Greece Rail Passes and Train Tips

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. 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?

Boat, Bus & Train Fares: Greece

Map shows approximate costs, in $US, for one-way, second-class tickets. For first-class fares, add 50 percent.

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 is so limited that it's pretty safe to assume 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, all but one of 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

What are my options for rail passes that cover Greece?

The Greece Eurail Pass covers trains (and offers discounts on certain international ferries), whereas the Greek Islands Eurail Pass covers only ferries (see "Key details" below). Hitting "Buy" for the first two passes below takes you to a page with information on both of these passes; choose between them after selecting your start date and passenger types, then hitting the yellow "Search" button.

Greece Eurail Passkey details

Greek Islands Eurail Passkey details

Eurail Global Pass (33 countries) → read more about this pass

Rail Europe shopping cart: Have an order underway? Review and complete it here.

What do rail passes cover in Greece?

Trains: The Greece Eurail Pass and the Global Pass cover what little train service is currently running in Greece. Domestically, that's limited to essentially two lines:

  • The main line linking Athens, Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, and Kastanies (a.k.a. "Kastanee/Καστανιές" on Greek schedules; within taxi/bus reach of the Turkish border), with its branch lines to Volos and Kalambaka (Meteora), and
  • The Athens–Kiato line (the rail half of the Athens–Patra route).

Most other local rail connections are not operating, including around the Peloponnese.

Buses: The route between Kiato (with a train station serving trains to/from Athens) and the port of Patra is the only bus line covered by passes.

Domestic ferries: The Greek Islands Eurail Pass is the only pass covering domestic ferry lines, but it doesn't cover all of them — the basics are described under key details below; full details are provided in the materials that come with the pass.

International ferries: Certain routes are either discounted or fully covered, depending on the specific pass (all described under key details below).

What's the best way reach Greece from elsewhere in Europe?

Flying is the best way to get there, since international trains are not currently operating. 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. The Eurail Global Pass covers overnight ferries operated by Superfast Ferries/ANEK Lines between Italy (Venice, Ancona, or Bari) and Greece (Patra, Corfu, or Igoumenitsa). Ferries to Turkey leave from Greek islands closest to Turkey; none are covered by rail passes. There are no ferries between Greece and Croatia (except via Italy).

Any tips for getting around Greece, given that train service is nearly nonexistent?

  • 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 their frequency can be greatly reduced off-season. Be sure to confirm — and re-confirm — schedules as you travel.
  • Flying to the Greek islands on 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.

What if I need help with my Rail Europe order?

All orders for passes and tickets are fulfilled by Rail Europe (not by Rick Steves' Europe). For customer-service questions, contact them online (or call 800 622 8600, but expect long waits and periods of unavailability at the call desk) — and keep in mind that refund options are fairly limited.

Greece rail passes: Key details

Greece Eurail Pass: Gives a 20–30 percent discount on most Greece–Italy ferries (and a 30 percent discount on some domestic ferries, but only if you've used the pass on a Greece–Italy ferry operated by Superfast Ferries/ANEK Lines).

Greek Islands Eurail Pass: This unusual pass comes in two versions:

  • A four-trip version that's valid only on ferries within Greece, and
  • A six-trip version that will cover four domestic ferries, plus two Greece–Italy ferry trips (with train/bus transfer between Patras and Pireus) — specifically deck passage on routes operated by Superfast Ferries/ANEK Lines between either Ancona, Bari, or Venice (Italy) and either Patra, Igoumenitsa, or Corfu (Greece); first-class passes include a bed in shared four-bed berths on international ferries. Unlike with the Eurail Global Pass, with the Greek Islands Eurail Pass you won't be charged any extra port tax or seasonal surcharge to ride these international ferries.

Both passes can be used on domestic routes operated by Blue Star Ferries and ANEK Lines connecting Piraeus (the port nearest Athens) and 53 islands with each other, including Hydra, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Ios, Naxos, Samos, Patmos, and two ports on Crete. While many travelers prefer the (arguably) more comfortable experience of taking the kind of bigger and slower ferries operated by Blue Star and ANEK, keep in mind that other ferry lines not covered by this pass often offer faster, more frequent, and/or more direct connections between Aegean islands.

Eurail Global Pass: Covers deck passage on Superfast Ferries/ANEK Lines between Patra, Greece and Bari or Ancona, Italy (starts use of one travel day, first-class passes may include overnight cabin). Also grants 20–30 percent discounts on other Greece–Italy ferry lines; these do not use up a travel day (details outlined here). On any Adriatic ferry, expect port and/or fuel fees adding up to around €25, plus seasonal surcharges of €15–25 (June–Sept).