By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for Greece?
Since railway service is limited to a few main lines, a rail pass is not very useful in Greece. What's more, Greece also canceled most of its international train service a few years ago. Generally speaking, passes are only useful for those looking to reach Greece by ferry — though the availability of cheap flights usually makes flying a better option. For tips on getting around Greece despite its dismal train service, see below.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
In theory, you could use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. However, Greek rail service currently runs only on the Thessaloniki–Larissa–Athens main line and on branch lines to Volos and Kalambaka (Meteora); international service is limited to Thessaloniki–Sofia (Bulgaria) and Thessaloniki–Belgrade (Serbia). Many other local rail connections are not operating, including around the Peloponnese, so it's pretty safe to assume that you won't be using a pass to get around within Greece. Dotted lines show ferry routes, some of which are discounted if you have a rail pass. Dashed lines show bus connections, which aren't covered by rail passes. That said, you may still find it helpful to follow the links below for:
- More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
- The basics on choosing among rail passes
- More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
- Advice on deciding between first and second class
- Fare-estimate maps outside Greece
- Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
What's the best way reach Greece from elsewhere in Europe?
Flying is the best way to get there, especially since international trains only connect Thessaloniki (and Athens) with Sofia (with sparse train service itself, especially to Istanbul) and Belgrade; all other international service has yet to resume after being suspended several years ago (including trains to Bucharest and Istanbul). Moreover, driving to or from Greece is difficult — not just because of the long distances, but because border towns don't tend to have car-rental agencies, and the major agencies in larger cities won't allow their cars to cross the Greek border for any reasonable price.
Ferries still connect Greece to Italy and Turkey. Eurail passes cover overnight ferries operated by SuperFast and Minoan Lines between Venice, Ancona, or Bari (Italy) and Patras, Corfu, or Igoumenitsa (Greece). Ferries to Turkey leave from Greek islands close to Turkey and are not covered by rail passes. There are no ferries between Greece and Croatia (except via Italy).
- Renting a car is the easiest way to get around the mainland, and is relatively affordable as well. Pick up your car after leaving Athens (or drop it off as you arrive), as it'll just be a hassle within this bustling, walkable city (same goes for Thessaloniki). If you're heading out to the islands, you're likely better off turning in your car before you leave the mainland — not all Greek ferries allow cars, and you may not want or need a car on some islands.
- Buses are a reasonable option in summer, but can be greatly reduced off-season. Be sure to confirm — and re-confirm — schedules as you travel.
- Flying to the Greek islands on Olympic Air or Aegean Airlines can save time over long ferry rides.
- You can book ferry tickets online from home a few weeks ahead, or in person at one of Greece's nearly ubiquitous travel agencies.
Greece Rail Passes: Key Details
Greece–Italy Eurail Pass: Since it's affordable to buy train tickets locally in both Italy and Greece, and since Greece has just a few rail lines operating, this pass is not a wise move for most travelers.
Balkan Flexipass: Covers trains in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. Available for 5, 10, or 15 days of train travel within a one-month window. Only available in first class, even to travelers under 26. InterCity (IC), and InterCity Express (ICE) trains require extra supplements/seat reservations, which can be made locally. Read ahead before getting this pass — your guidebook may recommend travel by bus instead of train.
Eurail Select Pass and Eurail Global Pass: Second-class passes can only be used by travelers under 26; travelers age 26 or older must buy a first-class pass.