The Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (tel. 210/353-0000; www.aia.gr), 27km (17 miles) northeast of Athens at Spata, is usually called "Venizelos" or "Spata," after the nearest town. Venizelos is a large, modern facility, with ample restrooms, interesting shops, and acceptable restaurants, but it is a serious slog from Athens; you no longer have the option of heading back into the city for a few extra hours of sightseeing if your flight is delayed, as visitors once did from the old airport. The airport has plenty to keep you busy, including a small museum with ruins found during the airport's construction and rotating art exhibits. Also, an Info-Point is available with excellent city brochures and guides, plus digital (iPads and flatscreen) tours of the city.
Here is a basic introduction to Athens's airport, based on information updated at press time.
Arrivals -- Most flights arrive at the main terminal, which has both an "A" and "B" area, but some flights -- including most charter flights -- arrive and depart from Spata's first of a projected cluster of satellite terminals. In addition, you may deplane down a steep flight of stairs onto the tarmac, where a bus will take you to the terminal. When planning what carry-on luggage to bring, remember that it can be quite a trek from your arrival point to the baggage claim area and Customs hall.
The baggage claim area has ATMs, telephones, restrooms, and luggage carts. Luggage carts cost 1€; if you see a cart attendant, he or she can make change for you. You can also use one of several free telephones in the baggage claim area to call for a porter.
If your suitcases do not greet you in the baggage claim area, proceed to a "baggage tracing" desk.
Signs in the baggage claim area indicate which route to use for Customs. Citizens of Common Market countries (EEC) do not have to go through Passport Control; citizens of non-EEC countries, such as the U.S. and Canada, must go through Passport Control.
If you are being met, you may want to rendezvous at the clearly marked Meeting Point (across from the Greek National Tourism Organization desk) between exits 2 and 3 in the main terminal Arrivals Hall.
The Pacific baggage storage (left luggage) facility is in the main terminal arrivals area; this service is officially open 24 hours a day and charges 2€ per piece per day.
Exits from the main terminal are signposted for taxi and bus connections into Athens.
Departures -- If you are taking a taxi to the airport, ask the desk clerk at your hotel to reserve the car for you well in advance of your departure. Many taxis refuse to go to the airport, fearing that they will have a long wait before they get a return fare. Allow a minimum of an hour for the ride plus 2 hours for check-in for an international flight. Or, you can hop on Metro line 3 at Syntagma or Monastiraki, or take line 1 at Monastiraki and switch at Nerantziotissa for the suburban railroad.
For information on bus service to the airport from Syntagma, Ethniki Amyna, and Piraeus, see above under "Arrivals." For precise details on where to catch the airport bus from Athens to the airport, check with your hotel, the Greek National Tourism Organization, or -- if you are very well organized and not too tired! -- at an information desk when you arrive at the airport.
The flight information screens should indicate where you check in and what departure gate to go to. Make sure that the information on your boarding pass agrees with the information on the flight information screen. There have been frequent complaints that adequate information on arrivals, departures, cancellations, delays, and gate changes is not always posted. Nonetheless, it is important to check these screens and ask at the information desks, as there are no flight announcements.
Last-minute changes in your departure gate are not unknown; arrive at your gate as early as possible. Your best chance of finding out about a change is at the original gate.
Luggage -- If you plan to travel by air in Greece or elsewhere in Europe, keep in mind that the luggage allowance for most flights within Greece and Europe is 20 kilos (44 lb.). This is much less than most international weight allowances from the U.S. or Canada.
Connecting Flights -- The airport authority advises you to allow a minimum of 45 minutes to make a flight connection; this should be adequate if you arrive and depart from the main terminal and do not have to clear Customs. Allow at least an hour (1 1/2 hr. is even better) if you have to clear Customs or if you arrive or depart from the satellite terminal. At present, many charter flights use the satellite terminal.
Airport Facilities -- The airport has about 35 shops, ranging from chic boutiques to Travel Value to duty-free shops. There are 10 restaurants and cafes, including a food village with seven food "hubs" in the main departure lounge. A McDonald's overlooking the runways perches on the upper level of the main terminal building. As with airports around the world, both food and goods are overpriced, although the prices of books, newspapers, and magazines are reasonable.
Duty-free shops have different regulations for Intra-Schengen and Extra-Schengen passengers. In short, Intra-Schengen refers to flights within the EEC; Extra-Schengen refers to flights outside the EEC. If you are flying from Athens to a country outside the EEC, you may find it worthwhile to check out the duty-free prices on perfumes and spirits.
The Greek National Tourism Organization (abbreviated GNTO in English-speaking countries and EOT in Greece) has an information desk in the Arrivals Hall.
Hertz, Avis, and Alamo rental cars are available at the airport. Note: All these companies levy a steep surcharge (at least 10%) if you pick up your car at the airport rather than at their in-town offices.
Both short-term (3€ per hr.) and long-term (12€ per day) parking is available at the airport. Much of the long-term parking is a serious walk from the main terminal. If you have the proper change (unlikely), you can use a machine to pay for your ticket; otherwise, join the queue at the payment booth.
Useful telephone numbers at Athens International Airport include: Information tel. 210/353-0000; Customs tel. 210/353-2014; Police tel. 210/663-5140; and First Aid tel. 166 (from airport courtesy phones and information desks) and tel. 210/353-9408 (from pay phones).
Traveling between the Airport and Piraeus (Pireas) -- The suburban railroad takes 50 minutes to reach the port of Piraeus- it is the best option. Taking the Metro from the airport to Piraeus (1 hr.) requires a change at Monastiraki, so this is not recommended if you have a lot of luggage. The taxi flat rate from the airport to Piraeus is 35€ (5am-midnight) and 50€ (midnight-5am). It's important to know that boats to the islands leave from several different Piraeus harbors. Most ferryboats and hydrofoils (Flying Dolphins) for Aegina leave from the Main Harbor. Hydrofoils for other islands leave from Marina Zea, a vigorous half-hour walk from the Main Harbor. If you don't know which harbor your boat is departing from, tell your taxi driver your final destination and he can probably find out which harbor and even which pier you are leaving from.
In theory, buses leave the airport for Piraeus every hour (5€). The bus usually leaves passengers in Karaiskaki Square, several blocks from the harbor. The official daily schedule is as follows: Spata-Piraeus (E96): Every 20 minutes from 5am to 7pm; every 30 minutes from 7pm to 8:30pm; every 40 minutes from 8:30pm to 5am.
Airline Offices -- Some international carriers still have ticket offices in or near Syntagma Square, but many have moved to other areas in the city. Double-check the location of your airline's Athens office before you leave, as these offices can move without warning. Air Canada is at 10 Ziridi, Marousi (tel. 210/617-5321-3206). American Airlines is at 15 Panepistimiou (tel. 210/331-1045 or 210/331-1046). British Airways is at 1 Themistokleous, at 130 Leoforos Vouliagmenis, Glyfada (tel. 210/890-6666). Delta Air Lines is at 4 Othonos (tel. 800/4412-9506). Lufthansa Airlines is at 10 Ziridi, Marousi (tel. 210/617-5244). Qantas Airways inquiries are handled by British Airways (tel. 801/115-6000). Turkish Airlines is at 19 Filellinon (tel. 210/324-6024).
Olympic Air (tel.210/355-0500; www.olympic.gr) and Aegean Airlines (www.aegeanair.com) -- the nation's top carriers -- both have their hubs in Athens International Airport. Aegean Airlines's headquarters is at 31 Viltanioti, Kifissia (tel. 210/626-1700).
Boat-to-Plane Connections -- A word about making air connections after an island trip: It is unwise -- even foolhardy -- to allow anything less than 24 hours between your return to Piraeus by island boat and your departure by air, as rough seas can significantly delay the trip.
If you arrive by car from Corinth (to the southwest), the signs into Athens will direct you fairly clearly to Omonia Square, which you will enter from the west along Ayiou Konstantinou. In Omonia, signs should direct you on toward Syntagma Square and other points in central Athens (signs in Omonia disappear mysteriously). If you arrive from Thessaloniki (to the north), the signs pointing you into central Athens are few and far between. It is not a good idea to attempt this for the first time after dark. If this happens, your best bet is to look for the Acropolis and head toward it until you pick up signs for Omonia or Syntagma squares.
Before you start out on any bus trip, check with the tourist police (tel. 210/171) or the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) office (tel. 210/870-0000; www.visitgreece.gr) for current schedules and fares. As the Metro continues to open new stations, bus routes and fares are always changing. It's best to double-check all routes and to be prepared for fare increases. If possible, get someone to write down the name and address of your bus station in Greek; this will be a great help when you take a taxi or bus. Keep in mind that many buses run both with and without a "0" prefix (024 and 24, for example).
There are two main stations for KTEL (www.ktel.org), the national bus company. Terminal A, 100 Kifissou (tel. 210/512-9233), off the road out of Athens toward Corinth, handles buses to and from the Peloponnese and parts of Northern Greece. A taxi here from Syntagma Square should cost 8€ to 16€; if traffic is light, the journey is less than 20 minutes, but it can take an hour. If you don't have much to carry, take public bus no. 051 to the terminal (1.20€). It leaves from the corner of Zinonos and Menandrou, several blocks off Omonia Square; you can catch the same bus at the terminal for the trip into town.
Terminal B (tel. 210/831-7096) handles buses to and from Central Greece (including Delphi, Thebes, Evvia, and Meteora) and some destinations to the north and east of Athens. The GNTO, for reasons known best to itself, lists the address for Terminal B as 260 Liossion; this is where the bus for the terminal stops. To get to the terminal itself after you get off the bus, turn right onto Yousiou and you will see the terminal at the end of the street. Bus no. 024, which stops at Leoforos Amalias in front of the entrance to the National Gardens (a block south of Syntagma Sq.), will take you to and from the terminal for 1.20€. If you take this bus, tell the driver you want to get off at the bus terminal and then head right to Yousiou to reach the terminal. The Mavromateon terminal at Patission and Alexandras, a few hundred meters north of the Archaeological Museum, handles buses for most destinations in Attica.
Trains from the south and west, including Eurail (www.eurail.com) connections via Patras, arrive at the Peloponnese station (Stathmos Peloponnisou; tel. 210/513-1601), about a mile northwest of Omonia Square on Sidirodromeon. Trains from the north arrive at Larissa station (Stathmos Larissis; tel. 210/529-8837), just across the tracks from the Peloponnese station on Deligianni. The Larissa station has both an exchange office (daily 8am-9:15pm) and luggage storage (daily 6:30am-9pm).
To get to the train stations, you can take the Metro to Larissa (line 2), close to both stations. A taxi from the center of town should cost about 10€. The Metro runs from Omonia, Syntagma, and Koukaki to the Larissa Metro station, which is near the train stations. The most central place to catch the Metro is the stop in front of the Parliament building on Syntagma Square.
You can purchase train tickets just before your journey at the train station (running the risk that all seats may be sold); at the Omonia Square ticket office, 1 Karolou (tel. 210/524-0647); at 17 Filellinon, off Syntagma Square (tel. 210/323-6747); or from most travel agents. Information (in theory in English) on timetables is available by dialing tel. 145 or 147.
Piraeus, the main harbor of Athens's main seaport, 11km (7 miles) southwest of central Athens, is a 15-minute Metro ride from Monastiraki, Omonia, and Thissio Metro stations. The subway runs from about 5am to midnight and costs 1.40€. The far slower bus no. 040 runs from Piraeus to central Athens (with a stop at Filellinon, off Syntagma Sq.) every 15 minutes between 5am and 1am and hourly from 1am to 5am for 1.20€. To get to Athens International Airport, you can take the X96 bus (5€), the Suburban Railroad (8 €) or the metro which will require a change at Monastiraki station to line 3 (8 €).
You may prefer to take a taxi to avoid what can be a long hike from your boat to the bus stop or subway terminal. Be prepared for serious bargaining. The normal fare on the meter from Piraeus to Syntagma should be about 15€ to 20€, but many drivers offer a flat fare, which can be as much as 30€. Pay it if you're desperate; or walk to a nearby street, hail another taxi, and insist that the meter be turned on.
If you arrive at Piraeus by hydrofoil (Flying Dolphin), you'll probably arrive at Zea Marina harbor, about a dozen blocks south across the peninsula from the main harbor. Even our Greek friends admit that getting a taxi from Zea Marina into Athens can involve a wait of an hour or more -- and that drivers usually drive hard (and exorbitant) bargains. To avoid both the wait and big fare, you can walk up the hill from the hydrofoil station and catch bus no. 905 for 1.20€, which connects Zea to the Piraeus Metro (subway) station, where you can complete your journey into Athens. You must buy a ticket at the small stand near the bus stop or at a newsstand before boarding the bus. Warning: If you arrive late at night, you may not be able to do this, as both the newsstand and the ticket stand may be closed.
If you've disembarked at the port of Rafina (about an hour's bus ride east of Athens), you'll see a bus stop up the hill from the ferryboat pier. Inquire about the bus to Athens; it runs often and will take you within the hour to the Areos Park bus terminal, 29 Mavromateon, near the junction of Leoforos Alexandras and Patission. The Areos Park terminal is 1 block from the Victoria Square Metro stop and about 25 minutes by trolley from Syntagma Square. From the bus terminal, there are buses to Rafina every half-hour.
The port of Lavrion (tel. 22920/25-249), 52km (32 miles) southeast of Athens, has taken over some of the itineraries from the port of Piraeus, including daily ferries and speedboats to Agios Efstratios, Alexandroupoli, Andros, Folegandros, Ios, Katapola, Kavala, Kea, Kythnos, Limnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Sikinos, Siros, and Tinos. The port's official website, www.oll.gr, is in Greek only, so check the GNTO site for more info. A taxi to Lavrio port from downtown Athens has a flat rate of 38€ (5am-midnight) and 55€ (midnight-5am). You can also get to the port by bus: Use the express lines of the interurban buses (KTEL) "Koropi station-Porto Rafti/Avlaki" or the urban buses of the area to reach the port. The price of the ticket is 5€. Also, there is a bus that can transfer you from the following Metro and suburban railway stations directly to the port: Pallini, Kantza, and Koropi.
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.