Santorini is one of the most popular of the Greek islands and the inevitable question you’ll have is “how do I get from Athens to Santorini”? The good news is that there is really good infrastructure in place to get you from the capital city to Santorini.
Read more about Greece
- The perfect 2 day Athens itinerary
- The Greek Islands travel guide you need to read
- Folegandros itinerary – the Greek island you never heard of
- When is the best time to visit Santorini?
- Is Santorini worth it or not?
Where to stay in Santorini?
Table of contents
- Ways to get from Athens to Santorini
- Athens to Santorini by Ferry
- Where are the ports in Athens?
- How do you choose which port to use?
- How to choose which ferry to take?
- How much are ferries from Athens to Santorini?
- Which is the best ferry to take to Santorini?
- Where to buy ferry tickets
- What are the differences in cabins?
- Getting to the Piraeus port from the airport
- Getting to the Rafina port from the airport
- Checking-in and boarding process
- Disembarking process
- How to get from Athinios ferry port to Fira or Oia
- Ferry tips you need to know
- Pros and cons of taking a ferry
- Athens to Santorini by Air
- Who services the Athens to Santorini route?
- What you need to know about the airports
- In what scenarios should you take a flight?
- How long is the flight?
- When is the cheapest time to fly from Athens to Santorini?
- Cheapest airline to fly from Athens to Santorini
- Which is the best airline to fly from Athens to Santorini?
- How does the transfer process to domestic flights work in Athens?
- How to get to Fira or Oia from the Santorini Airport?
- Pros and cons of flying
- How has COVID-19 affected flights to Santorini?
- Athens to Santorini by Ferry
- Closing Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Ways to get from Athens to Santorini
Getting to the island of Santorini is not as simple especially if it’s your first time to Greece. There are a couple of ways to do it and each one has their own nuances and “need to knows”.
There are two primary ways you can get from Athens to Santorini – ferry or flight.
Now if you’re wondering whether Santorini is worth it or not, that’s a whole other thing but let’s break down how it works, where you can get tickets, and what you need to be aware of.
Athens to Santorini by Ferry
This is probably what you’ve heard and seen if you’ve ever had friends go island hopping in Greece or read any stories.
Travel by ferry is the most basic and traditional way to get to the Greek Islands and especially around the Western Cyclades.
So how do ferries in Greece work?
Where are the ports in Athens?
Let’s start with the basics. Where can you even get on a ferry if you’ve just landed in Athens?
There are two ports: Piraeus port and Rafina port.
- Piraeus port – This is a large industrialized port and primary hub for ferries in Athens. There are many options to go from Athens to Santorini from here but the trade-off is that it is further away from the airport.
- Rafina port – This is much closer to the Athens airport but has fewer options being a much smaller local port.
How do you choose which port to use?
For most, it’s not so much about choosing the port you want to use but which ferry you want to take that fits your itinerary and budget.
Here are the companies that run from each port. This is subject to change every year so it’s best to do a search on FerryHopper:
|Piraeus Port||Rafina Port|
|Sea Jets (Fast, 4h 30m to 4h 50m) [several]||Golden Star Ferries (Fast, 4h 55m)|
|Zante Ferries (Slow, 10h 5m)|
|Blue Star Ferries (Slow, 7h 25m to 7h 50m) [several]|
|Sea Speed Ferries (Slow overnight, 10h 45m)|
|Minoan Lines (Slow, 7h 35m)|
|Aegeon Pelagos (Slow, 8h 15m)|
How to choose which ferry to take?
This is going to be different for each traveller but these are the top factors to consider:
- Most popular – The top ferries that most travellers end up taking are Blue Star, Sea Jets, and Golden Star Ferries. There’s nothing wrong with the other companies but they’re typically not the primary options.
- Price – Blue Star Ferries without a doubt is almost always the cheapest. Also, the super slow options can also be very cheap.
- Speed – Sea Jets has fastest ferry at 4.5 hours but Golden Star Ferries is not far behind.
- Stability – If sea-sickness is a concern, the Blue Star Ferries are larger ships and as a result, you’ll unlikely feel any swells. The faster ships are stable but bumpier and more susceptible to bad weather.
- Potential for cancel – Blue Star will pretty much run no mater what but the high speed ferries will often get cancelled if there’s poor weather. That said, in the summer months (June-September, except August), this is less likely to happen. August is quite windy though so they can be cancelled for days at a time.
- Ferry style – The larger ferries such as Blue Star (2,400 passengers) are kind of like small cruise ships with multiple decks, cafes, bars, gift shops, tables in the rear of the ship, and different spots to sit in the open-air in addition to the cabins of indoor seats. If you’ve done the Interislander Cook Strait ferry in New Zealand, it’s similar. High-speed ships are smaller (1,200 passengers), has more tightly configured rows of seats, and you can’t go outside when it leaves the port.
- Port – Most leave from Piraeus but Golden Star Ferries also operates from Rafina which is much closer to the airport. More on that below.
BEFORE YOU CONTINUE
You need to read the companion Greek Islands Travel Guide that dives into all the things we learned hopping the Western Cyclades including the ferries and beyond.
How much are ferries from Athens to Santorini?
The beauty of taking the ferry is that on average, it is cheaper.
- High-speed ferries (i.e. Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries): 70 EUR
- Slow ferries (i.e. Blue Star Ferries): 35 EUR
The other consideration to make is that there are no add-on fees for luggage. You’re allowed to bring on luggage up to 50kg but the terms of the ticket doesn’t really limit the number of bags you can bring on so it’s safe to say that you’ll be fine with whatever you’re travelling with.
Which is the best ferry to take to Santorini?
If you account for everything, you really can’t beat Blue Star Ferries. Here’s why:
- Stable – It’s slower but especially if you’re prone to seasickness, you’re guaranteed to barely feel the effects. Remember that this is a long journey and you’d rather not be stuck on a rocky ship for 5+ hours.
- Price – It’s one of the cheapest options.
- Always runs – Compared to high-speed ferries, they almost never get cancelled.
- Open-air – You’ll love being able to get fresh air and watch the scenery change as you’re leaving Athens, passing by various islands, and arriving in Santorini. This may be more important to the photographers out there!
- Rarely sells out – They have the most sailings and run large ships so there’s always a spot.
Where to buy ferry tickets
What most people will tell you is that you can easily buy ferry tickets on the day of or perhaps at a Greek travel agency if you start the trip somewhere on mainland Greece. Yes, this is true if you have changing trip plans and need the flexibility but other than that, I would always book your ferry ticket in advance.
If you’ve gone through the trouble of meticulously planning your trip, you are better off having the comfort of securing your seat.
This is even more important during high season when there’s a huge influx of travellers but also local Greeks especially during their huge holiday the week of August 15. There are fewer seats on high-speed ferries so those will often sell out more often. Also, if you plan on booking a sleeper cabin, those do book out quickly.
The best way to do this is by using FerryHopper. They’re essentially a search engine for all ferries and allow you to do it reliably without the need to pay some of those extra fees travel agents tack on. They also have a nifty way to build an island hopping trip as well.
To get started, you can simply use the form below to check for sailings and prices.
If you’re in a bind and need to purchase tickets at the airport, you can buy ferry tickets from Aktina Travel Agency on the arrivals level of the airport.
Worst case, you can also go directly to the ticket booths at the port. For Blue Star Ferries, this is at Gate E7, Sea Jets is at Gate E9, and Golden Star Ferries is at Gate E7 in Piraeus. In Rafina, there’s a large agency, Togias Travel that handles tickets for all companies.
Interested in island hopping?
Finally, it’s worth noting that all ferry tickets are purchased as individual one-way tickets even if you were doing a round trip.
When putting together an Greek island hopping trip, you’re buying each leg on its own and as a result, you can mix and match between companies.
There’s no real incentive to purchase tickets with one company since they don’t offer discounts. Also, they don’t have island hopping passes or discounts if you buy multiple legs together.
What are the differences in cabins?
Each company has different classes but worth understanding because it’s not necessarily clear.
Blue Star Ferries
- Economy/Deck – This is the cheapest fare and gives you access to the open inside and outside seating. This is essentially a first-come-first-serve style.
- Economy/Air Seats – For roughly 4-5EUR more, you can choose specific areas of the ship (they call it lounges) for airplane-style reserved seats in economy. To be honest, any lounge number you choose won’t really matter.
- Business Lounge – This gives you access to a real business lounge and is in a completely separate area from economy. Seats and sofas here are much more comfortable, it’s less crowded, quieter, and they have waiter service.
- Cabins – This breaks down between ones on the inside or outside with a window. They are in 2-bed or 4-bed configurations with closet and desk. You can book a whole cabin or share with strangers (male or female-only).
Sea Jets/Golden Star Ferries
Each company has different names for the classes but it basically breaks down into these two classes
- Economy – Mostly airplane-style seating in long rows. Some ferries have tables with the seat.
- Business/Club – Separate cabin next to the window with much fewer seats per row.
- VIP/Platinum – The highest level offered by Sea Jets with plush seats with tables, electrical outlets, dedicated service.
Is it worth upgrading?
This will be largely up to personal preference and budget but for most travellers, economy will be perfectly fine and comfortable. The only caveat is that if you’re taking Blue Star Ferries, make sure to pay extra for the reserved seats as that will make your life a lot easier knowing that you have a specific spot on the ship as opposed to being part of the free-for-all.
One thing that I noticed when booking ferries in Greece is that it’s not like an airplane where you can choose specific seats on a map. The system will pretty much choose a seat for you when you check-in online or collect your tickets in person.
If you have a very specific request, you could ask the agency where you’re picking up the ticket to see if they can accommodate.
That said, from my experience, you always forget to ask and before it’s too late, they’ve already printed your ticket. Go in with the expectation that you’ll just be assigned whatever is available.
Getting to the Piraeus port from the airport
There are a couple of ways you can get from the Athens airport to the Piraeus port.
Bus – There is a bus you can take from the Athens airport. Bus X96 is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get to Piraeus. It runs all hours of the day, comes by every 20-30 minutes, and only costs 6 EUR. It can take 50 to 90 minutes depending on the traffic. You can purchase tickets at the booth and you can also pay by credit card.
Taxi – For something slightly faster at 40 to 70 minutes is the taxi. However, this will run you 50-60 EUR so it is not cheap.
If you’re coming from central Athens, your best option is to take the metro/subway to Piraeus. From Monastiraki (Line 1) for example, it’ll take 20-30 minutes. The metro ticket costs 1.40 EUR and starts running at 5:30AM to midnight.
For a 7AM ferry, I recommend that you hop on the metro at 5:30AM right when it opens.
TIP: Remember to validate your ticket at the machine before going on the bus or metro.
Getting to the Rafina port from the airport
In many guides, Rafina is disregarded as a legitimate port but if you’re looking to go straight from the Athens airport to Santorina via ferry, this is arguably a smarter option.
There is a privately-run bus (Ktel Attikis) that leaves from the Athens airport. The bus stop is in a bit of an inconspicuous spot between Exits 2 and 3 and right across from the Sofitel Mitsis Hotel.
The cost of this bus is 4 EUR and takes 30 to 40 minutes to get there, half the time of Piraeus. You pay by cash to someone that comes around once the bus arrives and you hop on. There’s no validation required.
The disadvantage of the bus to Rafina is that it is not frequent, running 4 times a day Monday – Saturday and only once on Sundays. Their full schedule can be found here (you’ll need to translate to English).
Taxi to Rafina is roughly 60 – 75 EUR and takes roughly 25-30 minutes.
Private transfers are reasonable if you want something that’s more stress-free or if the bus schedule just doesn’t fit your timing. There are also city transfers available as well. This costs as little as 24 EUR and takes 40 minutes.
Finally, another consideration to make is that since there may be only a handful of ferries leaving for Santorini from Rafina, if there’s a cancellation, you’ll need to last-minute rebook with a ferry most likely in Piraeus. This is what happened to us on our Greek island hopping itinerary but we were lucky to make it work.
Checking-in and boarding process
Know your bearings
The Rafina port is extremely straightforward and when you arrive by bus, you’ll see your ferry docked. It should be pretty easy.
The Pireaus port is a whole other animal. Once you get off the bus or metro, there’ll be the chaos of the local neighbourhood and then the overwhelmingly large number of gates. Luckily, if you’ve done your research, you’ll know that the common ferries (Blue Star Ferries, Sea Jets, and Golden Star Ferries) are all clustered around E6 to E8d which are the closest to the metro.
Collect your tickets
At both ports, your first order of business should be to head to the respective company’s kiosk. You need to collect your actual ticket from this kiosk because your booking print-out does not constitute a boarding pass. You need this to get on board.
That said, if you’ve booked online and it’s with a company that has web check-in (almost all of them have it now), you can either print out your boarding pass or have it on your smartphone up to 48 hours in advance. This is QR code based and can be scanned as you board. I highly recommend this.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you’re printing tickets from the official company kiosk at the gate, this is free. However, if you are printing your tickets at a third-party travel agency, there may be a “ferry ticket collection fee”. We were a bit surprised when we saw this in Santorini but it turns out, this is standard practice.
If you have extra time, feel free to grab a meal or snack from one of the nearby cafes.
As a general rule of thumb from Athens, you can start boarding a ferry an hour before sailing time. There’s no need to board that early unless you really want to get a good non-reserved seat in the case of Blue Star Ferries. Otherwise, arriving 45-60 minutes ahead of time is plenty of time.
Arrive at your gate and right at the base of the ferry, there’ll be someone checking for your boarding pass.
For Blue Star Ferries, passengers enter in from the right side where there’s an escalator that takes you up. Other ferries will be different. Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries has you entering on the same platform the cars use. They don’t check your boarding pass until you’ve dropped your bags and you’ve taken the stairs up to the passenger deck.
Additional COVID form: Currently, you will need to fill out a pre-boarding health declaration questionnaire. It is recommended that you have this printed out at home and filled out ahead of time to speed things up. Each ferry company may have their own version of the above form but at least you’ll have one ready to go to copy over.
You’ll be lugging your suitcase and belongings with you.
This is where things are different between ships.
- Blue Star Ferries – Most of their ferries do not have a special luggage hold and so you will be taking the escalator up the ferry to the passenger area and once you arrive at your seating area, you’ll find luggage racks. These are not guarded in any way and if the ferry is packed, the luggage will spill out to the nearby ground. For smaller bags, you can put them under the seat in front of you. If you do not have assigned seats, most will keep their bags nearby.
- High speed ferries (i.e. Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries) – As you board, you’ll first enter a luggage hold area near the cars. You simply drop them off on the floor, rack, container. You then board the main passenger deck. Note that you will not have access to your luggage until disembarkation.
Naturally, you’re probably wondering about safety. Between the two options above, I actually prefer the lower deck storage of bags because in theory nobody can get to it. That said, I would always keep valuables on you. Unfortunately in both situations, you’re taking a risk with your bags because anything could happen to them and there’s not much you can do about it.
If you’re super paranoid about your luggage, sit with them next to you if you can on Blue Star Ferries.
As you get close to Santorini, they’ll be making announcements over the PA in both Greek, English and sometimes a few other languages.
At this point, it’s time to get ready to gather your belongings. If your luggage is by one of the nearby racks, make sure to pick them up.
In most cases, Santorini is the final stop so it’ll be quite obvious when everyone starts making their way out but if it isn’t, make sure you’re acutely aware of the time so you don’t miss your stop.
If you’re on one of the high speed ferries, you’ll most likely gather in the cargo hold where your luggage is also stored. Make sure to grab your luggage.
Once the ferry docks, the ramp drops and everyone will start walking off the ship. There’s no ticket or document check at this point. The ship also doesn’t linger for long so make sure to get off as quickly as possible.
In Santorini, you’ll be arriving at the new Athinios ferry port.
It will be pretty chaotic once you land in Santorini with a crowd of people standing in front holding signs and others trying to get you to book a car rental or take their taxi.
How to get from Athinios ferry port to Fira or Oia
At this point, you have a couple of options but it’s highly recommended to have something planned ahead of time so you’re not scrambling to figure out a plan once you disembark.
Bus – The public bus is 2.30 EUR/person (cash only), takes 20 minutes, and is always available right when ferries arrive. The bus usually isn’t full and there’s space to stow your luggage below the bus.
Private transfer – This is either offered by your hotel, arranged by them, or a private shuttle you book on your own. There are also semi-private transfers available. The nice thing about this is that you’ll have someone there to greet you once you land, and they take you directly to your hotel.
Taxi – You can take taxis from the ferry but there aren’t many so I would not bank on them.
Rental car – There are several car rental companies at the port but it’s more limited than the airport. I really don’t recommend that you do this as the port is crazy with all the bus traffic, and switchbacks you need to get up the cliff. For some companies, their main office is somewhere else on the island so they might drive you there and you pick up your car from there. Read the full guide on where and how to rent a car in Santorini.
Ferry tips you need to know
- Bring headphones – It can get pretty loud on the ferry especially in economy
- Set an alarm – You don’t want to miss your stop. Set an alarm on your smartphone 30 minutes before arrival to make sure you’re up.
- Bring a jacket – The AC is very cold onboard so make sure you have a jacket or something like a hoodie if you get cold easily.
- Use a real cellphone number when booking – When booking your ticket, make sure you attach a cell phone number that will be able to receive text messages internationally. If theres a delay, change in schedule, or cancellation, they will usually send out text messages to let you know.
- Bring your own food – Food is expensive onboard so either pack snacks from home or buy a few things from a cafe to have on your journey.
- Nausea prevention – If you get seasick easily, bring and take medication to help. The ferry from Athens to Santorini is long and you want to make sure it’s a pleasant one.
- Bring cash – If you’re planning on taking the public bus once you arrive in Santorini, you’ll need cash to pay for the ticket.
Pros and cons of taking a ferry
So many people take the ferry but there’s always a tradeoff.
Pros of the ferry:
- Price – Ferries are cheaper especially when there aren’t additional luggage costs.
- Wider availability and sailings – There are way more sailings and options when it comes to the ferry and they rarely sell out because they can handle such a high capacity. You can also purchase tickets much more last minute if you need to.
- Ferry experience – There’s something special about sailing in Greece where you get to take in slowly. You also get to see a lot more of the landscape.
- Island hopping – Not to say you can’t do both but ferries are great to be able to jump to other smaller islands in the Western Cyclades. With a round trip flight to Santorini, you miss out on that opportunity.
Cons of ferry:
- Speed – The ferry is incredibly slow when compared to a flight time of 50 minutes. You pretty much need to account for a large part of a day or overnight in your schedule.
- Local connection required – After you land in Athens, you still have to connect with a local bus to get you to the port which is an additional step and inconvenience.
- Sea sickness – If you’re susceptible to nausea at sea, you may experience ill-effects especially if the water is rough.
- Cancellations – High speed boats are prone to being cancelled with bad weather.
- Complexity of the ferry – As you’ve seen, there are a lot of new things to learn from the ferry experience and can be a bit overwhelming if its your first time.
- Not as comfortable – It feels weird to be saying this but the airplane might just be more comfortable than the ferry because there are less people on board and it’s a shorter time period.
LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION?
This is the 2 week Greek island hopping itinerary we did that has to be on the top of our list of best trips we’ve ever done. Find out how we planned it and what the journey looked like.
Athens to Santorini by Air
Flying may seem obvious but it doesn’t necessarily register if it’s your first time to Greece. But yes, you can actually fly to Santorini!
For those that are looking for the quickest way to get from Athens to Santorini, flying is the way to go.
Of course, these flights go round trip between Athens and Santorini but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the one-way journey.
Who services the Athens to Santorini route?
There are 4 airlines that depart from Athens International Airport to Santorini.
|Airline||Times a Day||About the Airline||Alliance||Average Price|
|Aegean Airlines/Olympic Air||6 times a day (upwards to 9), 7 days a week||Aegean Airlines is the flagship and largest airline in Greece. Olympic Air is owned by Aegean and both airlines service the route.||Star Alliance||60 EUR|
|Ryanair||Low season: 1 times a day, 2 times a week (M, Fr)|
High season: 2 times a day, 7 days a week
|Low-cost carrier based in Ireland and a common carrier to use throughout Europe and especially out of Ireland/UK. The low-season flight is usually early in the morning.||None||20 EUR|
|sky express||4 times a day, 7 days a week||Greek airline servicing domestic locations.||Codeshare Air France, KLM, Qatar||50 EUR|
|Volotea||3 times a day, 7 days a week||Spanish low-cast carrier||None||40 EUR|
If you’re not interested in going through Athens, there are direct flights to Santorini from Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, London, Dublin, Amsterdam and others. Most of these are highly seasonal. To find out whether you can bypass Athens altogether, head to Skyscanner and find what’s available and also cheapest.
TIP: Skyscanner has the Everywhere feature but it only works on the Destination. What you can do is just say Santorini to Everywhere to see what shows up. If there’s a flight out of Santorini to somewhere in Europe, you can bet there’s an incoming direct flight as well.
What you need to know about the airports
The Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” uses code ATH and is the primary international hub for Greece. This airport was built in just in time for the 2004 summer Olympics which means it’s relatively new, although I will say that it is aging rapidly.
- For an international hub, this is not a very large airport. There is only 1 terminal.
- You do not need to worry about complicated transfers if you’re landing in Athens from an international destination.
- Recommended to build in at least a 2 hour buffer between your flight landing in Athens and taking off to Santorini. 3 hours is ideal.
The Santorini National Airport uses code JTR. As you can imagine, this is not a large airport and can only service 6 civilian planes at the same time. It’s located north of the village of Kamari and is on the opposite end to the famous cliffs of Santorini. Of the Western Cyclades, Santorini is one of the few that actually has a major airport.
- This airport is quite small with only one baggage carousel but everything is surprisingly efficient including the passport control area.
In what scenarios should you take a flight?
This is a common question that many people have when planning a trip to Greece or thinking about building Greek Island hopping itinerary.
Since flights are the fastest mode of transportation, flying is ideal for those short on time and want to get to Santorini as quickly as possible. It is also convenient when you don’t plan on spending any time in Athens and are looking for a direct transfer.
For instance, if you have only 5 days or less and are spending it all in Santorini, you don’t want to waste 2 days on ferries. In this case, round trip flights from Athens to Santorini makes a ton of sense.
Sometimes there are big discounts on flights where the price can be lower than many of the ferries, which makes it enticing to fly.
If sea-sickness if something you worry about and would like to take that out of the equation completely, flying may be a better option for you.
How long is the flight?
The flight is only 50 minutes from Athens to Santorini.
When is the cheapest time to fly from Athens to Santorini?
Seasonal factors come into play so of course tickets are cheaper during the low season (outside of late June to early September) but within a week, here are a few tips:
- First flight of the day is always the cheapest
- Book earlier rather than last minute
- Flying Monday to Thursday is usually cheaper (especially with Ryanair)
Again, I recommend that you use Skyscanner and set up a flight alert so you can track changes in price over time. Also, they have a handy calendar search feature where you can see all the prices in a month or you can let them choose the cheapest month.
Cheapest airline to fly from Athens to Santorini
Again, this is hard to say as the fare fluctuate so much and different sales are run all the time. However, on the whole, there’s a reason why low-cost carriers are classified as such.
On balance, Ryanair and Volotea have the lowest listed prices for flights from Athens to Santorini with Ryanair as the cheapest. We’ve seen rates as cheap as 9.99 EUR.
That said, don’t always take the fares at face value. Where low-cost carriers always get you are their inflated add-ons, especially when ti comes to luggage. Ryanair is also notoriously strict on weight and luggage dimensions.
- Volotea – They allow 1 hand bag and 1 other carry-on for free. However, fares don’t include check-in bags. It’s 22.50 EUR for a 20kg bag per direction. That means you have to add 45 EUR to the listed fare of the round-trip ticket.
- Ryanair – The base “Value fare” only includes 1 small personal carry-on. Upgrading to “Plus” which includes a 20kg check-in bag is 31.03 EUR for each direction. That’s a total of 62.06 EUR that needs to be added.
That said, Aegean/Olympic and sky express also play the same game but the aren’t as expensive.
- Aegean/Olympic – Lowest listed fare is their “Light” package which only includes one cabin baggage. If you want a checked piece up to 23kg, you’ll have to opt for the highest “ComfortFlex” tier which is 28 EUR each way.
- sky express – The base fare doesn’t include check-in luggage. You’ll need tup upgrade to Joy+ for 5 to 6 EUR to be eligible for 15kg or 26 EUR for 23kg each way.
Which is the best airline to fly from Athens to Santorini?
With Ryanair and Volotea, there’s a reason why you hear so many complaints from travellers. While it’s not a guarantee, if you choose to fly with the, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a poor experience with the staff or you’ll have some sort of delay or cancellation.
If you’re looking for a stress-free experience, you’re better off sticking to Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air. Aegean Airlines is the only one out of the list that has won a Skytrax award.
How does the transfer process to domestic flights work in Athens?
Once you land in Athens from your international flight, you’ll deplane and head towards passport control. If you carry a Schengen EU passport, you’ll be able to walk right through. Otherwise, you’ll get in line to speak to an officer. This line moves pretty quickly. It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
From there, you’ll head down to the luggage carousel. If you are connecting with a different carrier on a separate ticket, you’ll need to pick up your bags, otherwise go right through. Go through the door with green signage if you have nothing to declare. This is technically the “customs” process.
You’ve now left the security area. You will have to do this regardless of whether you are on a connecting flight on one ticket or separate tickets. At this point, you’ll be going through the same process as if you were leaving Athens to go home.
Go up the to the level above and find your check-in counter.
Once checked-in, walk to the your gate and right before, there’ll be a security. This is different from other airports where there’s one primary security area. In Athens, security is right outside the gate.
In the case of tight connections, Aegean Airlines has Connection Ambassadors that can help you get to your flight. They will help expedite the process where we’ve heard that even someone with a 15 minute connection will be able to make it if it’s all on one ticket. This is even ore reason to book everything through Aegean if possible.
How to get to Fira or Oia from the Santorini Airport?
Once you land in Santorini, there are a couple of ways to get to your accommodations on the island.
Bus – There’s a public bus that take you from the airport to Fira. This bus has plenty of room for luggage, is air-conditioned, and only takes 10 minutes. The cost is 1.80 EUR (cash only) and you buy your ticket onboard.
There are 7 buses a day: 7:25AM, 9:10AM, 10:10AM, 11:25AM, 2:10PM, 3:40PM, 5:10PM. That said, their schedules change quite frequently so make sure to check with the local bus operator, KTEL Buses.
From Fira, you can transfer to another bus to say Oia or one of the other villages (Firostefani, Imerovigli, Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos, and Akrotiri). The buses from here can be extremely busy and unpredictable in terms of whether there’s room for luggage or not.
Private transfer – This is the ideal way to get to where you’re staying. This can be offered by your hotel, pre-arranged by them, or something you book on your own.
Taxis – There are taxis available but there just isn’t a large supply of them on the island so you will often find yourself waiting a long time for them. Taxis in Santorini do not use meeter and are pre-negotiated. To give you an idea, fare to Oia starts at 35 EUR and Fira is 20-30 EUR. In my opinion, it’s not worth banking on taking a cab.
Rental car – There are several car rental companies at the airport including Avis and Hertz. Make sure to check RentalCars.com to see the full inventory of companies available and make use of discount codes where you can.
Pros and cons of flying
It seems like flying is the obvious choice but there has to be a reason why so many people opt to take the ferry. Here are a few things to consider.
Pros of flying:
- Speed – 45-50 minutes vs 5 hours is a big difference.
- Seamless transition – Most travellers will be landing in Athens and if you times things right, you can hop over to Santorini without much time wasted and you don’t have to worry about getting transit to one of the ports.
- Use your points – With Aegean Airlines being under Star Alliance, you could use your points to book your flight.
- Lounge access – With the exception of Ryanair and Volotea, Aegean and sky express have their own lounges and so if this is something you’re looking for, flying is the way to go.
Cons of flying:
- Price – Ferries are on average cheaper although that is not always the case if you can find a good deal with a low cost carrier.
- Fewer seats – There are of course way more seats on a ferry than there are a plane and so you’ll always find wider availability on ferries compared to flights.
- Limited flight times – There are very distinct time slots for flights and if you can’t line things up, you might have an awkward amount of time at the Athens International Airport.
- Ferry experience – There’s just something about taking a Greek ferry that is an experience on its own. Sure, it isn’t the most glamorous or fastest.
- Island hopping – If you follow a Greek island hopping itinerary like ours, you’ll notice that we don’t go to Santorini first. Since Santorini is basically the only island serviced by air, you’re stuck with just doing the one island. With a ferry, you can see more of the Western Cyclades beyond just Santorini.
Draw between flying or ferry:
- Santorini airport location – Yes, the airport is further away from popular areas of Fira and Oia, but the new Santorini Port is out of the way as well and requires some sort of shuttle or car rental.
How has COVID-19 affected flights to Santorini?
With the industry thrown into an incredible amount of adversity and uncertainty, travel to and within Greece is a fluid situation.
Greece has opened borders since May 14, 2021. The country now has a dedicated page that explains the entry requirements which is quite useful.
For countries that are allowed to enter:
- Present proof of negative COVID-19 test (PCR, LAMP or Antigen) taken 72 hours prior to departure.
- Fill in and submit the Passenger Locator Form electronically at least a day before the flight.
- You can also enter if you are fully vaccinated (at least 14 days prior to arrival). There is a list of accepted vaccines here.
- You can also provide proof of a positive COVID-19 test from within 2-9 months.
Upon arrival in Athens, the following could happen:
- All incoming passengers from international flights are checked and subject to random COVID-19 tests (via QR code from the Passenger Locator Form). If the test is positive, you’ll be subject to a 14 day quarantine.
- International to domestic connecting passengers will be randomly checked to COVID-19 test and then will proceed to Security Control and their departing gate.
- If you don’t have the Passenger Locator Form filled out (with QR code), you will be charged administrative fines.
- Passengers are requested to remain in a temporary address/hotel, until the COVID-19 test results are published.
There’s certainly the allure of taking the ferry but you can also appreciate the practicality of flying. As we’ve broken down extensively, each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages.
When it comes to getting from Athens to Santorini, it really comes down to logistics, availability, and price. If you’re on a tight schedule and it works with your international flights, flying is great. If flights are hard to find, expensive, or don’t align with your schedule, ferries work well too whether from Pireaus to Santorini or from Rafina.
Here’s an idea. You could fly into Santorini and from there, island hop around and eventually get back to Athens by ferry. You could also do it in reverse and start island hopping by ferry before ending off in Santorini and flying back to Athens.
The choice is yours!
Frequently Asked Questions
There is a ton of information packed here but there are a couple of key questions that we see asked all the time. Here are a few of them organized all together when it comes to getting from Athens to Santorini.
The fastest mode of transportation is by flying. There are numerous airlines that fly between Athens and Santorini and on average takes only 50 minutes.
On average, the ferry with Blue Star Ferries is usually the cheapest method of getting from Athens to Santorini. However, when there are deep sales from low-cost carriers, their airfare can rival that of the cheapest ferries.
Balancing cost, sea-sickness, and speed, Blue Star Ferries is the best ferry to take. It may not be as fast as the high-speed Sea Jets or Golden Star Ferries, but that means the ship is quite stable. It is also usually one of the cheapest fares and the ferries are quite large which means there are always spots available.
High-speed ferries are roughly 5 hours and regular ferries are 8 hours.
Ideally you arrive 1 hour ahead of time to give you enough time to figure out which gate to go to, collect your tickets, and grab some food. In a crunch, 30 minutes should be okay as well.
The schedules change year to year and from low season to high season. The most reliable way to find out the ferry times is to use the search engine, FerryHopper.
Bus X96 from the airport to Piraeus is 6 EUR. You can pay by credit card or cash.
Yes there is air condition on all ferries.
Yes they do but they are not free. In most cases, you need to purchase vouchers at the service desk while on the ferry. As an example, Golden Star Ferry charges 3.50 EUR for 3 hours.
All ferries have their own cafes which menas you’ll be able to buy basic sandwiches, snacks, and beverages while sailing.
Yes, if the ferry is relatively empty and there are open seats in the same class that are available, you can easily move to them. What you can’t do is move from say Economy Class to Business Class.
This depends on how sensitive you are. For the larger ships (Blue Star Ferries), sea sickness isn’t much of a concern but the high speed boats (Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries) are more bumpy depending on the sea conditions and can certainly affect someone that gets sea sick easily. It is recommended to take medication ahead of time in-case in those situations.
Normally no. If you’ve purchased your tickets online and you web check-in, the seat will be automatically assigned based on class. The same will happen if you pick up your ticket at the kiosk. That said, you can always make a request if you have one before they print it.
There are no general discount codes or promotions for ferries. You also don’t get any discounts for bundling many ferries journeys together. That said, Blue Star Ferries offers discounted fare for students with the ISIC card (50% off)
Currently, only Blue Star Ferries, Sea Jets, and Golden Star Ferries offer web check-in. This allows you to do this on your computer or smartphone to receive a QR code that you can present as your boarding pass, thus bypassing the need to collect your tickets at port or at the local travel agency.
Yes, food is allowed on board.
This is certainly an option if you’re looking to leave Athens later in the afternoon. This is a unique option not so much in terms of efficiency but because of the experience of being on a large transport ferry, sleeping in a cabin, and dining onboard, similar to a cruise ship.
In 2021, ferries schedules have been reduced significantly and while there are many morning ferries (i.e. 7AM, 7:25AM), there seems to be a lack of afternoon ferries. The only one available is the Blue Star Patmos that leaves at 5:30PM which arrives in Santorini at 2:10AM but this doesn’t run daily. There are also other ferries that run overnight that are simply slower. Alternatively, look for afternoon flights from Athens International Airport which may just be simpler at the end of the day.
In most cases, economy does not have outlets but business class will. Make sure to pack your universal adapter in your day bag to make you have it on you. If it’s your phone you’re worried about, a good powerbank will do.
Yes, all ferries are equipped with bathrooms and for the most part kept pretty clean.
Yes, announcements are made in advance of arrival in Greek and English.
They are moderately safe as you ultimately can’t have eyes on your bags at all times whether on a luggage rack near where you’re sitting or below deck. That said, we personally never had issues with stolen luggage. The below-deck storage should be safer as nobody can get to it when the ferry is moving but like a luggage carousel, but like flying, someone can get to it before you when you disembark. Make sure all valuables are on you.
This depends on what your preference and budget is. In most cases, economy will suit most just fine but make sure you get an assigned seat. For those wanting somewhere quieter, use a lounge, or have access to a table to work, business-class is worth it. If you’re looking to sleep, a cabin should be considered as well.
Yes, ideally you book online with FerryHopper to take the stress away from having to buy tickets on the day of or when you arrive in Greece. That said, ferries rarely sell out unless you’re looking for a cabin or travelling during a Greek holiday. Alternatively, you can also buy tickets from an agency at the airport when you land in Athens.
Ferries are typically cancelled when the seas are rough due to weather. August is often the windiest and so there are chances ferries can be cancelled. Winter months can also bring about harsher weather as well. That said, the large ferries such as Blue Star Ferries are able to handle these conditions and are least likely to be cancelled.
You’ll see both used online. Thira is the Greek name for the town in Santorini but the anglicized version is Fira.
No, there is not a direct bus from the port but you can take the bus to Fira and transfer to another bus to Oia. That said, the Fira – Oia bus route is often quite busy and can be difficult to secure a seat and spot for your luggage.
In comparison to other international airports, Athens is not large and is quite easy to get around and well-organized. Check the map here.
No, there is only one terminal at Athens International Airport.
The minimum transfer time recommended is 2 hours. 3 hours is preferable. Remember you need to pick up your luggage, leave the security area, and check-in.
You are able to check-in up to 30 minutes prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time.
Once you land, you’ll go through customs. This can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. From there, you’ll need to claim your bags (no need if this if both flights are on one ticket) and with nothing to declare, exit out of the door with the green signage. You’ll be in effect, leaving the security area at this point. From there, you head back upstairs to the counter of your next airline and check-in. From there, you’ll make your way to the gate. Unlike other airports with a large security checkpoint, this doesn’t happen until you get to the departure gate itself. They’ll ask for your passport, boarding card, and you’ll go through the standard x-ray process.
To find the cheapest flight, use Skyscanner to see all flight schedules. You can also use the tool to set flight alerts, and find the cheapest day to fly.
The best time to visit Santorini is in May-June and September-October.
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