The vast majority of travelers reach Greece by plane, and most arrive at the Athens airport -- officially Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (ATH), sometimes referred to by its new location as "the Spata airport." Thessaloniki International Airport (Macedonia; SKG) in northeastern Greece is an alternative for those who might like to make their way south but it has far fewer connecting flights to foreign cities.
Four airlines offer direct flights from North America to Athens: Continental, Delta, Olympic Air and USAir (Many airlines these days belong to an "alliance" or code-sharing group so you might be able to use or earn frequent-flyer miles with one of the other members.) All the other airlines make stops at some major European airport, where a change of planes is usually required. Once you're on the Continent, you'll find that nearly all the major European airlines fly to Greece. There are also countless airlines from countries all over the world that provide direct or indirect connections. Ryanair, the bargain airline based in Dublin, makes some flights to Greece, as does Belleair, with its home base in Tirana, Albania.
Many Europeans drive down into Greece -- and some North Americans may wish to bring rented cars in. (Make sure a car rented in another country is allowed to be taken to Greece.) Drivers often come from Italy via ferry, usually disembarking at Patras; the drive to Athens is about 210km (130 miles). Others enter from the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. (The road from Albania, although passable, doesn't attract many tourists.) There are no particular problems or delays at the border crossings, providing all your papers are in order.
If you come through Skopje, FYROM, the road via Titov Veles to the southeast leads to the border, where it picks up an expressway down to the edge of Thessaloniki (242km/150 miles). Over to the west, there is a decent-enough road via Vitola, FYROM, that leads to Florina, Greece (290km/180 miles); that road then continues east to Thessaloniki (another 161km/100 miles) or south to Kosani (another 89km/55 miles). A long day's drive!
Driving Your Own Vehicle -- To bring your own vehicle into Greece, valid registration papers, an international third-party insurance certificate, and a driver's license are required. Make sure you have adequate insurance, because many Greek drivers do not. Valid E.U. drivers' licenses are accepted in Greece. as are most United States and Canadian licenses, but technically you should have an International Driver's License and you are advised to get one so as to forestall any problems at the border. (National automobile associations issue them.) A free entry card allows you to keep your car in the country up to 4 months, after which another 8 months can be arranged without you paying import duty. Check with your own car insurance company to make sure you are fully covered.
In any case, arm yourself with a good up-to-date map such as the ones published by Baedeker, Hallwag, Michelin, or Freytag & Berndt.
There is train service to Greece from virtually all major points in Europe, although the trains tend to be slow and uncomfortable in the summer. A Eurailpass is valid for connections all the way to Athens or Istanbul and includes the ferry service from Italy. Endless types of passes are now offered -- long stays, short stays, and combinations with airlines, among others. Note that North Americans must purchase their Eurailpasses before arriving in Europe. For information, see www.raileurope.com.
Probably most people traveling to Greece from foreign ports these days are on cruise ships, but there are still many who come on other ships -- mainly from Italy. There is also occasional service from Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. Brindisi, Italy, to Patras is the most common ferry crossing, about a 10-hour voyage, with as many as seven departures a day in summer. There is also regular service, twice a day in summer, from Ancona and Bari, once daily from Otranto, and two or three times a week from Trieste or Venice. Most ferries stop at Corfu or Igoumenitsa, often at both; in summer, an occasional ship will also stop at Kefalonia.
If you want to learn more about the ferry services between Greece and foreign ports, the best website is Paleologos Agency's www.ferries.gr. Britons might try the London-based agency Viamare Travel, Graphic House, 2 Sumatra Rd., London NW6 1PU (tel. 0870/410-6040; www.viamare.com). The Superfast Ferries Line, 157 Leoforos Alkyonidon, 16673 Athens (tel. 210/969-1100; www.superfast.com), offers service between Ancona and Patras (17 hr.), or between Ancona and Igoumenitsa (15 hr.); also between Bari and Patras (12 hr.) or between Bari and Igoumenitsa (8 hr.). Not all these so-called superfast ferries actually save that much time if you take into consideration boarding and debarking. In addition, their fares are almost twice as much as those of regular ferries.
On the regular ferries, one-way fares during high season from Brindisi to Patras at press time cost from about 75€ for a tourist-class deck chair to about 135€ per person to share an inside double cabin. Vehicles cost at least another 75€ to 150€ Note: The lines usually offer considerable discounts on round-trip/return tickets. Fares to Igoumenitsa are considerably cheaper, but are by no means a better value unless your destination is nearby. Because of the number of shipping lines involved and the variations in schedules, we're not able to provide more concrete details. Consult a travel agent about the possibilities, book well ahead of time in summer, and reconfirm with the shipping line on the day of departure.
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.