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Europe, Greece, Travel

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

October 16, 2017

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

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You dream of going to a Greek Island and soaking up the sun while sipping ouzo, but how did you get to those beautiful islands you dream of? Most of the islands are only accessible by ferry, although some of the larger more popular islands have airports. Booking ferry tickets are much easier than it used to be, but a first timer may need some help navigating the ins and outs of taking a Greek ferry.

Flights and the Ferry

My advice is to never ever book your ferry tickets the same day as your flight. This is especially true if you have hotel reservations paid for or work to return to after your vacation. Fly in and stay in Athens for the night or book a hotel near the ferry port. On my last trip, my ferry choices were to leave either at 7 AM or 4:30 PM which meant arriving in Ios after midnight. I opted for 7 AM, so I booked myself a hotel at Piraeus port for the night before. In this case, I could have never made a 7 AM ferry with any flight.

Which Ferry

There are many ferry lines, but not all the ferry lines go to every island. Which means you won’t have a lot of choices on which ferry line you take. You may be able to choose a fast or a slow ferry depending on which island you are going to.

The advantages of taking the fast ferry are less time on the ferry and more time on the Greek Islands. The other advantage is that the fast ferries are usually more modern than the slow ferries.

The disadvantages are if you get sea sick easily, the fast ferry might not be for you. Many of the fast ferries are hydrofoils, which are less stable in the sense that you feel the waves not that they are going to flip over. Another disadvantage is that you are usually not allowed on the deck, especially if the weather is bad. If the weather is really bad, the hydrofoils will be canceled. If you are going to a Greek island in winter, keep this in mind and allow for it in your schedule and bookings.

Which Port

Athens has three ports in which ferries leave from, Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina. The issue with this is that not all islands are served by each port. For example, to get to Kea, you will have to leave from Lavrio. If you are booking your own ferry tickets, then I recommend using FerryHopper. (This is not an affiliate link.) It is straightforward and will give you indirect routes as well as direct routes.  If you are booking your tickets through an agent, make sure to check which port you are leaving from before you set out for your ferry as they are far apart and you will miss your ferry.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

Getting On and Off

The first time I took a Greek ferry, it was from Ios to Santorini and back. Ios is small enough, and I had help, so it wasn’t very hard. But in Santorini, I was alone, and there were a lot more people and a lot more ferries. It also seemed a bit disorganized, although in hindsight it wasn’t.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

If you are on an early morning ferry, go early as you may be able to get on without all the rushing that is associated with getting on later in the day.

At Piraeus there are many gates the ferries leave from and from the beginning to the end is far, so check it and arrive early to find the right gate. On the islands, there may only be one gate or very few. The best way to figure out where your ferry will depart from is the ask the Port police. They are in navy uniforms that look a little military in style. Your ferry ticket should have the name of the ferry on it, and most ferries are clearly marked.

You need to be there early but not more than 30 minutes. Rarely are ferries early in Greece and more often a few minutes or more late. But the disembarkation and embarkation process is fast, and they won’t wait for you.

Once you are on, you should store your larger luggage in the area you are directed to. Unless your bag is light, leave it here. It will be fine. There are too many stairs involved on the ferry, and you won’t want to bring it to your seat.

Proceed up the stairs, and someone will help you find your seat. Last year, I sat where I wanted, well except for business class but this year they really seemed keen on people sitting in their assigned seats.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

They will announce each port as they get close and everyone will move downstairs to gather their luggage. It will seem chaotic, but don’t stress you will get your luggage and get off the ferry. It is a very efficient system even if it doesn’t look like it.

Do you have any tips for the Greek ferry? Share with us.

Greece, Travel

September Nomad Update

October 2, 2017

September Update

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Hello, October and hello from Athens! My month on my Greek Island is over. If you need to escape, relax and forget the real world, I highly recommend taking a few weeks and heading to Greece. You might also walk away with an amazing tan and a love of Greek food. Here is my brief recap of month two of long-term travel.

The Ups

First off I was going to be on a Greek Island for a month and that is an awesome thing to think about. I arrived and checked into my hotel/apartment. My apartment was great and totally Greek. There will be a whole post about it soon. Again, I got the pleasure of unpacking my entire suitcase in Greece.

I spent a few days exploring Ios and working on my tan! Then, as in London, I got to meet up with some friends that I met in Greece on the sailing trip last year. They only did one-week last year and were back for the second week of the sail this year. It was great to catch up with them and get to know them better.

Because I enjoyed the photography experience in London so much, I managed to find one on Ios as well. For almost an entire day, I photographed Ios with a photographer. Not only did I get to see his perspective on the island, he took me to some spots I definitely would not have explored on my own.

For such a small island, Ios has more than its fair share of amazing restaurants and spent several days eating at them. Some of them offered the more traditional Greek food and then there were other great options, such as Thai and Italian.

I made new friends as well. Some of these were locals and a few were Greeks working on the island, but some were other Greece visitors.

The Downs

Ios is a small island and I had intended to explore much of the island. However, my fear of heights kept me from driving up and down the hills of Ios.

This led to me being a bit bored while I was there. I love the beach but going to the beach alone every day was not so fun. My skin also doesn’t need to be exposed to that much sun since I tan so fast.

Even though I made friends if they weren’t there on vacation, they were working, so not able to do anything with me. Most of the locals I met worked long hours and they worked every day. This is due to the fact that Greece is still struggling from the financial crisis.

Overall I really enjoyed my time on Ios and I was a little sad to be leaving. I am sure I will go back at some point though!

Next stop Malta!

Greece, Packing, Travel

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

February 27, 2017
What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

Packing for a sailing trip around the Greek Islands seems like it should be easy, you just through a swimsuit, shorts and sunscreen and go right?! Well, that might be fine on a cruise, but reading the list provided by the sailing company I was unsure how to pack and what to pack it in.

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Surprisingly I only found a few blog posts regarding packing for a sailing or boat trip. One was The Blonde Abroad’s post on packing for yacht week. The other was Her Packing List. Both are great lists but were not for a two-week trip, and only one was for a trip to Greece. My trip was for two weeks and included nights out for dinner almost every night.

I recommend only bringing cotton and linen items as you will feel much more comfortable in those fabrics, and they dry quickly. You may be able to get laundry done on one of the islands. Greece is also casual and you will not feel out of place in shorts every day. At night people do dress a bit nicer, but Greece is still casual at night, think summer dresses and nice pants.

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Clothing

What to Pack for a Greek Island Sailing Trip

4-5 pairs of shorts – I only brought three and kicked myself for taking the 4th pair out at the last minute. Yes, I did laundry, but even linen takes time to dry in the humid air.

5-6 t-shirts and tank tops – I brought this many because I tend to spill on myself!

7-8 pairs of underwear- You can bring more or less depending on how much hand washing you want to do

3-4 bras – You will probably be in your swimsuit every day during the day

1 pair of pants – The nights can get chilly, and I was happy to have them

3-4 dresses – We went out to dinner every night, but one and I only brought 3 and wished I had one more for variety

Windbreaker – Preferably one that is waterproof. It rained one day and one rough sea day and mine kept me warm.

3-4 swimsuits – Too many! Probably isn’t a thing, but I wore my two bikinis the most.

1-2 coverups or sarongs – I wore my cover up when walking to beaches from the boat. You could also wear your shorts, but then they might be wet. I made sure mine were long enough to be comfortable to wear inside a shop or restaurant I might want to pop into along the way.

Hat – Make sure it has a strap to keep it on in the wind or attach it to your clothes with a clip.

Shoes

1 pair of flip-flops – Essential for the beach.

1-2 pairs of sandals – Good for going out. Don’t bring heels. We walked far one some nights for dinner, and the streets are not even. If you must be high, bring wedges. The link I have included here are my favorite sandals from Aerosoles. They are comfortable and stylish. (I think I am on my third pair!)

1 pair of deck shoes with light colored soles – These are especially important if you plan on helping with the sailing of the boat. They will protect your toes from getting broken! These Nike ones had breathable mesh, and I loved them.

Toiletries

Sunscreen – Bring as much as you think you will need. You can buy it in Greece, but it will be very expensive. Don’t bring spray sunscreen as it can make everything slippery

Deodorant – It is hot!

Make-up – Most days I only applied this at night for dinner. For the day, I either wore nothing or cc cream with sunscreen

Shampoo/Conditioner – For two weeks, I brought full-sized bottles because I have long hair. You may be able to get away with less. The sea and the wind do take a toll on your hair, so conditioner is a must.

Hair texturizer – You will not be able to blow dry your hair on the boat, so bring something to style your hair (if you want). The link it to my favorite sea salt spray.

Bar of soap – I found this much easier and one less liquid to bring on onboard.

Lotion – The sea and the sun will dry your skin out. Bring something that doubles as after-sun (something with aloe vera).

Bug wipes – There are mosquitos in Greece. I prefer bug wipes as again, one less liquid and it doesn’t spray everywhere. Get the unscented ones!

Bags

Rolling duffle bag – There is nowhere to store a traditional rolling suitcase. You need a bag that can be squished flat for storage. The one I chose had a small hard bottom, which offered some protection for fragile things and liquids.

Day bag – You will want something to carry while sightseeing.

Beach bag – I didn’t bring one but was given a tote on arrival in Athens, and I was so glad as I brought it to the beach.

Evening bag – You may want something to carry to dinner instead of your day bag.

Dry bags – If you bring a camera or any other electronics, you should bring at least one dry bag. This will keep it protected if you have to take the dingy to shore.

Technology

Camera – This goes without saying, but you will want your camera.

E-reader  – If you are a big reader like me, then bringing several books was easier with an e-reader.

Other

Beach towel – The company I went with did not provide beach towels, so I brought a Turkish towel for the beach. They are thinner than a regular towel, are super absorbent and can act as a sarong in a pinch.

Clothespins – You will want to hang your clothes to dry, and the boat may have some pins, but if everyone hangs up at the same time, the pins go quickly.

Earplugs  – Some harbors are loud at night, and wearing earplugs helped me to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Have you been sailing? What do you recommend to pack?

Europe, Greece, Travel

Why I Didn’t Love Santorini

January 30, 2017

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

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I debated writing this post for a while. I went to Greece in September and almost everything I have to say about it so far as been good. Santorini is the exception to this. I didn’t fall in love with Santorini as so many people, and blog posts promised I would. Let me say this now before everyone tells me I am terrible, it is beautiful and it is romantic. However, it just wasn’t for me, but I am glad that I went.

Crowds

I expected it to be crowded, but this was beyond my expectations! Most of the crowds were in Oia, where I happened to be staying. Since I had never been to Santorini, I want to stay in the heart of it or so I thought. There was a constant stream of people walking past my hotel.

The first night I was there, I headed to watch the sunset like everyone else. It was crowded, but not too much as I had been told to head there early. The captain of my boat advised me to walk further down from the fort where everyone gathers to watch. I trudged down a set of steep donkey crap covered stairs and claimed my spot.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

After watching the sunset, I started the walk back to my car. I think it took 30 minutes when it should have taken 10! At some points along the way, I was stuck at a standstill because it was so crowded. The streets of Oia are just too narrow to handle the crowds.

Traffic and Driving

Santorini is a large island, larger than I expected. I had read up about getting around the island and decided that renting a car was the best way. Best decision in terms of time I could have made. However, the traffic on Santorini is terrible. Getting from the port to the main road was a winding road, and if you got stuck behind any bus or delivery truck, you could be stuck for a while. This was one of the main reasons I left my hotel two hours before my ferry was to depart.

Getting around was made easier by the car, but all the roads are winding! It makes getting around take much longer than expected. As a result, I didn’t get to see all the things I wanted to.

The roads in Oia were so narrow in some places; cars had to go one at a time. Granted, I probably should not have been driving in Oia, but I was suffering from land sickness and walking in the heat was not a good idea. The narrow roads led to the long waiting area, and you had no idea if the traffic was moving or if there had been an accident. Only at night did I see police out directing traffic. It also didn’t help that my hotel was right at the start of the really bad traffic spot.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

Parking in Oia can be done, but you have to find a parking space. The best spot I found was down the hill from the bus station parking lot. I was able to park my car along a wall that offered some shade.

Touristy

I am sure you are thinking, Tiffany it’s one of the most popular places on the planet to go and you didn’t expect it to be touristy!? I expected it to some degree, but some parts of it were over the top touristy. One of those places was Fira. Fira is the capital city of Santorini. I stopped here to buy an SD card for my camera and it was just one souvenir shop after another. It was also quite dirty. That is probably due to the overcrowding of Santorini during the season. It also one the cheaper areas to stay on Santorini, which probably contributes to the crowds.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

Oia had its touristy sections as well. Lots of shops along the walk to the sunset. Many of these shops offering souvenir and over priced designer beach wear. Slightly ironic since all the beaches are located elsewhere on the island.

The Heat

I live in Qatar, and I am from Texas, but the heat on Santorini was something I hadn’t experienced. The combination of the heat the white washed walls created an oven effect. There is no offer of shade because all the trees have been removed out to build hotels! I had on sunscreen and still felt a bit burned after only an hour in the sun. Hats and umbrellas are needed!

Let me say you will be hard pressed to find too many blog posts saying someone didn’t like Santorini. I tried! I managed to find a few. One is Suitcases and Sandcastles, and you can read about how she didn’t think it was worth the hype. The other is from Hannah Rose and how traveling there as a backpacker may not have been the best plan. Christina of Santorini Plus, who is also a Santorini tour guide, tells you want not to do on a visit to Santorini.

Of course, tons of people love Santorini. Here are some of the posts I have found about loving Santorini! Radha and Brook from On Flight Mode think Santorini should be at the top of your bucket list and give some great tips on what to see and do! Angela from the Sunday Chapter gives us 7 reasons to visit Santorini.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

How to Make Your Experience Better Than Mine

  • Go in the off-season, like October or April. The crowds will be less, and the weather will be cooler. Some hotels and restaurants will be open, but now that Greece is going to limit the amount of tourists that can arrive by cruise ship more places might stay open.
  • Give yourself more time. I was only there for two days. You probably need 3 to 5 days depending on what all you want to see.
  • Stay outside of Fira and Oia. Those places can be visited by car, and you can still have a great view of the caldera. If you really want to have a caldera view, stay in Oia one night for the experience and spend the rest of the time elsewhere.
  • Walk through Oia in the early morning to beat the heat and the crowds.

Maybe one day I will go back, and I will love it, but for now, I will visit the quieter Greek islands.

Have you been to Santorini? What did you think?

 

Suitcases and Sandcastles