The Metro (www.amel.gr) runs from 5:30am to midnight Sunday through Thursday; on Friday and Saturday, trains run until 2am. All stations are wheelchair accessible. Stop at the Syntagma station or go to the GNTO for a system map. To travel on the Metro, buy your ticket at the station, validate it in the machines as you enter, and hang onto it until you get off. A single ticket costs 1.40€; a day pass costs 4€. Make sure you validate your ticket as you enter the waiting platform, or you'll risk a fine. Metro and bus tickets are interchangeable, except for bus E22, that heads to the coast and costs 1.60€ more.
Even if you do not use the Metro to get around Athens, you may want to take it from Omonia, Monastiraki, or Thissio to Piraeus to catch a boat to the islands. (Don't miss the spectacular view of the Acropolis as the subway goes aboveground by the Agora.) The harbor in Piraeus is a 5-minute walk from the Metro station. Take the footbridge from the Metro and you're there.
Cultured Commuting -- Allow extra time when you catch the Metro in central Athens: Three stations -- Syntagma Square, Monastiraki, and Acropolis -- handsomely display finds from the subway excavations in what amount to Athens's newest small museums. For more info, visit www.amel.gr.
By Bus & Trolley Bus
Although you can get almost everywhere you want in central Athens and the suburbs by bus or trolley, it can be confusing to figure out which bus to take. This is especially true now, when many bus routes change as new Metro stations open. Even if you know which bus to take, you may have to wait a long time until the bus appears -- usually stuffed with passengers. Check out the Athens Urban Transport Organisation (tel. 185; www.oasa.gr) for directions, timetables, route details, and maps.
If you find none of this daunting, tickets cost 1.20€ each (or 1.40€ to be combined with the Metro, trolley, and tram for up to 90 min.) and can be bought from periptera (kiosks) scattered throughout the city. The tickets are sold individually or in packets of 10. Tickets are good for rides anywhere on the system. Be certain to validate yours when you get on. Tip: Hold on to your ticket. Uniformed and plainclothes inspectors periodically check tickets and can levy a basic fine of 5€ or a more punitive fine of 30€ to 60€ on the spot!
If you're heading out of town and take a blue A-line bus to transfer to another blue A-line bus, your ticket will still be valid for the transfer.
In central Athens, minibus nos. 60 and 150 serve the commercial area free of charge.
Buses headed to farther points of Attica leave from Mavromateon on the western edge of Pedion tou Areos Park, at the western end of Leoforos Alexandras.
Athens's tram (www.tramsa.gr) connects downtown to the city's coast. Though it may not be the fastest means of transport, it takes a scenic route once it hits the coast and is handy for those wishing to visit the city's beaches and the coastline's attractions and nightlife. The tram runs on a 24-hour schedule Friday and Saturday and 5am to midnight Sunday through Thursday; tickets are 1.20€ (1.40€ if you wish to continue your journey with the Metro, bus, or trolley bus for up to 90 min.) and must be validated at the platform or inside the tram. Trams are comfortable and air-conditioned. A ride from Syntagma Square to the current last stop in seafront Voula is a little over an hour.
It's rumored that there are more than 15,000 taxis in Athens, but finding an empty one is not easy. Especially if you have travel connections to make, it's a good idea to reserve a radio taxi . Fortunately, taxis are inexpensive, and most drivers are honest men trying to wrest a living by maneuvering through the city's endemic gridlock. However, some drivers, notably those working Piraeus, the airports, and popular tourist destinations, can't resist trying to overcharge obvious foreigners.
When you get into a taxi during the day and up until midnight, check the meter. Make sure it is turned on and set to 1 (the daytime rate) rather than 2 (the night rate). The meter will register 1€. The meter should be set on 2 (double fare) only between midnight and 5am or if you take a taxi outside the city limits; if you plan to do this, negotiate a flat rate in advance. The "1" meter rate is .32€ per kilometer. There's a surcharge of 1€ for service from a port or from a rail or bus station. Luggage costs .32€ per 10 kg (22 lb.). Taxis to and from the airport to downtown have a flat rate of 35 € (5am-midnight) and 50€ (midnight-5am). Don't be surprised if the driver picks up other passengers en route; he will work out everyone's share of the fare. The minimum fare is 2.80€. These prices will almost certainly be higher by the time you visit Greece.
If you suspect that you have been overcharged, ask for help at your hotel or destination before you pay the fare.
Your driver may find it difficult to understand your pronunciation of your destination; ask a hotel staff member to speak to the driver directly or write down the address so you can show it to the driver. Carry a business card from your hotel, so you can show it to the taxi driver on your return.
There are about 15 radio taxi companies in Athens; their phone numbers change often, so check the daily listing in "Your Guide" in the Athens News. Some established companies include Athina (tel. 210/921-7942), Express (tel. 210/993-4812), Parthenon (tel. 210/532-3300), and Piraeus (tel. 210/418-2333). If you're trying to make travel connections or are traveling during rush hour, a radio taxi is well worth the 2.80€ surcharge. Your hotel can call for you and make sure that the driver knows where you want to go. Most restaurants will call a taxi for you without charge.
The GNTO's pamphlet Helpful Hints for Taxi Users has information on taxi fares as well as a complaint form, which you can send to the Ministry of Transport and Communication, 13 Xenophondos, 10191 Athens. Replies to complaints should be forwarded to the Guinness Book of World Records.
In Athens, a car is far more trouble than convenience. The traffic is heavy, and finding a parking place is extremely difficult. Keep in mind that if you pick up your rental car at the airport, you may pay a hefty (sometimes daily) surcharge. Picking up a car in town involves struggling through Athens's traffic to get out of town. That said, we do have some suggestions to follow.
Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and National all have offices at Athens International Airport.
Tip: Renting a car from abroad is invariably cheaper than negotiating for one on the spot in Athens. In fact, the savings in the rental rate usually make it worth your while to telephone or e-mail a major car-rental firm in the U.S. from Greece, if you haven't made arrangements to rent a car before you left your home country.
If you decide to rent a car in Athens, you'll find many rental agencies south of Syntagma Square and in Athens International Airport. Some of the better agencies include Avis, 46-48 Leoforos Amalias (tel. 210/687-9600; www.avis.gr); Budget Rent a Car, 8 Leoforos Syngrou (tel. 210/898-1444; www.budget-athens.gr); Eurodollar Rent a Car, 29 Leoforos Syngrou (tel. 210/922-9672 or 210/923-0548); Hellascars, 148 Leoforos Syngrou (tel. 210/923-5353 to -5359); Hertz, 12 Leoforos Syngrou (tel. 210/922-0102 to -0104; www.hertz.gr) and 71 Leoforos Vas. Sofias (tel. 210/724-7071 or 210/722-7391); and Thrifty Hellas Rent a Car, 24 Leoforos Syngrou (tel. 210/922-1211 to -1213; www.thriftygreece.gr). Prices for rentals range from 50€ to 100€ per day. Warning: Be sure to take full insurance and ask if the price you are quoted includes everything -- taxes, drop-off fee, gasoline charges, and other fees.
Since most of what you'll want to see and do in Athens is in the city center, it's easy to do most of your sightseeing on foot. Fortunately, Athens has created pedestrian zones in sections of the Commercial Triangle (the area bounded by Omonia, Syntagma, and Monastiraki squares), the Plaka, and Kolonaki, making strolling, window-shopping, and sightseeing infinitely more pleasant. Dionissiou Areopagitou, at the southern foot of the Acropolis, was also pedestrianized, with links to walkways past the Ancient Agora, Thissio, and Kerameikos. Still, don't relax completely, even on pedestrian streets: Athens's multitude of motorcyclists seldom respect the rules, and a red traffic light or stop sign is no guarantee that vehicles will stop for pedestrians.
Wheelchair users will find Athens challenging even though the 2004 Paralympics brought some improvements. For one, the Acropolis is finally wheelchair accessible. Ramps and platforms have been added to bus stops, railway stations, and ports, while Metro stations and sports venues are wheelchair accessible. Some central Athens streets, sites, and Metro stations have special sidewalks for the visually impaired, but making the rest of the city accessible will be quite a task. For more information contact the Panhellenic Union of Paraplegic & Physically Challenged, 3-5 Dimitsanis, Moschato (tel. 210/483-2564; www.pasipka.gr).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.