Q: I read your greece article. I heard the ferries are unreliable so what’s the best way to book a Greek ferry? Also, if I’m staying for two weeks, do you think I should visit more islands or just the three (Santorini, Ios and Mykonos) that you wrote about?
First of all, you’re visiting Greece at the perfect time. I caution people who want to go between September 15 and May 15– the winter months in Greece are beautiful, but they’re also colder, less populated and not as much fun for young travelers looking for a party. You’re also right to plan ahead. But don’t worry too much about booking ferry tickets and other specifics online ahead of time. Start with your airplane tickets. If you’re flying in and out of Athens, you should have a hostel or hotel booked in Athens (try Hostel World) for the night before you fly out. Never get a ferry into Athens the same day you fly out just in case they run late, better safe than sorry.
Then, build your trip around this. Pick up a couple guidebooks from your library and learn about the islands– chart out a tentative game plan of 4 or 5 islands (that’s a reasonable number for two weeks) that you really want to visit. If you want more than Santorini, Ios and Mykonos, try Corfu, Lesbos and Rhodes. Check out a map and pick a few within the general vicinity of each other (long ferry rides can cut huge chunks out of Island-time). I say tentative because it’s super easy to change your plans in Greece, I did and most travelers do. You can book hostels a few days ahead of time and most hostels will send vans to pick you up fresh off the ferry boat at the islands’ ports. Try to know where you’re staying two or three nights in advance, this will put any anxieties at ease and ensure you have a room. Buy ferry tickets a few days (but no more!) in advance, too. Each port has Blue Star or Helenic Sea Way desks and kiosks that you can buy Greek Island ferry tickets. Buy them one at a time, and be sure to get to the port early before your boat departs. (Most islands have an a.m. boat and a mid afternoon boat.)
So for example: start by buying a ticket from Athens to Island A. When you get there, you may love it so much that you’ll want another night or two until you head to Island B, or you may want the next-day boat. You can decide. Or you may decide you’re too tired for Island B and skip to Island C. It’s easy, doable and most ferries are generally on time, especially in high season during summer. Tickets range from 7 euros to 35 euros and the best part about the Islands is their uniqueness. Each one offers a different culture, so take your time, relax and enjoy. And don’t forget, plans can change, and as long as you make it back the night before you fly out, the open road (or ocean) is yours.