams are comfortable and air-conditioned.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Most drivers in Athens speak basic English; however your driver may have difficulty understanding your pronunciation of your destination. Taxi drivers know the major central hotels, but if your hotel is not as well known, show the driver the address written in Greek and make note of the hotel's phone number. Few taxi drivers have maps, although newer taxis have GPS installed. If all else fails, the driver can call the hotel from his mobile phone.

Although you can find an empty taxi on the street, it's usually faster to call out your destination to one already carrying passengers. If the taxi is going in that direction, the driver will pick you up. Likewise, don't be nervous if your driver picks up other passengers, although he should ask your permission first. Each passenger pays full fare for the distance he has traveled.

Be sure the driver turns on the meter and that the rate listed in the lower corner is 1, the normal rate before midnight; after midnight, the rate listed is 2. The '1' meter rate is .68€ per kilometer. There are surcharges for holidays (€1) and rides to (but not from) the port, train stations and bus terminals (€1). Luggage costs .35€ per 22 lb bag. Neither tipping nor bargaining is generally practiced; if your driver has gone out of the way for you, a small gratuity (10% or less) is appreciated.

Note: If you're trying to make travel connections or are traveling during rush hour, a radio taxi is well worth the €3 to €5 surcharge. Ask for help at your hotel or destination to make sure that the driver knows where you want to go. Carry a business card from your hotel, so you can show it to the taxi driver on your return.

I will have a car in Athens, where can I park?

Unless absolutely necessary, we suggest that you don't drive in Athens! Traffic is heavy and finding a parking place is extremely difficult. And even though a new network of ring roads has eased the city's notorious traffic, it is still not an easy city to drive in; and if you are unfamiliar with the streets, it can be an absolute nightmare! If you are planning on taking any day trips or touring the Greek countryside then we suggest you pick up your rental car as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses.

Is Athens a walking city?

It's easy to do your sightseeing on foot since most of what you'll want to see and do in Athens is in the city center. Athens has created pedestrian zones in the Commercial Triangle (the area bounded by Omonia, Syntagma and Monastiraki squares), the Plaka and Kolonaki, to make strolling, shopping and sightseeing more pleasurable. Dionissiou Areopagitou, at the southern foot of the Acropolis, was also made a pedestrian zone with links to walkways passing the Ancient Agora, Thissio and Kerameikos.

Warning: Even on pedestrian streets, the city's multitude of motorcyclists rarely respect the rules, and a red traffic light or stop sign is no guarantee that vehicles will stop for pedestrians.

Is Athens a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Athens is one of the safest capitals in Europe with few reports of violent crimes; however, pickpocketing is not uncommon, especially in the Plaka and Omonia Square areas, on the Metro and buses and in Piraeus. We recommend that travelers avoid the side streets of Omonia and Piraeus at night. It is also a good idea to be wary of Gypsy children and overly friendly strangers. Keep your money in your front pockets and leave your passport and valuables in a safe box at the hotel. Carry only a photocopy of your passport, not the original.

In an emergency, dial tel. 100. For help dealing with a troublesome taxi driver, hotel staff, restaurant staff, or shop owner, stand your ground and call the tourist police at tel. 171.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Greece is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city. For more detailed information, consult our guide to tipping in Greece by clicking here.

Note: It is not a good idea to rely on ATMs in Athens, since the machines are often out of service, particularly on holidays or during bank strikes.

I don't speak Greek. Will many people speak English?

English may be spoken at your hotel and in the tourist areas, but not everywhere. We suggest you get a good guidebook and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me and numbers 1-10.

When do the hydrofoils operate between the islands?

Boat travel in Greece is common and relatively inexpensive. Timetables change according to seasonal demand and boats may be delayed by weather conditions, so your plans should be flexible. That being said, ferries/hydrofoils for the Greek Islands only operate between May and September due to annual weather changes including rough seas and high winds. For travel beyond these months, your itinerary will include transportation by flight between the islands.

Note: The Athens airport authority advises you to allow a minimum of 45 minutes to make a flight connection; which should be adequate if you arrive and depart from the main terminal and do not have to clear Customs. Allow at least 60 to 90 minutes if you have to clear Customs or if you arrive or depart from the satellite terminal. At present, many charter flights use the satellite terminal.

Should I be worried about strikes and museum closings?

Strikes can close museums and archaeological sites without warning. Decide what you want to see most and go there as soon as possible after you arrive.

What are the best areas for shopping?

Luckily, much of what tourists want can be found in the city center's Commercial Triangle, bounded by Omonia, Syntagma and Monastiraki squares. Monastiraki has a flea market, which is especially lively on Sunday while the Plaka has cornered the market on souvenir shops, with T-shirts and reproductions of antiquities on everything from playing cards to coasters.

Pedestrianized Ermou Street is the prime shopping district in the city, with more stores than you can possibly visit. Kolonaki, on the slopes of Mount Likavitos, is boutique heaven; but, it's a better place to window shop than to buy, since much of the merchandise is imported and heavily taxed. Here, it's more fun to have a drink in one of the many cafes (maybe along fashionable Milioni Street) while enjoying some people watching.