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The Greek Islands are one of the coolest spots in Europe. And if you want to visit several of them, you’ll probably find yourself on at least a couple of ferries. Here’s everything you need to know about the Greek Island ferries.
Greek ferry companies
There are quite a few ferry companies in Greece. The ones you’ll see most often are the ones you’ll probably take between the Greek Islands. Here’s my personal experience of each:
If you’re taking the ferry to islands like Santorini and Mykonos, you’ll likely end up on Seajets at some point. Specifically, you’ll probably end up on the Champion Jet 2 or Caldera Vista ferries.
Both ferries follow roughly the same route, serving the most popular Greek Islands. They’re pretty comfortable and fast, and the staff really appreciate a “how are you?” as you board.
Blue Star Ferries
I’ve only taken the slow ferry with Blue Star and it was great on board. It was very similar to the ferries that travel between the UK and France. Food was very reasonable and there were lots of seating options, including on the deck.
The only issue we had was with the staff. We ended up on Blue Star because our Seajets boat was cancelled. Our connecting boat was delayed and we almost missed the ferry, so the ticket office told us to go straight on board. The staff on board didn’t want to let us on, but did so after a lot of shouting! The people who didn’t shout back were left behind at the port.
The ferry system in Greece is far from perfect, but usually goes pretty smoothly. When it doesn’t, however, a little bit of shouting back goes a long way.
We took a slow Hellenic Seaways boat from Syros to Mykonos and it was the worst journey of all. The toilets were completely out of paper, there was rubbish all over the floor and people sleeping on camping mats blocked some of the exists. I can’t say if it’s always that chaotic, but it was the least comfortable ride of them all.
Easily my favourite ferry we travelled on. The Santorini Palace ferry from Crete to Santorini was redecorated recently and the most comfortable of all.
The Santorini Palace was like the Seajets Champion Jet 2 with an upgrade: comfier seats, better food and an all-round more pleasant experience. I would happily pay the extra 10 Euros on every journey for the difference.
Other Greek ferries
There are plenty of other ferry companies in the Greek Islands. I didn’t use any others so I can’t comment on them, but the ferries above are the ones you’re most likely to encounter anyway.
20 tips for taking the Greek Island ferries
The Greek Island ferries are great. It’s so nice to be able to travel around without worrying about security checks, passport control or switching on airplane mode. But being a little prepared will definitely make your journey better.
Here are 20 tips for travelling on the Greek Island ferries, from booking to on board.
Greek Island ferry tickets
1 – Premium class probably isn’t worth it
Most ferry companies in the Greek Islands offer multiple classes of seats. In most cases, I really don’t think it’s worth upgrading. There doesn’t seem to be too much difference, if any real difference at all. The economy seats were more than enough for most travellers, and I was even able to work well in them.
The one exception is the Seajets Platinum class, which looks awesome: huge chairs, tables and lamps. It reminds me a lot of Air Transat’s Club Class. If you get seasick, will be jetlagged or like to splurge a little, it’s probably a worthy investment.
2. Book your ferry tickets on the ferry companies’ websites
While it’s not impossible to turn up on the day, I wouldn’t recommend it. The best way to book your tickets for the Greek Island ferries is on the ferry companies’ websites. There’s no need to shop around because the prices will be the same wherever you look.
3. Get the ferry app
If you want to book tickets quickly and easily, download the free ferry app. The ferry booking email system is on the unreliable side, so book on the app if you don’t want to run into issues.
Travel Tip: Download the SkyScanner app to find all the best travel deals
4. Don’t collect your tickets immediately
Planners won’t like this one, but trust me on this. Ferry tickets have to be collected from the designated travel agency or at the port. Collecting them is a bit of a hassle and, usually, they won’t print them too far in advance.
Save your holiday time and get to the port early to collect them on the day of travel.
Greek ferries schedules
5. Timings are ambitious
Each Greek ferry company has a schedule that it runs to. Let’s just say those schedules are…. ambitious.
In reality, the ferries are never on time. The only time they leave to the schedule is at the first port. After that, they always arrive and depart at roughly the same time each day – but it’s usually 30-90 minutes behind schedule. I have no idea why they don’t just change the scheduled times.
6. Your booking could be changed
Cancelled ferries aren’t uncommon. This is especially true when a company runs two near-identical services. For example, Seajets’ Champion Jet 2 serves some of the same islands as the company’s Caldera Vista ferry. On less busy days, passengers from the latter might be switched onto the former.
It shouldn’t affect your journey time too much, but be prepared for a possible change. If your ferry is cancelled or changed, you’ll usually receive a text the night before.
Planning your island hopping trip
7. Give yourself time
Since the ferries aren’t entirely reliable, be careful with planning any ongoing flights or connections. A ferry could be delayed – or even cancelled entirely – so give yourself an extra day to get to the airport if possible.
8. Track your ferry to avoid long waits
There’s nothing worse than waiting at a crowded port in the glaring sun, with no idea when the ferry will arrive. We used Vessel Finder to track our ferry’s location and avoid waiting longer than necessary.
I suggest pulling up a chair in a nearby cafe and enjoying a freddo cappuccino until the ferry gets near.
9. Avoid no-cancellation hotels
Our final trip almost cost us twice as much as it should when our ferry to Santorini was cancelled. We were lucky that our no cancellation hotel let us change the dates at no extra cost.
Unfortunately, ferry strikes aren’t uncommon in Greece. If you can pay a little more to get a free cancellation on your hotel, it could save you a whole lot of money if the ferry is cancelled.
Greek ferry routes
10. Take the fast boats where you can
The fast ferries around the Greek Islands are more expensive. But for what you pay in money, you’ll save twice over in time.
Unless you’re living in Greece and have plenty of time, the high speed ferries will help you make the most of your trip.
11. Hire a car when you arrive
Hiring a car in Greece is easy and the best way to see the islands. While you’ll find most of the restaurants and hotels in the port town of each island, venturing further afield will be worth it.
Each island is completely unique, and you’ll only see half of its character if you stay in the main town. Car rental in Crete and the other larger islands is essential if you want to see the best bits of the islands and have the freedom to explore.
12. Check the route before you book
We made the mistake of looking only at the journey times when planning our Greek Island trips. Don’t make the same mistake as us.
For some reason, I assumed there would be a separate ferry serving each island. That obviously wasn’t true, as each ferry follows a set route with multiple stops. The routes are usually a circuit and you can book tickets from and to any of the stops.
If you plan to visit several Greek Islands, you’ll want to plan the most logical route possible. Doing so could save you a day or two in travel time, as well as saving you money.
Buying things on board the ferries
13. You can buy tours on board
It’s possible to buy tours of the island you’re heading to from on board the ship. I’m not sure what the prices are like, but it means you can be spontaneous with your island hopping.
If, like me, you prefer to not take any chances, I recommend booking any tours and excursions online before you go.
14. It’s expensive
When you take the fast ferries in Greece, you don’t just pay more for the ride itself. You’ll also pay more for food and drink on board… and it’s expensive. A coffee, slice of pizza or box of Pringles will set you back 5 Euros each. You’ve been warned!
15. Pack some snacks
If you can, pack some snacks for the ferry. As well as avoiding the crazy prices on board, you won’t be limited to the few options available on the day. The one thing you don’t need to pack is water, which is just 75 Cents per 0,75L bottle.
Tips for travelling on the Greek Island ferries
16. Get the table by the door on Seajets
This will probably only apply if you need to work on board, but the seats by the doors are the hot seats on the Champion Jet 2. As well as having a table, they have a secret plug socket that not many people know about.
On the other ferries, there are random seats near plug sockets. If you really need one, try to get on first and scout them out.
17. Pack wisely
Some people seem to bring their entire house on the ferry… and others only travel with a tiny backpack. If you have any kind of case or large bag, you’ll be asked to leave it in a luggage rack. This is usually on the bottom floor of the ferry where everybody boards and disembarks. It’s also where cars, quads and scooters are parked.
Greece is a very safe country – safer than most European destinations, in my experience. But if you’re worried about leaving your luggage, don’t pack anything valuable. You can carry a small bag on board with all your important items.
18. Pack a pillow
If you have a long ferry journey, a small travel pillow (like this one) will come in handy. Even if your journey is short, the ferry is a great place to catch up on sleep!
19. Layer up
When it’s hot outside, the last thing on your mind is packing warm clothing. But the Greek Island ferries have air conditioning and that means it can get a little chilly on board. It’s usually a nice temperature, but you might want a light scarf or jacket if you get cold easily.
20. Take toilet paper and tissues
The Greek ferries are usually very clean and have everything you need. The only issue I came across multiple times was a lack of toilet paper on board. It’s worth packing some tissues just in case.