Metro Transport

Your first stop to find out more about the Athens metro schedules and station info as well as to download the official Transport for Athens application for your mobile phone can be found at the Transport for Athens site. There is also another nifty website and application called simera that not only tells you when the next metro for the airport is, but also helps you avoid strike-related public transport issues - a must-have given the city is known for making protest headlines .

Beyond that if you want some idea of what other modes of transport can cost and other infor, you should ask in the Athens forums as your departure time nears. 

Be extremely careful using public transport in Athens.  So many tourists get pickpocketed every day.  It is a serious problem, even at 05:30 in the morning criminals are active.  At the Canadian embassy they reported 15 victims in 3 days (May 7th to May 10th, 2011).  The scam is to put a map in your face faking to be lost while three others are doing your zippers.  Keep everything in a passport belt or even inside your underwear or socks etc. NEVER carry a purse.

Once you've been in Athens for a couple of days you will begin to embrace the various ways of getting around in Athens. Firstly, there is the tram. This is a service linking the central point of Parliament square and Syntagma Square with the beach areas along the coast, local residential areas and some of the local markets. There are 5 lines in total with line 3 operating exclusively along the seafront promenade from the glitzy shopping and eating areas to an area presently being built in preparation for new hotels. All other lines run from Syntagma Square just above the underground station.

It's well worth noting here that the tram is an affordable option for unlimited one way travel with up to 5 stopovers in 90 minutes. Within that time you could easily reach the locals market then the large and amazingly cheap 'Eurospar' supermarket and onto the beach for a cool drink.

An insider tip would definitely also be that the tram route is by far the cheapest, spotlessly clean and quick way to access the city centre and beach so if you choose a hotel en route, you would be very well placed for all Athens has to offer.

Next is the underground. It can be troublesome to navigate the system as the layout isn't the best, although the system is very quick and inexpensive for an Adult single to all areas except the airport which is quite a bit more.

The underground is similar to the one in the UK. It can get quite hot and crowded so not good for carrying shopping. There are escalators and lifts at the end of each platform but do consider that the line linking Syntagma Square to Omonia Square is 3 levels down and very popular with the locals at rush hour.

Nevertheless, it's been superb for getting to areas such as the 'bartering' or 'haggling' shopping district of Monistiraki and hopping quickly between main points in the city centre.

A major benefit of both the tram and the underground is that there are both automated ticket machines and staff who speak English. Operating times are 05:00 till midnight.

Next are the taxis. There are two types (both yellow in colour). Firstly, radio taxis are similar to UK minicabs in principle. You call them, they arrive. They have company logos on the driver's door and will never stop in the street unless you have booked them. They do charge a premium presently upon arrival and the cars are usually luxury and relatively new. Drivers do try to speak English but don't expect to have a conversation with them. They are ideal for lots of shopping and to / from the airport or if you need a guaranteed destination very quickly.

The second type of taxi is the more common, the street taxi. These are taxis which you flag down in the same way you would with a bus in the UK. However, they choose whether to stop or not and will often already have a passenger. You shout your destination to the driver and they choose whether to accept you as a customer or not. This does take some getting used to and definitely do not this with lots of shopping bags as the cabs will stop and block all traffic in the road which causes a lot of tooting horns behind you!

Another tip with street taxis is that if they stop, try to give a main road as your destination as if the driver doesn't understand or recognise the destination you have given, they will just drive off.

Peak period for street taxis are during morning and evening rush hour so you will find in the centre of the city 15 or 20 may pass you until you get an empty one.

You may be wondering what benefit these taxis are by now - well, they're a lot cheaper. You can crisscross the city for a week very affordably with a street taxi. Yes, these cabs are older, yes the drivers hardly speak English and you must not take it personally if they just drive away from you when you give your destination, it's just their culture and gets to be quite a game of wits after the first few times.

One important note is regarding Athens Airport. Some travel agencies offer expensive airport transfers. This is not necessary as a radio cab will charge you around only about two-thirds that price for the same journey from the airport to the city centre. The drivers have to pay a toll and the distance is well out of the city so expect to take about 45 minutes not counting any delays. A good way to work out the total fare is to watch the meter and double it.

Finally there are the buses and trolleybuses. Both allow cross ticketing from any of the public transport networks so if you have a metro ticket, you can use it on the buses in the city centre but be warned, their destination is purely in Greek and unless you have studied a bus guide you may well find them very confusing.

So, to recap. You have the tram, underground, radio taxi, street taxi, bus and trolleybus. All competing for space in a crowded city, it made for a fascinating and visibly uncoordinated competition around Athens. Use the tram wherever possible. It's clean, passes some good hotels, amazing shops, markets and of course the beach.