Greece Trip – Planning Tips – Athens

Greece Trip – Planning Tips – Athens

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One of my cousin always wanted to go to Greece. She has not been on vacation in some time and her request was to go to Greece. I was helping them plan the trip – I enjoy planning trips!

The places she wanted to go to in Greece were Athens, Santorini and Mykonos.  Athens is the mainland of Greece connected to Europe, and the rest of Greece is thousands of islands scattered throughout the Aegean Sea. Santorini is one such island of Greece – made famous by its white buildings with blue domes on a cliff-side. Mykonos is another island of Greece known for its beautiful beaches and party atmosphere.

We were looking to go to Greece in the last two weeks of August. This is peak season and the packages can be expensive! We looked at packages on line for departure from Toronto, Canada, and the cost for airplane, hotels, ferry and transfers was about $400 over our budget!  The cost for food and excursions would be on top of this cost! This was more then what we were willing to spend so I started to look at flights, hotels and transfers individually to see if that was a possibility.

We were able to book round trip flights to Athens from Toronto, hotels in Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos and Ferry/Flight transfers between the islands and mainland for $800 cheaper than the lowest package price and it included much better hotels!

I used a combination of Expedia and direct booking for the hotels, flights and ferry.

Toronto to Athens

  • I booked our flight ticket and first Athens hotel through Expedia and got a decent deal by booking it together.
  • We stayed 3 days and 3 nights at Athens – which gave us sufficient time to do all of the following things.
    • The Acropolis
    • Parthenon
    • Syntagma Square
    • Panathenaic Olympic Stadium
    • Zappeion
    • Arch of Hadrian
    • National Garden of Athens
    • Temple of Olympian Zeus
    • Church of Panagia Kapnikarea
    • Theatre of Dionysus
    • Odeon of Herodes Atticus
    • Temple of Hephaestus
    • Ancient Agora of Athens
    • Mount Lycabettus, Acropolis Museum
    • The Plaka neighborhood
    • Plus eat at many different places, shop and people watch !

Athens – Hotel

  • Hotel: We stayed at Astor Hotel in Athens. This hotel is very central to most things people want to do in Athens. Everything we wanted to do was within walking distance. All of the sites listed in the prior paragraph, many many souvenir shops, great eating areas and normal shopping stores all within walking distance!
  • The Astor Hotel also had great breakfast options! The best part of breakfast was it was on the rooftop of the hotel. This hotel had a beautiful view of The Acropolis and Parthenon from the rooftop restaurant. The view at day time and nighttime was stunning! There was no other building blocking the view from this hotel’s rooftop!
  • I am from North America so the beds in the hotel was harder then what I was used to but still decent. Other facilities were all clean and functional. The location is what makes this hotel great!
  • The neighborhood this hotel is located in is very lively at night time and day time. I just adored where we stayed – great place to people watch and get immersed in the Greek way of life!
  • We left around 4:30 am on the day we have to leave for the Islands. The hotel folks had packed breakfast for us which was very kind of them !

Athens – Transportation

  • We took the x95 from the airport to Syntagma Square. This was 6 Euro per person. The bus stop is three minutes from our hotel. The bus is very frequent and runs 24hours a day, and was very safe! I would definitely recommend using this bus to travel to your hotel and back to the airport. We also used this bus to go to the airport when we had to fly out to Santorini after our Athens portion was done.
  • The ticket to the bus can be bought right outside the airport very close to the bus stop. Please make sure to buy a ticket, and you also need to use the machine inside the bus to stamp your ticket or have the driver do it for you before the start of your trip. If you miss getting your ticket stamped the fine can be around 600 Euros! Same applies if you don’t have a ticket! So please spend the 6 Euro and get a ticket! You can also buy the tickets at the Syntagma Square bus stop – if you are using the bus to go back to the airport!
  • Other than using the bus for transferring from and to the airport, we walked to all the attractions! This was made possible by the location of the hotel we choose to stay at!
  • We picked up a complimentary Athens map at the airport and used that to navigate to all the different sites of interest! That map was more than sufficient.

Athens Ferry/Flight to the Islands

  • There are two ways to get to the islands from Athens. Either using a small flight or using a Ferry transfer.
  • We tried both. We booked a flight to go to Santorini from Athens, had a ferry transfer between Santorini and Mykonos, and another ferry transfer coming back to Athens from Mykonos.
  • Our flight between Athens and Santorini was using Ryanair. The reason I picked a flight was because it was early in the morning – I wanted more time in Santorini. The Ferries are only at set time – so make sure to plan it in such a way that you maximize the times spend at each place and reduce the time on transportation.
  • Ryanair charges you for luggage, and requires you to checkin online ahead of time. Make sure your hotel will be able to print your boarding pass . If you are a non – EU citizen you need to have a printed boarding pass. Our hotel ( Astor Hotel) was kind enough to print our boarding pass for us.
  • The line to checkin the luggage at the Ryanair counter at Athens was quite long – it was a good thing we were at the airport 2 hours prior to the flight. So do keep that in mind !
  • The flight to Santorini was under an hour from Athens. The views were beautiful and it gave us a different perspective of the island !
  • I used google to find the Ryanair flight between Santorini and Athens. You can also book flights directly on the Ryanair site . Use google translate if you don’t speak Greek ! That is what I did.
  • For the two ferries I used this site to do the booking: paleologos.gr . Just input all your details and it will give you the different possible ferries available for that day. I bought our tickets ahead of time. We had to pick up the tickets for the ferries near the ports – This we were able to do with the help of the folks who were doing our transfers between the hotels and the ferry ports.
  • We used Hellenic Highspeed ferry between Santorini and Mykonos and a regular ( slower ) ferry between Mykonos and Athens. The Highspeed ferries are usually about 20 Euro more. We just wanted to experience both type. Having done this, I would recommend the Hellenic Highspeed ferries. They are super comfortable, does not cause sea sickness and will save you time!
  • Also please make sure to buy snacks and water before you get on the Ferry. These items cost a lot more on the Ferry !

Athens – Port Hotel

  • Once we were done our Island portion of the trip we needed to get back into Athens in order to fly out back to Toronto. We needed a hotel for one night as well as transportation to the airport. In order to save cost I booked a hotel that was within walking distance to the Rafina port ( one of the 3 major ports in Athens ), and one that provided free shuttle service to the airport !
  • Our hotel was Avra Hotel near Rafina port. The price was reasonable and the best part was the airport transfer was included in the price of the rooms !
  • The facilities are functional and clean – definitely recommend it if you need one that is close to the ports and you need to get to the airport !
  • We had dinner at the onsite restaurant of this hotel ! If you stay at the hotel you get 25% off dinner – saving money is always good ! The food was fantastic and they gave us free desserts ! Definitely enjoyed our last meal in Athens at this restaurant!

Athens was a beautiful place full of history! When you are walking around the city every so often you will see robed off areas – These are usually pieces of buildings that are 2000 and more years old! The city was full of energy and had beautiful cafes and restaurants that were open at night and day time! I was amazed by the number of restaurants and cafes and the way they were decorated! It was breath taking! Will be writing more detailed posts on places to eat and the attractions in Athens!

You can find a similar post for Santorini .

Will be writing a separate post for hotel and transportation details in  Mykonos! Stay tuned!

Jess G – A friend of mine who came on the trip with me took my cover photo !

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