The Parthenon, Athens.  It's easy to get to Greece by train!

The Parthenon in Athens, without flying...  You really can get there in comfort without having to fly!

Click for larger map

Guide to the route options

London to Greece in 48 hours, no flights!

No problem!  Take Eurostar to Paris and a high-speed TGV to Italy through the Alps, then an overnight cruise ferry to Greece across the Adriatic in a comfortable en suite cabin, with restaurants & bars on board.  Sailing across blue seas under even bluer skies past the islands of Ithaca and Kefalonia is perhaps the nicest way of all to reach Greece, a far more rewarding experience than 3 hours strapped to a seat on a plane, and it's practical & affordable, too.  Or you can make an exciting and adventurous overland journey all the way to Greece by train via Paris, Munich, Belgrade & Thessaloniki.  On this page you'll find a step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a memorable journey from London or Paris to Greece, with schedules, fares and how to buy your tickets.

Train times, fares & tickets...

  London to Greece without flying - options explained

  London to Athens by train & ferry via Paris & Italy

  London to Athens by train via Munich & Belgrade

  London to Athens by train & ferry via Venice

  London to Thessaloniki & Larissa

  London to Meteora (Kalambaka)

  London to Corfu

  London to Kefalonia

  London to Crete

  London to Rhodes & other Greek islands

  Trains from Athens to other European cities

  Trains to Athens from other European cities

  How to buy Greek train tickets online from €9!

Other travel information...

  Hotels & accommodation in Greece  

  Buying UK train tickets to connect with Eurostar

  Send your luggage in advance

  Greece to Turkey by ferry   

  Luggage   Taking bikes   Taking a dog

  Left luggage at stations  

  General information on train travel Europe

Sponsored links...

 


Useful country information

Trains within Greece:  

OSE (Organismos Sidirodromon Ellados): www.trainose.gr (previously www.ose.gr) see guide to using it.   Map of Greek train routes    Athens-Istanbul by train    All-Europe online train times

Greek island ferries:

See www.ferriesingreece.com or www.ferries.gr for all Greek island ferries & operators.

Ferries Italy-Greece:

Superfast Ferries, Blue Star ferries, Minoan Lines, Anek Lines, Hellenic Mediterranean Lines.  UK agent for most of these ferries: Viamare Travel

Railpasses:

Beginner's guide to European railpasses     Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:    

GMT+2 (GMT+3 last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

+30

Currency:

£1 = approx 1.15 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

www.gnto.gr   Athens Metro: www.ametro.gr   Recommended guidebooks

Hotels & tours:

Find hotels in Greece   Hotel reviews:  www.tripadvisor.com     Backpacker hostels

Visas:

UK citizens do not need visas for travel via any of the routes shown here.

Page last updated:

9 November 2017.  Train times valid 11 June to 9 December 2017.


London to Greece, the options...

You can reach Greece from London either by train to Italy then a cruise ferry to Greece, or by train all the way to Athens across eastern Europe via Munich, Vienna & Budapest.  Here are the best options:

Option 1, by Eurostar & TGV train to Italy then cruise ferry to Greece...

This is the route I'd recommend, it's the quickest, cheapest and most comfortable way from London to Greece without flying, shown in red on the route map below.  It's a wonderful trip and a great alternative to a flight, taking little over 48 hours from St Pancras station to stepping ashore in Greece.  Take a morning Eurostar from London to Paris and an afternoon high-speed TGV from Paris to Milan.  Stay overnight, then take an air-conditioned Frecciabianca train all along the Adriatic coast to Bari in southern Italy.  Modern cruise ferries sail overnight from Bari to Patras in Greece, for the train to Athens.  Why not stop off to see a little of Italy on the way?  Times, fares & information for this route are shown below.

Option 2, by train all the way to Athens...

The overland route from London to Greece takes you via Paris, Munich, Zagreb & Belgrade to Thessaloniki, Larissa & Athens.  The complete journey from London to Athens takes just 2 nights, with a safe & comfortable sleeping-car or couchette car available for each of the overnight sections.  It's an exciting & adventurous journey with some wonderful scenery on the way.  Feel free to stop off if you like, too.  Train times, fares & information for this option are shown below.

Option 3, by train to Venice then cruise ferry to Greece...

This is a simpler but slightly longer version of option 1, which lets you see Venice on the way.  You take Eurostar to Paris, TGV to Milan or Turin and onward Italian Frecciabianca train to Venice.  Ferries used to sail from Venice itself, but Minoan Lines now go from Trieste, so you hop on the hourly Venice-Trieste regional train.  A Minoan Lines cruise ferry sails several times a week from Trieste to Patras in Greece for a bus to Athens.  Train times, fares & information for this route are shown below.

Interactive map:  Click a route for times, fares & how to buy tickets...

London to Rhodes London to Crete London to Greece overland by train London to Greece via ferry from Bari London to Sofia via Budapest & Belgrade London to Budapest via Brussels & Vienna London to Sofia via Bucharest London to Greece by ferry from Venice London to Greece by train all the way London to Greece via ferry from Bari

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London to Athens via Bari 

  Taking the ferry to Greece...

Don't fly to Greece, cruise there!  Take the train to Italy, then sail by cruise ferry from Italy to Greece across the sunny Adriatic, perhaps the nicest part of the trip.

   

A train ride to Italy & cruise to Greece...

This is the most wonderful way to reach Greece, in just 48 hours or so from London.  Travel from London to Milan in one day by Eurostar and high-speed TGV through the French and Italian Alps.  Next day, travel all along Italy's Adriatic coast to Bari, and now for the best bit, board a comfortable modern ferry for an overnight cruise across the Adriatic from Italy to Greece, waking up next morning to see the islands of Cephalonia and Ithaca passing slowly to starboard in the bright Mediterranean sun...

London ► Athens

Athens ► London

How much does it cost?  Summary...

What's the journey like?

1)  London to Paris by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page

2)  Paris to Milan by TGV.    Watch the Paris-Milan video guide

Paris Gare de Lyon, from where the TGV trains to Barcelona leave   The Train Bleu restaurant at Paris Gare de Lyon

Departure from Paris Gare de Lyon...   The train to Italy leaves from the historic Gare de Lyon in central Paris.  Why not have lunch or at least a drink in the bar at the fabulous Train Bleu Restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon (pictured above right) before catching the train to Turin or Milan? 

TGV bar car   TGV from Milan to Paris

The cafe-bar, serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, hot & cold snacks & microwaved hot dishes....

 

The 14:41 TGV to Milan at the Gare de Lyon.  There's no check-in, just be on board at departure time...

Designer interiors... The Paris-Turin-Milan TGV trains now feature chic interiors by designer Christian Lacroix.  All seats have power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  In first class, you'll be offered a 3-course tray meal with wine served at your seat, although this is extra, not included in the fare.  The bar car sells Paris metro tickets, which can save time on your return.

TGV interior by Christian Lacroix, second class   TGV 1st class by Christian Lacroix

2nd class with a mix or unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats are 2+2 across car width.  Panorama photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  Panorama photo.

The fields of rural France from the train to Italy   Rural France

The TGV leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across rural France at up to 186 mph, past fields, woods, pretty villages...

Mountains from the TGV train to Italy

...it calls at Lyon St Exupery then slows right down through the Alpine foothills.

2nd class on the TGV from Paris to Milan   TGV from Milan to Paris

The TGV crosses the Alps via Chambιry and Modane, passing through the 13.6 km (8.5 mile) long Frιjus Rail Tunnel, also known less accurately as the Mont Cιnis tunnel.  The tunnel transit takes just 7 minutes, during which the train enters Italy.  Opened in 1871, this the oldest of the large tunnels through the Alps, and was the longest tunnel in the world from 1871 until 1882 when the Gotthard tunnel opened on the Zurich-Milan route.

 

More mountains...

 

Now we're in Italy, leaving the Alps behind...

The TGV arrived at Milan Porta Garibaldi   Milan Porta Garibaldi station

Arrival on time at Milan's modern Porta Garibaldi station.  Porta Garibaldi is a 10-minute €6 taxi ride or 25 minute walk from Milan's main Centrale station.

3)  Milan to Bari by Frecciabianca...

Frecciabianca train to Venice, seen at Milan Centrale   2nd class seats

A Frecciabianca train at Milan Centrale...  Frecciabiancas link Milan with Ancona, Bari & Brindisi...

 

2nd class seat, most with access to a power socket for laptops or mobiles.  There's a small bar, and a refreshment trolley comes down the train...

1st class seats   Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale

This is 1st class, more spacious, less crowded.  All seats have power sockets and there's a complimentary coffee from the trolley...

 

A Frecciabianca at Milan.  A strange train - two modern power cars sandwich former intercity carriages.  This shows the new colour scheme.

4)  Bari to Patras by Superfast Lines - Blue Star Ferries cruise ferry...

Several ferry companies sail from Bari or Brindisi in Italy to Patras in Greece.  Probably the best one is the joint Superfast / Blue Star Ferries service as this uses modern ships, sails daily, and can easily be booked online.  If you book a 'deck place' you can use your own sleeping bag and set up camp in a covered area on deck near the stern.  For a few more pounds you can book a reclining seat.  Or you can book a berth in various types of cabin, including luxury cabins.  Most cabins have private shower and toilet.  The ferry crossing is the best part of the journey, over deep blue waters and past many islands.

Blue Star Ferries from Bari to Patras in Greece   At sea crossing by ferry from Italy to Greece

The best ferry service from Bari to Patras is jointly run by Blue Star Ferries and Superfast Ferries.  This is the Blue Star 1 at Patras.

 

On deck next morning!

A 2 or 4 berth cabin on the Italy-Greece ferry  

2 or 4-berth cabin with private toilet & shower.

 

Relaxing on deck...

The ferry from Bari to Greece at sea

At sea, passing Cephalonia & Ithaca.  This is what travel to Greece should be like!

How much does it cost?  Full details...

Each part of the journey is ticketed separately, so add up the fares for each stage for the class or accommodation type you want.  If you want to stop off in  Paris or Milan, this doesn't cost any more.  Incidentally, the cheapest way to make this journey is with low-cost advance-purchase tickets as shown here, not with an expensive railpass, as passes don't cover Eurostar and incur some hefty additional fees, such as a €55 passholder fee for the Paris-Milan TGV, when regular fares for this train start at €29 without a pass.

 1. London to Paris

 by Eurostar...

 From £44 one-way, £58 return 2nd class.

 From £112 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child & youth fares 

 

 2. Paris to Milan

 by daytime TGV...

2nd class

1st class

 Cheap one-way fares:

From £25.50 (€29)

From £38.50 (€44)

 Cheap return fares:

From £51

From £77

 Full-price one-way fare:

£121

£152

 Full-price child fare:

£45

£59

 Railpass fare:

£50

£66

 Domestic animals:

£29

£29

Cheap fares = Prems or Leisure fares = Book ahead, price varies, no refunds or changes.

Full-price fare = Refundable and flexible.  There are no senior or youth reductions.

Child fare = Child 4-11 years (use an adult special fare if cheaper). Children under 4 free.

Railpass fare:  What you pay if you have railpasses (Eurail, Interrail, etc) covering both Italy & France.

Check actual prices for your date of travel at www.loco2.com or www.trainline.eu.

 3. Milan to Bari

 by Frecciabianca train

 Booked online at www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com:

 2nd class Super-Economy fares from €29.90 each way.

 1st class Super-Economy fares from €39.90 each way.

  

 4. Bari to Patras

 by Superfast Ferries- 

 Blue Star Ferries...

 Booked online at www.superfast.com:

 Fares vary by season and accommodation - here's some examples:

 With a basic deck place:  €63 one-way, €109 return;

 With reclining seat:  €76 one-way, €131 return;

 With berth in cabin: From €127 one-way, €217 return

 If you are aged under 26, youth fares are around 20% lower.

 If you are aged 60 or over, senior fares are around 10% lower.

  

 5. Patras to Athens by bus

 A bus costs around €20.60 per person. 

 Buy the bus ticket when you get to Patras.

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Custom-made travel arrangements with trains, ferries & hotels all booked for you...

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Nick Stone returned to London from Athens this way:  "We travelled from Athens to London.  The ferry ride was relaxing and we enjoyed beers and a lovely ΰ la carte meal for €34 including drinks.  We were both impressed with quality of the meal and service.  We arrived 2 hours late in Bari, but made the 11:03 train to Bologna with 5 minutes to spare, and celebrated by having the set €26 menu lunch on the train and a bottle of wine.  Spent a 5 hours in Bologna which a great place for a short break before taking the sleeper overnight to Paris and the Eurostar home.  It was great trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it."

Alternative ferries from Brindisi or Ancona...

Superfast Ferries from Bari is recommended rather than ferries from Brindisi for several reasons.  Superfast Ferries and their partners Blue Star Ferries use modern ships and sail daily to a convenient schedule with good connections possible from Paris, London, and most Italian cities.  Superfast Ferries sail from a terminal next to Bari's pleasant old town, and you can walk there from the station.  In Brindisi, most ships now use a new terminal a couple of miles out of town, reached by taxi or courtesy minibus from the shipping company offices in town.  Since 2004, there are few scheduled sailings from Brindisi, most go from Bari.

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London to Athens via Belgrade

London to Greece overland by train...

This is an overland adventure through the Balkans!  The fastest and simplest route is explained below, taking you through Paris, Munich, Zagreb & Belgrade.  Other routes are possible, so if you'd prefer the route via Brussels or Paris, Vienna, Budapest & Belgrade, see the London to Belgrade page then take the daily Belgrade to Thessaloniki train.  If you'd like to go via Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest & Sofia, see the London to Sofia page then take the daily Sofia to Thessaloniki train

Whichever route you choose, once past Belgrade, don't expect western standards such as air-conditioning on the trains, and bring you own supplies of food, water, wine or beer.  But it's a safe and comfortable journey, rediscovering some of the mystery, intrigue and romance of long-distance train travel across Europe.  You'll also see some great Balkan scenery with your feet up and a beer or glass of red in your hand.  The route via Munich, Zagreb & Belgrade is the fastest overland option, London to Thessaloniki in Greece overland by train in 2 nights, 3 days.  It involves comfortable high-quality air-conditioned trains all the way to Belgrade, but a more basic overnight train between Belgrade and Thessaloniki with 6-berth couchettes but no private sleepers, but it's comfortable enough!

London ► Greece

Greece ► London

How much does it cost?

Each train is ticketed separately, so add up the price for each leg of the journey.

 1. London to Paris

     by Eurostar...

 From £44 one-way, £58 return 2nd class.

 From £112 one-way, £168 return 1st class.  Child & youth fares 

 

 2. Paris to Munich

     by TGV Duplex...

 From £34 one-way, £68 return in 2nd class

 From £53 one-way, £106 return in 1st class.

 Limited availability, book in advance to get these fares.

 Full fare £81 one-way, £142 return.

 

 3. Munich to Zagreb

 on the Lisinski...

In a

seat:

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

 Saver fare one-way, from:

€29

€49

€59

€69

€79

€139

 Saver fare return, from:

€58

€98

€118

€138

€158

€278

Saver fare = Advance-purchase fare, price varies, no refunds, no changes to travel plans.

Berths are sold individually, so one ticket means one bed.  The other beds in your compartment will be sold to other passengers.  For sole occupancy, simply book 1 ticket in a 1-berth sleeper or 2 tickets in a 2-berth sleeper or 4 tickets in a 4-berth couchette & so on.

 4. Zagreb to Belgrade

     by day train...

 Bought in the UK:  £44 each way.

 Bought locally at the station: About €35 each way.

 

 5. Belgrade to Thessaloniki

     by overnight train...

€34 bought at the station + €8 couchette supplement.  If you buy through a western ticketing agency, reckon on €75 including couchette.

 

 6. Thessaloniki to Athens by train

 From €9 in 2nd class or €39 in 1st class if pre-booked online.

 €45 in 2nd class or €55 1st class full-price bought on the day.

 Booked online at www.trainose.gr as explained here.

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone:  In the UK call 0844 248 248 3...

Custom-made travel arrangements with trains, hotels & transfers all booked for you...

What's the journey like?

London to Paris by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page.

Paris to Munich by TGV Duplex...  Click for TGV Duplex video guide

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  The train soon leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods & farmland at up to 200mph, past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region.  An hour or two later, the train leaves the high-speed line and slowly meanders through pretty wooded hills, the countryside eventually flattening out towards Strasbourg.  On leaving Strasbourg, look out for Strasbourg cathedral on the left with its famously missing second tower.  Minutes afterwards you rumble across the river Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart & Munich.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de l'Est   Upper deck second class on board a TGV Duplex.

TGV Duplex at Paris Est. These impressive 200 mph double-deck trains link Paris with Nice, Marseille, Munich, Barcelona & Switzerland...

 

2nd class table for 4 on TGV Duplex upper deck...

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class seats on the upper deck, with a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green indicates 2nd class.

Munich to Zagreb on the sleeper train Lisinski...   Watch the video

This modern sleeper train is a pleasure to travel on, whether in the privacy of your own sleeper or in economical couchettes.  There's time for dinner in Munich before boarding, try www.augustinerkeller.de at Arnulfstrasse 52, to the north side of Munich Hbf.

The 'Lisinski' sleeper train from Zagreb to Munich, at Zagreb main station   Sleeper compartment in the Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb

The sleeping-car on the Lisinski:  The modern air-conditioned Croatian sleeping-car of the Lisinski from Munich to Zagreb has 10 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth room, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  Above left, the sleeper arrived at Zagreb.

4-berth couchettes on Munich to Zagreb train   Couchette car on Munich to Zagreb train, at Munich

The couchette car on the Lisinski has modern air-conditioned 6-berth and 4-berth compartments.  Above right, the westbound train is seen boarding at Zagreb. See panorama photo.

Scenery between Ljubljana, Zagreb & Belgrade

Wake up to scenery like this between Ljubljana & Zagreb, along the river Sava...

Zagreb to Belgrade by air-conditioned train...

2nd class seats in a Serbian air-conditioned train   The train from Belgrade to Zagreb & Zurich, about to leave Belgrade

This is a comfortable air-conditioned Serbian train, with modern 2nd class seats - there's no 1st class.  There's no restaurant car, so take a picnic and some beer or wine with you.  Above right, the Belgrade to Zagreb train about to leave Belgrade.  Above left, 2nd class seats.

Belgrade to Thessaloniki by overnight couchette train...

East of Belgrade, you leave modern fripperies such as air-conditioning behind...  The Belgrade-Thessaloniki night train has a Macedonian couchette car, though no sleeper.  But it's comfortable enough, and seldom full, see the photos below, courtesy of traveller Tom Whitehead.  Clean sheets, pillow and blanket are provided.  You'll probably find fellow travellers from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia or Britain on board.

The Macedonian couchette car on the Belgrade to Thessaloniki train   A 6-berth couchette compartment on the Belgrade to Thessaloniki train
A 6-berth couchette compartment on the Belgrade to Thessaloniki train   The Macedonian couchette car on the Belgrade to Thessaloniki train

Thessaloniki to Athens by InterCity train...

Modern air-conditioned InterCity trains link Thessaloniki (Salonika) with Athens in as little as 4½ hours, with superb scenery through the mountains between Larissa & Athens.  But hurry, as in a few years time a new 125mph section of line will by-pass these scenic mountain sections, cutting the Athens-Salonika journey time to little over 3 hours...

Greek InterCity train from Thessaloniki to Athens

A Thessaloniki to Athens InterCity train.  The carriages are modern and air-conditioned, although as you can see, Greece suffers a graffiti problem at the moment, and not just on its railways.  Photo courtesy of Dave Roberts

2nd class on Greek InterCity train   More mountain scenery, and the Gorgopotamos Viaduct...

Soon after leaving Thessaloniki, the InterCity train runs along the Aegean coast and past Mount Olympus (seen above, from the train), mythical home to the Greek gods...

 

Between Larissa & Athens, the train snakes through the mountains, over the famous Gorgopotamos viaduct, blown up by the British S.O.E. in WW2...

Parnassus mountains seen from the Thessaloniki-Athens train

View of the Parnassus mountains from the train.  Courtesy of Laurent Faurite.

Great scenery from the train:  In the mountains between Athens and Larissa   More scenery on the train to Athens

Emerging from the mountains, the train descends a spectacular escarpment (above left), with the Greek plain laid out hundreds of feet below...

2nd class seats   Cafe car   The main Larissa railway station in Athens

The train has comfortable 1st & 2nd class seats (2nd class above left) and a cafe car.  A free meal is served if you have a 1st class ticket.  Interior photos courtesy of Dave Roberts.

Finally, you arrive at Athens' main (Larissa) station, over 2,000 miles from London St Pancras...

Watch the video: London as far as Belgrade by train...

The video shows what the train ride from London as far as Belgrade is like.  There's a slight variation, the video shows a journey by TGV from the Gare de Lyon to Zurich, then Croatian sleeping-car to Zagreb, instead of a TGV from Paris Est to Munich, then Croatian sleeping-car to Zagreb, but the sleeping-car is the same and you see the same wonderful scenery between Ljubljana & Zagreb.

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London to Athens by via Venice

  A Minoan Lines ship passing St Marks Square, Venice, en route to Greece...

The civilised way to reach Greece...  A cruise ferry to Greece sails right past the gondolas in St Mark's Square in Venice.  You can buy Italy-Greece ferry ticket online at the Seat61 Ferry ShopPhoto courtesy of Andy Brabin of www.discoverbyrail.com.

   

An Adriatic cruise from Venice to Greece...

Taking a ferry to Greece from Venice rather than Bari means the London-Athens journey will take 3 nights rather than 2, but taking a cruise ferry all along the Adriatic is a wonderful and leisurely option.  With some time in Venice (stop off for longer if you like), an Adriatic cruise on a modern ferry with cruise ship facilities, less train travel necessary through Italy, it's an alternative that's well worth considering.  You could do the journey over a weekend!

London ► Greece

Greece ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

The easiest & cheapest way to book this journey is online, just follow these step-by-step instructions.  This journey involves three websites, so do a dummy run on each site to check prices and availability before booking for real.  Make sure you get your departure dates right for each leg of the journey outward and back.  It can help to jot down the date and departure time for each separate booking before you start, the how to plan an itinerary & budget page may help.

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London to Salonika & Larissa

The overland route from London to Athens passes through Salonika (Thessaloniki in Greek) and Larissa, see the London to Athens section above for details.

Alternatively, you could travel from London to Athens by train and ferry via Italy, then take a train from Athens north to Larissa and Athens. See the London to Athens section above, then use the Greek Railways website, You can check train times for this section at www.trainose.gr for train times between Athens, Larissa and Salonika.

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London to Meteora (Kalambaka)

Meteora is a spectacular monastery perched on a huge rock, near the town of Kalambaka.  Kalambaka is at the end of a railway branch line from Paleofarsolas on the main Thessaloniki-Larissa-Athens rail line.  There are two direct trains from Athens to Kalambaka every day (about 4 hours 45 minutes), plus regular trains throughout the day from Athens, Larissa and Thessaloniki with a change of train at Paleofarsolas.  For train times from Athens or Thessaloniki to Kalambaka, see You can check train times for this section at www.trainose.gr and use their journey planner.

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London to Corfu

By train & ferry via Bari or Brindisi...

By train & ferry via Venice or Trieste...

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London to Kefalonia (Cephalonia)

Made famous by the book and film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, it's easy to reach Kefalonia all the way from London in less than 48 hours, without flying.

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London to Heraklion & Crete

  Ferries from Piraeus to Crete, seen at Heraklion
 

Ships of rival ferry operators Minoan Lines and Anek Lines in Heraklion harbour.  Photo courtesy of Walter Smith.

To reach Crete, you first need to travel to Athens, then use one of of the overnight ferries from Piraeus, port of Athens, to Crete.

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London to other Greek islands

  Ferries from Piraeus to Crete, seen at Heraklion
 

Anek ferry at Samos. Courtesy of Sue Smith.

Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini...

Ferries to Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini and most Aegean islands leave from Piraeus, the port of Athens.

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How to book Greek trains online

How to buy Greek train tickets online:  Athens to Thessaloniki or Kalambaka from €9!

Greek Railways (OSE) now have an online booking service for their domestic trains at www.trainose.gr, in English, offering cheap advance-purchase tickets.  This is the only way you can book Greek domestic trains, because the Greek Railways ticketing system isn't connected to anyone or anything outside Greece, so European train ticketing agencies such as Rail Europe can only issue open full-price open unreserved tickets - which is useless, as all mainline Greek trains require reservation!  You should therefore always buy Greek domestic tickets online at www.trainose.gr as explained here (with cheap advance-purchase prices and the necessary reservation automatically included) or simply buy tickets when you get to Greece.  Here's how to buy online:

Update:  OSE's advance-purchase fares seem to have disappeared, leaving only the full-price fares.  Heaven knows what they're up to.  But see what you get.

  • Go to www.trainose.gr.  Click the UK flag top right for English.  Click 'Trips' or 'Tickets' on the left.

  • Now click 'new member', fill out your details, and activate your account when you get the activation email.  This only takes a minute or two.

  • Once registered, make an enquiry using the journey planner at the top of the page, for example 'Thessaloniki to Athens' on the date you want.

  • Possible source of confusion 1:  On the search results page, 'A'; means first class, 'B' means 2nd class.  The WEB A and WEB B columns show availability of the cheap advance-purchase fares in 1st & 2nd class, which will usually be what you want.  Se the first screenshot below.

    Possible source of confusion 2:  If the WEB A and WEB B columns are empty, you are looking too far ahead.  The cheap fares are only available if you book a month or less before departure. So wait and book your Greek train tickets a few weeks ahead, not months and months!  You can even find cheap fares booking the day before, at least on some trains!

  • Select the train you want then click 'Seat selection' top right.  A diagram of the seats appears.  I now recommend clicking 'Coach layout explanation' top right as this is the key.

  • Possible source of confusion 3:  Now the science bit.  The colour-coded seats on the seat plan correspond to the cheap 'web' fares, see the second screenshot below.  The different coloured seats correspond to the €9, €19, €29 cheap fare rates.  So if you want a €9 fare, simply hunt and select a seat on the carriage plan outlined in red.  If you click one outlined in grey you'll be charged the regular non-advance-purchase price.  You may need to change carriages by clicking on B5, B4, B3 etc. to find coloured cheap seats.  What a system! 

  • If you select any seat in a carriage marked 'A' for example 'A1' or 'A2' you'll be selecting a first class seat & fare.

  • The arrow at the top of the carriages above the train number shows the direction of travel, useful if you want a forward-facing seat.

  • Select the seat (and by implication, the price!) you want and click 'Terms of service' top right.  On the terms & conditions page, tick the box at the bottom then click 'Passenger names' top right.

  • Possible source of confusion 4:  There's a box here which isn't translated into English, it has some Greek text in it and a button marked in Greek next to it.  It's the passenger names box.  Simply enter your name(s) in the box and click the button.

  • Leave 'FULL PRICE' selected if you are an adult.  Select the relevant category if the passenger is a child, etc.

  • Click 'Extra services' and click through the next page to 'Webticket payment'.  You can now pay with a credit card and print out your ticket.

Screenshot 1:  In the search results, A means 1st class, B means 2nd class.  WEB A & WEB B show cheap fare availability.

Geek Railways online tickets, screenshot 1

 

Screenshot 2:  On the seat selection page, hunt for the coloured seats which are the ones with the cheap fares!  The arrow above the train number (in this case 55) shows the direction of travel.  In this example, if you select seat 94 outlined in red you'll get a cheap €9 fare, although you'll be facing backwards with an aisle seat.

Buying Greek train tickets online, screenshot 2

 

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Send your luggage in advance

Ride the trains without heavy luggage... 

Send your suitcase ahead by Luggage Mule from around £30 each way.

  • Enjoy the train ride without heavy luggage - send it to your destination with Luggage Mule, www.luggagemule.co.uk.

  • Luggage Mule collects your suitcase from your home or office in the UK around 5 working days before you leave.  Your suitcase will be waiting at your hotel when you get to your destination.  They send bags to destinations all over Europe.

  • After your stay, leave your suitcase at your hotel reception when you check out, suitably labelled-up.  Luggage Mule will collect & deliver it to your home within 5 working days or so.

  • Online reviews of Luggage Mule rate them very highly indeed, though I have yet to have feedback myself.  If you use them, please let me known how they performed.

  • Example prices:  20 Kg bag from any UK address one-way to any address in:  Avignon or Nice £28.99;  Barcelona or Alicante £29.99;  Florence, Rome or Vienna £31.99;  Munich or Berlin £34.99;  Prague or Venice £49.99;  Athens or Corfu £54.99.  Check current prices to any destination at www.luggagemule.co.uk.

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.

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Guidebooks

Paying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's probably only a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For independent travel, I recommend either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.  Both have plenty of background historical and cultural information, with all the practical information you need.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

  Lonely Planet Greece - click to buy online  

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Find hotels in Athens & Greece

    

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It has been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel at a cheaper rate.

►► My recommended booking site:  www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings in one place here. 

You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a great feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

  • www.tripadvisor.com is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

  • www.booking.com is my own preferred hotel booking system (Hotels Combined being a search/comparison system).  It has a simple interface, a good selection in most countries worldwide, useful online customer reviews of each hotel, and decent prices, usually shown inclusive of unavoidable extras such as taxes (a pet hate of mine is systems that show one price, then charge you another!).

Backpacker hostels...

  • www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.

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Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from ww.nhs.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

 


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